We are just a couple of days away from the Global Speakers Summit in Vancouver and I would like to invite you to stop by the Global Ghost Writer booth at the trade show.
Many of you have been thinking about writing a book and know how valuable it would be to your speaking career. A book would establish you as an expert in your market. If you happen to be in Vancouver this weekend, please stop by the booth and we can discuss how to effectively use a book as a new marketing tool!
Looking forward to seeing you in Vancouver,
If you want to improve your writing skills – read something, if you want to improve even more – read something outside of you normal comfort zone.
I was able to secure a wide range of reading material at the discount bin of a large book store recently that will keep me busy through the summer. I found a book that dealt with modern hoboing: from the skill of jumping on and off a moving train to how to use the internet at libraries and how to behave in the modern hobo jungle. Are they skills I will ever need? I don’t think so, but it was an interesting read and broadens the mind just a bit. It also gave me some ideas about format for a book I have not yet written.
The bargain bin also yielded a volume on cults; I am saving that for airline travel. I find those kind of books cut down on the conversation from pesky chatty Cathies in the next seat.
One of particular interest, that has already made its way to a friend, lists the 50 greatest wrong predictions of the future. Things like the failure of the telephone, and picking the wrong side to win a world war and betting heavy on it.
I scored a couple more, all in the $5.00 range, so for about 40 bucks I have a summer’s worth of reading, some great material to loan friends (and not get upset when they don’t return them), and the equivalent of a do not disturb sign for when I travel. Not a bad purchase I think.
Aside from the strange looks I got when I paid for my purchase, only good can come from the experience. I will be learning a lot of things about a lot of things I didn’t know before and be exposed to a variety of writing styles that may or may not influence what I do the next time I sit down to pen a piece.
Equally as valuable as the information I gain, is the styles I do or don’t like. I can learn things that I don’t want to do in a book. I saw a volume that was printed in blue ink, and I could not believe how difficult it was to read. Lesson learned: Don’t print your book in blue ink, especially if your audience wears bifocals.
Just after I wrote the piece for last week’s blog, I got a call from the local high school principal. No, not because of my use of fractured syntax, or beginning a sentence with a preposition, but rather he had a proposition. He called to offer me a spot on the program of graduation, he asked me to be the guest speaker at this year’s graduation.
It will be the 40th anniversary of our class’s big day, and it is the school that both of my children attended, so my only option was to accept. That is when the difficult part started; I had just written a piece on defining your target audience and now I was having trouble deciding who my audience is.
Is it the graduates? They make up a small part of the assembly, but it is their day. No speaker is naive enough to believe they are going to listen to his message, their thoughts are far from absorbing the nuggets of knowledge that some old guy is spewing forth and for the most part view as a necessary delay before the evening festivities.
Is it the parents? Who have put so much into getting their kids to this point? They are most likely too full of satisfaction on this day to cram another bit of information into their very being.
Is it the rest of the assembly? Teachers, uncles, aunts, and well wishers, who spend more time looking at their watches than the previous two groups combined. They know they didn’t have to be there and are wondering why they said yes, to giving up two hours of their life they will never recover. I considered placing myself in this group.
I thought about our 25 year reunion, when not a single soul could name the guest speaker at our grad, and only one person could name the class valedictorian, and yes that was the valedictorian himself.
I considered being entertaining, not trying to weave in a message and gave up on that, if you are not going to be absolutely hilarious don’t go the humour route. I thought about doing the talk about this is a generation that has not been without cell phones or the internet, but the parents know that and the kids don’t care. Most of them will be texting while they have to listen to me.
Suddenly it became clear, my job is to address the class, and ask them to take us with them into the future, because where they are going, and we could easily be left behind.
Too often we confuse the reason we are writing, or more specifically the audience we are writing for, and that makes our ramblings unclear.
The reason for writing can be broken into two major groups – ourself and others. Either one is just as valuable, but it is essential to decide why you’re writing before you start – much like having a destination before you start a trip.
Sometimes we write for ourselves. There is nothing wrong with that. It is my experience that a number of counselors recommend it. The process can be quite cathartic, it can help us heal from injuries, help us map the future or it can simply be an enjoyable activity. I have engaged in all three and found them useful although very different.
I once worked with a gold medal winning Olympian who was writing about the 8 years of training he went through to win a gold medal. As he said, “three hours later it is over and no one cares, and you have to re-invent yourself because tomorrow is different.” He wrote a manuscript but I don’t believe it was ever published and that was not his intent, he was writing for himself. I must say it was an interesting story and I found our conversations fascinating but that is where the story stayed.
Sometimes we write to relieve anger, being Canadians it has been our tradition to write a letter when we are angry, and thankfully most times we don’t post it. I have learned to always leave that kind of email sit for a day before hitting send as well. I made that mistake a few times before I caught on to that lesson.
Another reason to write is because it is a pleasant activity. Yes, some people enjoy it. And some rate it about as pleasurable as dental surgery (without freezing). But it doesn’t need to be. Especially if you are not going to have an audience judge (read) it. Sometimes it just helps you clear your mind when you write things down and can come back to see them on paper a day or two later.
I am sure there are even more reasons to write for ourselves but these are the main ones I use and I have to say each provides more than enough benefit to justify the activity, but when you sit down to write, don’t put the pressure on yourself of think what will someone think when they read it. There is no reason that anyone else has to read your writings and that does not detract from their value.
Next time, writing for an audience.
It is the time of year for graduations and I have attended a few in the last month. The one that struck closest to my heart was at the School of Agriculture because it’s my alma mater. While some things have changed, many are still the same. Most importantly, a few of the people were the same. One of my instructors was retiring after spending 37 years teaching farm machinery at the University of Manitoba.
The stories he could tell would fill volumes; the changes he has seen in agriculture equipment for over the last 40 years are immense. He was the subject of a newspaper feature I was working on which was one of the reasons for attending the grad. I found, as I sat in the bleachers of the University of Manitoba Auditorium, I was thinking about my days at the school and my own graduation.
Looking around brought back a flood of memories, things that I thought I had forgotten but suddenly reappeared in my consciousness. It was great. This time I did take the time to make a few notes, I wrote about some of the events from three decades earlier.
If you’re writing about the past or trying to remember, take the time to revisit the scene – you will be surprised at what comes back if you just give yourself a few minutes to sit and enjoy the space.
A few years ago when I was working on the memoirs of gentleman for a book to be released at his 80th birthday, we went to visit the sites where the chapter took place. Remembering his school days took us to the school he attend, and the stories became clearer, the same happened when we walked the train tracks where he had jumped a freight train to go out west and find work.
Take the time to go back and remember, but this time take some notes.
Last week I spent some time (or is it space?) on using the traditional mail to get endorsements from people who can lend credibility to your project. But the mail is not only for asking for things. You can send people things through it as well.
This week I got my first post card from Bill Smalley who is sailing across the Atlantic. No, he didn’t post it mid-ocean, but he did send it to me from their point of departure, Copenhagen, Denmark. Bill is part of a crew of 5 who got on a boat in Demark and plan to sail south to Morocco and then across the Atlantic, with the Bahamas as a target.
Bill’s first book was about consultative selling and he was just finished it when he decided to set off on this adventure, selling his house and a few other worldly possessions before boarding the plane to Denmark. When I suggested that he send me some post cards from the trip, his first reaction was less than overwhelming excitement, but when we discussed how valuable they would be in his book chronicling the journey he was much more willing post a few cards.
People still love to get mail. I think their disdain at snail mail comes from the fact they don’t get much anymore. I have yet to meet someone who does not appreciate getting a hand written note or card delivered in the traditional method. I promised Bill I would save the notes and he could use them in appropriate places in his book. Imagine a page with both sides of the card, one with the picture and immediately below the note in Bill’s own handwriting and the post mark from the originating post office. It is an artistic masterpiece and personalized as well.
A post card and stamp cost about a buck and when you sit down to write the book –traditional or eBook – they become a priceless item. So why not send yourself a post card from your travels? Sure, you will probably be home before it gets there, but if you weren’t you couldn’t enjoy it! While you’re at it, send a couple to friends! I assure you that you will get a positive response and be amazed at how long they stay posted around the office or on the fridge door. You won’t get as much entertainment for a buck any place else.
The foreword (most misspelled word in the English language) of a book that is just going to the printers has caused a bit of stir, on the page opposite my ramblings of how the book came to be are letters from three gentlemen most people think unapproachable or unreachable. There is a collage of letters from Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Yes, the real ones.
People ask how I got the letters, and my reply is very simple: I asked for them. Those three gentleman are not going to write endorsements for any book I publish just because I asked, but in this case the subjects of the book are leaders in the Agricultural industry and one them happened to be the Secretary of Agriculture, while another just missed the opportunity because of his anti-smoking in government buildings campaign, but that is another matter.
I simply wrote a letter to these three past presidents asking them for a testimonial and included a self-addressed stamped envelope. All three replied in less than a month, and the collage provides a nice touch to a book highlighting the achievement of 30 Americans.
It is unlikely that I would have obtained the same result with an email, and even less likely that they would have accepted a phone call. But they all replied to a letter sent in what has become degenerately known as snail mail. There is still a value in real mail, and electronic communication has not done away with the value of an autograph. If anything, it has made them more valuable.
When you are working on a project that would benefit from a note from an influential person, don’t be afraid to ask – but remember your manners and pay attention to protocol. Once a president always a president. You do not address them as former presidents, and their letter head does not designate them as such.
A few years ago, when I was writing a business book, people asked how I got a chapter from Peter Nygaard in my book. That one was even easier – I picked up the phone and called him.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
“If you want to be a millionaire behave like a millionaire, if you want to be leader behave like a leader,” said Jason.
“If you want to be an author behave like an author,” I added and we both chuckled. Jason is a book coaching client and the exchange came during an interview when I was helping him develop a chapter for his upcoming book about how those around us influence us to becoming like they are.
Jason was telling me a story about how he learned his approach to business from a very successful baker, and how the exchange coupled with the example the baker set through his work ethic shaped the novice baker, Jason.
It was after the interview when I working on the structure of the chapter that I realized the value of what Jason had said and what was my attempt at humor at the time. Most people say they have a book in them, many say they want to write a book, but few ever get it done. Often is because they don’t start behaving like an author, behaving like an author means writing.
There is the magical side of authors like Hemmingway’s penchant for rum and Coke, or Louis Lamoure’s seclusion in his writer’s cabin, and countless other idiosyncrasies. But what made them authors is that they wrote. No one could achieve the body of work these individuals did by writing only when the spirit moved them or they felt like writing. Writer’s block was not something that existed for them; they sat down and wrote even when they did not feel like it.
If you want to be an author behave like an author – that means writing, and writing something every day. It may not be a literary masterpiece, it may need serious revisions and editing but at least you have something down on paper (or electronic equivalent) and you can improve it another day.
I don’t know if that baker ever wrote a book but he certainly did know a lot about being an author.
Last time I mentioned a meeting with a group that is working on a history book about the community where I grew up. The meeting brought back a flood of memories, mostly of stories my Dad told. I left that meeting and proceeded to sell a bit of personal history.
The time had come to get rid of my old comic books and trading cards that were not paying rent on their space in the basement, so I headed over to the Winnipeg Convention Center and Comic Con. It was my first foray into an event of this kind and I found it just a bit overwhelming. I expected the life size cut-outs of the characters from The Big Bang Theory but some of the live characters were more than I was ready for.
I bravely strode up to a fellow wearing a yellow t-shirt emblazoned with I buy old comic books and in a few minutes we had completed a deal that included many of the mementos of my youth. Batman cards brought $1.50 each, Beatles cards $1.75 and the real winner – Hogan’s Heroes at $4.75. Sadly I only had one of those, good bye Colonel Klink. My comic collection had a few valuable action editions valued in the $10 range but most common were the Archie and Richie Rich issues that brought about a buck. The entire collection brought less than $400 but the real value was it was out of the basement.
Was I really selling history? After a little thought I concluded that I needed to keep one Batman card, a Batman and a Bugs Bunny comic and I would be alright. They would be enough to trigger the memories and properly displayed would be reminders of the collections I once owned.
Is history the items themselves or is it the memories they trigger? Those books and cards had been in the basement for some 20 years and I never spend any time going over them so it is doubtful that I would have in the next 20 years. The entire exercise forced me to pick three favorites part with the rest, having taken the first step my sports cards and matchbox toys will be the next to go. I can do it now because I know that history is not the object themselves but the memories that go with it.
I sat down with my journal on Saturday evening and penned a few memories about the cards and comic books and I am ready to move on. Somehow those items have been compressed to a few meaningful pages in my journal, and a couple of frames that will grace my cottage walls.