Sparks of Metal Hammer

A couple of weeks ago I published my second book of the year. It is called “Blue: Experiments in Sound”.

The first book, “Values Count“, is a non-fiction book about values based working. It is available on this website as well as through Amazon. Sales in the first few months have been steady – it has been fun to learn how to market a book and attract sales. I’ve also had some really positive feedback and reviews, including this:

“This is a very readable and practical book, which has been crafted in the workplace and not from a vantage point far removed. Use of words like inclusivity and humility would never feature on the Apprentice, and that in itself is a good enough reason to read this book…if you think the world needs fewer people chasing pounds and treading on heads to do it, and more people applying values in the work they do, then this book is for you.”

A lovely review from Tom Bell (thanks Tom!)

This new book, a collection of poetry, has been illustrated by Phillip Kingsbury. Thanks to Phillip’s work, the book looks and feels absolutely beautiful. I thought you might like to read a poem from the collection:

Sparks of Metal Hammer

“Diving for pearls”, he said,
“will be the death of me!”
and he chuckled into his beard, old coyote
the bane of the village, bitterly sweet

When there used to be a blacksmith here
you could see the sparks from the metal hammer
iron hot and pliable, steam heating the winter air
open overcoat just keeping the wind out

He didn’t mean literal pearls, of course –
since the curse from that crossroads deal
he had looked for every treasure he could find
mostly in the souls of the travellers

He would take them with him,
ride on horse back until the sky was filled with stars
then let them on their way
he had caught all he needed, their stories of pain.

If you are interested in buying a copy of this book you can order it here.

I’m working through a brilliant online webinar series at the moment. I came across this quote in it:

“All growth exists on the other side of fear”

The process of learning how to publish, sell and market a book is a big learning curve. I’m learning all about it and will post in the next few weeks about my reflections on the journey. It’s been a huge learning – loads to understand and plenty of mistakes to make along the way(!)

Live Writing Marathon 6 – It’s the finishing line

Train Journey #6

Yesterday morning when I blogged I was bewildered by mixed metaphors to some extent. The idea that this extended writing is like a marathon has its uses, but sometimes the metaphor stretches too far … and breaks.

So, here we are at the end of the official marathon period. I set myself 4 clear goals. I think they could be called stretch goals because they were very ambitious indeed. How have I done?

  1. A Journey of Wonder – this manuscript was renamed from its working title of “People who inspire me”. In the middle of the marathon I spent quite a lot of time figuring out how to structure it, what to focus on and what the overall shape of the book will be. That was a valuable process that resulted in no words to count, but still a key part of the writing process. I was aiming for 10,000 words written – (drum roll, dramatic pause) – and I actually wrote 9,704. I’m really pleased with that.
  2. Coaching ideas book – I had the outline ready for this and was aiming to write 5,000 words. The valuable learning with this is that I can’t focus on two manuscripts at once. These two goals should have been an ‘either / or’ rather than a ‘both / and’. That would have made more sense. I didn’t look at this book idea at all. That’s fine – it can wait until the next writing period.
  3. Hang Fire – my latest book of poetry. I wrote two new poems for this. I was aiming for eight – two is good!
  4. Live Blogging – I set myself a target of eight posts, one at the beginning and end of each day. This will be the sixth post. I’m pleased with that. There was always the danger that I would overwhelm the reader with too many blog posts. In the end the number of posts I produced has been perfect and it has been a good opportunity to learn from the process. Total word count for blog posts: 2583.

It has been a productive few days. Nearly 10,000 words on the latest book, and clear direction of travel to continue to work on, a couple of poems and a batch of blog posts that represent the learning from the process. Oh, and I even managed to sort my CD collection into alphabetical order on Sunday night whilst thinking about the book’s structure. Even displacement activity can be useful sometimes!

I have learnt that the targets I set need to be more modest – give myself something to beat, rather than something to beat myself up with! If I am looking at two book ideas, see these as an ‘either / or’. The process of structure and what to include is as important as the actual job of writing. It’s important to value that part of the process too.

Thanks for your interest in this exercise. This has been the second time I have tried it. It works for me. I will use the process again – and will also try reduced versions of it comprising a day or half day. You could call them a Writing 10k and a Writing 5k. Coming soon.

Live Writing Marathon 5 – Redefining Success

Train Journey #5

The problem with working out loud, is that when it doesn’t go according to plan there is a massive temptation to either go quiet, or to avoid being honest about what is happening. That’s the truth!

I wanted to write 15,000 words, 8 poems and a handful of blog posts by the end of this writing marathon. If we stick with the metaphor of a marathon run, it’s now day four and I am the equivalent of a quarter of the way round, wondering whether to give up or keep going.

I already described how unsuccessful Saturday was. Yesterday, I managed 600 words and one poem. That’s slow progress. I also mentioned in yesterday’s blog post that some of the energy needed for writing was going into resolving the structure and format of the book, and whether I was trying to pull together two different book ideas into one. I’ve resolved that problem now – and this afternoon I am going to get my head down and churn out what I can.

Again, using the metaphor, it’s like getting started again – everyone else has finished the race and gone home. But then I realise that I am competing with myself – and need to keep running to get as far as I can.

So far:

  • 5,600 words written
  • 2 poems written
  • 5 blog posts capturing the journey (2,390 words)

That feels like a 10k race where I was hoping for a marathon. Let’s see how much further I can get, and report back later in the day.

Learning:

  • Every little step is progress
  • Avoid letting the inner critic take hold by celebrating each little step forwards
  • Displacement activity (like organising my CD collection into alphabetical order) can take the form of things I have been meaning to do for ages. Look positively at these achievements too.

Appreciate what is achieved, rather than looking at the gap. Or, to use a well-worn phrase: by reaching for the stars we make it to the moon!

Live Writing Marathon 4 – Under the Surface

Train Journey #4

Sometimes it’s easy to take a superficial view and get fed up! No words being written becomes seen as a lack of activity. Not true!

No words have been added to “A Journey of Wonder” since Friday. And that feels uncomfortable. Overnight I’ve been wondering what’s going on. Then this morning – in the shower (of course) – I realised that I had been working on this book overnight even if no words are making it onto the page. Things are going on under the surface.

The basic problem I have been working on is the way that the writing was somewhat hijacked on Friday by an outpouring of appreciation, passion and of course, Wonder, for the musical influences that have shaped me. As I said yesterday, that left me wondering what I should do about the other influences – writers, poets, thinkers etc. It’s not solved yet – but the revelation this morning was to realise that maybe there are two book ideas here creating tension within the one manuscript. As soon as I had the thought, I felt a releasing of tension. Now, a few hours later – I am not sure what to do next. So, here I am blogging to resolve it. I could:

  • carry on regardless – keep writing each of the sections that I intend to and work out later what to do about the fact that there are two books.
  • start to pull apart the two books – and decide which one to work on.

I do need to figure out whether and how these two book ideas differ. ‘A Journey of Wonder’ was intended to be a book about people who inspire me and many of those are musicians. The writing I did on Friday (which covered John Peel, Kate Bush, Robert Fripp and Neil Young) has left me wondering whether those sections still fit into a book about other influences like Carl Jung, Seamus Heaney, Margaret Wheatley and James Hillman. As I am writing these sentences – working out loud – it feels like I should carry on with option one. Churn out the sections and worry about the overall structure and whether there are two competing ideas, later at the editing stage.

Blogging – a solution generating process. This is how working out loud works!

Live Writing Marathon 3 – Blocked

Train Journey #3

Here we are – Saturday afternoon and I have not written a word yet today. I am stuck. Now, before I tempt you to think that this is writer’s block: that’s a concept I don’t believe in, so it can’t be that.

I had some non-writing jobs to do this morning, so I didn’t find the space to get to the laptop until early afternoon, but I have been avoiding the writing for nearly 2 hours. It’s time to check in and see what is going on, and to draw down some of the learning points from the first Writing Marathon I completed back in 2015.

First, let’s check what is happening. I did a short meditation earlier and the following issues surfaced:

  • At the beginning of this process I had two possible manuscripts to work on. Yesterday I spent most of the day focused on “A Journey of Wonder”. Overnight I have had doubts – did I go for the wrong one? I need to dismiss these thoughts. There is no wrong choice here – I just need to get on with it. If it means so much, I could spend some time on the other manuscript later today or early tomorrow.
  • The sections I have sketched out for “A Journey of Wonder” have become a bit skewed. I was intending this book to be a collection of the people who have been big influences on my thinking and my ways of working. The sections I wrote yesterday, and the names I added to the list to write about, were predominantly musicians. That feels helpful, but I have been worrying that I have missed out a whole lot influences. I am settling this issue at the moment by noting that music and musicians are a huge influence on everything I do, so just run with it.

I thought it would also be useful to remind myself of the key learnings from 2015:

  • starting each day with a short meditation really helps me to get started.
  • having a structure ready in advance so that I am sitting down with a job to do, rather than a blank page is a big help.
  • the process has shown me that I have the ability to focus far more than I thought I did.
  • doing this over three (four in this case) days builds mettle, as each day goes I gain in confidence.
  • the power of the visual post-it note technique for helping me to build a structure for the book was remarkable. It really helped me to see what the chapters could be and how they fit together.
  • it is also remarkable how much the ideas come together in the actual writing process itself. Whilst writing, new examples occur and connections between sections become more obvious.

Those notes are really helpful to get me focused and sharpened. I will pull together a timetable now, and report back later in the day. All for the sake of #writingoutloud.

Live Writing Marathon – 2

Train Journey #2

It’s early evening of the first day of the writing marathon. So far so good! I’ve been working, head down and writing for much of the day.

To be fair, it took me a while of circling the material before I finally started. After some time, but not too long, going through email and finding other things that needed doing, I managed to get on with the writing task.

Interestingly, the distraction approach of the early part of the day did mean that I got some things done that really needed doing.

My first target for the marathon was to write 10,000 words for the manuscript called “People who inspire me” over the four days. I have really good news about this. So far I have produced 5,000 new words. I already had 5,600 words produced on this, so it has grown to 10,600 words which is an excellent start. I had 20 people who I wanted to write about – that has grown to 45. This is because the process of writing about people who have inspired me has thrown up other names as the day has progressed. It’s been really fun writing this. I’ve managed to keep the Critic / Editor at bay, so I have no idea how good the words are. That’s not the point at this stage.

The other good thing to report about this manuscript is the title. I did a quick exercise mid afternoon. I’ve blogged about it before – imaginary letters. I wrote an imaginary letter to Seth Godin, and then wrote a reply. In that exchange a new title emerged. It’s still a working title but I like it at the moment. Please comment if you have a view. The title is “A Journey of Wonder”. Of course, I may have accidentally ‘borrowed’ it so need to check it’s not already in use.

I have also written a first draft of a new poem for the “Hang Fire” collection.

So, good progress so far…

Time for food methinks!

2017 Live Writing Marathon – 1. The starting line

Train Journey #1

Friday morning and time to start the writing marathon. This is the second time I have done a writing marathon. The first one took place in August 2015, so there has been quite a gap in between, taken up with figuring out how to turn a manuscript into a fully fledged book (Values Count).

Over the next four days there will be regular updates here on the blog as I am #workingoutloud to capture the learning from the process as it emerges. That’s likely to mean that there will be as many as 8-10 blog posts. So, if this isn’t of interest to you, please ignore me until the middle of next week!

The last few weeks have involved preparation for today. I started a Writing Marathon Preparation Diary which I have completed most days for 10 minutes. This gave me a short amount of time each day where I was committed to thinking about the marathon and really focused on how to prepare and how best to use the time over the weekend.

Fortunately, I had the blog posts from the first marathon and a detailed set of journal entries that I have drawn on to build and fully prepare for the next 4 days. This has really given me a sharp focus and clear sense of direction.

Since the last marathon I have read “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi which is regarded by many as the key text on how to get into a flow state and be really creative and productive. That has set me in good stead for the next few days. Also, as preparation I read Seth Godin‘s “What to do when it’s your turn (and it’s always your turn” over the last couple of weeks and found it really inspiring.

So, what are my goals for this marathon?

I’ve set out some key targets for the time ahead of me:

  1. People who inspire me – over the last couple of years I have written some blog posts about people who have inspired my thinking and my overall approach to life and work. I’ve a long list of 20 or so other people that I want to write about. This will be like a form of biography of ideas. I’m aiming to write a further 10,000 words for this in addition to the 5,000 words already written.
  2. Coaching Ideas book – this has an outline and some initial writing and I want to add another 5,000 words to this book.
  3. Hang Fire – my latest collection of poetry. I have 12 poems written already and will add another 8 poems over the next 4 days.
  4. Live blogging – aiming for 2 blog posts each day

I then have some other goals regarding time spent on the meditation cushion to keep my head clear, music that I will listen to whilst working, and time for exercise too.

So, that’s the territory I am aiming to cover. The next post here will be at the end of today, to summarise the first day’s progress. Thanks for reading…

(I’m going to use a set of photos for this blog series which were taken from the train one sunny morning a couple of weeks ago. I thought the physical journey was a good metaphor for the creative journey. Hope you enjoy them)

What’s He Building in There #4

In the last few weeks I have published “Values Count“, after a long haul figuring out how to produce a paperback book. Some achievement I think, although I am only now emerging from being mauled by the Inner Critic beast (ICB for short) that ran loose for a couple of weeks after the book came out. It was a total surprise this. I expected to feel good about achieving a goal – to publish a book. But instead the ICB shifted the goal post and started monitoring my stats. Each sale I achieved of the book was turned into a target 10 times that by the ICB. I’m not exaggerating when I talk about being mauled. It was a hideous experience. It felt like a scene from a Harry Potter movie running in my head with a monster on the loose. Yes, really! I have read loads of books by Seth Godin and Steven Pressfield about the inner critic and about resistance. Both of them talk about how awful the process can be. I had always thought that they were exaggerating to make a point. I was so so wrong!

Over the last few days I have been reviving the shop feature on this website to enable direct purchase for anyone who doesn’t want to use Amazon. It took some doing as the function that I set up a few years ago was no longer working on mobile platforms (phones and tablets) so I had to completely replace it with a new shop function. It is working now – needs a bit of refining but I am really pleased with how this looks as it enables me to post things directly. It’s the next step from blogging to direct publishing.

I am in the throes of making available the other digital publications that are on the site through the shop so that they are easier to find. That should take a week or so.

In other publishing news (as they say on the radio!) I am reaching the final stages of producing the limited edition of “Blue: experiments in sound” which is illustrated by Phillip Kingsbury of Wooden Spoon Press. This will be an illustrated poetry collection including all of the poems from the 2016 Blue poetry sequence. I’m thinking that the book will also include a CD version of the sound pieces which I made to accompany this collection. It should be ready within a few short weeks.

Then at the end of the month I have time set aside for another Writing Marathon. Lots of you were interested in the last one of these that I did and enjoyed me blogging as I progressed. So, I will live blog this exercise again. At the moment I have three book ideas to work on. I just need to decide which one to focus on. That might require the toss of a coin!

 

Values Count – here are the opening paragraphs

Earlier in the week I mentioned that my new book has just been published and is available on Amazon. Here are the opening paragraphs from the Introduction:

“It’s all about the money – that seems to be the measure by which everything is judged these days. Every day we hear about new scandals relating to the ethical basis of business, whether it’s large multi-national companies not paying their taxes or corporates who distort their accounts to massage the stock market, or banks that lend irresponsibly and then look to governments to bail them out when they are at risk of collapsing. Too big to fail was a mantra that was all over the newspapers a few years ago.   Those of us who work in the public sector are not exempt from these problems.

In recent years there has been a growing rhetoric that says “private sector good, public sector bad”. This manifests itself in neo-liberal politics where the market rules and public sector provision is seen as intrinsically inefficient. We increasingly live in a world that knows the price of everything without any underlying sense of the value of what we do.”

Intrigued? Why not read the whole book. Follow the links in this post or search for my name on Amazon.

What do Innocent Drinks, Ben & Jerry’s and Robin Williams have in common?

Yes, today is launch day. I’ve broken all of the rules. Apparently, the idea is to get ready for book launch – prepare all your social media, have pre-release copies ready to share with people to get reviews on Amazon. Did I do any of that? No, it took so long to get to this point that I just pressed publish and the book is live on Amazon right now. Strangely, Amazon has decided that the book was published back in September 2016. OK, confession time – that would be my mistake as I forgot to change the publication date and now it is fixed and unchangeable. Oh well!

Here we are then, February 2017 and the book that I finished the first draft of in September 2015 during the Writing Marathon which I described here in the blog, is finally published. Since that first draft I have gone through a lot of redrafting, layout and basic design work. I taught myself how to make a book cover which was not as easy as I thought it would be. Then I have gone through the process of learning how to self-publish through CreateSpace. A few months ago I almost gave up as I hit the wall on pagination and page numbering problems. For a few weeks I had “ghost pages” that couldn’t be seen but were there in the number count. Very strange! After a few weeks of rehabilitation and a huge amount of support and badgering (thanks Su!) the book finally made it to the finishing line.

And that is where I am today. Wondering why I didn’t think about a marketing campaign before now. That process needs developing over the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you are interested, here is the description of the book from the back cover:

The world is falling apart, governments are losing control of their economies and of their tax levying powers. With this backdrop, Stuart Eglin sets out to describe how values based working can act as an antidote to the problems we face. Beginning with his own experience and setting out a range of practical approaches that can be taken to develop a values base, Stuart also looks at large-scale examples of values based approaches and identifies some of the challenges that are faced by corporations. This is a practical book which shows how to develop a values based framework…

Here is the link to find it on Amazon. It should be appearing as a Kindle book in the next few days too. (Another formatting process to learn!)

Oh, and finally, if you would like to leave a review on Amazon that would be absolutely brilliant.

What do Innocent Drinks, Ben & Jerry’s and Robin Williams have in common? Well, the answer is in the book of course. It’s all to do with taking values base approaches to the way that we work.

You can also buy the book directly from this website here. Here ends the shameful piece of self-promotion. Thank you for reading.

"Empowering Life Changes through Coaching and Creativity"