Posts Tagged ‘authors’

Flexible Focus #70: The Carp of Creativity

by William Reed on September 22, 2011

If you have ever been in Japan in early May then you will remember how the landscape is covered with carp streamer kites (koinobori), suspended on high poles and streaming in the wind. These are to celebrate Children’s Day (Boy’s Day) on May 5th, and are flown in hopes that boys will grow up strong and healthy. This national holiday follows the Girl’s Day Japanese Doll Festival on March 3rd. The symbolism of the koinobori is based on the legend that the carp swims against the stream, climbs a waterfall, and becomes a dragon. It is a powerful picture of the power of swimming against the stream, the very opposite of going with the flow.

Author Steven Pressfield wrote a book called The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, which describes a process by which writers, artists, musicians, and anyone engaged in a creative endeavor can overcome the internal and external resistance which comes of swimming upstream to create something new. In some ways, the stream acts and filters out all of those who lack the resolve to press through and create something new. After all, it is much easier to simply allow yourself to be swept along with whatever else goes downstream. As Pressfield says, it takes a special mindset to overcome resistance and achieve the unlived life within.

You need something other than sheer will power to help you navigate against the stream. You need fins and a strong tail to weave your way against the current and overcome gravity. When it comes to publishing and presenting, the Mandala Chart can give you an added advantage in this process. There are 8 key words that can help you see it through.

  • Passion. This is the driving force, the tail of the carp. Without passion your project hasn’t any hope of meeting or overcoming resistance. People without passion are mentally and physically set adrift in the stream, and subject to its whimsical nature. However, if you know what you want and are driven to achieve it, you have what is called a “fighting chance”. If you don’t yet know what you want, look deeper to see what drives you.
  • Perspective. This is the eye of the carp, which provides a sense of direction and helps stay the course. Any creative person must have a vision, a point of view, a perspective. The creative task of the artists is to give shape to what he or she has seen, and thereby transport others to it. The witnessing precedes the rendering. If you lack a clear perspective, you can deepen what you have by exploring the perspectives which other artists have rendered, and then search for your own.
  • Preparation. These are the muscle fibers of the carp which strengthen from use. It is the daily search and struggle which builds creative staying power. Because creativity rarely proceeds in straight lines, it is the muscular zig zag which finesses the current and allows the carp to swim against it. It is like this in the creative process, which is constantly in search of ways to weave its way back to the source. If you lack ideas and inspiration, you can more easily find it by keeping a daily log of your ideas of insights, which will develop your creative muscles and keep your thoughts in flow.
  • Pressure. This the current of resistance against which creative people must swim to create anything new. It comes in all kinds of forms physical and mental, and is the undoing of all who give into its subtle force. The current is actually not strong enough to stop you, if you manage to master the creative process. But if you yield to it and surrender your creative spirit, it can cause you to procrastinate, compromise, or even give up. If you feel you are weakening to the pressure, think of the resistance as your ally and don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Think of it instead as the rope ladder which will help you to climb higher.
  • Platform. This is the riverbed, which supports the stream and provides all kinds of interesting shapes and variations in the current. It is in these that you can find opportunities to express your ideas and develop your creativity. It is also the media through which you publish and present. Today there are many options and formats for a personal platform, either in print or online. You may start with a blog or Facebook account, or you may wish to create works in tangible form that you can share with others. A platform is a place where people can find you, experience and enjoy your work, as well as comment on it. Using such platforms to talk about what you had for lunch will only interest a very small audience. Why not use it as a means of practicing and improving the way you express ideas, the way you capture them in titles, the way you express them in visual or auditory form?
  • Productivity. These are your writing tools and techniques, the fins of the carp that steer and shape your path. Every artist, every writer, every musician, and every creative person has discovered ways to be productive, to give more fidelity to their message, to express the finer nuances. If you follow or befriend a creative person, you will find that they are often more than happy to share their secrets, as others have done for them. To be productive is to produce, to continuously create and give shape to your ideas and insights. It is an essential part of the process, and that which gives you momentum for the big leaps ahead.
  • Presentation. This is the carp climbing the waterfall, the thrilling leap that transcends the limits thought impossible. It is the goal of swimming upstream, and represents the performance, the big stage, the formation that precedes the transformation. It is not a single event, because truly creative people continue this process as long as they live, and leave behind a creative legacy that in some cases is treasured for generations to come. Not everyone can be a Picasso, but each person can achieve something of creative value, if you overcome resistance and bring to life that which is inside struggling to come out.
  • Payoff. The character for Carp 鯉 consists of two radicals, that of fish 魚 and that meaning home or place of origin 里. In a sense the payoff for the Carp is returning to its original form, freedom achieved after persistent creative efforts to overcome resistance, to climb the waterfall, and to transform into a Dragon. For many artists, this is enough, although they may and should also be able to earn a living, gain recognition, and help spark the creative spirit in others through their work.

As a reminder of the elements of the creative process, you can download here a Mandala Chart entitled The Carp of Creativity. Whatever your media or message, a wonderful way to ensure your creative growth is to overcome resistance and find ways to publish and present your ideas and insights. When you awaken your creative spirit, you will find all kinds of resources and resourceful people come out to support you on your path. In time the resistance you felt in front of you seems to be replaced by a counter current pushing from behind which drives you forward and keeps you in creative flow.

During the past few years, it has been increasingly obvious that the whole point of writing a book is not to sell books, but to build long-term and profitable reader relationships.

Yes, there are authors who support themselves with six figure advances and huge royalties, but there are also those who buy one lottery ticket and win millions of dollars.

In either case, you can’t count on favorable outcomes. The odds are too much against you.

A much better strategy, with a much higher probability of success, is to consider your book the core of your long-term self (or business) marketing plan. In this scenario, your book becomes the hub of a relationship-building strategy that begins long before your book appears and continues for years afterward.

Building “hooks” in your book

Long-term success requires inserting “hooks” into your book intended to drive readers to your website. This important marketing and profit task deserves your attention as soon as possible. There are two reasons why:

  1. While you’re planning your book, you need to select the type of relationship-building bonus content you’re going to offer readers and how you’re going to promote the bonus in your book.
  2. While writing your book, you need to be setting up, or delegating and supervising, the set-up of the online support structure needed to distribute your book’s bonus contents, i.e., autoresponders, landing pages, etc.

The above are too important, and too complex, to be left to the last minute.

Using your book to drive website traffic

Let’s start with the basic premise; readers who buy your book are your best source of coaching, consulting, and speaking profits.

If someone invests $20, or more, in a copy of your book, they’re raising their hand and indicating that they’re interested in what you have to say. Their purchase is proof they have problems they want to solve, or goals they want to achieve.

More important, by spending their hard-earned money on your book, they’re indicating that they think you’re the one to help them; you’re the obvious expert they trust, and they want to know more!

Your job at this point is to provide opportunities to learn more about you and the services you provide, information that shouldn’t appear too prominently in your book! No one wants to pay $20 to be advertised to- -save the infomercials for late-night television!

Registration and bonus content

Your big challenge, as you plan and write your book, is to come up with a way to subtly drive readers to your website.

Once readers of your book are at your website, you can introduce them to your marketing funnel; you can offer them access to bonus content in exchange for signing-up for your e-mail newsletter. In addition, once they’re at your website, you can describe additional ways you can help them solve their problems and achieve their goals.

As described in my Streetwise Guide to Relationship Marketing on the Internet, there are several categories of bonus content you can share with readers of your book:

  1. Assessments. Assessments are worksheets or interactive forms that help readers self-assess their understanding of your book, or evaluate the areas of their business where change is needed, such as my Making the most of Microsoft Word assessment.
  2. Checklists. Checklists, are similar to assessments in that they can either be downloadable and printed or filled-out online. Checklists help readers monitor their progress as they complete tasks described in your book.
  3. Deeper content. Ideas that are only introduced can be converted into detailed case studies and, often, step-by-step procedurals that will help your readers put your ideas to work.
  4. Excess content. Often, working with your editor, you’ll discover that there is no room for some of your best ideas. Instead of discarding them, use them as downloadable bonus content to thank your readers for buying your book.
  5. Pass-along content. One of the best ways to promote your book to new prospective book buyers (and clients) is to provide readers with information that they can pass along to their friends and co-workers.
  6. Specialized content. As an alternative to going deeper, i.e., great detail, you can adapt the ideas in your book for different vertical markets, such as different occupations or industries. You can also adapt your book’s content into beginner’s guides or offer advice for more advanced readers.
  7. Updated content. New ideas and examples are certain to appear the day after approval of the final proof of your book. Although you can, and should, use your blog to share new content, often you can use it as reader rewards.
  8. Worksheets. The best worksheets are those that help readers overcome inertia and avoid procrastination by immediately starting to implement the lessons described in your book. My sample Book Proposal Planner is an example of an online worksheet.

You can distribute the above bonus content ideas in a variety of formats; Adobe Acrobat PDF’s, password-protected pages, streaming audio or video, or- -if appropriate- -as mailed reports or CDs and DVDs.

How do you limit bonus content to legitimate readers?

Many authors only share their book’s bonus content with readers who register their name and e-mail addresses. Others limit distribution to readers who enter a password that appears in a specific location of their book, i.e., The second word at the top of Page 138.

These limiting strategies can be self-defeating and project an inappropriate image. The goal of writing a book is to build lasting and profitable relationships with readers, not test their persistence.

One of the techniques I used with my Relationship Marketing book, above, was to offer downloadable PDF’s of each of the worksheets in my book, and include the URL for the worksheets on the pages of the book referring, or displaying, each worksheet.

Getting a head start

As you can see, authors who only begin to think about marketing their book after it’s been published are at a significant disadvantage compared to those who address reader relationship building while planning and writing their book. Don’t make the mistake of failing to have a plan for converting readers into clients by driving them to your website as they read your book