Marketing and Writing - Tips and Events

Writing For Your Life Today

Write down a question

While arriving at the edge of what’s obvious can be terrifying (often we’re overly eager to label it “writer’s block”), it is in fact a rich opportunity. If we can muster our strength and take the first few stumbling steps forward, our writing often gains an unexpected dimension. The brain is forced to step down as the primary tour guide, and the gut takes a far more unprofessional lead. Of course, this makes us uncomfortable. The gut is apt to digress wildly into subjects we’re not prepared to tackle. The gut is obsessed with secrets, unresolved emotions, and darkness. But it’s terribly important to trust the gut and follow its meanderings. Some may prove to be red herrings, but others steer us deeper into the heart of the matter-a heart we didn’t know was there.

Write down a question that you wish you knew the answer to. Then write a memory that helps explain the origin of the question. What happened that made this question important? As you write, pay attention to how the story illuminates the question. 

from “Writing the Sacred Journey: The Art and Practice of Spiritual Memoir” by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew, Skinner House

Spiritual writing is hopeful.

A writer of spiritual work believes that life is worth writing about. He or she believes that reflection and exploration will reap benefits. The spiritual writer communicates for the sake of uplifting the world, celebrating it, opening its depths, revealing its wonders, and healing its wounds. 

from “The Art of Spiritual Writing” by Vinita Hampton Wright, Loyola Press

A collection of existing parts

In the early 1920s, two Columbia University scholars named William Ogburn and Dorothy Thomas decided to track down as many multiples as they could find, eventually publishing their survey in an influential essay with the delightful title “Are Inventions Inevitable?” Ogburn and Thomas found 148 instances of independent innovation, most of them occurring within the same decade. Reading the list now, one is struck not just by the sheer number of cases, but how indistinguishable the list is from an unfiltered history of big ideas. Multiples have been invoked to support hazy theories about the “zeitgeist,” but they have a much more grounded explanation. Good ideas are not conjured out of thin air; they are built out of a collection of existing parts, the composition of which expands (and, occasionally contracts) over time. Some of those parts are conceptual: ways of solving problems, or new definitions of what constitutes a problem in the first place. Some of them are, literally, mechanical parts. 

From “Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation” by Steven Johnson – Riverhead Books

The Thesis Opening

Having a clear statement of your main point is an obvious and legitimate way to begin. The danger is that it can become convoluted and abstract. One solution is to make it personal, punchy or provocative.

Life is difficult.

M.Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled

With only three words Peck flings a bucketful of cold realism into our overly optimistic faces, waking us from our self-help stupor. Part of the power of his opening comes from the contrast it presents to a society committed to the easy life. Losing weight should be as easy as taking a pill. Loving someone should be simple. Learning a language should be as painless as listening to a recording. We just don’t want to hear that all these take time and effort. But once we come to peace with that truth, says Peck, life becomes better.

Even fiction can begin strongly with a very nonfictiony preposition.

All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Because no self-respecting novelist would write a story like a lot of others, we know this will be a story about one of those unique, unhappy families.

Were thesis openings the thing to do in the nineteenth century? I don’t know, but they certainly knew now to do it well. Here’s another:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. 

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

And we know just the woman for just such a man – or at least we will shortly?
from “Write Better: A Lifelong Editor on Craft, Art, and Spirituality” by Andrew T. Le Peau, Intervarsity Press

What Does It Mean to Be Creative?

In a general sense, every human being is creative. This trait is not always flashy. Often it’s not called by its true name. But when you take the stuff of life and rearrange it so that it matters, so that it does good things, you’re acting creatively. At those times when you are breaking a sweat to make life work better, you are most like the God who created you. You don’t have to come up with a new idea in order to be creative. All you have to do is find an old idea and apply it to a new moment or group of people, a new problem or situation.

And so creativity is at work in the parent of preschoolers who must come up with ways of occupying their exuberance for hours, even days, on end. It is also at work in the entrepreneur who can make a buck before she even has a buck. Likewise, the person at the office or the church who never misses an opportunity to make a program or system more effective is exercising creativity. And it’s alive and well in the guy who, like my late father, works at a factory job all day and then comes home to tend a garden.


– from “The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life” by Vinita Hampton Wright Loyola Press

What’s the Gift?

by David duChemin, from The Audience Academy, a bi-weekly email for artists, creatives and makers. 

I think the reason so many creative people get hung up on marketing is because while art-making is usually a gift, efforts to put our work into the world and promote it—most especially to sell it—feel not like giving but taking.

What if everything you did was a gift to your audience.

What if your social posts were less about you than about them? What if those social posts contained a gift—something that made the intended audience feel good, made them laugh, taught them something, or inspired them? What if you knew that audience came to you and your work to feel a certain way and everything you did in your marketing was aimed at doing that?

What if you asked, “What’s the gift?” before you sent every email or wrote every blog post? What if you didn’t offer your work in any form unless you could first answer a resounding “Yes!” to the question, “Will this make my audience’s life better?”

Wouldn’t that make it easier to say, “I made this for you; here’s how to get it”? Would it make it easier to more frequently send your audience an email? And wouldn’t those emails be so much more than yet another newsletter?

The big missed opportunity (among many, I suppose) is that so much communication to audiences (aka marketing) is not a gift. So when yours is, it stands out.

How many times do I go to the website of an artist and see a chance to sign up for a “newsletter”? Newsletters are not a gift. Newsletters are about you, not them. Your news, not theirs. No one needs more of that, and very few people want it. But offer me a chance to get more of what I come to you for—the experience of your art, the feelings, the thing that you really offer, in some way—that’s a gift.

It’s a gift when, instead of a “newsletter,” you offer me one of your songs or a desktop wallpaper.

It’s a gift when you show me your process or share a BTS video.

It’s a gift when you offer me first dibs on new work or give me a sample.

It’s a gift when you reveal something of yourself to me because if I love your work, I probably love you, too.

It’s a gift when you offer me something I can’t get elsewhere—some exclusive thing or exclusive pricing, or even access to you.

Making everything you send, write, make, or post a gift connects your audience to you. It makes them feel loved and understood. Appreciated. It makes it easier to feel like you don’t keep those of us in your audience around only to separate us from our money.

A gift, by the way, is not always free. If you make something I really love, it’s a gift when you let me take it home for $1,000. It’s a gift when you release your new album and let your most loyal fans get it before others. If I love what you teach and you offer me a book or lecture or course that will change the way I think or make my life better in some way, that’s a gift. But if you can make that offer in a way that is also a gift, maybe with some samples or a generous refund policy that minimizes my feelings of risk, or perhaps it’s that you don’t make me click on 12 buttons and create yet another damn account with a password just to buy your thing, that’s also a gift, and I’ll love you forever.

And here’s the magic part. When everything you do is a gift to your audience (and here I can only speak from my own experience), it makes the so-called marketing something I enjoy. Or at least something I’m much less reluctant about. So I do it more. And better. I put my heart into it. It becomes more effective. It connects my audience and me a little tighter. And practically speaking, it leads to stronger open rates on emails, more engagement with calls to action or invitations to buy what I make, and more enthusiastic word of mouth.

Make every offer, every post, every email a gift. Make my life a little better because of it. Make it clear and easy to accept. Do that, and I’ll remain in your audience forever and tell my friends. Do that, and you’ll be signal in all the noise that’s out there, and I’ll keep listening.

For now, my hands are full.

No one owns God. God alone knows what is good. For reasons that will never be entirely clear, God has a soft spot for religious strangers, both as agents of divine blessing and recipients of divine grace—to the point that God sometimes chooses one of them over people who believe they should by all rights come first. This is a great mystery, but it does nothing to obscure the great commandment. In every circumstance, regardless of the outcome, the main thing Jesus has asked me to do is to love God and my neighbor as religiously as I love myself. The minute I have that handled, I will ask for my next assignment. For now, my hands are full.

– from “Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others” by Barbara Brown Taylor – HarperOne

Spiritual writing is courageous.

Otherwise it could never deal with the truth. Were spiritual writing not courageous, it would be impossible to do the hard work that makes the writing worthy of the label “spiritual.” Courage goes straight to the question and unease; courage allows confrontation and disassembling so that the new thing can be created. Courage also does not care much about prevailing opinions but writes what must be written.

from “The Art of Spiritual Writing” by Vinita Hampton Wright, Loyola Press

Get in touch!