Greta Solomon is an author, creative writing coach and former journalist for British newspapers and magazines. She is a natural multi-passionate creative with a diverse career path.
After graduating in psychology from Warwick University, Greta started out as a journalist at women’s magazines in London, in the early 2000s. She worked at top-selling weekly, Woman, and freelanced for well-known publications including Now, My Weekly, Company, Daily Express, and BBC Good Homes. But although she was a successful journalist on the outside, she felt creatively blocked inside. So, Greta embarked on a journey of creative discovery. This saw her become a freelance travel writer, a published poet and songwriter, and a student of drama and lyrics.
Taking the lessons learned, she became an English tutor with a sold-out practice, and a director at a business-to-business PR consultancy. She then became a writing coach, trainer and international speaker. Her clients have included creatives, writers and tech start-ups through to the industry giants of Statoil, Wilhelmsen Ships Service and Schibsted Media Group.
Greta is the author of the book Just Write It! How to Develop Top-Class University Writing Skills. (McGraw-Hill, 2013). And her recent work has been published in The Huffington Post, Moon Magazine, The Numinous and The Introvert Effect. She speaks at leading industry events, such as Blogtacular and both hosts and appears on panel discussions.
Greta lives in South West London with her husband and daughter and continues to run creative writing workshops for bloggers and the business world in London, and beyond. She also coaches women to bring their own books to life.
$20 Limited Edition
You'll get one copy of Heart, Soul & Sass. I'll also sign you up to my online community, where you'll be the first to hear about my workshops, new coaching programmes, special offers and opportunities. *This bonus is limited to the first 100 readers.
1 copy + ebook included
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$25 VIP Readers
You'll get a signed copy of Heart, Soul & Sass, which will include a personal, handwritten message. In addition, I'll sign you up to my online community.
1 copy + ebook included
You'll get one print copy of Heart, Soul & Sass +2 to share with friends at a discount, plus a HUGE thanks from me in the acknowledgements section. You’ll also get everything in the previous bonus.
PLUS you get FREE access to my upcoming 3-part online workshop in Writing for Creative Self-Expression.
3 copies + ebook included
$200 Private Coaching
You'll get everything in the previous bonuses, plus 7 more copies to share with your friends.
PLUS, You’ll get an exclusive invitation to a private 60-minute coaching session with me. This is for people who want to write, or are writing inspirational, self-help, or how-to books OR blog posts and articles on any topic.
10 copies + ebook included
$500 Patron Pack!
This is for you if you want this book to reach a group of people and contribute to this campaign in a big way! You'll receive 25 copies, get recognised on the first page as a Patron, and get any of the above bonuses you like most.
25 copies + ebook included
$1000 3-Hour Workshop
You'll get everything in the previous bonuses, plus more copies to share with your friends. You’ll also get a limited invitation to a live 3-hour workshop in London in Writing for Creative Self-Expression.
In this fun, interactive workshop you’ll:
--Learn what the communication pyramid is, and how to navigate it
--Discover your writing personality and how to use it to your advantage
--Practice using a tool to figure out your vision and values to get to the heart of ‘why’ you want to write
--Tap into your creative current by starting with your senses
--Identify ways to increase your metaphor quotient
--Learn writing and literary techniques to help you write in a fresh, vibrant way
This is not writing therapy, but it is writing coaching. It’s using the page as a guide for where you need to go. It’s also about using writing to forge your own path, find your voice and express your soul’s desires.
30 copies + ebook included
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$2000 Hire to Speak
Hire Greta Solomon to speak at your event and receive 100 print copies for you and your guests to take home. You’ll also get everything in the previous bonus.
100 copies + ebook included
Journal Your Way to Inspiration and Happiness
Heart, Sass & Soul is about using the power of writing to create a fulfilling life. One that doesn’t just look good – but feels good.Share Tweet LinkedIn Embed pszr.co/IvPUS 3059 views
|8 publishers interested|
Heart, Sass & Soul is a self-help book about using the practice of writing to create a fulfilling life. One that is rich, and full, and truly expresses who you are. It’s not about writing because you want to be a writer (although that may be true – in fact, you may already be an accomplished writer). Primarily, it’s about writing for both the joy of creative self-expression and the healing of heart and soul that can bring.
Carving out time so that you can be creative gives you access the liminal space. That’s the space between there and now, and the future. In that space, lies the magic of potential and possibility. Through creativity, you can remove yourself from the reality you currently find yourself in. For many people, this is a damaging rinse-and-repeat cycle of busyness and exhaustion. It enables you to unplug from the busyness of life, and choose another path. One that allows you to tackle loss and grief, and the darkness that can numb you out, if suppressed or ignored.
Creativity isn’t a product that you can buy. But it’s the missing piece of the wellness puzzle. If you want to improve your wellbeing, improve your creative expression. And life will look and feel better.
According to thebalance.com the top 10 kids’ dream jobs (in 2016) include being a dancer / choreographer, a musician and a writer. These creative yearnings don’t just go away. Writing is a secret fantasy for many, but it may not be something they practice regularly – if at all.
Having said that, journalling is becoming more commonplace. But writing for creative self-expression is a different animal altogether. It’s a deeper form of transformative practice than simply getting your thoughts and feelings on the page.
Using personal stories, food for thought, writing exercises, challenges, tools, tips and techniques, this book gently guides the reader to experience her own creative breakthrough. And, in turn, help her to write her way to a fully-expressed life.
Heart, Sass & Soul is a call to action. A call to pick up a pen, brew a pot of tea and listen to what life is telling you. It’s a celebration of who you are, good and bad, and loving and accepting all of it.
On a practical level, it’s – of course – a guided course in writing from the heart and soul. But it’s one that you can dip in and out of. It aims to help you to uncover and recover your creativity, inner strength, self-love and the way forward for you. And if you want to be a 'better' writer, it will help you with that too. As you access your deeper levels of self-expression, your writing will begin to flow. It will feel fresher and more vibrant.
Part 1: Answering the call
Part 2: Hot sauce for the soul
Part 3: Your life, your rules
This book is suitable for people of ALL ages who want to be more creative and life a more creative life. However, my core reader is likely to be between the ages of 28 and 55.
She is sensitive, creative, introverted and spiritually-minded. She has big dreams and a big heart, and wants to make a difference in the world. The trouble is, she feels swayed by society and pressures to fit in, conform and ‘be normal’. She feels that she’s not fulfilling her potential, yet on the outside she looks pretty successful. She is well-educated and reasonably affluent. She’s also well-travelled, with a lot of life experience, and has overcome obstacles to achieve the life she lives now.
But while her life is now ‘good on paper’, she feels creatively stifled. Every now and then, though, she gets a burst of energy, such as my Instagram friend who wrote: “Today, I have sass in my pants and it is itching. Something in me is finally awake.” She wants to harness these bursts of brilliance, and the little rays of sunshine that are her true self-expression.
The period between the ages of 28 and 30 is highly significant in a person’s life. Things get shaken up during this period, and what is not true for you can slip away.
This can mean it’s a time of incredible upheaval. My reader may have had to start all over again, after the end of a long relationship. She may have changed career path. Maybe she’s now questioning whether she even wants a ‘career’ at all. She may have given up drugs, alcohol, sugar or people-pleasing. But now there’s a void. She is seeking and searching for ways to fill it.
This search has led her to read an array of self-help books. She’s become interested in health and wellness, spirituality, keeping fit and being better in business and relationships. She listens to inspiring podcasts, and reads personal development magazines, such as Psychologies. She also attends personal development events and takes part in online courses.
But although they have been incredibly useful, she doesn’t see these things as the key to unlocking true happiness for her. Instead, she feels called to follow her creativity and see where it leads. She sees this as the key to stepping out of the shadows and reclaiming her power.
I have been working with Well Spirited PR, spearheaded by powerhouse PR, Suzie Bartle. The consultancy works with successful self-help authors, and our work together is spring-boarding my visibility. Together, we have created my long and short bio, honed my story and mapped out a complete plan for my promotion and publicity – before, during and after the publication of Heart, Sass & Soul.
Getting media (and social media) coverage is a great platform on which to nurture a community of readers who know and like me and my work. I have already achieved the following coverage, which is targeted at my ideal reader
• The Introvert Effect Magazine – an 8-page by-lined article called Writing from the Heart
• The League of Extraordinary Introverts Podcast – an interview called Writing for Joy
• Ruby Warrington’s Moon Magazine / The Numinous website –an article on how to balance hustle and creative flow in your business.
• Thrive Global – an article on why creativity is the missing piece in the wellness puzzle
I have also begun blogging for The Huffington Post. My recent articles have all had the same underlying theme that self-expression and creativity are essential for being happy and healthy.
• Has the New British Vogue Changed the Media Landscape?
• What Meghan Markle’s Engagement Means For us All
• How the #MeToo Campaign Highlighted Society’s Spiritual Sickness
My overall approach
The focus of ALL my promotion and publicity is to create and publish content around the theme of living with heart, sass and soul. It’ll be a mixture of opinion pieces, personal storytelling and how-to articles. The aim is to become the definitive voice in living a fully-expressed, creative life.
I am viewing marketing and PR as an integral part of the writing process. I have structured the book so that it is publicity-friendly. In fact, I have used the content to create many of the PR ideas outlined here. I will also include calls to action and digital signposts in the copy so that readers can interact with me while reading the book – and long after. My goal is to become a key part of the media and be highly visible, so that when my book comes out I don’t have to transition into doing PR. It will simply be a part of who I am, and what I already do.
As a former director at SE10, an international business-to-business PR consultancy, I know how to do PR. And I’m excited about taking a hands-on role in promoting myself; Heart, Sass & Soul; and the messages it contains.
Here are my key messages
• Creative self-expression is the missing piece in the wellness puzzle. It’s the path to self love, healing, happiness and feeling fulfilled in life.
• We are living in the age of authenticity, so it is essential for business owners to be able to write from the heart.
• I have a unique creative journey, which has influenced my approach. I combine my experience in lyric writing, journalism, PR (both corporate and lifestyle), music, acting, singing, tutoring, psychology and life coaching. I give sound business advice, and teach you how to write. Plus, it is all done in a fun, fresh way that allows you to find your own creative expression.
• I have a solid background as a journalist, writer and writing trainer and coach. I have solid credentials in health and wellness (including a life coaching qualification and a psychology degree). I have experience of juice fasting, and have been on lots of personal development retreats. I am also a creative, and I am combining all these things to create something new.
Sales & marketing
Creating a pre-order bundle
A key marketing activity to drive sales will be to compile a digital package of writing coaching resources that people can download when they pre-order Heart, Sass & Soul.
I aim to create a mini audio for each chapter with snippets of bonus content, and guidelines for how to complete the writing exercises in each chapter. I will accompany this with beautifully designed worksheets for people to download and fill in.
If people have already bought the book, they can also sign-up to receive this. I will also include a video taken from my online course: How to write awesome articles and blog posts, which I plan to launch in late 2018. This is designed to accompany chapter 12, and will help my readers to produce written work that they can put into the world.
Direct sales via my business
I will market the book directly to my high-end coaching clients and to people who come to my talks, workshops and events. This will also help the word-of-mouth spread of the book.
Over the coming pages, I will share my working PR plan. It’s a detailed guideline of where I want to go, and the exact steps that are going to take me there. The benefit of having a plan such as this, is that we can anchor it together in the run-up to the launch. Plus, it’s easy for you to see where you can add to the ideas and suggest new ones.
My working PR plan
The core elements
• My blog / social media
• Connecting with brands / influencers & forming partnerships with organisations
• Press releases
• Pitching ideas and articles to newspapers / magazines / blogs / TV shows
• Live speaking opportunities
• Podcast interviews
My blog / social media
Goals: To hit 5000 followers on Instagram and Twitter and 2000 followers on Facebook by the end of 2018 (current numbers: Instagram 730, Twitter 545, Facebook 170). To create an engaged community of writers and wellness lovers.
• Go through my blog archive of around 80 posts and promote a blog post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter every week
• Post 4-5 Tweets a day (schedule using Buffer)
• Aim for organic growth on Instagram (my platform of choice) by posting and interacting
• Reach out to 2-3 people a daily on Twitter and Instagram
• Post daily on Instagram and Twitter
• In the run-up to the launch of Heart, Sass & Soul, much of my content will be snippets and teasers from the book, all designed to whet the appetite for pre-orders and for launch day.
• I will run specific campaigns aimed at engagement by readers. The first will be a five-day creativity challenge centred around my upcoming mini e-course in Writing for Creative Self-Expression. .
Measuring results: I will use Facebook analytics / Twitter analytics / Google Analytics to measure results. I’ll look at how many people have potentially consumed my key messages based on readership, listeners, viewers and browsers.
Connecting with brands / influencers & forming partnerships with organisations.
Goals: To form one key relationship with a brand, one with an organisation and have a handful of influencers that believe in my work and want to support it. To deliver 60-Minute Writing Workouts and other creativity talks and events in conjunction with brands.
Approach: I will begin to form relationships with people I think could eventually become ambassadors for my work. My approach is to serve them first and look for situations where both of us can benefit.
Pitching ideas to tv shows
Goal: To pitch myself to TV shows on an ad hoc basis, according to current affairs and launches happening in my business.
Approach: I will pitch to This Morning, Good Morning Britain, Victoria Derbyshire
Measuring results: I’ll measure results based on the quality of relationships that I build with TV producers and booking staff. It’s essential for my long-term strategy to get re-booked on key
shows. Getting on TV is more of a ‘nice-to-have’, than an essential part of my PR strategy.
Goal: To create and distribute a simple press release introducing myself and work in creative writing for wellness. I will distribute it to all the lifestyle, health and wellness editors (see below in the ‘Pitching ideas and articles to newspapers’…section). My angle is that there is a new way to wellbeing that doesn’t involve yoga or green juice. I will also state that I am available for quotes, interviews and to write articles. Possible titles of press releases: Write Yourself Well / Why Creativity is the Missing Piece in the Wellness Puzzle
Measuring results: I’ll measure the success of this by how many outlets use my copy / get in touch to request more information.
Pitching ideas and articles to newspapers / magazines & blogs
Goals: To write articles for newspapers, magazines and blogs. To be interviewed as a thought leader on writing, creativity and creative writing for wellness. To eventually get a column about
creativity, wellness and self-development (tentatively called living with heart, sass and soul) in a magazine that targets my ideal readers.
Approach: I will pitch to the following newspapers and magazines:
• PRINT: Psychologies, Woman & Home (Feel Good You), Good Housekeeping, Red, Prima, Natural Health, Balance, Top Sante, Fit & Well, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Stylist, Grazia, Daily Express, Daily Mirror, The Times (Body & Soul), Balance London, In the Moment, Breathe, You magazine
• ONLINE: Express Online, Telegraph Online, Guardian Online, Independent.co.uk, Elle Online, Marie Claire Online, Cosmopolitan Online, Woman’s Own Online, Huffington Post,
Byrdie, Mind Body Green, The Numinous, Hip + Healthy, Well + Good, Healthista, SheerLuxe, Yahoo! Health, The Pool, Red Online, Elephant Journal, Shinemagazine.co.uk, Black Ballad
• TRADE PRESS: Psychology Today, Creative Review, Creative Digest, Holistic Therapist magazine, Therapy Today, The Author, The Writer, Mslexia, Writing Magazine
Measuring results: I’ll measure results by the number of interviews, article commissions and features I obtain.
Live speaking opportunities
Goal: To secure one speaking engagement per month that will put me in front of my target audience.
Approach: Contact organisations with my signature speeches, all the topics I can cover, my tailor-made speaker’s bio, specific details of my previous speaking experience and some
Measuring results: I will measure results by both the number of speaking gigs secured, and the number of people who consume my messages as a result. When I speak at live events there is always a ripple effect, where I make connections that lead to new opportunities, so this is a key part of my PR strategy for 2018.
Goal: To secure 8-10 podcast interviews in 2018 that my target audience listen to.
Approach: I’ll target each podcast with a personalised pitch, and a list of topics that I can speak about. The last interview I did for a podcast (The League of Extraordinary Introverts) got me new
Facebook and Instagram followers, and new mailing list subscribers. So, this is also a key way of growing my audience.
Measuring results: I’ll measure results by the number of people who visit my site, subscribe and follow that have specifically come from a particular podcast.
As this is a working plan, I’ll add and take-away things, and adapt it as I continue to get press coverage and make new connections. However, after just two months of implementing this plan, I am already seeing results and am confident that I will have a firm foundation upon which to launch Heart, Sass & Soul into the world.
Heart, Sass & Soul sits in the self-help / creativity section in a bookstore. Most of the books on creativity, focus on arts and crafts, and many are beautiful journals that are highly illustrated with not many words. Below I will outline some books that inhabit the broad genre, of creative self-expression, writing and journaling, that my book fits into.
Let it Out: A Journey Through Journaling, Katie Dalebout (Hay House, 2016). This is a fun, fresh guide for millennial women to make their first steps into journaling. Through a series of worksheets, the millennial blogger and podcast host covers everything from productivity, to organization, to finding the one. And it promises a means of coping with stress and change
through journaling. Although some of my target audience are millennial, many are not. And at age 40, my voice is not a millennial one. My slightly older readers have already done many of the ‘scary, challenging’ things the book suggests, and want a deeper transformation.
49 Ways to Write Yourself Well: The Science and Wisdom of Writing and Journaling, Jackee Holder (Step Beach Press, 2013). This book guides the reader both theoretically and practically in journaling their way to emotional and / or physical health. The promise is, of course, that you can write your way to health and it is a user-friendly guide. But ultimately, it’s a guide to journaling, rather than a holistic road-map to living a creative, self-expressed life.
Writing for Wellbeing, Patricia McAdoo (Currach Press, 2013). This is similar in theme to my book, as the author writes about the joy of expressing yourself. McAdoo is a Clinical Psychologist and Writer and although it covers similar ground, my style of writing in the book, and the personal stories I tell are completely different. This book appears aimed at an older audience and is far more clinical in style. In contrast I am writing Heart, Sass & Soul from the perspective of being a creative writing coach, who wants me reader to feel happy and free in life, and not just free from a clinical condition.
There are also a host of beautifully illustrated journals that straddle the lines between a blank journal to fill in, and a guided course in how to journal. As such, they are sparse in words but instead include exercises and quotes and a host of inspiration. They encourage the reader to use the blank pages to express their thoughts and feelings. These books include:
• Me, You, Us: A Book to Fill Out Together Lisa Currie (Penguin, 2015)
• Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration Meera Lee Patel (Particular Books, 2016)
• Play Every Day: A Journal (Chronicle Books, 2017)
• The Wellbeing Journal: Creative Activities to Inspire (in aid of Mind for better mental health, Michael O’Mara Books, 2017)
Heart, Sass & Soul is different in that it is resolutely a self-help book and not a journal. And though there are many exercises I’m not expecting readers to write in the book. I expect them to buy a blank journal and write in that instead.
Heart, Sass & Soul is far more word-dense. There’s a lot of memoir, ideas, and stories that are stand-alone. And in fact, even if the reader didn’t put pen to paper while reading the book they would get A LOT out of it, and would still be inspired and uplifted. The success of the book isn’t down to how many people write their way through it but to whether they ingest and digest the information and use it to inspire their lives no matter how much, or how little they go on to write. I imagine that like with a lot of creative ideas, they can fester for a time until a person is finally ready to take action. Having said that, I plan to offer a free online course as a pre-order bonus, so that readers can get extra help with the process of writing. I talk more about this in the promotion and publicity section of this proposal.
It’s important to note that the above list isn’t exhaustive and recently two celebrities (Dawn French and Fearne Cotton) have launched journals, with the aim of writing yourself happy. French’s book (a companion to her self-help book Happy) is Happy: The Journal: A chance to write joy into every day and let go of perfect (Orion Spring, 2017). French’s is Me. You. A Diary: The No.1 Sunday Times Bestseller (Michael Joseph, 2017).
These are high-profile, bestselling books, which tells me that people are hungry for self-reflection. In these books, the focus is very much on the reader doing the work, and my book is more of ‘let-me-take-you-by-the-hand-and-show-you-all-the-ways-you can-thrive’ approach. Mine is a little more niche and takes a deep-dive approach.
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Clearing the blocks to self-expression
When you write, do you feel truly able to express yourself? Are you able to really say what you need and want to say? I always ask at these questions at the beginning of my workshops in writing for creative self-expression.
When writers are struggling with the world, they often put their angst into words. For instance, the 1950’s beat poet Allen Ginsberg poured all his suffering into Howl – an epic poem about his dissatisfaction with life. His publisher was then put on trial for printing obscene language. Yet to Ginsberg, those words simply expressed what he thought and felt, nothing more; nothing less. His world contained gay sex, and he didn’t hide that. He freely expressed himself.
You may be thinking, well time has moved on – now anything goes. But we are all taught in our daily lives to censor ourselves, and we’re socialised to do this from a very young age. This censorship not only extends to our social relationships, but even to our private thoughts. And for some of us – almost every waking moment of life. Rather than face a ‘trial’, we figure it’s easier to just write (or say) something bland. Something every palette can handle. But if you do this enough, it becomes a habit that’s hard to break.
So, when I ask that question – ‘Are you truly able to express yourself?’ it’s no surprise that 90 per cent of people say, ‘no’.
Writing is free. It costs just a pen, a piece of paper – and perhaps a coffee (maybe a bullet-proof one for extra brain power). But for many of us, it’s a minefield. On the surface of it, the blank page is non-judgemental. All it asks is to be filled with marks. It’s completely impartial. It doesn’t mind whether the marks are scribbled or perfect-looking, or grammatically correct. But when we bring ourselves to the page, we bring a lifetime of baggage – some of it accumulated from around the age of five, the first time we EVER put pen to paper.
Now, of course, there are some people for whom writing freely is a weapon. I’m thinking of people who practice hate speech; the alt-right; the bitchy columnists who spread racist and sexist propaganda; and the internet trolls who delight in ‘taking people down’. However, I’m sure you’ll agree that these folks are not truly self-expressed. Their bullying behaviour is a mask for something else, and though they may write freely, it’s not with joy and love. I hope those people find health and happiness. But they’re outside the scope of what this book is about. And I don’t want to waste another word on them. You who are reading this book – yes YOU! You are the one I have written this for.
Have you ever been grammar-shamed?
By this, I mean when you’ve written something heart-felt or creative, and the response you get back is all about your grammar or punctuation. This type of mostly unhelpful feedback is commonplace. People who don’t know how to write or are excellent technical writers with blocked self-expression can ONLY focus on the mechanics of writing. They miss the nuances, and ignore the feelings and the messages behind the writing. And if you listen to them you’ll get on a fast-track to being blocked yourself. Like my client, who can remember vividly the specific nun who shamed her as a child, and whose voice she still hears when she’s writing. The solution is to practice the exercises in this book and just let them unfold a path for you. Clients have told me that my work has helped to take away the shame they felt from being dyslexic. That they used to be self-conscious about their writing, but after practicing for a while it just disappeared. The joy of creative self-expression took over. And that’s the thing. We don’t want to get too serious and bogged down, nor try to drown out the negative voices, or hurl insults back. We want to listen. So ask yourself: “When, where and why have people shamed you into thinking your creativity is ‘bad’?” We need to accept the answers and make a space in our hearts for joy to bubble up. Then we use that to express ourselves – our true selves.
The communication pyramid
The communication pyramid (overleaf) is a handy tool to help you to visualise the different layers of self-expression that you can access.
At the top, we have the mind – the place where most of us write from. I don’t teach this at all, not even when teaching in the business and academic worlds. When you write from the mind, the writing is dull, formulaic and rule-based. It cannot inspire or move anyone to do anything – least of all yourself.
Second down, we have the body. This level is useful and is the zone of the practical writing techniques that you may have learned in a how-to course, or while reading a how-to article on the internet. The heart and soul are, of course, the focus of this book. We’ll do lots of work around these, and there’ll be lots of stories and examples to keep you on track.
Finally, at the bottom, there is voice – the much discussed holy-grail for writers. Every writer wants to find their voice. But you can’t really find it. As you go down the layers of the communication pyramid, you uncover it. It’s the sum-total of the mind, body, heart and soul. Because although I said I don’t teach the mind stuff, of course it comes into play. The mind figures out how to organise the dance of words, phrases and sentences. My method is to ensure you get out of its way. Give it lots of time and space, and the heart and soul will speak to it for you.
Grab a notebook and answer the following questions:
· Which place do you most write from?
· How can you access the deeper places? Brainstorm some solutions that you think might work for you.
Don’t wait for the perfect time to write. If you have an idea, pull out your phone and jot it down. Put all those sentences together and you may have a full piece! Learn to love first drafts and don’t be shamed by spelling mistakes or grammar errors. When it comes to creative self-expression they’re simply not in the job description. Walk, run, shower, wash-up, go for a drive. Do things that switch off your mind and see what bubbles up. Then write it down.
Facing up to what lies beneath
Quieting your mind and getting honest with yourself is tough. When I first started exploring acting as a career in the early 2000s, I took an acting course at Pineapple dance studios in London’s Covent Garden. The first session was fun, until the teacher told us our homework. The task was to bring in a picture of yourself as a baby and talk about your childhood. I felt I couldn’t do it – that it was too personal. And I walked around with a knot in my stomach all week, dreading having to reveal myself publicly.
But I did it, and it felt good to face my fear. And it wasn’t even as though I shared anything earth-shattering. Just some run-of-the-mill family stuff that a thousand other people called Greta could share. After the second session, we were given another assignment. This time we had to choose a significant event in our lives. Then we would have to communicate it the following week to the others in the class, using only our eyes and face. Now I was really scared. I had never done anything like that before. Where inside me could I find the means to express that? I told myself that it wasn’t really acting and that it didn’t make any sense. What about the words? Why couldn’t we just say how we felt? The following week, I found a reason not to make it to class. And the following, and the following… until the 10-week course was over, and I’d spent a couple of hundred pounds (that I couldn’t afford) on two group acting classes!
When I did enrol in full-time drama school the following year, my voice teacher cautioned me: “You have to find your own voice. Everything you do is about championing the voices of others”. And it was true. I was, and am, a journalist. I love doing interviews and telling people’s stories. I love packaging advice in fun, fresh ways. I love digesting information and re-telling it.
If you’re having trouble accessing the lower levels of the communication pyramid, the collection of beliefs and behaviours that make up your writing personality are probably getting in the way.
We all have a writing personality that protects us from going too deep. That prevents us from accessing that place inside and drawing it out. It’s self-protection. But it’ll get in the way unless you bring it to light. Figuring out your writing personality and how to navigate it can reap dividends. In doing so, you shine a light on your behaviour when you have a pen and paper in your hand, or you’re at the keyboard.
Writing personality types
Note: these descriptions relate to the public writing you do, which is probably at work. But we take these public personas home with us too, and our writing personality seeps through every time we write.
Your attitude is that your writing is either perfect or worthless. You spend ages on one piece and feel that everything you do is never quite good enough. Ironically, your work has plenty of ‘errors’ because you always want your writing to be exact and precise. You’re highly conscientious and a hard worker.
You hate seeing your boss’ / editor’s / colleague’s red marks on your work. So you play it safe and don’t take many writing risks. This means you tend to follow set patterns in your work and don’t like to try out new techniques or ideas.
Could Do Better Betty
You simply never put 100 per cent into anything. You know that you have huge potential, but instead prefer to do just enough to get by. Occasionally you pull out all the stops and write something magnificent. But then you go back to your ‘easy’ life – which of course doesn’t feel easy on the inside.
You prefer not to think too much and would much rather be active and outdoors that cooped up with a notepad and pen, or hunched over a computer. Having fun is the most important thing and writing just doesn’t compete with other activities. But secretly you yearn to write.
You whittle work off at an amazing speed but your writing is littered with silly errors that would have been spotted with a little more care and attention. You also leap in and start writing without formulating any kind of plan.
If you have a deadline, you often miss it, or make it just in the nick of time. This is simply because you don’t give yourself enough time to write. With every piece of writing you do it’s as though you’re competing in a 100m race because you avoid it until the last minute.
You quite like writing certain things, your blog or Instagram posts, for instance. But when it comes to something you find challenging, you freeze up. Sometimes, you can get going but find it hard to finish. You wonder if you really have the skills to write properly.
Grab your notebook and answer the following questions:
· What’s your writing personality?
· Which of the writing personality types did you identify with?
· How do they sabotage your writing?
· What strategies could you put in place to stop them taking over?
Now consider this:
· How can you get your writing personality to work for you, not against you?
FEAR – that’s the word to remember. All these writing personality types are governed by fear. Shaking things up helps you to bypass this. Quite simply, you forget you’re scared, you lose the coping behaviours and writing just happens. So, don’t be afraid to shake things up. In fact, page by page, that is what I will urge you to do in this book. The following quote by the philosopher Nietzsche has become my mantra over the years: ‘One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.’ We just need to remember that there is safety in the storm. When you ride the wave, the raging tide cannot harm you. When you yield to its force you are strong. It’s only when you try to resist it that the chaos turns into destruction.
A great way to get past the fear is to move. So, the final exercise in this chapter is a moving one. Your challenge is to pull on a pair of comfy shoes, go for a solo walk, and shake off the fears.
The magic of movement (AKA why you need to write on-the-go)
Walking and thinking and writing go hand-in-hand. Getting into your stride and mapping out where you want to go on the street allows your mind to do the same with your thoughts and ideas.
Ferris Jahr, in an article called ‘Why walking helps us think’ (published in The New Yorker) explained this perfectly. He wrote: "Since the time of the peripatetic Greek philosophers, writers have discovered a deep, intuitive connection between walking, thinking and writing. 'How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!' Henry David Thoreau penned in his journal. 'Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow'." I couldn’t agree more. And no, I didn't just include that quote for the snigger factor of the word 'methinks'. Although, I dare you to go around using that for a day, just for fun!
But I guess that's the point. Movement is fun, and walking shakes things up, helping to clear the cobwebs to creativity. It pumps blood and oxygen to all the muscles in your body.
In fact, for the past couple of years, I’ve been blogging on-the-go, pounding the pavements and typing my posts into my phone. It struck me that when I get out into the world, armed with a little inspiration, the ideas (and my writing) just flow. I realised that if I consciously sit down and think about what I want to write, the writing often comes from my head, and not from my heart. In contrast, my writing is far more heart-centred when I put myself into an alpha state, where my subconscious can flow.
In my first book Just Write It! I wrote a little about this alpha state:
Ideas are like radio waves that float all around us waiting for us to tune into them. And when you alternate intense thinking with periods of rest, you often find that you open your antennae for flashes of inspiration. This usually happens when you’re doing routine activities such as walking, running, washing up or taking a shower. These types of activities increase alpha brainwaves. These put you in a relaxed enough state for your intuition to kick in, or for you to have an ‘aha’ moment.
The trouble is that in our society, we do too much pushing and not enough allowing. Many of us take quotes such as ‘success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration’ to heart. And that can mean that we end up chaining ourselves to our desks.
The following exercise is about giving yourself permission to move, to roam and to explore – to shake out of your skin and move into the magic of your imagination.
Writing on-the-go: the instructions
Walk for 30 minutes while thinking, daydreaming, looking and seeing. Make sure you have a notebook and pen with you, or a smartphone where you can write down whatever comes into your head.
Before: Set an intention for what you want to write, or think about an issue or topic that you’d like to ruminate on. Alternatively, you can think about what’s bothering you today – those (good or bad) thoughts you just can’t shake.
During: Well, there are no real rules. Just do anything that gets you walking and into a good rhythm. You could go to the park, or go window shopping, or explore a part of town you’ve never been to before. Once ideas pop into your head, stop and write them down as fast as you can, and then continue walking.
After: Once you’re back from your walk, re-read what you’ve written and, if you feel inspired, use your favourite bits in a finished piece of ‘work’. By work, I mean a Facebook or Instagram post. A little note that you put on your fridge door. A verse you decide to save on your phone. If you like what you have written, honour it by saving it somewhere special.
I love this exercise because it allows creativity to percolate and brew. I recommend doing it regularly (as often as you can). If nothing happens the first time, try again. Wait patiently for creativity to happen and trust that it will. If nothing, you’ll have gone for a head-clearing walk.
Yours too, can be the truest voice
If your energy is flagging, I hope this story will perk you up. You may have heard it before – it’s the story of Florence Foster Jenkins, which was recently made into a film of the same name. If you haven't seen it, I recommend that you get yourself to a movie download site, pronto! The film is a heart-warming display of passion. Florence is a woman who has had syphilis for 50 years. She's always known she could die at any moment, so she always felt she had nothing to lose by following her passions. She had wanted to be a concert pianist, but couldn't due to problems with her hands. So she ran a successful music club with her boyfriend for more than two decades.
Then, in her twilight years, she decided that she wanted to sing. The trouble was she didn't have a 'good' voice. It was either flat, or completely out of tune. Plus, she had poor phrasing and terrible breathing. But she sung with such gusto and passion, and with all her heart and soul, that despite her concert audiences laughing at her, they also fell in love with her.
Towards the end of the film, she reads a terrible review of her performance in The New York Times. She looks to her boyfriend for reassurance: "I was never laughing at you. Yours is the truest voice I have ever heard," he says. But the shock of the review sends her health into a downward spiral. And finally, on her death bed, she says: "People may say I couldn't sing but they can never say I didn't sing".
Make sure they can never say that you didn’t write. Don’t allow anguish, fear and blocked creativity to stagnate. Get moving and get writing. There is true magic in movement. You just have to put one foot in front of the other.
This is a short and sweet note to let you know that I’ve launched a new mini pre-order campaign and everyone who ...
To my lovely pre-order supporters,
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With the contract signed, sealed and delivered – I can officially announce that Heart, Soul & Sass: Write Your Way to a Fully-Expressed Life will be published by Mango Media. They are a traditional independent publisher in Miami, in the US, that do things in a non-traditional way. They had me at that line!
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Happy Saturday lovely people!
There are no updates about Heart, Soul & Sass (aside from the fact that I've submitted my manuscript to my publisher)!
But today, I wanted to invite you to take part in a free five-day creative writing challenge that I'm running called Journey Beyond Journaling (see the video below).
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Hello, and happy Monday!
Thank you again to everyone who has pre-ordered my book Heart, Soul & Sass. I’m so excited for you to read it, and with just two days left of my crowdfunding campaign, I wanted to give you a few updates.