Our guest today: Leigh Shulman
Leigh Shulman is a writer, who also helps other people get pass the fear and doubts of writing. She created an enormous amount of writer resources and runs a thriving workshop for writers from around the world. Recently, she conducted a Creative Revolution International Book Writing Retreats, where she invites you to travel with her and write some more.
We found each other through altMBA. After listening to my episode with Seth Godin , she reached out and we hit it off right away. Leigh’s journey from working 9-5 to finding the life she loves is so on point for the message we have for the podcast, which is to help independent creators live their creative and financial freedom.
Born in South Africa, Leigh moved to the United States with her parents at a young age. While working in New York City later as an adult, Leigh made a bold decision to move her family to Argentina. It’s been ten years as of the recording of our podcast.
This is a story for independent creative women who wants to live life on their terms while raising a family with young children.
This episode is for you if:
- You are planning on writing your first book
- You’ve always wanted to write but don’t know how or where to start
- You are at a crossroad with your own creative endeavor, perhaps while balancing a family life
- You are planning on or perhaps just move to a brand new city, feeling uncertain and overwhelmed.
- You are living in a foreign country for the first time
- You are a freelancer or entrepreneur who’s planning on starting your first mastermind/workshop/retreat
Hello. How are you?
This is a show for everyone else. Instead of going after top one person of the world, we dedicate this podcast to celebrate the lives of the unsung.
Heroes and self made artists.
I guess I get used to not being perfect and instead get used to meeting things, finishing things, knowing what I want out of them, and also being incredibly focused. Anything I do, I have one clear reason for doing it, and I don’t let myself get distracted. And if that means that there’s a pile of dishes in the sink, it’s fine. The number one thing that gets in the way is self confidence and that feeling of, who wants to read my writing? I don’t have anything useful to say. Think about what it is that you want to write. The first thing people will say is they’re like, oh, I want to write a book, but, oh, I can’t do that. Or I want to write for magazines, but, oh, I can’t do that. And that little voice of, oh, I can’t do that. Recognize it and just be like, no, I’m going to ignore that. You want to write a book, write a book. You are going to be rejected. You aren’t going to use everything that you write. So it’s worthwhile to really enjoy the writing that you’re doing and to really embody it. Learning to be comfortable with chaos is a great place for anyone to start.
I feel like my role in this world is to give people a voice who don’t feel like they have one. And if I can do that, then I feel like I will have given back to the world as much as I’ve been given. Hi there.
This is Fawu again.
I am so thrilled that you’re here. I cannot see you. I wish I could. But today I’m bringing forward another great.
Episode, which is an interview format podcast episode. You guys know I love interviews.
And, you know, recently people ask me, what is the point of the show? Well, I told them that it is for unsung heroes and selfmade artists. And I believe that some of you guys who are listening to the show and I can’t wait to hear from you and the stories about you today. I have a lovely, lovely woman who’s a writer. Her name is Lee Shulman. She found me through ELT MBA.
Basically, after we posted the episode with.
Seth Godin, she decided to reach out.
We hit it off right away, and.
Timing couldn’t be more perfect because, as some of you guys know, we’re working.
In our first book.
Well, I am, and I’m using the software scrivener, and I’m giving myself word count every day. And this first book title is TBD, but it’s written for immigrants, students, and workers. I’m so thrilled. And I don’t want to just write.
This book for people who are like.
Me, who’s Chinese, but really it’s the voice of all immigrants living in America right now. And I have so much respect for you, no matter where you are, which part of the journey you’re on. And Lee, today our guest is a writer who also coaches other new and experienced writers to complete their books. She leads a thriving community for writers, think Mastermind, but also Creative Revolution International Book Writing Retreats, where she invites you to travel with her to write some more. But here’s the thing.
What does Lee have to do with.
The story I was talking about and being immigrants and understanding the immigration process and how challenging life could be for an immigrant born and raised in South Africa until around the age of five? I hope I remember this correctly lee and her family moved to the United States when she was still very young. Then later on, as an adult, she moved her entire family again from New York City to Argentina. Well, this is a story for independent, creative women who want to live lives on their own terms, even with a family and raising young children. And this episode is maybe for you if you are at a crossroad with your own creative endeavors, perhaps while balancing a family life as well, or you’ve just decided to move to a different city, state or country and feeling a little overwhelmed. Or if you’re curious about writing your first book, or last but not least, some people came up to me recently talking about Mastermind because I run Alt podcasters and Lee is running a very, very successful Mastermind for writers. And she admitted that it really took her many years to kind of make the mistakes that she needed to make to get the Mastermind into the shape and form that it is today.
I thought speaking to Lee is particularly fascinating and necessary because of her journey as an immigrant now living full time in Argentina. I’m working on my first book and trying not to get too emotionally attached because this is the first book from US. And it’s for immigrants, which is a very sensitive topic in America right now. We had a lot to share as an American who immigrated elsewhere. We even challenged the difference between talking about we’re referring to one sub as an immigrant versus an expath. So I am curious to hear your feedback, and if you would like to hear more interviews and stories like this.
Please let me know.
I always love hearing from my listeners and I personally respond to all the emails. Before we jump right into the interview, here’s a quick update on our docuseries. It is so ongoing, even when you’re hearing this. It’s definitely a testament to my own patience, for sure. It’s been with a distributor for months now and we are fixing some of the audio issues, but hopefully your fingers crossed. I cannot wait to share these episodes with you guys.
And thank you so much for your.
Support, for your messages, and it means so much to me. But without further ado, please welcome Lee Schulman to the Faze World Podcast.
I am intrigued. One of the things I noted down last time we spoke was this incredible observation you had when a Caucasian person moves abroad, then he calls himself an expat. Whereas pretty much every other race, myself included, Asian, Hispanic, black, and everybody who moved to the States, for example, call themselves immigrants. What are your thoughts on that and how did it come up for you?
It came up because of an article that I think was in The Guardian where they were talking about the difference between expat and immigrant. And I actually do call myself an immigrant. I mean, I call myself both, but when I hear the word immigrant, I sort of think of it. I think of sort of more of a cultural difference. A good friend of mine, he lives in New York. We knew we got her in college. We didn’t go to the same college, but he works with radio stations, basically. I don’t exactly know how he does it, but he creates this sort of radio stations from home for immigrants but in New York City. And his view of being an immigrant is that you can’t go home, which I don’t know that I necessarily agree, but I think immigrants, it’s taken on these days, a really bad meeting, which I think is really unfortunate. Expat feels like you’re just there to come. For me, anyway. Expat feels like you’re just sort of floating on top of the culture and you’re always separated from it. Whereas immigrants for me means you integrate. And as somebody who is a two time immigrant, born in South Africa, moved to the States, left to the States, now lives in Argentina, I’ll never be fully Argentine.
I’ll probably be more American than anything else, or us American. But I want to integrate. I want to understand the culture. I want to be here. Not that I’m just sort of observing and kind of floating around and maybe it can leave whenever I feel like it. This is home.
I remember that. Could you help paint a timeline again? How old were you when you moved from South Africa to the States and then to Argentina? You don’t have to call out all the eight agents.
Well, actually, I was little when my parents moved to the States. And they did move. They were concerned about housing where in South Africa. Politically, we did not leave the United States for political reasons. We left because basically we were living in New York and I didn’t like parenting in New York, and we wanted to find a new place. And we were like, well, let’s just travel and see what happens. We actually moved to Argentina when my daughter was the same age that I was when we moved to the State. So it’s been kind of interesting. I can’t help but in my nature, I can’t help but make parallel. I’d already lived in the United States, work in the United States, went to school in the United States, and then last traveled to a bunch of different places and then finally moved to Argentina ten years ago.
I’m fascinated by your story as a writer. I know you coach many other people to do what you do, to do what you love, which is fantastic. But before we get there, I would love to hear your opinion on parenting in New York or New York City, because I’m a fan of the city, and it really grew on me, much more so than when I was younger.
Parenting in the city. When I first got to New York, because I went there for school, I found it really overwhelming. There’s just so much going on. I would go into the city and then I’d just be so overwhelmed, I just couldn’t deal with it. And then it grew on me also, and I loved it there. And I mean, it’s such an amazing, vibrant place where just walking down the street tells a story. You can meet incredible people anywhere you go. You never know what the person next to you on the subway is doing. Any creative for a writer, for anyone’s creative, for anyone who’s telling stories. I mean, New York, there’s no other place like it. And also be around other creatives and the breadth of what you can find there. I found parenting there to be the exact opposite. I felt it very confining to have a little child, and even just leaving the apartment was a hassle. If the elevator was out, it was going downstairs. Do I carry the baby? Do I do this, do I do that? Where do I go? Getting on the bus is hard. Getting on the subway is hard.
There seems to be a lot of people who don’t really like children there or have so many rules for children. It’s confining. Even little things that walking into a restaurant. I remember walking into a restaurant when my daughter was maybe three. It was an Indian restaurant in the West Village, and the looks on everybody’s faces were just like, horrifying, like, oh, no, that’s it. Then we sat, we ate. She’s a New York kid. I mean, New York kids learn how to eat in restaurants really early. And I even remember going out for dinner with a friend. Well, a group of us went out for friend’s birthday, and all of us had little kids, and we had maybe six little kids younger than three years old all sitting around the table, and they were all sitting and eating and not run around. Something my five year old now can barely do because he hasn’t grown up going out to restaurants. He’s grown up running around the backyard. But I think people are just because you’re in such close quarters with people, people are really protective of their space and can be kind of unkind at times to other people.
And that unkindness place on parents and especially new moms and little kids is very painful and confining, and it made me not want to go out, and I wasn’t taking advantage of all the amazing things New York has to offer. It wasn’t the only reason we left, but it was a big reason.
Wow. Yeah, it’s interesting. Like, I think New York City is a great place for adults, but a certain type of adults, I noticed just a general fast pace of lifestyle in places like New York City, Shanghai, Beijing. So I can’t imagine just what entrepreneurial moms like yourself have to navigate. You know, they got to take care of young children as well as managing these masterminds looking for work. How do you juggle all of that? Now that we’re on the topic.
I try not to worry too much about everything. And it’s funny, I just had a long discussion with my daughter about that today, that there’s only so much that we can do. There’s only so many things we can cover. So I just sort of take it step by step, and I don’t love it when the house is busy. I don’t love it when things don’t work out. Exactly. They don’t work out the best possible way or the perfectly. I guess I get used to not being perfect and instead get used to meeting things, finishing things, knowing what I want out of them, and also being incredibly focused. Anything I do, I have one clear reason for doing it, and I don’t let myself get distracted. And if that means that there’s a pile of dishes in the sink, fine. If that means there’s dog food all over the floor outside, fine. I can’t like that. I choose what I’m going to do, and if certain things aren’t done, then that’s fine, as long as the things that are most important to me are completed in the way that I want them done.
Yeah. Prioritization I think it’s so essential to parenthood, especially for someone like yourself who runs a business that’s filled with many elements and aspects of the business, unlike someone who’s doing just that one thing. So how would you describe your current career or your entrepreneurial trajectory? And I find it really fascinating right now.
Right now, I’m trying to focus more on writing. The last few years, I’ve been focused a lot on teaching, and I love teaching. I love teaching. I love working with writers. I spent a lot of the last years working on building the teaching part of my business. And now what I’m trying to do is shift from there into writing more, because I feel like if I’m not writing, then my teaching suffers. People say, if you can’t do teach, people who can’t do teach, which I think is complete and utter nonsense. I think the two go together 100%, because in order to teach something to somebody, you have to know to really break it down into parts, really know what something is, and then know how to take somebody else through the steps of understanding how to do a thing. So for example, pitching editors, pitching the New York Times for an article. So how do you do that? Well, if I’ve never done it, if I haven’t had practice doing it, if I have no idea who the editors are, if I don’t know what the New York Times is publishing now, I can’t really be as UpToDate to help somebody else do that.
One thing I’ll also say, though, what I find is the number one thing that gets in the way for people when they’re writing, whether they’re writing books or publishing articles or whatever it is that they’re doing or starting a content marketing business, the number one thing that gets in the way is selfconfidence and that feeling of who wants to read my writing? And nobody really, you know, I don’t have anything useful to say. And I understand that because I often feel that too, particularly when I’m doing something new. So I am constantly pushing myself in my own writing to go to a new level, to feel that kind of fear, and to feel that, oh no, I don’t really I’m not 100% sure what I’m doing because that helps me continue to encourage people to do the same thing in their writing life.
Yeah, that’s great because you’ve been at your business for a while now, and I think we can roughly break it down to your writing versus your teaching. And since we’re talking about your writing at the moment, could you give us a sense of maybe some of the topics that you were writing about previously? You’re learning the new areas versus the ones that you are tackling your learning today.
So there are many, many different types of writing. So whether you’re writing a copy for a website, and copywriting basically is any kind of writing that you would read in any type of business. And that could be newsletters, that could be websites. It’s pretty broad, and sometimes it can actually look the same as an article that you might pitch to a magazine. Then there’s magazine articles or more journalistic writing, commercial writing, which is the Washington Post, the New York Times, pretty much anything you would see online or something you would buy at a newsstand. And then there are books, short stories, literary writing. It’s so broad. And I think the most important thing is sort of figure out what is it that you want to do right this moment, what comes first? Because it’s really hard to try to do everything, and incredibly overwhelming to do everything, because each thing you pitch, each thing you write requires research, requires reading. It requires knowing what you want out of it. Okay, so all of my more commercial writing, I don’t do any. The only content writing I do is for my own website and for my newsletters, which I like to do myself because it’s me and it’s my voice and it’s my way of communicating with the people who are on my list and in my group.
But then the only commercial writing I’m doing is related to teaching, teaching writing. How do you write? And then that also branches out into parenting, like you just asked me. How do you balance your parenting with your writing? How do you build a business? All the different things that go into my creating writing life, that’s what I pitch to editors. And there is an endless list of places where you can pitch. And my number one suggestion for deciding where you could potentially write is ask yourself, what do I love to read? What are my favorite? When you go out there and you’re thinking you’re going to pick up a magazine or you’re going to go online and you’re going to look something up, where’s the number one place that you go? Well, that’s probably a really great place for you to pitch. And I actually have a lot of resources on my website for this, for how to pitch, for how to write different things. Basically, my website is an extension of my teaching. So, for example, if somebody has it’s, the questions that people ask me all the time, I’ll write a blog post on it, I put it up there, or I’ll put together a resource and put it on my website.
So it really is designed as an educational site. And then the third type of writing, my creative writing right now that goes beyond business development is I’m writing a Ya Sci-Fi novel. It’s so much fun. And it’s funny because writing them, like a lot of people, until now, I’ve written a lot of personal essay or there’s been a lot of pitching for business related things, which I’m used to doing. And I’m good at it and I enjoy it, but it’s not fun. In the same way, I don’t have as much fun as I do when I just get to let it go wild and write about plants that come to life and artificial intelligence and this girl who’s trying to find her way through the wilderness to save her brother.
Hey, it’s Faye, and today on the show, join me and Lee Schulman. When living in New York City, lee made a decision to move her entire family to Argentina, and a decade later, she’s still there, exploring her life as a creative writer and mentor for so many others who are working to find their own voice and their own creative endeavors. This is a story for immigrants outside of the US. And stories you haven’t heard. Thank you for joining us.
I want to kind of break it down. I love how you shifted the conversation from my questions of what you do specifically to really gearing that towards people who want to become writers themselves, whether it’s full time or a lot of people are thinking about part time, such as myself. What would be the advice that you have for people? If we paint a picture of someone, let’s say 30, 35 years old, you know, somebody who had a life and maybe work in the corporate world for about eight to ten years, and it’s really interested in writing, what are some of the advice that you would give them to kind of get started and warm up to being a writer?
Well, I think the first thing is think about what it is that you want to write. For many people, the first thing people will say is they’re like, oh, I want to write a book, but oh, I can’t do that. Or I want to write for magazines, but oh, I can’t do that. And that little voice of, oh, I can’t do that. Recognize it and just be like, no, I’m going to ignore that. You want to write a book, write a book. You want to write for magazines, pitch magazine. And then you decide. Once you decide what you want to do, you just throw yourself into it. The best advice I can give for any writer is just right. I know that’s very broad, and it makes you ask questions like, well, how and where and what and why? Well, all that information of how and what and where and why, it’s all on the Internet. Most of it is on my website, or my website will point to places to do it. But you think about what is it that you want to do? You want to write a book, sit down and start writing a book.
Do you have ideas for a book? Get that down on paper. You want to pitch editors, you want to start writing for magazines. You say, all right, what are your topics? Let’s see, what are the topics you want to write about? What are the magazines that you want to write for? And then you just start pitching them. Or you can write an article and send it somewhere. Now, the mechanics behind that there are always a lot of mechanics of how to and where do you send it and what’s the format of a pitch and how do you XYZ? How do you know how to structure a book? The best way to learn it is to just start doing it, particularly with pitching and even with writing a book, sometimes just sitting down and writing your book, just starting to write, is the best place to start. And I think one of the things that gets in the way is, what if, what if, what if, what if I do all this work and it doesn’t go anywhere? Well, it might happen. When you write a book, there are lots of pages that you edit out and you never use.
When it comes to pitching, let’s say, for every ten pitches you send, I think two will be accepted. So 80% of your pitches aren’t going to be accepted, particularly when you’re cold pitching. So the first thing is just to get used to that idea that number one, you’re writing, number two, you are going to be rejected, you aren’t going to use everything that you write. So it’s worthwhile to really enjoy the writing that you’re doing and to really embody it and be clear on what you want to do. So I feel like that might feel really broad because normally at this point, when I’m answering this question, I pull out different. I sent to someone one on one. Or I’ll be in a class and I’ll pull out a bunch of links and I’ll put stuff up on the screen and show people exactly what I’m talking about and send them to the different resources, which I can actually send. I have like a whole bunch of resources. I’ve got one resource that starts with it’s three writing prompts for people who just don’t even know what they want to write yet. And the whole point of the writing prompts to draw that out and to get your creative juices going and get your ideas on paper.
I think in a way that’s sort of similar to getting a todo list. And obviously there are things that we could do better or worse with writing down a to do list. But I find that with running a company that the worst thing I could do is have these things on my mind without writing them down. Because the moment I write down what I need to do for my business is actually a lot smaller and a lot more straightforward, simpler than I thought it would be. And having you wrote an article called how to Embrace the Chaos of Creativity, it feels so chaotic in our own heads to say like, you know, I cannot do this, this is too complex. But to actually get it out there and know that to take advantage of the chaos and have the writing be more real and more authentic could be the way to go. So thanks for sharing that.
Absolutely. And actually that post that you’re talking about is, I think, where it all starts. And I know people who’ll be hearing this or different people are coming from different places in terms of different levels of experience, in terms of their writing. But I do find learning to be comfortable with chaos is a great place for anyone to start, you know, whatever it is you’re doing, just sort of being comfortable with not knowing, being comfortable with that area where you’re sort of swimming around and kind of like, oh, what do I do? And I love that you said that it’s similar to putting together a todo list for your business. Because I do apply the rules that I use to run my business to my writing and I’m always saying, run your writing like a business. Of course, the chaos part, where you’re just writing in a world of chaos, which can be a lot of fun once you get past the discomfort of it, you’re not running that like a business. That’s your chance to be free. That’s like brainstorming in business. That’s just throwing everything out there and seeing what happens and letting things become what they want to become.
And then you bring it down and you organize it, and you say, all right, what are you going to do with these things? What happens next? And then that’s the business part, where you add a little bit of order. Chaos before you go back into the chaos.
Absolutely. And after we spoke a few months ago, at the time, I mentioned that I started my own book for immigrants and students and workers living in America. And the funny thing was, after speaking with you, what I decided to do is to start in Scrivener. I know a lot of writers use that for years and years. I didn’t. But I think for the first actual book, it helped me to consider, just at a high level, know what the workouts could be that can be easily changed. And then one feature I love about that is that it will break it down based on how many days a week you want to write and tells you the milestone since every day. For me to finish the book at the end of October. Okay, that’s like 780 words a day. And to be able to look at that. And it really worked for me to feel motivated, to feel like something I could hit, and to give myself a purpose every single day.
So you started writing it. That’s so exciting.
Yeah, I’m on burn now.
There’s always a little bit of chaos, but that’s okay. I think chaos is a good thing. Well, chaos is just part of the creative process, and it always makes me think of the movie. Oh, my God. It’s Will Smith. Based on the play Six Degrees of Separation. And there’s a part where he’s talking about a Kandinsky painting where one side is about control, one side is about chaos. And they’re spinning the painting around in my head. I don’t know if that’s actually what happened, but they’re spinning the painting around and they’re talking about chaos control, chaos control. And I think I think that is the creative process. You allow the chaos to happen, then you get back, then you know, and then you put it in Scrivener, basically. Scrivener is awesome. There’s so many functions on it. Like, I still find I’ve been using it for a while, and I don’t even pretend to know to think that I know it well. But I think that’s amazing that you’ve written it, and I want to hear more about it.
Actually, I would love to tell you. I think a lot of the people are. Kind of maybe they are stuck with where I am right now. Not really stuck, but feeling a little bit of that resistance. And for example, I’m on to the stage where we need to know our niche and one of the ways to know who you’re writing for, as opposed to, oh my God, this is going to be the greatest book ever. People just want to read it because I’m an immigrant and I live through this, and hopefully I can inspire others to do X, Y and Z. So instead of thinking it that way, I went to Amazon. I searched for all books written for immigrants and not for immigration, like the legal process and what I’m focusing on. So I’m reading more stories and see kind of what people are looking for. And there’s one technique that I learned which is look at all the sub categories. And immediately I learned that people are really specific. So I would love to kind of hear your take on if you or me kind of having our little almost like a mini coaching or advice session to say, hey, you’re on the right track, or no, maybe there’s a little too broad.
So the titles that I have found are so specific. So my current thoughts are my book is still a little broad for all immigrants in general living in America, students, workers, or should I specifically speak to Chinese immigrants because I’m Chinese?
One question I always ask people when they’re writing a book, and this applies to pretty much any book that you could be writing if you had to distill your okay, what your book is about in one sentence. And when I say, what is your book about? I don’t mean what happens in it. What I mean is what is it that you want your readers to understand and feel when they’re finished reading the book and then distilled to one sentence? What would that one sentence be for your book?
Yeah, I’ll give it a shot, I think. I hope anyone who picks up the book as an immigrant, once they’re done reading the book, I want them to feel more powerful and more peaceful at the same time and to know that the drive to their own success is not really bound by their skin color, their origin. They’re sort of the foundation of their finances when they started off, so they could really do what they want to do even as an immigrant.
So just to distill that down even further, would you say? All right, so immigrants moving to the United States who may be nervous about what are they going to do? Where are they going to go? What are they going to find? Can feel empowered to find their own personal path, regardless of whatever their education that your book is to help them find their personal path by sharing stories. Yes, yes. And what I would say is, when we’re done talking, go and write it down. Write it down until you get that one sentence really clear for you. And then when you don’t have to worry about it, you don’t have to refer to it, or when you keep that idea in the back of your mind when you write, it will help you. It will help you make choices along the way. Because when you’re really clear on what the book is about, that also lets you know who it’s for. So you’re writing for immigrants. It sounds like you’re specifically writing for people of color, but who at this point, US. Politics might feel kind of uncomfortable being in the United States and might feel like there’s a lot out there that does not necessarily support them.
Yeah, I completely agree with you. Yes, that’s precisely what gave me the drive to do to write this book. And I think because of the current political climate, among many other things, I have a feeling that there are more people who want to stand up and write. They want to write, they want to produce doesn’t matter. YouTube videos, they want to blog more. Whatever it may be, there is just more of it. And when I say I want to target immigrants, I want to do so not because I want to sell more books and get a larger audience. Because sometimes I know when you try to speak to everyone, you ended up speaking to no one. You’re not really suiting the bugs to anyone. But at the same time, I think what you’re describing just now is that even though we might be very different, like, I look at myself and a friend of mine who’s, say, from Columbia, raising a family of four here in Boston, I feel like our journey is drastically different. Our education, the way we were brought up, all the material goods that we had, the type of family we had, very different.
But yet we come together. We just have infinite amount of stories and things to talk about. We enjoy a company and it’s just maybe there’s something I don’t know, you could be totally frank with me, as if my thoughts are too broad or maybe there’s something to work with.
It sounds like what you’re talking about is sort of distilling down what it means to be an immigrant and what it is that people face. And I think if your book is talking about you’re talking about empowerment and you can do what you want and yes, there are fears, but these are different stories and these are different models that people can take in order to get where they’re going and find their own journey by seeing other people’s stories. And right now, one thing that’s really that agents in general are looking for in books and things like that are those sort of their own voices. I don’t know if it’s a genre or if it’s a specific viewpoint or what exactly they would call it and that kind of doesn’t even matter, but this idea of seeing representation from different groups of people. And so to me, I don’t know where you are. Well, it depends where you are in the writing process, but I feel like it sounds to me like you’re on a great track and you know what you want, you know where you’re headed and you know what you want people to take away from your book.
So you should keep writing. Just keep going.
Okay, I will keep writing. I think when we talk about why we’re doing this and people want to make money, people really want to reach the people even without getting paid. But just, please, have more readers know that having an impact. But I think when we’re thinking about that too much, then we really block ourselves from the work we’re trying to do because there’s so much of that isn’t under our control, and it’s an iterative process. I want my first book to be the best book, but maybe I need a little more practice, and that’s okay, too.
Hey, it’s Faye, and today on the show, join me and Lee Shulman. When living in New York City, lee made a decision to move her entire family to Argentina. And a decade later, she’s still there, exploring her life as a creative writer and mentor. For so many others who are working to find their own voice and their own creative endeavors, this is a story for immigrants outside of the US. And stories you haven’t heard. Thank you for joining us.
I would love to get your take. Now, imagine someone who’s either starting in the middle of it or is wrapping up a book. At the moment. There’s a number one most popular question I would love to hear your point of view, which is what is your POV point of view on self publishing versus working with publishers? And here, let’s just say we’re now referring to someone like Tony Robbins or Tim Ferriss. We’re talking about people who are potentially, let’s just say, publishing their very first book. People like myself. What would you do in that case?
It really depends. Everything related to publishing depends on how it fits into your bigger picture and what it is that you want for your writing life. In my book, which my book, my last book I did self published, and it’s called The Writer’s Road Map paving the Way to Your Ideal Writing Life. And it’s based on seven years of a process that I use with clients that I’ve been using with my one on one client of how you kind of look at your writing life, break it down, and figure out exactly what you want and then create a plan to go from where you are now to where you want to go. And I wanted to get that out there as soon as possible because I felt like I could continue doing one on one. But I had so many people asking me questions, and it only made sense to write a book. So I wrote the book and I put it out there, and I do all my own marketing, and it’s based on my business platform. And it’s been great for my business platform also. It’s grown my business because people find me somehow they find my book before they find me.
However, and I decided all of my business books, I have another book that I have in the works when I finish the one I’m working on now, rejection Handbook. Because rejection kills people. Like, it really shuts them down. How do you deal with rejection? How do you allow rejection to actually help you grow? And let’s switch up how we see rejection. That’s a business related book. It’s very central to my business and my work. I will self publish. That my fiction. I want to go to a traditional publishing house. So when it’s finished, I’m going to look for a wide agent, and I’m going to go in that direction. But both of them relate very specifically to my goals. So my goals are going to be different than your goals. And therefore, or anyone who’s listening to this, it really always comes down to your overall objective of what it is that you want to create in your writing life or your creative life and your business life. And then you make a decision based.
On that, I guess at a high level. Are there some more evidence, benefits, pros and cons associated with self publishing? What I’ve heard so far is that if you want to do it your way, you’re in full control. You wanted to get out there as soon as possible. Self publishing seems to be the way, then I guess what are some of the benefits working with publishers?
Well, they bring a platform with them. They do some of the marketing for you. You have a team who will help you create the right cover, create the right create the right setting for it. You still do your own marketing. Like you said, you don’t have as much control, but you do have professionals sort of backing you in a way. Whereas if, let’s say you’re picking your own cover, well, you’re figuring that out on your own. Whereas if you’re publishing through a house, they’re helping you based on many, many years of experience. So it really is about speed, control, and also money. When you’re self publishing, you keep all the money that you make from it, whereas traditional publishing, you do not keep that much. However, they have more of a platform, and therefore they have a bigger platform than the average author, and therefore it is more likely more people will buy it, unless as an author, you’re dedicated to continuing to do your own marketing.
Got it. Well, it’s really fascinating. So I’m sure since the very beginning, people are already listeners are wondering, wow, that sounds like a wonderful life, because there’s so many people out there who fancy themselves to become writers one day, and maybe they got the jobs to do it as well. But how do you make money? I mean, you’ve been at this career for quite a bit. If we could kind of maybe break it down to what you did, how you navigate your writing career at the beginning while being able to pay the bills to, like, halfway through that to today, you have really more of a polished business with all different revenue streams and such. So if you could take us to the beginning, like, how did you navigate the financial side of the financial side?
Okay. And here’s the thing about being a writer. Most writers do not make all of their money from creative writing. Some do, most do not. And that’s why many writers are doing content writing while they’re building up the creative side of the writing. So there’s a woman in the mastermind group that I run called the Workshop. I had a woman come in, Vanessa McGrady, who she just published a book called Rocky’s River. It’s doing really well. I think they’re looking into movie rights for it. She’s done a lot of personal essays, but for many years, she’s made the bulk of her income through content writing. Those content writing just pays significantly better than, say, writing a personal essay for The New York Times. More people will read it in The New York Times, but it doesn’t pay as well. I have had a million jobs not a million, but it feels like it. I’ve done so many different things. I’ve designed websites. I work for MTV. I did interviews. I did psychology interviews for Columbia Presbyterian. I’ve done lots of different things while I was writing, and it was sort of the constant process of sort of figuring out what is it that I can stand to do?
Make money, even if it’s not what I really want to be doing that will allow me to pay my bills while I’m able to write and send things out. And when I started teaching, I fell in love with teaching. The first thing I ever taught, I actually taught for the first time while I was getting my Masters in Creative Writing at City College. And that’s when I started teaching, and I never expected to like it as much as I did and then never stopped. So my teaching has been really broad, and I’ve tried out many different ways. I’ve taught for universities. I’ve taught for schools. I’ve developed my own programs. And now the majority of my teaching is my own program, whether it’s one on one with people or the mastermind that I’m running or my book. I consider that teaching also. And I will say that those have been bringing for the few years, because I’ve been focusing on it more, have brought in the majority of my income, and then as you said, there’s income stream. So, for example, I have a book on Amazon, that’s one income stream. If I recommend the book online through Amazon, there’s another income stream.
I have affiliate stream, I have affiliate sales. And then there’s the writing that’s really close to my heart. So Personal Essays, the book that I’m working on, fiction, and my goal with my personal writing, I’ll call it my personal writing, even if it’s not all personal, but it’s the stuff that I most enjoy doing that is the most creative work for me outside of my teaching. Sometimes it pays $25, sometimes it pays $500, sometimes it can pay $2,000 for one thing that you write, but you don’t always know when you’re going to get a yes from an editor. So I chose not to rely on that for my income. I use that for my creative outlet and the money, the income I get from it is icing on the cake. And that’s also how I structure myself, because I chose to run a business. And at the heart of my business is education. While I continue to write and put things out there and publish, I do.
Want to have you maybe speak to your writing workshop and sort of your educational side of writing practice. When you started doing that, what was the motivation and how you grew your mastermind from zero person to what it is today? As you mentioned, there are a lot of sort of trial and errors. You learn a lot along the way.
So I had an idea for it. I had a small mailing list. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I started a Facebook group and I just sent out to my mailing list and I’m like, hey, anybody want to join this? And it’s a monthly fee and brought people in. And I think five people signed up at first, and I had a few friends that came in also, just as Peters. I think they’re all just so that there could be a little more of a conversation. I think we started about a group of ten. Over the years, I have not been that aggressive of bringing people in, because my feeling is I don’t want people to come in just to come in because, yes, it might be more income for me on a monthly basis, but it changes the conversation. I want to make sure that the people who are there are the people who really, truly wants to be there, who wants to be part of the community, and that is the right people who are there. And the right people can sound funny in different ways, but I feel like, you know, when you’re the right person because it’s a good fit.
And so over the years, it’s grown pretty slowly. I have about, I think, 70 people in it right now. And basically it includes all the things that I have found to be the most useful in helping people move towards their writing. So there’s sort of the psychological and organizational side of it. So, for example, every week we check in on Mondays and we say, what do you want to accomplish this week? And then on Fridays, what did you accomplish? Which is based on organizational psychology and the idea that when you are regularly checking in with someone and you have a very clear structure for accountability. Okay, so there was a study on this that said if you check in, if you tell somebody what your goal is, it raises the chance of you reaching that goal to 65%. If you meet with people regularly to work on that goal and discuss your progress on that goal, it reaches your chances of finishing it and reaching that goal go up to something like 90%. So it includes accountability. There’s also the community, which is part of the community, which is a place where you can go ask questions, talk to people about the issues that you’re having, talk about your doubts, share your wins, and sharing your wins is crucial.
And then the craft side of it and the writer’s life side of it. So every month I have a Q and A that’s with me, which is direct mentorship with me. And then every month we also a separate live event where it can be anything from a poetry workshop to bring in writers, published writers, so they can talk about their experiences and how they publish and their road to publishing so that the people who are in the group are constantly getting support. They’re getting the skills that they need to move forward in their writing and then also getting those stories and those models for how other people have designed their writing lives so they can make choices for themselves. And my group actually starts with the work that comes from my book and from writing a business plan, basically, where the very first step is you write a plan for the right and life. The writers roadmap, it’s based on what’s called an OGSM objective goals, strategies, and measures, which is from the business world. It’s something that small businesses use to keep themselves on track, basically. And then I adapted it for writers. So the first step is you put together your writing roadmap, and then everything else in the group is designed to help you implement it and just make it happen.
Wow. For most people who are listening to this, I believe half of the listeners will know exactly what a mastermind is. People come together bi weekly once a month to really talk through what you described, and the other half may be still relatively new to wow, when is a mastermind? I don’t belong to any of these sort of online workshops together. I don’t belong to any of these groups. So I think what you talked about, it’s really helpful for people to get a sense for, oh, that’s the value and that’s the purpose. Now I’m so curious because you’ve been doing this for how many years now.
Getting the business going? I think four years. Four or five years.
But it’s changed quite a bit over the years. Like I said, there’s been a lot of trial and error and I’ll try something if it works, I’m constantly in touch with the people who are in it to say, hey, how did this work for you? What do you think? What more would you like to see? So it’s constantly evolving and it also depends on the group because sometimes I’ll have a group of people who they don’t want to do writing sprints every week because it has nothing to do with what they’re doing, whereas sometimes I’ll have more people who they’re like, no, the writing sprints are really helpful. Let’s do that. And that’s just one example.
This is great. I want to kind of probe just one more area. I noticed in my notes that you said something that really touched my heart, which is that we are maybe not the word obligated, but we should we really should tell our stories. And you had said this a few months ago that especially for women, because many of us don’t believe our stories are important enough. And I want you to maybe speak to that a little bit, maybe where you got that information, possibly from people you’ve worked with, what you’ve noticed in the writing world.
I believe everybody has a story to tell and those stories are important. And the stories that people tend to push down or as a culture, the stories that we hear, the loudest that push down other people’s stories, it’s those stories that kind of go under the surface that I think that are the most interesting to me, and those are the ones that need to be heard. And that is the immigrant story, and that is women’s stories. And that’s obviously two incredibly broad areas. But my experience has been whenever I talk to people, when I’ve run workshops, when I run retreats, when I talk to people before I do a one on one with somebody, I have a discovery call just to see if it’s a good fit to find out what’s going on. And so many people say to me, the first thing they say is, I really want to write this book, but I don’t know if what I have to say is important enough. And then they go on to tell me stories that I was like, how could you not know that? There’s so many people out there that want to hear that story.
And it’s because we are so often isolated from others when we’re not sharing our stories, when we’re not telling people what we do. And in a lot of ways, we’re so used to our own stories that we don’t see them as important. And I think maybe sometimes we also don’t see ourselves as worthy and important, and that’s why we don’t recognize our stories. When you ask that question, when you ask, Will I talk about that? Yeah, that’s central. I feel like that’s the heart of everything I do. I feel like my role in this world is to give people a voice who don’t feel like they have one. And if I can do that, then I feel like I would have given back to the world as much as I’ve been given.
Oh, how beautifully said. That purpose is so clear, you said about having me write down that one sentence for my book. I feel like what you just said about what you like to give back to the world by giving people a voice, that is your life mission. And I think that once you have that mission and you’re in the world contributing to this mission, then every day is a good day. Thank you so much for chatting. I love it.
You. Thank. We’ll talk soon.
Take care. Bye bye.
It’s me again. I want to thank you very much for listening to this episode, and I hope you were able to learn a few things.
If you enjoyed what you heard, it.
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