I recently hosted a charity breakfast for the Carolina Resource Center for Eating Disorders. After the event, a woman told me she wanted to write her first book. Ever the coach, I quickly shared a few books that helped me most, and it surprised me when she hadn’t heard of them… mostly because they’ve been so ubiquitous in my life.
Afterwards, I was inspired to record this episode and pass on some of the lessons these books handed to me. First, because they’ve taught me so much about writing, and also because they offer so much insight into life in general.
Each book had a tremendous impact on me as a writer (two of them in particular, as you’ll hear on the show), and helped me develop a greater understanding of myself and allow my first book The Soul-Sourced™ Entrepreneur book to come to life.
Soak in the wisdom from these incredible titles, discover some common truths about the writing process, and I’ll even share some tips on how to step out of the perfectionist left-brain world, and go deeper into the flow of your creativity, and the perception of yourself as a writer.
Featured in this Episode
And that’s where most of us stop ourselves as we think it all has to be done now, it all has to be done well now.
Welcome to the Soul-Sourced™ Podcast, unconventional business advice for the highly creative, secretly sensitive and wildly ambitious entrepreneur. I’m your host, Christine Kane. Let’s do this
Welcome friends and I just pressed record and I completely blanked on what episode number we’re on. So how about this today? I just don’t know what episode number we’re on. I know it’s in the forties and I’m betting it’s 47, but I’m not sure. And it would mean turning this off and going and looking. And my brain doesn’t want to do that right now because I am by God, ready to record this thing, and this is what we’re going to do. So here’s to imperfectionism and whatever episode we are on.
So I’m going to talk about my five favorite books on writing and the reason I’m going to do this is because I just did, I hosted a charity breakfast for the Carolina resource center for eating disorders. It’s the second time they’ve asked me to do this, and these are always fun. It was a little awkward getting back into the public world because people were kind of like, do I wear masks? Do I bump elbows? How do I do this? And so it was, it was my first experience standing on a stage after pandemic. And I, afterwards, some people came up and asked about my book and went into buy it, and one person kind of stopped me before I was leaving, and she said, you know, I, I really want to write a book. And of course in my mind, I just, you know, I step into like, oh, Christine, can’t not coach people, and so I try to give her as fast as I can, the things that have helped me the most. And it was surprising to me that she hadn’t heard of some of the books I talked about that had been so impactful on me as a writer. And so I thought I would just take this to talk about my five favorite books on writing, and also give you a caveat with that as well.
And, and I didn’t, you know, it’s, it’s a very marketery kind of thing, marketery kind of thing to do to be saying something like the five top books on writing and why you should read them. I wanted to say these are my five favorite books on writing because, in my experience with books, especially books on something that’s a tender topic to me or a passionate topic to me, they often find their way to me and in really weird synchronistic ways. And so these are not book recommendations. What I’m going to do is I’m going to capture what each book had in terms of lessons that helped me in my writing. And as I looked at them, and as I studied the different books on my shelf, because have a huge shelf of books all about writing, and while all the books have their merits and are great, there were these five that I kept pulling and I, two of them, I keep reading and I still listen to because I, they they’re just so good.
And I wanted to just sort of say, this is why these were so important. And the other thing is these books are more about process than about craft. I don’t consider myself a master writer, craft person. However, you would put this. I’m a master of the craft of writing. I think it’s really key to be clear. We are about who you are as a writer and what you are as a writer. And I don’t want to present myself as somebody who has mastered the craft of writing and has done so much. What I can say though, and this is where I think this is important for my listeners and my peeps, and that is that from the day I quit my last job that I ever had, which was waitressing. Um, cause I had gone, I had worked for Ogilvy and Mather PR, and then I moved to Asheville and I waitressed while I built up my songwriting career.
But from the day I quit that last job I have made my living from being a writer. So it first it started with songwriting and then it moved into running a coaching company. And even though you might say, no, you’ve made your living being a coach and hiring a team of coaches, at the core of that is that it’s been email writing and sales page writing and communicating and social media. So the writing has been sort of the little string throughout all the little beads on this necklace. And you can look at any career, even if it is a career in songwriting and know there’s a lot of different other elements that go into the money that is made or the, you know, the other parts and pieces of having a business in that thing. But the, the thing that all of us can benefit from doing better, or as my friend John David Mann says writing good, um, on writing good or how to write good, yeah, Is that it’s such a profound gift to be able to do it. And the other thing that is the nameable part about becoming a better writer is that it takes you deeper into this thing that you are. It takes you deeper than ego. It takes you deeper than just little isms that we like to quote and toss around. It takes you into who am I? What is my voice? What is my message? Whether you are a business owner or whether you are an artist, whatever that is, if you’re an artist and you’re making a living, you are a business owner. And if you’re a business owner, I would also submit that you are an artist as well, because there’s a little bit of each, that’s why I call it soul and strategy in having a business.
But the point of this is that the good, the good news is that I’m not standing here as someone who is, you know, I’ve been on Oprah, the best seller, you know, the Oprah book club, I, you know, New York times, number one, best seller. All of that stuff is what we imagine has to happen in order for the world to deem us worthy as writers. But I am sitting here doing this podcast for you saying, you know what, none of that matters at the end of the day, if you write, you are a writer and you can still make a really great living getting better at the process and the craft of writing.
But the books I want to talk about are really about the process of writing, because for me on my own path, that’s been, the hardest thing is navigating the perfectionism, navigating the distractedness, understanding that there’s a process to it, that it there’s a kind of a no big dealness to writing. And these are the books that really helped me understand that in a much deeper way than I was capable of on my own.
So I’m going to walk you through them and I’m going to go in order of how they landed in my life. And I’m just going to pull a few lessons. I’m not going to do a big, huge breakdown of the book or what makes it great or whatever. I just want to share some of the things that struck me and really impacted me. And you can decide if it feels like the right thing to do to get one of these books or not.
So the first book on my list is the first book I ever read about writing, except for all the writing books on the elements of style and the craft of writing books that I read it, you know, as my writing teachers made me read in high school and college. So those were there. I already had those, but what I also had was a life steeped in academia, because that’s my family background steeped in the Washington DC, here’s what life looks like, view of the world. And when I fantasized about being a writer or being a songwriter, the massive concrete walls that surrounded me that said, no, you don’t get to do this. You have to be a certain way. You have to have come from a certain background. Everything slammed shut. And I had absolutely no ability to dream. And I was working at Ogilvy and Mather at the time when I started, I I’ve written about this in my own book, the Soul-Sourced™ Entrepreneur, but I started writing letters to God in my journal because coming from a very Catholic background, that’s the only tool I had in my little tool belt there. I did not even know what anything new age was. I didn’t know what Buddhism was. I didn’t know anything but my background, and all I did was I started writing these letters and saying, I want to be a songwriter, and I want to not be working in a cubicle and I’m grateful, but unhappy. I’m grateful. I have a job, but unhappy.
So I lived in Georgetown and I used to walk from where I lived in Georgetown up to DuPont circle. And I would go north of DuPont circle to this bookstore, and all of a sudden I’m forgetting the name of it. And I know some people are gonna tell me the name of it, cause it’s still there. But I was, I would go and sit and I would just find books and whatever. And I remember one lady evening after work, I was there and I went up to the counter to purchase a book, and I don’t even remember the book I was purchasing, but sitting on the counter, not in a very big promotional way, but it was just a book by a woman named Brenda Ueland, and that’s U E L A N D, and it was called If You Want To Write. And I don’t even know what moved me to do it, but I just grabbed it and I put it with my other book I was going to purchase and I bought it and I don’t remember the other book, but I went home and this little book was the first book on writing that ever showed me that this could be possible. And in some ways I feel like Brenda Ueland, who died long before I ever got this book was a kind of like an angel to me, kind of like a coach to me. She came back from wherever she was and her words really, really helped me. And the lessons I got from this book, and I’m not recommending this book. I don’t think it’s for everyone. It was for me at that time. What it was really about was stepping out of the perfectionist academic left brain world and starting to go deeper into yourself and deeper into yourself as a writer.
And I’m going to read one little, one little quote from it. I went through all these books and I looked at the places I underlined or highlighted or whatever. And in this case I didn’t have a highlighter because I think I started reading it that night, and I didn’t have a highlighter in my, um, in my apartment. I just had a pen. And so I still have this scribbly pen mark. And it says “for when you come to think of it, the only way to love a person is not as the stereotype Christian notion is to coddle them and bring them soup when they are sick, but by listening to them and seeing and believing in the God, in the poet, in them for, by doing this, you keep the God and the poet alive and make it flourish. How does the creative impulse die in us? It’s the English teacher who wrote fiercely on the margin of your theme in blue pencil, trite, rewrite helped to kill it. Critics kill it, your family kills it.” And she goes on and on with that. But things like that, the whole book is really designed to get you to be less scared of sitting at the page and writing badly. And I really needed that at the time.
And the other big lesson I got from this book, and I would say, this is my number one takeaway, and you guys have heard me mention this before in anyone who’s read my blog back when I was really writing my blog, Brenda Ueland was the first person who taught me a word she, I think made up, but it’s called moodling, M O O D L I N G. And I did have a highlighter by the time I got to this part in the book and it says, “So you see, the imagination needs moodling, long inefficient, happy idling, darling, and puttering these people who are always briskly doing something and as busy as waltzing mice, they have little sharp staccato ideas such as I see where I can make an annual cut of $3 and 47 cents in my meat budget, but they have no slow, big ideas. And the fewer consoling, noble, shining free, jovial, magnanimous ideas that come, the more nervously and desperately they rush and run from office to office and up and down stairs thinking by action, at last, to make life have some warmth and meaning.”
And what I got though, she talks more about moodling, I got that practice of nothingness. And at the time I was that person who just ran around trying to do things and trying to impress people and trying to be someone. And it was terrifying to sit down and just write. It was terrifying to walk and do nothing. And that word, that practice, I still use now. And I joke with my clients, those of us who are entrepreneurs, I joke that if you have a team like we had at Uplevel world headquarters, where I had, um, when we were not remote, I had a team of eight or nine people at any given time. And if you look in their office, they would be busy working and typing and doing that kind of stuff. But as the entrepreneur, you moodle you, your work looks like you sitting there looking up and you’re thinking of things and you’re creating and you’re ideating and you need those long stretches of time. And it’s not just true for writers, It’s true for all of us, especially now in this very crammed world. And that taught me the importance of the chaos of creating anything, the messiness that comes with it and that the death that is caused by perfectionism.
And so my clients who are writing books and who are creating programs, they come to me and they are completely flummoxed by how messy it gets in a world where we’re told that everything should have neat outlines and neat structures. And some of us, as I’ve talked about in previous episodes, we are not outliners. We are in liners. And so our outlines come from the messiness that we create inside. And that comes from what Brenda Ueland so aptly called moodling. So those are my lessons from that book. And, uh, it was a huge book for me at the time. I don’t recommend it often to people simply because the language is very old. And I also know when a book is personally relevant to me versus that’s going to be relevant to someone else.
The second book is not so much a book on writing, but it is what landed in my lap next. So I, I, if you saw my copy of Brenda Ueland’s book, you will see how much I took that with me and read it at that time. And the next thing that had happened was I had moved and I moved to Asheville, and it’s interesting because as I got ready for this episode, I realized that the book, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, came out the month I moved to Asheville, and it’s weird, I ran into, I was taking a course. I signed up at the Asheville writers workshop to take a course with a woman named Judith Bush. And she and I bumped into each other in the street before that first class started. And we just started talking and she had that book and she told me to go get it and I did. And Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, not about writing, but a huge, huge piece of the writing process for me came from that book.
And I would say the biggest lesson I got from that book is the practice of something she created that she calls morning pages. And every one of you listening, probably know this book, you’ve probably done morning pages. I started in on the practice. I also happened to think that Julia Cameron created a really great piece of influential writing in that book, because what she did was she got all kinds of people over their objections to being creative and did it beautifully, and with elegant language. And I consider that book to be a really good book for marketers to read, because we often think that marketing means putting exclamation points on things and saying that the doors are closing, but marketing when done well is simply communicating well. And that’s what that book does.
And so I’m not, I don’t have any quotes from that book because again, my copy, well, I gave my first copy away to somebody which I I’m bummed now because I had one of the first of it, but I it’s still highlighted. There’s so many parts that I highlighted, and to be clear, a lot of the language is going to be a little bit old school. Some of it may not be relevant anymore, but the practices, the two practices that she has people do in that book are artists dates and morning pages. And morning pages is simply the practice of writing three pages every morning, very badly, and just long hand, keep on writing and say whatever comes out, and that practice I have, I have notebooks and notebooks and notebooks and notebooks and notebooks of morning pages because that I believe is the thing that started me as a songwriter. I had always been a journaler in my life. I started writing in my journal, in a diary when I read The Diary of Anne Frank. And I think that was in about fifth grade. I loved Anne Frank.
I started writing, I kept writing. I kept writing, but this was a different kind of practice. It wasn’t just writing what was going on. It was just writing and not well, it was just writing. And it got me into the practice of writing. And I think too many of us, we sit down, and we think that we should be perfect, eloquent, wonderful writers from the minute we sit down and that is a travesty and it stops most of us in our tracks. If you listen to my episode on, It’s called Procrastination and The Eight Waits, one of the eight waits, the things that we wait for is perfectionism or perfection. And there is no such thing. And so Julia, Cameron’s the artist’s way, taught me how to drop that perfectionism and just start to write and be with the writing and accept myself as a writer, not because I was deemed famous by anyone outside of me, but because simply due to the fact that I write and that’s it.
Okay. So the next book is a little book of very Zen Buddhist kind of essays on writing, and it’s called Writing Down the Bones and it’s by Natalie Goldberg. And two things that I got from, actually three things that I got from Natalie Goldberg, a little bit linked up with Julia Cameron’s work, um, on one of them. But the first lesson that I got from Natalie Goldberg was that she liked to, I don’t know if she still does this practice or if she’s still out there writing, but she likes to go to cafes and write. And I started that practice because it got me out of my own head space. It got me out of my own cramp little apartments that I lived in before I was a song, or actually even when I was a song writer. And I would go to various little coffee houses and cafes here. For those of you who are old school, Asheville, Stone Soup, before it became Mellow Mushroom, Stone Soup was my favorite place to go. Malaprops Bookstore in its old location. I used to find every last little spot and I had all my favorites and I would just go sit and write. And sometimes it was morning pages. Sometimes it was just writing and I just practiced writing. And that was the, the key thing. So, Natalie Goldberg talked about writing in cafes. She also really emphasized just as the other two that I mentioned here, emphasized writing as practice, meaning you sit down with a proposed topic and you just write, and it’s not a big deal.
And this is where the Buddhist came out in Natalie Goldberg that I really, really loved. It wasn’t about all this ego-driven, uh, all the stuff that we drive ourselves to be and do and the greatness we have to have, and just starting to look at it as practice and kind of a no big deal and that it brings you up face to face with yourself, and that sometimes you have these moments of brilliance and sometimes you are completely in a rut and yet you still practice. And in some ways, these parts of my life, learning how to write, taught me how to become a business owner as well, because there is no one big upward trajectory of joy and ecstasy and orgasms and pie as I call it, that just keeps you going. It’s, it’s how you handle the ruts and the bad times and the parts of yourself that you think, are you kidding? This is coming up again. I cleared this in therapy years ago. That’s what you start to come to face-to-face with each and every time you’re willing to just practice whatever it is you’re doing, whether that’s writing or business or anything.
And the third lesson I got from Natalie Goldberg, that’s similar to what Julia Cameron’s book taught was, but her, she spends a lot more time with it, and that is when you’re practicing writing just keeping the pen moving. And yes, I wrote with pen, I wrote with paper. I, I really think that there is something that comes from that practice that is unlike anything that typing gives you. But I will say that when I wrote my book, I did it all typing into a computer. And except sometimes when I was just trying to drag something out of me, I would sit down and write long hand if I was stuck on something, but keep the pen, moving all of the practice that I’ve done with writing, and when I still do sit down to just write it’s it’s pen and paper and journals, and I do respect that, that practice, but I don’t require, I don’t think everybody should do it that way. That’s not how I look at it.
And also to that end, I will say that I am very wary of, you know, trashing writers and trashing how people write and saying there’s only one way. And it it’s interesting to me because we always try to look for these tactics of, well, what kind of notebook do you use and what kind of pen do you use and exactly how do you do it? And I loved hearing Seth Godin on Tim Ferriss podcast because Tim was trying to drag out, like, how do you write what pen and what notebook? And Seth kind of just said, Tim, I’m not going to say all that because then people are going to get all wrapped around the tactic and not the practice of it. And I’m paraphrasing completely, but it’s so true. You, you learn who you are and what your tools are by showing up and doing it. And to that end, I would also say that talking about books on writing is a little like talking about books on riding a bike, you can read about it, you can read about it, you can read about it and you don’t learn about it until you actually start in and become that person who sits in practices every day. And eventually you have to do like I’ve done where you put the books back on the shelf and there they stay. And the exception to that is the last two books I’m going to mention here, because these, if I had to narrow it down to two books on writing, and this is what I shared with the women at the charity breakfast, who asked me about writing her, her first book, it’s going to be these two books. And I don’t know which one I like better. It’s just different at different times.
The first one is Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird. I know I, for most of you, you probably know this book already. It’s one of those that when I was writing my book, which took, you know, if you’re new to the podcast, my book is called The Soul-Sourced™ Entrepreneur, and it took me five years to write that, and I didn’t, that’s not to say I wrote every single day, all day long for five years, that would be depressing. I had to work in small windows. I had to do exactly what Anne Lamott taught me. And while I was stuck during the writing of that book and when I hated everything about what I was writing and when I just didn’t like very much of myself or thought I had nothing valuable to give, I would put on my audio version of this book because I have the hard back and I have quotes from that I, that I underlined and highlighted all over that hardback. But I also love the audio because the reader is amazing. And Anne Lamott makes me laugh out loud, even when I’m hearing the same lines over and over again. And I can actually recite some of them. I love them so much.
But the two concepts, the two biggest lessons I got from Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, that I think are so important, are the ideas of shitty first drafts and short assignments, and I’m going to start with shitty first drafts here first. And I’m going to read a little quote from her book just because she’s so funny. I love it. “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. And it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway. And a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you and have a whole lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
So that’s one quote that I love and it, and really it’s almost like the entire book is getting you away from the idea of perfectionism. The next little quote, the next little blurb about the shitty first draft is “I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly, enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her. Although, when I mentioned this to my priest friend, Tom, he said that you can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
And this is what I love about Anne Lamott, is she is raw. And it almost, almost in an uncomfortable way, she shows you that there is a lot of rawness and there is a lot of, uh, real discomfort of sitting down and writing. And she also shows you that sometimes brilliance shows up and sometimes great moments show up, and then you go back and you do the work. And I, we all need that. We all don’t naturally know that. And especially if you’ve been at a time when you’re out doing a lot of outward stuff and you’re launching and you’re traveling or you’re speaking, and then you come back and you sit back down, which is what my songwriting life was like, I would perform and perform and be on the road and have a calendar full of things and radio interviews and all kinds of stuff and eating all kinds of shitty food like combos and bugles in my car and listening to music. And I would sit down, get home, sit down and start to write, and I would think it was all done. And it’s because you’re facing your insides again. And that’s what Anne Lamott is there. She’s that voice that reminds me I can sit down. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to be famous and I can still just write and I can still just have a business. And it’s just these little things that I do each day. And it has nothing to do with all the things my ego wants it to be.
The second lesson from Bird by Bird is about short assignments. And this was kind of my lifesaver as I was finishing my book, because when you’re almost done your book and you are, as Kathy Colby calls it, a quick start, you just want the thing done and you don’t want to sit down and write. And what I did was I would sit down and I would say, okay, today, all I have to do, and I would use Anne Lamott’s voice in my head. All I have to do is go bird by bird. So today all I’m going to do is write the story of Tisha, okay, that’s all I’m going to do. And I just have to sit here for my two hour writing block, and I’m going to do that.
And I’m going to quote Anne Lamott here. Um, this actually reveals where the word where the title Bird by Bird came from, and she says “30 years ago, my older brother who was 10 years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he had had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper, and pencils and unopened books about birds immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder and said, bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” And I, as I read this, I start crying. Like my eyes are like fill with tears, cause it’s such a beautiful moment that so many of us need because we all take this, we think we have to get everything done. And when I have, when I have business owners who start with me and they’ve realized they’ve created a lot of chaos and a lot of emotional reactions, they think they have to like get it all fixed now in the business, just to be perfect. We kind of got to go bird by bird, like who is on your team that you hired that shouldn’t be there? Who are the people, clients you have that you charged way too little and you were hoping they would just like you?
We have to go through that stuff. And it really is same thing with writing. It’s just this little tiny assignment that you give yourself. And one of the things that Anne Lamont talks about is that she has a little frame with nothing in it, on her writing desk. And that frame shows her and teaches her each morning when she sits down to write that all she has to do is write this one little section. It’s what goes in that little tiny frame. And that’s all she has to do. She doesn’t have to think about writing a whole book. And that’s where most of us stop ourselves as we think it all has to be done now. It all has to be done well now, and to that end, I will, I will give my second, my last quote here from Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird and that is “say to yourself in the kindest possible way, look, honey, all we’re going to do for now is to write a description of the river at sunrise or the young child swimming in the pool at the club, or the first time the man sees the woman he will marry. That’s all we’re going to do for now. We’re just going to take this bird by bird, but we’re going to finish this one short assignment.” And that’s true with everything. It’s just one thing. You can only do the thing that’s in front of you. And I know these are books on writing, but they’re true about everything in life.
And my last book, and this may be a, now it competes with Anne Lamott, for sure. But this, this is just such a great book on writing if for no other reason, and I think both of these Anne Lamont and Stephen King tell such great stories that even if you’re not even that into writing and don’t want to write, they are companions along the way, and they’re just great storytellers as any writer of any really great writer is for sure. Writing a good story is key. So this book is Stephen King on writing, again, I listened to the audio because Stephen King reads it and he reads it really, really well. And it is just so entertaining. And it does combine a little bit of the process of writing a little bit of his memoir of writing and also the craft of writing. There is a lot about craft in it, which I found really powerful. And I will, um, I will say that one of the things, the lessons I got from this, that sticks with me, wherever I go, I think about it all the time. When I’m reading, writing, when, when people are asking me to edit things, this is one of the foremost craft pieces I got from Stephen King. And that is about adverbs.
And I will, I will actually read you the quote. He says, “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs and I will shout it from the rooftops to put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you’ll find five the next day, 50 the day after that. And then my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally completely and profitably covered with dandelions, but then you see them for the weeds they really are. But by then, it’s gasp, too late.” And I listen, I hear adverbs and how unnecessary they are. And I often think that we use them when we don’t know what else to say or when we’re not trusting that the context of our writing is enough. And, um, yeah.
So another lesson I got from Stephen King is this one. And it’s just this quote. And I read this when I was a songwriter. I listened to it when I was on the road. And it’s so funny how ego just gets in the way of everything that we do, and what I love about Stephen King’s book, it’s almost the blue collar approach to writing. It’s just, again, sort of like that same thing that I said about Natalie Goldberg, who brought that Buddhist approach to it. Stephen King has that same vibe, although he has the blue collar, like it’s just work, man, that’s it. It’s just sitting down and doing the work. And what he says is, uh, “It starts with this. Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”
And I would say that’s true for everything is really reversing how you look at things. And what he’s talking about is he, when he broke his whole office down, because his desk was sitting ginormously in the center of the room and he had got, let his ego take, get the best of him. And he then got rid of the big desk and moved his desk into the corner of the room, and I always love that. One other idea. One other lesson that I got from him is that, and I don’t have a quote for this, but every time Stephen King talks about getting an idea, he would go right to his office, grab a legal pad and describe writing out the first few pages of it. He didn’t obsess and get neurotic. He just started writing. And for me, who can be obsessive and neurotic to a fault, that was such a big deal was just to sit down and write the damn thing.
And granted, a lot of these writing lessons applied to songwriting, but I remember I have a song called Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad, and when the idea came to me, I, a lot of my fans were like me. They rescued animals, they loved animals, and I would stay at people’s houses on the road. Sometimes they would let me meet their dogs and they’d send me pictures of their dogs. And this idea came for the song. And it actually, I didn’t know if it would work. I didn’t even have a title for it. And his message to just sit down and start writing was the thing that got me up and out of overthinking, and I started, I went on a hike first and I sat there, the, like the entire hike I was walking in and thinking about the song and the first-line came to me when I stopped in a parking lot at a grocery store, Jenny found Mariah, how does the song go? Jenny find Mariah? And, uh, I don’t even know, but I, the whole first line came fully formed and where, where I would normally go into obsession, I took that Stephen King message and I went home and I just started writing. I didn’t know if it was going to work. I didn’t know if it would be perfect. I just started writing the song, and that lesson has been so huge because it’s an, and combine it with Anne Lamott’s shitty first draft, and you’ve got this magic for becoming unstoppable, because that’s what we have to do is sit there and be willing to face the discomfort of, this might not be a good idea, but it might be a good idea, but I’m going to give it the time deserves anyway. And so that’s, that’s the other lesson I got from Stephen King.
And one other thing that he adds to that, is that people always ask him where he gets his ideas from. And I just love this quote and that is, “Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no idea dump. No story central. No island of the buried best sellers. Good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky. Two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas, but to recognize them when they show up.”
And I’m going to close that with the idea of business being art and how much these two ideas intertwine, because one book, one business book that everyone loves, and I always sort of secretly don’t love, and I don’t really say this very often. It’s not that there aren’t good ideas in it, but I balk at the premise of it. And it’s the book Blue Ocean Strategy, and the way they present the businesses in that book, that everyone seems to worship, is is that each and every one of those businesses sat down with their strategy fully formed and they made this successful thing out of nothing, they they planned it and then they went and built it. And what Stephen King is describing here is that ideas kind of come up and they aren’t just fully formed, and there is no big strategy that comes to you. It’s the same thing in business is that a small idea might come like when I’m a songwriter and I have this idea for doing a retreat. And then, then later I have this idea for turning that retreat into an online program. And then I have this idea that it may be, it could be called Uplevel Your Life. If a book like Blue Ocean Strategy had any way of rewriting my history, they would say, I sat down and I said, I’m not going to be a songwriter anymore. And it didn’t work that way. Our ideas come more organically. And we do ourselves a disservice by thinking that everything comes left-brain neat and tidy. And there it is fully formed. Maybe for some people, it works like that, but I’m betting if you’re, if, if you’ve made it this far in this ramble, then it doesn’t work like that for you.
And so all of us would benefit from being better writers, becoming better writers and honestly finding any book you can learning the craft of it, but really we become better at it by doing it. And then also by reading, I really believe I became a, a songwriter just by immersing myself in songs my whole life and listening to them and paying attention. And I don’t even think I realized how much I paid attention to them. But the same thing with writing, I just got a beautiful book from, uh, Carrie Frye, who used to be a client of mine, now is a friend of mine. And she gave me a book for my birthday. And I, I wrote to her and I said, the problem with me reading this is that I stop every like every page takes me five minutes because the writing is so gorgeous. And, um, that’s how I read. I am not a fast reader. I don’t, I’m not one of those people who can I, this is why I don’t start a business readers book club or anything because when I read, I revel in it and I, I take time with it. It takes me time to read a book. I don’t want to learn how to speed read. I love writing. I just do. And I bet if you’re here, you do too. And what I’m going to do is encourage you to take some of these lessons and apply them to whether you’re writing a warm letter or whether you’re writing a sales page or whether you’re writing copy for a Facebook post, or you’re writing your first book. The small, you know, small assignments, shitty first drafts. Complete imperfectionism showing up each and every day. That’s what it’s all about. And you’ll get better at the craft as you do the work.
So you guys thank you for listening and for being with me on this podcast. It went a little longer than most podcasts, but I appreciate you sticking it out with me. I hope this helps. And I will see you next time. And by the way, for those of you who, uh, have, haven’t been on the waiting list for Uplevel Cafe, we did open the doors of Uplevel Cafe and you can go check it out at Uplevelcafe.com. We are starting up, I have my first Q and a call today. Um, we’re and it’s a beautiful group of people that we have, and so far completely cool, and I’m loving it. And I hope that you will visit Uplevelcafe.com and join us, talk to you guys next week.