Go the extra mile

September 1, 2009

This post also appears as part of The Inspirer, my monthly newsletter, that you can sign up for at my website www.joparfitt.com.

Go the extra mile

My inspiration for this month’s article only came to me a few hours ago when I received an email from an ex-student of mine, Amanda van Mulligen. Amanda had got in touch to send me the link to an article she had written called A World of Inspiration and in which, she said, I featured. I clicked on the link and was faced not only a super piece of writing, but also an article that described how many connections and referrals I had given Amanda since we first met almost four years ago. It went on to describe how each of those contacts had become so much more, how they had enriched her life, inspired her, and even made her money. I was delighted. But my happiness was not so much for the fact that Amanda had written about me but that she had gone to the effort of letting me know. She had gone the extra mile.

And as I thought about that for a moment I realised that these days, when competition is tough, we can all do with finding ways to go the extra mile. Here are my top ten ways:

Top ten ways to go the extra mile

1 When you write an article, try to add a box of resources and further reading to the end, so that the readers know where to go to find out more.

2 When you write a book, add a substantial and useful resources section, an appendix, a bibliography and see if you can also add the URLs of all the people, organisations and websites you mention too.

3 Forging a career as a paid writer can be tough, so make it easy for those who may commission you and have your portfolio available online.

4 Publisher like to commission new authors who are more than just writers, people with a presence, a following, a route to market. So start a blog, send a newsletter, build a portfolio of other published work, poetry, articles, reviews, so that you already have Googlability.

5 When I teach, I always give my students handouts and reading lists and in my Life Story classes I now edit all their homework for them, which I then offer to share with the entire class, so that all the students can learn from it. What added bonus can you give?

6 People buy from people they have already worked with, so why not offer your potential clients something for free so they get to see you in action

7 If you coach or mentor, as I do, see if you can give your clients as much extra as you can. I always connect mine to editors, suggest magazines they could write for and introduce them to the people they need to interview for their books or articles.

8 Look out for opportunities to connect other people at all times and then do so. A simple email is all it takes.

9 Develop a ‘paying it forward’ mindset. Remember, the adage: give and you will receive.

10 Say thank you. Thank people for referrals, for work you pass their way, connections, ideas. A simple thank you encourages those people to give again.

One other person has gone the extra mile for me this month and I would like to thank her here, partly because she deserve thanks, but mostly because I think you will benefit from knowing her too.

Meet Sheila Bender

Firstly, I have long admired the work of writer, Sheila Bender. She wrote ‘Keeping a Journal You Love’ and ‘Writing in a New Convertible with the Top Down’ among many others, and my copies of her books are peppered with Post-it notes as I refer back to them again and again. I decided I wanted to connect with Sheila, to ask if I might use an extract from her books in my Life Story online program. I found her at her website Writing it Real and sent her an email. Not only did Sheila reply to me, and fast, but she invited me to write for her newsletter too, and then, knowing that many of my Inspirer recipients do not subscribe to it, she made a special link so that you could all read my article, about The Greatest Block of All. That was going the extra mile. People normally pay for her newsletter, so this was a big favour. Thank you Sheila.

I hope that this month’s offering has inspired you. I wonder how you could you go the extra mile? Perhaps you’d like to tell me by visiting this article on my blog and adding a comment? I know it would mean you had to go the extra mile, but that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Til next month

Jo

It must be 20 years since I first discovered the words of Natalie Goldberg. In fact, her Writing Down the Bones was the first book on writing I ever bought. It blew me away. Here was a woman who was making a very nice living doing something that to many would be classed as sheer indulgence. She would go and sit in a café, ‘meet at the page’ and just ‘go’. She’d write about whatever popped into her head, inspired by the scene around her or the thoughts in her head. One sentence from her book has stayed with me ever since. It is a sentence that I add to many of my handouts. It is a sentence that makes my stomach do a little flip every time I read it out loud. Here’s what she says:

‘Begin to write in the dumb, awkward way an animal cries out in pain, and there you will find your intelligence, your words, your voice.’

Every time I look at a piece of my writing and think there is something missing I remember this phrase. The best writing should resonate not only with the reader, but with you, the writer. The best writing is emotive. I learned this to my cost last year. Let me tell you the story:

Just over two years ago I decided it was time I wrote a novel, I’d had an idea mooching around in my head for a while and recognised that it was no good leaving it there. I had to put it on the page. So, I started writing. I was quickly ‘in the flow’ and wrote 98,000 words. It was about an expat wife, a bit like me, who found herself in Dubai, just like me, and who wanted to retain her professional identity against all odds, just like me. I knew the topic well. I had been there, done that, got the tee shirt and written the books too. With titles under my belt including Career in Your Suitcase, Find Your Passion and Expat Entrepreneur, I reckoned I had the subject matter sussed. But after months of writing I received some feedback on my work and was told in no uncertain terms that I had got it badly wrong. You see, the thing is, I knew so much about the subject that I had inadvertently written a non-fiction book all over again instead of a novel.

My wonderful mentor, and much-published novelist, Anita Burgh took me to one side and said: “What happened to your poetry and your lyricism, Jo? Where did you go? It’s a story, remember?”

Well, I’m not sure where I had been, but at that moment I knew the place I had to go was back to the drawing board. I binned my 98,000 words and started again, this time from a place of pain. This time I got right inside the head of my main characters and felt their emotions not for them, but with them. In doing so, I was forced to drop my ‘portable career expert’ status and simply start telling the story. In short, I did what Goldberg had been telling me to do for years. To be vulnerable. To be awkward. To feel exposed.

I finished my novel in January, and immediately after, as some of you know, I published my first volume of poetry, A Moving Landscape. Buoyed up by the feeling of relief and freedom that I had gained from writing my novel, I was confident enough to go one step further and show the world my poems too.

I’m with Goldberg. Your best writing and your writer’s voice are to be found when you find your words not in the pen or keyboard but in your heart, your gut, your soul. If you find it a struggle to expose yourself in this way and perhaps consider it too scary, then I suggest you try writing a poem. In my experience, poetry is written from that place of pain, and when you write it, somehow you give yourself permission to be vulnerable.

It’s July. Chances are you will be taking a holiday sometime soon. My challenge to you is that you take a beautiful notebook along with you and practise writing from the soul. You never know, you may not just find your voice, you may find yourself too.

Jo

Don’t forget to scroll down to the Writers’ Resources section in this month’s Inspirer See the Workshop Diary for brief details. To catch the news when it happens please sign up to my blog. For a summary of what I’ve been writing about see the On the blog section of this newsletter.

With warm wishes
Jo Parfitt

A Place of Pain

It must be 20 years since I first discovered the words of Natalie Goldberg. In fact, her Writing Down the Bones was the first book on writing I ever bought. It blew me away. Here was a woman who was making a very nice living doing something that to many would be classed as sheer indulgence. She would go and sit in a café, ‘meet at the page’ and just ‘go’. She’d write about whatever popped into her head, inspired by the scene around her or the thoughts in her head. One sentence from her book has stayed with me ever since. It is a sentence that I add to many of my handouts. It is a sentence that makes my stomach do a little flip every time I read it out loud. Here’s what she says:

‘Begin to write in the dumb, awkward way an animal cries out in pain, and there you will find your intelligence, your words, your voice.’

Every time I look at a piece of my writing and think there is something missing I remember this phrase. The best writing should resonate not only with the reader, but with you, the writer. The best writing is emotive. I learned this to my cost last year. Let me tell you the story:

Just over two years ago I decided it was time I wrote a novel, I’d had an idea mooching around in my head for a while and recognised that it was no good leaving it there. I had to put it on the page. So, I started writing. I was quickly ‘in the flow’ and wrote 98,000 words. It was about an expat wife, a bit like me, who found herself in Dubai, just like me, and who wanted to retain her professional identity against all odds, just like me. I knew the topic well. I had been there, done that, got the tee shirt and written the books too. With titles under my belt including Career in Your Suitcase, Find Your Passion and Expat Entrepreneur, I reckoned I had the subject matter sussed. But after months of writing I received some feedback on my work and was told in no uncertain terms that I had got it badly wrong. You see, the thing is, I knew so much about the subject that I had inadvertently written a non-fiction book all over again instead of a novel.

My wonderful mentor, and much-published novelist, Anita Burgh took me to one side and said: “What happened to your poetry and your lyricism, Jo? Where did you go? It’s a story, remember?”

Well, I’m not sure where I had been, but at that moment I knew the place I had to go was back to the drawing board. I binned my 98,000 words and started again, this time from a place of pain. This time I got right inside the head of my main characters and felt their emotions not for them, but with them. In doing so, I was forced to drop my ‘portable career expert’ status and simply start telling the story. In short, I did what Goldberg had been telling me to do for years. To be vulnerable. To be awkward. To feel exposed.

I finished my novel in January, and immediately after, as some of you know, I published my first volume of poetry, A Moving Landscape. Buoyed up by the feeling of relief and freedom that I had gained from writing my novel, I was confident enough to go one step further and show the world my poems too.

I’m with Goldberg. Your best writing and your writer’s voice are to be found when you find your words not in the pen or keyboard but in your heart, your gut, your soul. If you find it a struggle to expose yourself in this way and perhaps consider it too scary, then I suggest you try writing a poem. In my experience, poetry is written from that place of pain, and when you write it, somehow you give yourself permission to be vulnerable.

It’s July. Chances are you will be taking a holiday sometime soon. My challenge to you is that you take a beautiful notebook along with you and practise writing from the soul. You never know, you may not just find your voice, you may find yourself too.

Jo

Books need a wow factor! Find out how to make your book come alive by writing effective anecdotes and case studies. Come and be inspired and empowered when I’m the guest speaker at Storyville in WC2 from 7-9 pm on 29th. Just £15. Details at http://www.thebig-leap.com/storyville.phtml

Could you, should you, write a book?

If this is a question that you often ask yourself, then maybe it’s time to find out. On 9th July I’m running a Special Interest Group workshop for the European Professional Women’s network in Amsterdam. It will cover topics including:
what makes a book sell?
what is a wow factor?
could I really write a book?
what book would make me the most money?
how can a book help me raise my fees?

So, if you need to be inspired, informed and supported hurry and grab your place on this free workshop. led by me, Jo Parfitt, from 7-9pm at the Renaissance Hotel in Amsterdam.

Places are limited and the link is here http://europeanpwn-amsterdam.net/workshops/publish-your-book

Making a fool of myself

April 2, 2009

I can hardly believe the journey I’ve had since March’s Inspirer. Physically, I’ve been to Houston to the Families in Global Transition conference for the fifth time and then on to the Virgin Islands to take part in a girls’ sailing trip with a bunch of people I had never met before. So, I guess that counts as one hell of a trip. But the emotional journey I’ve been on has had a greater impact. I told people that I had agreed to the holiday specifically to expand my comfort zone. It worked!

Until three weeks ago I had never spent a single second crewing a boat of any kind. I knew port and starboard meant left and right and that was about it. Yet, there I was, going to crew a 49foot yacht with a bunch of strangers thousands of miles from home. Before I left, I was numb with dread. My greatest fears were that I would be a hopeless sailor, that I’d let everyone down, that my lack of experience would put us in danger. And I was scared that I would be really really scared and unable to simply get off the boat again and go home.

‘Right, then, Jo,’ said Glenda, our skipper. ‘You can be dinghy captain!’ Apparently that’s the job she reserves for the wimps and the lily-livered newbies. I hardly dared admit that I’d never done that either. I’d never even pulled the starter cord on a lawnmower, for goodness sake. I’d never even mowed a lawn! Add that to the fact that I am terminally muscleless, and it is no surprise that I was a jibbering wreck before we even left the harbour. But Glenda would not tolerate a wuss and I had no choice. Dingy captain I would be. And so it was. By George, I did it! What’s more, I was one of only two people who could actually summon the strength to pull that pesky starter cord! The size of the grin on my face as I steered us all to shore once or twice a day was not insignificant.

By the end of the trip the wonderful Glenda had forced me to hold the helm in 20 knot winds, gybe, tack, furl the mainsail, winch, catch moorings and learn about luffing and sheets. And do you know what? I did not make a fool of myself. Not once. My comfort zone expanded wider than the envelope of a hot air balloon and my spirit soared higher than I’d have dreamed possible. In risking that I may have made a complete idiot of myself, I had, in reality achieved the opposite. After that massive feat I began to feel I could conquer the world. Maybe I’ll even learn to ski.

On the day before the sailing trip I took another risk. Again I stood in fear of making a fool of myself. Again I exposed myself as my first book of poetry was published and the proof copy landed in my hands, courtesy of DHL, on the last day of the conference. As I looked down at the cover my kneecaps began to wobble up and down. Just as they had on my wedding day. It was quite something for me to admit that I write poetry. You see, poetry is the ultimate way of showing your weakness. The best writing comes from a place of heightened emotion, so here I was, showing the world that when you cut me I bleed. Filled with fear, and with a nervous smile on my face, I held A Moving Landscape high.

‘I did it!’ I cried. And all around me people clapped me on the back and congratulated me. For though this is my 26th book, it is the first that runs the risk of showing me in my true colours.

Five minutes later, Craig Toedtman, President of Options Resources Careers in PA, blasted that fear out of the water by ordering 200 copies on the spot to give to his clients. He said that it was just what he was looking for. A book that would speak to new expatriates about how it really feels to live abroad.

So now I have taken you on my journey. I have shown you my fears and vulnerability and I have demonstrated, I hope, that it is when we take the biggest risks that we have the chance to achieve the most.

Isn’t it time you let your spirit soar too?

A Moving Landscape, price £10, is available on Amazon.

60 New Books in 2009 – Do You Know Anyone Who Wants To Be Published?
——————————————————————–
My publisher, Bookshaker, plans to dramatically increase its publishing output in 2009 while being able to keep our eye firmly on marketing and writing new books too. So if you know anyone who’d like to be published or get an existing (and good) ebook in print and selling via Amazon then please email Debbie here.

They are looking for very specific non-fiction books at the moment:

1. Lifestyle Design – early retirement, wealth creation, travel, time/money management

2. Sales and Marketing – for coaches, consultants, entrepreneurs, startups etc. that
are in line with their http://www.leanmarketing.co.uk principles and approach.

They pay a royalty that is at least twice as much as mainstream publishing.

Or would you like to be an editor and make 20% on all sales? If you’ve got the skills and would like to apply to be an editor for other people’s books yourself (or you know editors) then complete the form here to find out more about the deal…

They are still taking on new authors for their Spain books – with 7 currently in the pipeline
– so if have written/are writing a book on Spain then please look them here
instead…

Good luck