How to Be a Truly Inspirational Author in the New Year
What a stunning holiday season! Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, the New Year. . . and the list goes on of the beautiful beliefs, rituals, practices and celebrations at this time of year. It’s as if all of Creation wants to light a bright candle in the dark of winter, and I find it breathtaking and fascinating.
Holidays tend to bring people together with a beautiful myriad of opinions and life perspectives. As our global culture is evolving, we can often learn from and share with people of other faiths, backgrounds and spiritual leanings, to the betterment of all. Is this really possible? Yes.
In fact, this is the perfect time if you are a spiritual author to do research and preparation for your book! Why? Well, one of the biggest challenges my spiritual authors often face is that they only hear one or two different opinions regarding the message that they are crafting, and only to people in their trusted circle. This can often severely limit their reach to potential readers and speaking audiences.
Humans have strong self-preservation instincts. These kept us alive for centuries, but they are now proving to be our undoing in a world of dramatic change and needed collaboration. In order for us to learn and grow together, there must be those authors and leaders willing to reach beyond their comfortable pockets of humans to broader audiences. This requires risk, the willingness to be wrong at times, commitment to a greater goal than ourselves, and perhaps some surprising ideas you might not have thought of before.
So in the spirit of giving and sharing, I am inviting you to take your message even deeper than before. As a devoted writer and writing mentor, I have seen firsthand that when an author comes from a space of genuine interest, love and an open heart, that's when they receive the greatest insights into other people and how their personal messages may serve a broader audience.
I have been fortunate in my teaching and in my retreats to host many people from diverse backgrounds and walks of life. We’ve had multiple sects of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Bahai, New Age, Hindi, and so much more partake in fascinating conversations. At these retreats I enjoy watching authors in action with each other. I have discovered that almost all people do not enjoy being preached to! Think about it, when you’re genuinely curious about a topic, do you want to be told what to think? Or do you want to be engaged in the topic and let yourself discover your answers about the subject?
For example, I was delighted to host an amazing author with particularly unique life experiences. Clayne did, however, come from a patriarchal order of folks where the “order of the day” meant preaching what was “right”. Although he had great content and stories, the moment he began to preach to our varied audience, everyone in the group tuned out. However, when he began to share. . . that’s when magic, humor, joy, connection all happened. It was truly miraculous, and has been reflected in his writing and his leadership ever since!
Letting go of needing to be right, and letting down your walls as an author and a human allows you to engage in real and valuable conversation with people who might have a true desire to read your book! When sharing, a natural curiosity sparks, along with a tendency to reciprocally engage, which ends up being mutually beneficial for both.
Personally, I come from a traditional Christian background. As we speak, I am working with a brilliant author who was born in a Protestant country, with a Christian mother and a Jewish father. From an early age, however, she was raised amongst Ultra-Orthodox Jews, with their many laws and beautifully rich traditions regarding living fully connected to God. It is a uniquely wonderful part of Sarah Finkelstein’s story and I find it beneficial to ask many questions rather than to assume that I know anything! I always defer to her breadth of knowledge of her religion and her own story. I am not perfect at it, but by being curious, open and loving, I personally have learned so much!
Creating Safe Conversations with Varying Viewpoints:
Creating a safe way to have conversations that involve highly sensitive things like opinions, religion and politics has taken a lot of practice - and patience - with myself. In this field, I have found that many of us have come from backgrounds and concepts steeped in fear, often having to do with “right and wrong” when it comes to spiritual beliefs and practices. I have found it incredibly helpful to engage from love instead of right or wrong. Still, I have to continuously ask myself the following questions:
What is the best way to approach friends, family and strangers with curiosity as I kindly ask questions? How can I seek to understand, as Steven Covey eloquently wrote, instead of being understood? Is there a way for me to be completely open to expand my own paradigms while still being loving, kind and holding to my own cherished beliefs?
Since this can feel tricky to anyone exploring conversations with others, here are some helpful tips:
1. Do not have a hidden agenda.
Instead, have a clear intention of learning from this person even before entering the conversation. Seek to understand first.
2. Ask genuinely curious and respectful questions . . . and then listen.
People love it when they can talk about themselves and they especially love it when you genuinely listen to their perspectives. Oftentimes we as humans forget that what anyone has to share is valid. Listen with a childlike curiosity. Get excited to learn and ask more questions!
3. Let go of Control
First and foremost you have to realize that you cannot control how anyone responds or reacts to you and your thoughts. The key is to recognize that your thoughts and opinions are valid, and so is the person with whom you are speaking. Based on that, if anything shared triggers you, simply take a step back, allow yourself to look at it without fear or judgment, using curiosity only as your greatest tool. Then, start over. Part of letting go of control over others’ perspectives is to be ok with knowing you have differing points of view while still being open to hearing what they have to share.
Sometimes you may also find it’s impossible for others to meet you where you are at in a curious conversation, and let that be okay, too.
A Personal Example:
Once I was in a deep conversation with a gentleman I genuinely cared about, regarding a subject on which we were both passionate. I said, “It’s okay for us to agree to disagree.” He looked at me with shock, and then rage.
“No, it is not okay for us to agree to disagree! I’m right, and you have to see that!”
Well, I didn’t have to see anything. I did choose, however, to swallow my own defensiveness, and perhaps even stifle a giggle at his rigidity. I was okay to agree to disagree, but he wasn’t. I had to either meet him where he was at, in order to continue with the conversation, or I had to leave the conversation.
His preaching made me uncomfortable, but I knew I could withstand it because I was curious, and I also knew deep inside where I could hold my own ground. I didn’t have to battle him for ground inside of me. That was already sacred. Once I was settled in that space without fear, I opened myself to listen. As I did so, it was beautiful to see him soften on the subject. Eventually, he did ask me my opinion! I was able to express it without a battle. Why? Because I had listened and respected his point of view. I didn’t have to share it, but in me listening, he could tell I respected it.
I have personally been inspired by stories of people who are trying to live a life of kindness, exploration, and one of Spirit. I see them in all walks of life. I am deeply grateful to those spiritual authors who have gone above and beyond in their books to open my perspectives and teach me through compassion. My own life has greatly expanded because of those leaders who chose to have the hard conversations, who looked at these many perspectives and then formulated a beautiful manifestation of truth in their own way. I may not agree with them all one hundred percent, but I sure do love seeing new perspectives. These risk-takers are changing the world.
Creating Powerful, Inspirational Writing:
1. Share instead of preach
As mentioned earlier, teaching includes and inspires. Preaching rejects and alienates. Those who preach to teach too easily come from a demeaning space, which can eliminate other ideas, turn people off, seem controlling or even scary to others. That’s why it is so important to write like you are simply sharing a deep and authentic conversation.
2. Be willing to teach through personal and story examples
If you are more personal with how you share, then people relate and love what you're giving even more. Readers don’t have to put you in a “right/wrong” category because you’re sharing your own personal journey. I often give parents and grandparents working on their biographies or memoirs the same advice. Don’t try to tell others what to do. Share what you found worked for you. Give them the opportunity and permission to do the same, through your story! There really is magic that a story can ignite, a connection to the spiritual journey that just saying it outright cannot inspire. When you want to make a vitally important point they’ll never forget, share a personal story of what you discovered and how YOU grew.
3. Be careful about using coded language that isolates or repels
When you are writing to the audience directly, in teaching tools and tips and providing valuable steps, use language that is more universal in nature and very inviting. However, keep in mind that when sharing your own, juicy stories, these are the places to insert special language, rites, guides, words of wisdom–all personal experiences about how something spiritual in nature touched you or reached you. Be sure to explain things that a person from outside of your structured beliefs might not understand.
4. Be willing to be courageous as well as loving
Take a risk. Share from a vulnerable (not all-knowing) space. You could make more of a difference than you realize.
Right now our world is experiencing so much change and grief. It’s these times that we need more brave, spiritual authors like you to share your insights and stories. Please, don’t be afraid to be the hope in the darkness, to shine your light and share your message. Share your mistakes as well as your triumphs. Be real in your vulnerability. Recognize that by going deeper, what you know will inspire, transform and ignite many other lights.