Cathy Fyock is an author of eight books and a book coach, and she hates to write. In spite of that, she wrote most of her books in just six weeks!
In this episode, Cathy shares a number of excellent and actionable tips for writing your nonfiction book, getting started when you’re struggling, and the benefits of publishing a book for you and your business.
Her most recent book, Blog2Book: Repurposing Content to Discover the Book You’ve Already Written, is also the title of a seminar that I attended in February 2017. I really connected with what she said and, in large part, that is because she identifies with the pain of struggling to start writing, or struggling to get the words out of your head and onto the page.
Before you even start the writing process, you have to prepare.
- Get hyper clear about why you want to write this book. Is it just because you have always wanted to write a book, or are you writing a nonfiction book around your area of expertise as a way to establish your thought leadership, get more clients, more business, or as a revenue stream? There can be a number of reasons that you may want to write. They’re all legitimate, but your reason may inform how you go about writing the book.
- Get hyper clear on what this is book about. A lot of people get stuck because they know a lot, and they could potentially write several books, but you can only write one book at a time… and even that is sometimes tricky. What is your thesis statement? What is your 30-second commercial?
- Establish your target audience. Who is that reader? Get very specific about who that target market is, and then start to think about what it is that you really want a reader to know. What is it that they have questions about? What are the issues that they would want to have addressed in a book on this topic?
Here’s a hot tip: To help her clients get clear on what their books are about and learn more about their audience, Cathy has “Ask Me About My Book” buttons. These are a valuable research and motivational tool because answering questions about your book will reveal what is compelling about your topic, if you have honed it properly, and get you thinking about the project more often.
Now you are prepared with an outline, a reason, and a business plan. How do start writing a book, even if you hate writing?
- A lot of people make the mistake of starting with the first chapter, but that’s one of the hardest chapters to write. Start with whatever chapter in the middle is calling to you. The first and last are the hardest to write because you need to have that big vision of where you’re going and where you’ve been. Just start with a page – it doesn’t matter which one.
- After you have something written (and that first win!), continue to write out of order. You just want to create momentum. You want to create energy and excitement for yourself, because this is a big and arduous task.
- Don’t get hung up on editing. You need to write the book first, then you can edit it. Writing and editing are two different brain functions, so trying to do them both simultaneously is exhausting. Just get it all out there, raw, and polish it later.
- Learn when you write best. Early in the writing process, set timed writing sessions in the morning, afternoon, and late at night to assess when you are most productive. You may not be a morning person but still do your best writing in the morning.
- Learn where you write best. Try writing in different environments to see where you are the most productive. Some people thrive in a hectic environment (like the coffee shop or a restaurant), but others need to be in a cave.
- Use writing prompts. Just google the term, use an app, or think about something weird. The most different writing prompts can sometimes produce the most creative results, because thinking about two disparate subjects can result in lateral thinking.
- Practice time blocking. Schedule the times that you will write, put them on your calendar, commit to actually blocking off that time, and be very detailed with your plans. You don’t have to finish a whole chapter. Give yourself one small, but achievable, goal with each time block so that you can continue racking up wins.
Another way to chunk out the writing process, and the premise of her most recent book, is to write a blog first. You still need a plan and a theme, but writing 500-1000 words once or twice a week is much easier to chew than a whole book. By the end of the year, you will have a great outline for your next book, and you can use the blog to market the book throughout the process.
After you are done writing, publishing a book offers distinct benefits for you and your business. It can increase your authority in the eyes of your clients, customers, and prospects and differentiate your business from the competition.
Your book is your new business card. If you give someone your traditional business card, more likely than not it’s going to end up in the trash can. However, no one throws away a book. It can sit on a desk, on a shelf, or anywhere.
People can see your book, and every time they do you’ve made another impression in their mind… or, worst case scenario, they give the book to someone else. Another touch point.
If you are thinking about a book, don’t know where to start, or lack clarity, get in touch with Cathy for a complimentary strategy session. She wants to help you get started!
- Connect with Cathy: Website | Facebook | YouTube
- Blog2Book: Repurposing Content to Discover the Book You’ve Already Written
- If you are thinking about a book, don’t know where to start, or lack clarity, get in touch with Cathy for a complimentary strategy session.
Cathy Fyock: I think there is something really significant about momentum, and building that momentum – that snowball effect. Start where you can create impact. Start at those easy sections, and then keep track of your word count. See it build… because that is exciting!
Peter Margaritis: Welcome to Improv is no Joke podcast, where it’s all about becoming a more effective communicator by embracing the principles of improvisation. I’m your host Peter Margaritis, the self-proclaimed chief edutainment officer of my business, The Accidental Accountant. My goal is to provide you with thought-provoking interviews with business leaders so you can become an effective improviser, which will lead to building stronger relationships with clients, customers, colleagues and even your family, so let’s start the show.
Peter: Welcome to episode 43 of Improv is no Joke podcast. Thank you very much for downloading this episode. Today’s guest is Cathy Fyock, who is the biz book strategist. As she states on her website, she is your possibility partner providing you with intensive support you need to get your book done. Her most recent book, Blog2Book: Repurposing Content to Discover the Book You’ve Already Written, is also the title of her seminar that I attended on February 3rd of this year. Her workshop was so powerful that I had to get her on my podcast so she can give you tips about writing blogs to articles, and a book. What grabbed my attention were two things: first, Cathy wrote a book in six weeks. That’s right – six weeks, and it was around 150 pages. Secondly, she hates to write because it’s hard work! However, this does help when Cathy is coaching her clients because she understands the pain points and can relate to what her clients are experiencing. That’s a sign of a great coach. In this episode, she provides a plethora of writing tips to help you find the motivation to become a writer. Now we’re talking nonfiction business books here. We discuss the business benefit to writing, which is it increases your authority, your expert level, in the eyes of your clients, customers, and prospects. It will differentiate your business from your competition. The thing about writing a book, about your business, is now this book is your business card. If you give someone your traditional business card, more likely than not it’s going to end up in the trash can. However, no one throws away a book. It can sit on a desk, on a shelf, or anywhere, so in a variety of times they can see your book, and you’ve made another impression in their mind… or worst case scenario, they give the book to someone else. Another touch point. If you’re thinking about writing in book, then you’ll enjoy this interview. As you are listening to the interview, see if you can pick up on some of the principles of improvisation. I’ll give you these hints: focus and Yes, And are the big two. Keep these in the back of your head while you are enjoying our conversation. If you have been listening to my podcast for a while, you know one of my goals with his podcast is to help you begin to make changes in your work and personal lives so you can better connect with others and create meaningful relationships. Many people have said it takes 21 days to start a habit, which I learned is incorrect from Dr. John B Molitor, PhD. John is a professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University, and the President of NSA Board of Directors. He said that the research shows that it takes 66 days to create a habit. So now we gotta put in some extra work to create that muscle memory. That’s why I created the Yes, And challenge: to help keep these principles in front of you so you can build up your improvisational muscle. To sign up, please go to PeterMargaritis.com and scroll down to the Yes, And challenge call to action and click to register to begin building the productive habit of Yes, And and the principles of improvisation. And remember to show your experiences on twitter using the hashtag #yesandchallenge. If you’re unsure of what the Yes, And challenge is all about, I discuss this in detail in episode 0. Go back and take a listen. Remember you can subscribe to my podcast on itunes, stitcher, and google play. If you’d like to purchase an autographed copy of my book Improv is no Joke: Using Improvisation to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life, for $14.99 with free shipping, please go to my website, PeterMargaritis.com, and you’ll see the graphic on the homepage to purchase my book. Please allow 14 days for shipping. With that said, let’s get to the interview with Cathy Fycok.
Peter: Cathy, welcome to my podcast and thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to have a conversation with me today.
Cathy: I’m really glad to be here today and talking with you Peter.
Peter: Cathy and I go way back. Today is March 2nd. Wow… I met you a whole month ago.
Cathy: I know. One whole month. Wow. [laughs]
Peter: Wow. And I met Cathy here in Columbus. She did a seminar called Blog to Book, and immediately she grabbed me. She was just telling us about herself, which I’ll have her do in a moment, but I left that three-hour seminar, with my with my friend Jay Young, and I asked him this question: Jay, was it worth it? Oh my god, I can’t believe how much it was worth it. And I said good, cuz I feel the same way. And she gave us these buttons to keep, as a reminder about writing a book. It says “ask me about my book.”
Cathy: I love the fact you have yours on. That’s great.
Peter: I’m wearing mine, yeah.
Peter: That’s one of her, I guess, motivating factors. To wear this when you’re out and stuff to keep you motivated to write that book, because we all know writing is such an enjoyable task that a lot of us do every single day (that’s sarcasm.)
Cathy: Right. [laughs]
Peter: And that’s what this conversation is about. I was so enamored with her message, and how to motivate to write. First, I”m going to let her tell her tell you a little bit about herself.
Cathy: Okay, well, for many many years I was a human resources consultant. I was an author, consultant, speaker. I was on faculty for the society for human resource management, and loved working in that field, but I think there comes a point in all of our years where we become just a little burnt out and we’re ready for something new and we want to reinvent ourselves, and that’s where I found myself back in 2013. About this time I got a call from my chapter of the National Speakers Association, and they said, “Cathy we understand you wrote one of your books in less than six weeks. Is that right?”
Cathy: And I said, actually, I wrote four of my five books, at the time, in less than six weeks. And they said “oh my gosh, do you do you have a process?” I thought that is the most interesting question. Nobody has ever asked me that question before. So I had to think about it. Do I have a process? And I thought, yeah, I do. He said, “Well, would you be willing to talk with us about your process?” and I said yes, absolutely, and he said but before you say yes… we have two of our chapter members who are working on their books. Would you be willing to coach them using your process, and then give us the report? Then present to the chapter? And I said okay – you had me at give our presentation, and I’m still hooked. Because I thought, I know I know it works for me, but I’m curious does it work for other people. I don’t know, I don’t know. So I coached these two women, and during the coaching process they said to me, “Cathy, have you ever thought about being a book coach?” And I had to say no because I’d never even heard of a book coach before. So I got to thinking about it and I thought you know this could be the perfect reinvention, and after I gave my program to the chapter my friends came up to me and said “Cathy you could be you could be a book coach. You should do this.” And I thought this is it, this is it. So that was in the spring of 2013, and by January of 2014 I was in business as a book coach.
Peter: Wow. I’m still getting my mind… you said you wrote a book in six weeks.
Cathy: [laughs] that’s right.
Peter: Some some people it’s taken six years, some people it’s taking them 16 years. Some people still have it in their head and just have a hard time getting it out, and I think you said in the seminar something like you really love to write?
Cathy: Hahaha… not! No. Truth be told, I hate to write. I think it is hard, hard work… and I say this as an author of eight books now, and as a book coach. I really do hate to write. So I get it when my when my coaching clients come to me and say I need a book, I want a book, I really really got to get this thing out of me… but I’m not a fan. Because, really, all my clients pretty much do not like to write. Because what I found is if you’d like to write, you’re gonna write it and it’s gonna be done. So I primarily work with folks who really don’t like the writing process, or find that it’s really intimidating or really hard to get started or they’ve been stuck… and those are my clients.
Peter: Then you have a lot of clients.
Cathy: I do! [laughs] I do.
Peter: What what a great niche. So you don’t like to write, but you’re a book coach, and that’s when you had me when you opened up at the center and said that. I went okay, she knows the pain, and even my buddy Jay Young, who has his PhD and wrote a dissertation, and he was all in. That was the big connector for us. I think it was the big connector for everybody in the room, even though you had a lot of people in there who had written a number of books. Yeah, it is tough. So what is the biggest tip on getting past or getting started, or getting it out of your head and onto the paper?
Cathy: Well, I think one of the first things is to be really clear on your purpose, like what do you want to do with this? Is it just because you have always wanted to write a book, or are you writing a nonfiction book around your area of expertise as a way to establish your thought leadership? As a way to get more clients, more business, as a revenue stream? There can be a number of reasons that you may want to write. They’re all legitimate, but that may inform how you go about writing the book in a very different way. So I say that’s that’s maybe one of the first things. Get really, really clear on what it is you want to do with this book. If it’s going to be the cornerstone of your business, for example, if you’re gonna build a consulting or coaching business around this book… well then it needs to be linked to your business’s strategic plan, and you need to have a plan for how you’re going to to implement it and use it and execute with it. So that, I think, is one of the most important things: getting really, really clear on your purpose. Beyond that is to get really, really clear on what this is book about. I think a lot of people get stuck because they know a lot, and folks who are around my age (who have been around the block a time or two) could write several books, potentially, but you can only write one book at a time, and even that is sometimes tricky.
Cathy: So that is why it is so important to get focused on…. not your topic, that’s a little too broad. It’s about your thesis statement. What is your 30-second commercial? And that’s why I love my my buttons, my magic buttons, and you were talking about the fact that I love to give these to my clients and to folks who attend my sessions, because it really is a magic button. First of all, it’s magic when you just put it on and you wear it in public because you are making a statement. Yes, I’m claiming the fact that I’m working on a book. I’m going in this direction and nobody can stop me. Then the second thing it does is, when you wear this button, people will ask you… I don’t know if you’ve experienced this yet, Peter, but people will ask you, “So tell me about your book,” and you’re gonna have to say something. [laughs]
Cathy: It will really help. I know I just did a presentation for my NSA Kentucky chapter Monday night, and someone posted on Facebook that she wore her button to the Walgreens that night, after the meeting, and she said two people asked her about her book. She said she was so excited and she was talking about her book, and it was the first time she’d really been talking about her book. That’s magical because you are gaining information from the potential readers about what resonates with them. What is compelling about your topic? Have you really honed it properly? have you have you focused your topic, substantially? So those those things are really important, and I think probably even more than purpose, getting really really clear on what is your book about may be the most important part about writing a book.
Peter: If I translate that, and it’s not a big translation here, but I guess I haven’t thought about this way and I think you really clarified it for me… ultimately, if I’m gonna write a book to help the business and establish a thought leadership, then I really need to come up with a business plan for the book.
Peter: In essence of, okay, what’s the mission of the company, how does this align with what I wanted to do… and I can see kind of laid out really just like a business plan, but I’ve never thought about it. Well, we didn’t do that with my first book, or we did and I just wasn’t that clear about.
Peter: I just had to get this thing out of my head. I had no idea what would come up, and I had no idea what would come of it. I like that because then it helps you, me, whoever’s listening to wear the button… because, in all transparency, I haven’t worn the button because, if somebody asked me to tell them about my book…
Cathy: What are you going to say?
Peter: Yeah, and I don’t have that clarity to it, and then I would revert to, well, let me tell you about about the book I wrote two years ago… and also listening. By wearing it and by talking to people, you’re doing some additional research.
Cathy: Yes, you’re doing research and you’re getting clarity in your own head. It’s helping you on a number of different levels. Plus, it’s starting to create the buzz about your book because I think one of the hardest things about writing a book is selling a book, and getting it out there, and so you have to start marketing your book as you begin writing your book, and this is one of the ways to do that.
Peter: I can see that. I’ll share a story with you: I remember when I had 200 copies, when my book was done and showed up, I brought it into the house and I just looked at them. My wife asked, “Aren’t you excited?” But I was thinking, now what the hell do I do?
Peter: I cleaned it up for my podcast, but…
Cathy: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.
Peter: And I think the marketing part of the book has been, probably, the biggest learning experience I had in my business over the last two years. Different ways of marketing a book. And and some have said that these thought leadership type of books are really just business cards, in essence, because they’re opening up a door. And the great thing about a book is, to use it in that marketing thought process, you can give somebody business card and that business card can end up in a trash… but nobody throws a book away.
Cathy: No, they may give it to somebody else. They may not open it, but it stays either on their shelf or on somebody else’s shelf. You’re right. So it’s a powerful marketing tool, but only if you plan it in the way that that you want to use it. So, for example, with my books that are about writing, and I have two books now about writing, they really are the foundation for my coaching programs. That’s what I build my coaching programs around, so that that serves as the curriculum for going through and working with me. You have to start with that end in mind, for sure.
Peter: And then you kind of work your way back into a project management type of type of work.
Cathy: You sure do.
Peter: Okay, so I’ve got my business plan. I’ve got some clarity. I may not have a title, but that will come. So now I need to start.
Cathy: Oh my gosh, where do you start? Because so many people get so overwhelmed. Well, first of all, before you even get to the starting to write, I think it’s important to also get clarity on sort of the whole the whole business plan for your book, which includes not only the purpose, not only the the thesis statement, but also your targeted reader. Who is that reader? And it’s not everybody. It’s some specific audience. So getting really clear on who that target market is, and then starting to think about what it is that I really want this reader to know. What is it that they have questions about? What are the issues that they would want to have addressed in a book on this topic? And creating the outline. I believe you don’t ever start a book just like randomly start, and you just write. No, you carefully craft that outline first, and that creates your structure then so that you can begin writing.
Peter: Yeah, I remember going through that process of creating that outline and I think I created it using Post It notes, just trying to see how this all worked. Once we had that, it gave clarity. Now I’m not gonna say we stuck to it exactly, but it pushed us in the right direction.
Cathy: Absolutely. One of my biggest tips for starting on your book is that most people think, “Oh you start with chapter one.”
Cathy: [laughs] I think that’s the hardest place to start. I would never start with chapter one. I would start with whatever chapter in the middle is calling to you. Generally, the first chapter sort of sets up and is the premise for the whole rest of the book. Your last chapter is the summary chapter. So the first and last are the hardest to write because it really requires you to have that big vision of where you’re going and where you’ve been, so I think it’s smartest to start in the middle. Somewhere where you just know that content backward and forward, and you can just jump in and write it. Now, obviously, fiction is a whole different animal, but I’m really talking about nonfiction here.
Peter: Right right right right, and that was told to me a long time ago by a friend of mine who’s a journalist. Because I was going through writer’s block or something and I ask where do you begin? She goes “in the middle.” That’s exactly what I do. I begin in the middle, the meat of what I want to talk about, and then I build it out.
Cathy: Mhm. In fact, a lot of times what I end up doing (not only for me, but also the authors that I’m working with) is we will find that sometimes the beginning is really not where you start writing. A lot of times I think I’ll maybe even be starting from the beginning, but really it’s more powerful to start in the middle of a story, or in the middle of your example, or as action is continuing, so that you pull your reader in, and then continue on. So I think writing out of order is one of the best tips that has been given to me, and that I’ve shared with my clients. My very first coaching client, that woman that I coached for free at my chapter, she said “Cathy that was awesome. That was life-changing for me, just to be able to start in the middle and then go from there,” because the other thing is you want to create momentum. You want to create energy and excitement for yourself, because it is this big, long, difficult, arduous, task. So you want to create the momentum and feel like “oh yes I’ve got a chapter done,” and that’s why starting in the middle, or on whatever is inspiring you to write, that’s where you start.
Peter: Also, I remember something that you said about small wins for big gains, or something along those lines. It sounds like I don’t have to sit down today and write the whole chapter.
Cathy: No, you do not.
Peter: Just sit down and write, maybe, what you think will be on that first page
Cathy: or the middle page.
Peter: That’s right, I’m a slow learner!
Cathy: [laughs] Yeah, but just a page. Again, it could be anything that is sort of speaking to you and saying I know exactly how I want to tell this story, or I know what I want to share about this secret or this idea or this tip, and that’s where you start.
Peter: I’m gonna take it in a little bit of a different direction, but still on the same topic. So if somebody my audience is going “I don’t like to write,” whatever, and a book might be too big of a first step… but they want to start writing more articles for publications, or whatever, on their topic, or they want to start their blog. That was part of the conversation we had last month: how do you take a blog, your blog postings, and then take that into a book.
Cathy: Yes. I love the whole idea of starting with a blog because it’s something so doable. It’s such an easy little chunk. Typically, when we’re talking about blog posts, we’re talking about anything from 400 words to 800 words. Typically, mine average out around 650 words. Some authors do longer, some do shorter. It really doesn’t matter. Whatever works for you. But it’s a short and nice little chunk of writing, and the whole idea of writing something that is 650 words… that’s so doable. You can sit down in an hour and and get that done, and that is what is so empowering for a lot of folks: knowing that, if I construct this right, if I am gonna write a blog to book (as is the the title of my newest book), if I just write a blog post a week, and I do it consistently under the same umbrella (under the same theme), and I work with an outline, then at the end of the year I have the content for a book. Now there may need to be some revisions, some changes, or some editing, as there will be in any book, but it’s a great and easy way to chunk out your writing in very doable kinds of steps, so that you can have that book at the end of the year.
Peter: I love that, because that was one that one of the reasons why I went. I’ve had a blog now since, I think, 2014, and I’ve gone back… and, to be transparent, I’ve not completely done my homework because I haven’t gone through and organized, as you were talking about in the seminar. I just went back to look at all the different categories and stuff that’s out there, and okay I can see going through and doing some additional writing this year to tie a book together by the end of the year.
Peter: And it goes back to what you also said: small wins, big gains. Just these little small wins. But I think that most people… you know, I’ve got it on my calendar today at eight o’clock that I’m going to sit down and write for an hour. I can have it on my calendar, but that doesn’t mean I’ll do it.
Cathy: this is one of the biggest challenges for so many of my clients, because they’re busy people. I mean, we’ve got we’ve got busy jobs, we’ve got busy personal lives. We’ve got a lot of stuff on our plate, so how do we get it done? Well, first of all, I do think it’s important to put it on your calendar. It’s much better than your to-do list, by the way, because your to do list essentially is a list that we work by urgency…
Peter: [laughs] yeah
Cathy: And your book, while important, will probably not be urgent unless you have signed a contract and you’re gonna get the second half of your advance. You know, then it might be urgent. But, otherwise, your book isn’t ever going to be urgent, so therefore it needs to be on your calendar… but then the challenge becomes how do you honor your commitment that is on your calendar? That is really the hard question. One thing I encourage my clients to do is, if you if you have it on your calendar and you have to cancel, and that’s very understandable… I mean, even our favorite lunches that we have with our best buds, we sometimes have to cancel those appointments, but generally if we cancel one of those appointments what do we do?
Cathy: Reschedule, yeah. So it’s a matter of honoring the importance of that commitment and then honoring it, either then at that moment or at some point in the near future.
Peter: Yes, and I think that is a challenge. Don’t think of it as your rescheduling a dentist appointment. Think of it as your rescheduling an appointment to write this book that you want to accomplish. I am a CPA, and I think the P in CPA, for a lot of us, is procrastination.
Peter: I think I’ve turned it into an art form over the years… but it is daunting, writing. You were saying sit down and write for an hour. However, you’re not done.
Cathy: Well, let me go back to this one point. I’d like to just elaborate just a little bit more. Writing your book is not something you have to do – it is something you get to do. And I told that to my one of my clients. We were talking about it she goes “you’re right. I’m really writing this for me/ This book is important for me, so it’s not something I have to do – it’s what I get to do.” So what she did was create a worksheet, and basically she does two things: first of all, at the top of the page, it says “I get to,” and and she has then work on her book. And then what she has are are little time blocks for the next time block that she’s going to be working. So she has it identified, and she also has identified what it is, specifically, that she is going to do. So it’s not just being sort of vague and work on book. No, it’s finish the characters in chapter 2, or finish that little vignette in chapter 3, or I need to do some more research for chapter 6, so let’s do that research. It’s very specific kinds of what she needs to do, what she gets to do, during that time block.
Peter: I like that. I don’t have to… I get to write this book. That’s great, and I think I wrote it down. “I get to.” That’s gonna go on the top, and I am gonna start scheduling in more detail… I’ll go back to what I was saying. It’s not done in a night.
Cathy: No. [laughs]
Peter: The attitude, I think, is the hardest part.
Cathy: Oh, well some of my clients want to go there first. In fact, I just scheduled a call with a client. She’s been working on her book for some some time now, and she’s she’s made good progress. I think she has over 15 thousand words, so she’s making good progress, and she had a whole list of questions to go over with me. We started going through them and I said this is an editing issue. She goes “oh really? Okay. I’ll put off that off until editing.” We went to the second issue, the third issue… they were all editing issues. She’s getting way ahead of herself. I said first you need to write the book, then you edit, and that is such an important thing that everyone needs to understand. We are wearing ourselves out if we try to edit and write simultaneously. They are separate brain functions, and if we’re editing as we write we’re switching between brain functions, which is exhausting. It is absolutely exhausting. So if you feel tired after you’ve been writing, it’s probably because you’re not just writing, but your writing and editing. You want it to be just perfect. You want every word just to be a little gem stone, and the fact of the matter is you should just slop it out there, let it go, and then clean it up. Go back and do the editing later. That is a separate function only to be done when you are done with the first write, the first manuscript.
Peter: Yeah, I kind of learned that by just… I’ll put a dictation feature.
Cathy: Dragon naturallyspeaking?
Peter: Yeah, that or the function on the mac, and I’ll just talk it out. I just just talk, and it’s just a little bit quicker doing that, and then I’ll walk away from it for about a day or two, and then I’ll come back to it and put on the critical eyes and run it through grammarly, a software program, to catch it. Because I I’m not a “trained writer.” I’ve learned a lot, but I even take my writing one extra step, and a few people mentioned this at the workshop, that even after I’ve gone through my editing I send it off to somebody else to go through and do their editing as well.
Cathy: Absolutely. You cannot really edit your own stuff. Now, time will help you do a better job, time away from the project… but we tend to read as we’re editing what we intended to write, not what we actually wrote.
Cathy: Which makes sense. I mean, that’s the way our brain went. That’s what we thought we said, but that’s maybe not what we actually said. That’s why it’s important to either give it space and time, or better yet let some other eyes look at your at your writing.
Peter: Let me ask this question, because I use this a lot of times when I’m teaching presentations, public speaking… as you’re sitting there and you putting your PowerPoint together, and if you’re sitting there editing it, looking at it at your desk… don’t do that. Say the words out loud, and I’m seeing that you should do that as well with this book. As as you go through the editing, talk it out. I think it helps you catch things like quicker.
Cathy: Yes, you do. So reading it, printing it and then looking at it, printing it in a different font, looking at it from bottom to top instead of top to bottom is another strategy. So that you’re looking at it with fresh eyes. You’re wanting to catch things that you didn’t see before, so these are all techniques that you can use.
Peter: I never thought about changing the font, or the font size, and looking at that that differently.
Cathy: Whatever works for you. The whole notion, though, is look at your writing with fresh eyes. So anyway you can do that. I think the best for me is that I need to print it and really look at it that way. In fact, I just wrote a blog post for my newsletter that’s coming out on Monday, and it’s something I’ve done as a presentation but I’ve never written it. So I typed it up and then I printed it, and now I’m looking at it today and seeing that there’s some awkward things in it. It just doesn’t read quite well, but that’s all I needed to do to kind of spruce it up and clean it up and have it be ready for publication.
Peter: I got asked to write, with a friend of mine, a white paper for the AICPA on how to present data. Like financial storytelling, and I decided I was delivering an hour and a half presentation on that topic, so I mic’d myself with my handheld digital recorder and recorded the whole thing, sent it off to be transcribed, and once I got it back…. man, I had so much content to play with that I just started moving things in, putting in place, and then it was like playing around with a puzzle. For those of us who get in front of an audience and every time we speak, we should be recording what we’re saying because that’s articles. That could be the basis of a book.
Cathy: Absolutely. That’s content, yay! And I’m a big believer in the whole notion of repurposing content. So you give it as a speech and that becomes a blog, your blog becomes an article, your article becomes a social media post, your social media post becomes a workbook page. There’s all kinds of ways that you can repurpose the writing that you’ve done so that you are using that same content in new and fresh ways, because it’s too hard to write that we shouldn’t get maximum value from every time we have all of that sweat equity in our writing.
Peter: Right, and I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Repurposing stuff over the last three four years that I’ve been writing.That’s really helped a lot. You put a lot of sweat equity into, you might as well get every ounce out of it.
Cathy: Absolutely, absolutely. One of my authors asked me one time, because we were talking about the fact that she was gonna be doing a weekly blog, and I said, well, you’ll have your book at the end of the year. And she said, “isn’t that cheating?” [laughs] and I said no, not at all. Not at all. I did a webinar yesterday for author learning center and we were talking about this, and someone asked the same question. Is it ever not okay? And the only time it’s not okay is if you have assigned rights. If you’ve written for a publication and they require exclusive rights or first time publication rights, or something such as that, then you have to honor those rights. Otherwise, unless you have assigned rights, it’s yours. You own the copyright for what you have written, so therefore you can use it in all of these different forms and formats, and I highly encourage that you do.
Peter: Exactly. I do too, and whether you’re an engineer, whether you’re an accountant, whether you’re a salesperson, whether you’re an entrepreneur and have your own business, the more you write and the more you get that content out there, it raises your level of authority, as well as when you put things out on blogs and out on the internet. It raises your SEO and you become more visible when people are searching, okay, I need a specialist in this. Your writing will help in increasing your visibility.
Cathy: Absolutely. Well said.
Peter: Thank you very much. Now can I write instead?
Peter: What’s another common challenge people have with writing?
Cathy: One of the things I suggest people do is find their happy time and happy place to write, and it’s not always what you think it might be. So that’s why I encourage my clients, when they’re starting out writing, to do some little tests and to do some timed writing. So do some timed writing in the morning, first thing. Do a timed writing at lunchtime. Do a timed writing in the evening, late at night, and see when you have your highest productivity. Even though I am not a morning person, and I want to emphasize I am not a morning person, it’s just amazing. I find that that is my time to write. Maybe because I am nonverbal!
Cathy: I can’t say it, but I can write it. So that works for me.
Peter: Oh man! I am a morning person, but I don’t like to talk much in the morning at all and I love that.
Cathy: The other thing is to find out where you tend to do your best writing, because some of my authors like to go to their starbucks, their Panera. Its craziness, it’s busy, there’s noise, and they can write like crazy in that environment. Even though I am extrovert and I love to brainstorm when it’s kind of crazy and busy around, when I’m writing I need to go to the cave. So knowing what suits you and your style is is really important as a writer. If you’re going up for a book and you’re writing a book, you’re going for the long haul. This is like training for a marathon.
Cathy: So we got to think about it like a marathon. We got to think about upping our productivity. We got to think about how we can get those training times in, and one of the ways we do that is to figure out how we can up our productivity. So if it means that I can write twice as fast in the morning in my cave, then I need to be sure I’m blocking time in the morning and in my cave so that I am producing at my highest output.
Peter: Yeah, I don’t think I could do it at a starbucks or panera. I’m the same way. I have to be in a quiet area that I can just kind of turn email off, turn all the distractions off, and just kind of focus on it. Because, once distractions start coming in, then I get distracted… thus the name distractions!
Cathy: [laughs] Yeah, that whole distraction thing, which kind of leads us back to that conversation we started around productive procrastination. Because that is a huge issue for almost all the authors that I work with, and only you know if it’s truly procrastination because sometimes we can fool ourselves by saying “oh my gosh, I got everything on my to-do list checked off,” but you know you didn’t do the most important thing, which was your writing.
Cathy: So it’s important that you analyze. With the author that I was meeting with yesterday, she said “oh I’m doing this research and it’s very very interesting,” and all of this, and I said but is it just productive procrastination, really, in the guise of research? And she said “oh…” She said “busted.”
Peter: Yeah, I’m good at productive procrastination. I should have a trophy for that.
Cathy: Yeah, the clean desk award, and getting all those things done that you had been meaning to do for so long. That’s when you know that it’s kicking in. So beware.
Peter: I’d like to go back to when you were talking about these timed writings. In the workshop, you would put up a picture and you told us you have two minutes. Start writing. I believe you you prefaced it by saying look at this picture and how does it relate to what you do, and then after two minutes stop. So you might have maybe a paragraph at that point in time, but it forces you into this writing. Or I think you said use current events.
Cathy: Mm-hmm. You can use your own prompts. If you google writing prompts, there’s a ton of stuff out there. You can subscribe, there’s some apps where you can get a prompt a day. There’s all kinds of stuff out there that that, if you need prompts, and lots of writers do, I found it very helpful. One of the fun ways that you can do prompts is to go to… oh, I don’t remember the exact name of this website, but it’s basically calendar days or something like that, and if you want to know like what today is, and today might be cheesecake appreciation day or something bizarre.
Cathy: And use that as your prompt. Sometimes the most bizarre prompts will get you thinking in a really creative way. I was just talking with a thought leader in critical thinking, and she said it’s called lateral thinking when we relate this new topic or this picture or whatever it is to our current topic. It creates lateral thinking, which which fires up a whole a whole bunch of other synapses and good stuff in your brain so that you’re really thinking creatively.
Peter: Hmm, that’s interesting. I’ll have to look up when national Maker’s Mark appreciation day is.
Cathy: There you go… I think it’s tomorrow.
Peter: I think it’s every day in the state of Kentucky.
Cathy: I think so [laughs]
Peter: and being a Kentuckyian at heart, because I lived in Lexington for 20 some odd years, yeah that’s every day… at least for most of my friends it sure seemed like it was. But that’s great advice on using prompts with lateral thinking, because it does help with the synapses, but also I think it helps in remembering stories.
Peter: and stories are critical in all parts of your writing. How do you tell a story, and this was my challenge. How do you tell a story that’s not chronological? What’s the overall theme, and how do you you craft that into a story that grabs the essence of the message that you’re doing, so that it’s powerful but not chronological.
Cathy: mm-hmm. If you look at a lot of great journalism, great journalism usually starts in the middle of the story. It starts with something alarming, something interesting, something provocative, so it pulls you into the action. In fact, look at great literature. Typically, great books don’t start with some boring setting… no, it pulls you right into the story, and that’s what we all need to do in telling our stories: pull that reader right on in, which means we may need to start at the middle of the story.
Peter: I’ve heard that somewhere before, about started in the middle. [laughs]
Cathy: Mhm, yeah, where was that? Somebody brilliant said that, I think.
Peter: I think so too. Any last thoughts or advice on this topic for my audience?
Cathy: Well, I think there is something really significant about momentum, and building that momentum – that snowball effect. Start where you can create impact. Start at the easy sections, and then keep track of your word count. See it build… because that is exciting! Because if you start you have no words, and then and at the end of an hour oh gosh, I have 500 words, or 600 words, or maybe even a thousand words… and then you start seeing that build over time. One of my clients put a thing on her refrigerator. She had one of those marker board things that you can put on your refrigerator, and she would put her word count. So she would show, every day, how she was she was upping her word count for her book, and that is really thrilling to see. Yes, it’s growing, it’s becoming a book right here in front of my very eyes. So capitalizing on that notion of momentum.
Peter: So, to bring this as a full call back to an earlier conversation, when you wrote the book in six weeks
Peter: How many words a day did you average?
Cathy: I don’t even know, because sometimes I repurpose. I have always repurposed my writing, so it doesn’t all have to be new, creative writing. In fact, for Blog2Book, my most recent book, when I started I thought I probably had at least a third of the content already written because I’ve been blogging about this for the last three years. So I went through and I pulled and I started building the content because I’d pull from this blog post or this chapter or this training session I’d done, and all of a sudden I saw five thousand words, ten thousand words, and then before long I realized that I really had, I don’t know, like over eighteen thousand words already written, and it was a matter of identifying the holes that needed to filled, and then focus on those things. So that makes it go fast.
Peter: Yes, yes it does. Before we leave, I can’t not ask this question. I understand that, in your spare time, you like to sing.
Cathy: I do.
Peter: And you’ve sung professionally with the Kentucky opera company, and also in a one-woman show titled “Dream It, Achieve It,” and in a comedic presentation “Aging Sucks.”
Cathy: [laughs] you know, because a couple of my books were around aging and I thought that would be funny. I did it for my NSA chapter several years ago and it was it was a lot of fun. We did parodies… instead of “I could have danced all night,” I did “I could have slept all night.”
Peter: [laughs] Oh, that’s fun. Do you do either of those any more?
Cathy: No, I don’t, but I do still sing with my church choir. In fact, I was at choir practice last night. So that’s my one singing outlet that I really still enjoy.
Peter: Oh that’s that is so cool. I’m glad you put that on your website because I do love when I’m researching and I can find these little things. So how can people find you?
Cathy: Okay. They can go to my website, which is CathyFyock.com. You can email me at Cathy (at) CathyFyock (dot) com. I’d love to hear from folks. I love to do a complimentary strategy session with folks who are thinking about a book, maybe they don’t know where to start, or lack clarity. I’m happy to sit down and talk with you, and I did one with a woman in Africa through zoom or through skype, so I’m happy to meet with folks from wherever so that we can get their books started.
Peter: Well that’s good information, and please take up her offer because, when we hang up, I’ve got to get scheduled for my session that I failed to answer that question in the email about this. I realized, as I was preparing, that I never gave you that answer and the answer is yes.
Peter: and we’ll talk when we finish.
Cathy: Sounds good.
Peter: So once again, that sounds good. Cathy, thank you so very much. I thoroughly enjoyed it. You gave some great advice, and those in my audience… hopefully this inspires you, even if it’s just one person, to start this process (but I hope many others do). So once again, thank you so very much.
Cathy: Thank you
Peter: I would like to thank Cathy again for taking time out of your schedule to give us tips on writing a book. You can find out more about Cathy on our website at CathyFyock.com. In episode 44, I interview Courtney Kirschbaum, who is a human development and high performance expert who specializes in helping young professionals choose the right career and achieve mastery in it. Remember, you can subscribe to my podcast on itunes, stitcher, and google play. If you’d like to purchase an autographed copy of my book Improv is no Joke: Using Improvisation to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life, for $14.99 with free shipping, please go to my website, PeterMargaritis.com, and you’ll see the graphic on the homepage to purchase my book. Please allow 14 days for shipping. Thank you again for listening and remember to use the power of Yes, And to get your book done.
Production & Development for Improv Is No Joke by Podcast Masters