In Ask Coach Tony, you ask the questions, and I answer them.
I am a coach, author and project manager. I have built a successful, twenty-plus-year career in corporate America. I have created a small business, Operation Melt, focused on helping others make their dreams come true. Oh yeah, I also lost over 100 pounds in under a year and have kept it off without any fad diet. This means that people ask me many questions, and I love to answer them.
A question asked by one is a question had by many. So, Ask Coach Tony will share the answers to these questions via the Operation Melt blog so everybody can see them.
Go ahead, ask me anything!
Before we get to today’s post, I offer you this light “amuse-bouche” to entertain your mind before we get down to business. Like any other amuse-bouche, you may hate my “dad joke,” but it is worth every penny that you paid for it, right?
I asked the officer, “Officer, are you crying while writing me a ticket?”. His response was, “It’s a … moving violation.”
Ask Coach Tony: A Writer’s Life
Guess what? I write a blog. But, you already know that since you are reading one of my blog posts right now.
This is just one of many such posts. Since launching my OperationMelt.com blog, I have written and published nearly five hundred posts. About four hundred of which are still available in my blog archives.
Beyond the blog, I have also published two articles (available for free in the Resources section of OperationMelt.com). Then there are my three books (see the My Books), two available in Kindle and paperback format and one free eBook. Plus, I am working on several additional books that I hope to publish over the next few years.
All of the written works described above are just a drop in the bucket. As a leader, consultant and project manager, I produce presentations and other written communication tools daily.
All of this means I am a writer, and since I have made money with my work, I am a professional writer. Despite my previous bouts of imposter syndrome (see You Don’t Need Permission).
As a professional writer, I get a lot of questions about my process, my inspiration and other facets of my writing. So, this month’s Ask Coach Tony will answer a few of those questions.
How long have you been a writer?
I often get asked whether I have always been a writer and, if not, when I made that transition. Unfortunately, that’s not an easy question for me to answer.
I wouldn’t say that I have always been a writer. I hated writing in school, and it was simply something I was required to do if I wanted to graduate.
The first time I remember actually enjoying writing was in my first IT job working in the computer lab in college (in 1995!). My boss asked me to write a handbook for computer lab workers to help them do their jobs. I think I enjoyed this for reasons beyond the writing itself. Still, this was a stepping stone to building an interest in technical writing that continued through many years of my IT career.
Over time, my technical writing grew into an interest in other types of writing. The consistent theme in all of my writing is the goal of communicating complex information and concepts in a more accessible manner. This ability evolved as I progressed through roles in project management, marketing, transformation and as a leader.
Despite having written a few articles, I didn’t go “public” with my writing until I launched the OperationMelt.com blog during my weight loss in 2017. That is when I lit the fuse on my commitment to writing and storytelling.
Why do you write and share so much?
Most people believe their lives are busy, and they are happy to leave work-like pursuits at the office and disconnect when they get home. Often, those people don’t understand why I would spend so much of my time writing and sharing content. I don’t have to do it, and this is a mostly uncompensated effort.
There isn’t a single driving force that motivates me to write and share so much; there are multiple contributing factors. I describe these factors in more detail in my book, Reflections on Leadership, but I will highlight them here.
- I am an artist, and writing is my art form. I find it to (usually) be a relaxing and fulfilling practice and a way to express myself.
- I’m an external processor, and writing is a tool that I use to help me process my own ideas, thoughts and feelings.
- I want to help people, and my writing does just that. By sharing my journey and struggles, coaching tools, inspiration and other such content, people can use these tools and experiences to help achieve their goals and live the lives of their dreams.
- I am proud of my accomplishments (and my setbacks) and want to share them. Plus, if I can do it, you can do it!
- Sharing (maybe over-sharing) is just who I am and how I am wired. I am passionate about my various pursuits and follow my own path to get there. Side note: this is why my writing spans so many topics. Like everyone else, I am multi-faceted and have broad interests, which sometimes makes it tough to fit in just one box.
- This is part of how I lead! I am working to be an inspirational, generous and service-oriented leader – all of which I express through my writing. I believe that we can all improve ourselves. By sharing my perspectives while maintaining my humility, I know that I can lead the way!
Despite its appearance, it isn’t always easy to continue putting my content into the world. I can often see stats about how many people are reading my stuff, and the numbers are usually pretty small. This makes it a challenge to remain optimistic that all of my efforts are actually making an impact. Then, almost as if on cue, I get feedback that reenergizes me. For example, here is a DM I received from somebody this week.
I still enjoy reading your posts – keep writing! Your most recent one … really hit home. Because of authors like you, leaders are embracing treating workers like the individual people we all are!
Messages such as these confirm that my writing and sharing are impacting the world. Knowing that the effort I am investing makes the world a little better makes it worth every minute!
Where do you get your inspiration for topics?
Publishing at least one new, original work every week for more than four years isn’t easy. Doing so requires a constant stream of inspiration for new topics. My inspiration for blog posts is three-fold:
- Personal experiences: as my journey through life continues, I have new experiences every day. I often view these experiences, these wins and setbacks, through a lens of asking myself, “how can this be a lesson that might help people achieve their goals?” I use my writing to help me process my own thoughts and then turn those thoughts into tools for others to use. An example that illustrates this inspiration can be found in my recent post, Don’t Panic Over Disappointments… See Their Hidden Opportunities Instead.
- Coaching tools and training: I have attained several coaching certifications and accompanying training courses. In addition to using them when coaching my clients, the tools and techniques I learned in these courses are often the inspiration for my writing. They work, they are effective, and I want to share them! You’ll find an example of this type of inspiration in Stories Are Powerful, What Happens When Don’t Love Yours?
- Brilliance in, brilliance out: Ok, maybe I can’t stand behind everything that I produce as being brilliance, but this is my take on the saying “garbage in, garbage out.” I consume A LOT of content every day. I have a steady content diet of podcasts, Instagram, YouTube videos, books, news, television/streaming and talking to people. Each piece of content that I consume may trigger an ah-ha moment that leads to a blog post. Finally, this brand of inspiration is illustrated in 3 Surprisingly Simple Secrets To Creating Your Best Life.
One more note, I also pay close attention to messages from the universe. Sometimes, I find multiple signs or reminders of a single topic throughout my day or week. When this happens, I try to listen and explore that topic in my writing. I know that sounds odd, but it works, and I try to pay attention.
As I mentioned in the introduction, not all of my writing is confined to blog posts; I write books too. For books, I use similar sources of inspiration, but I also have my prior blog posts as a tool to help shape my book content. Said differently, I can use my blog to workshop content for my books.
What is your writing process?
Ok, “real talk” time… I am not completely happy with my writing process as it stands today. It is a work in progress, and I continually strive to improve it. So, I will share it as it exists today, but I am confident that it will only get better from here.
I will start by sharing what I know does NOT work well for me. Every Sunday, I share my blog with the people on my email list at 10a, and I share it on social media at 11a. I have proven to myself that trying to write my post on Sunday morning does NOT work for me. I do not do my best work at the last minute, and I cringe when I reread my “day-of” posts. As a result, my “drop-dead” date for completing my new posts is Saturday afternoon. But, as you know, if you follow me on social media, I refer to Saturdays as “#Sweaturday” because that I when I do my long distance runs. So, I try to finish my blog by Friday of each week.
Ok, that’s out of the way… now, let’s talk about what does work.
I have borrowed a structure that I learned when working in a marketing team to guide my writing process. This structure is based on the following three phases of the creative process:
- Concepting: evaluate all possible directions to choose which way to proceed
- Development: once a direction is selected, do the work to turn it into something usable
- Implementation: put the finishing touches on the work and ship it
In my process, concepting includes selecting a topic and some key points that I want to address. I usually achieve this result while walking or running or engaging in activities other than writing. When I narrow my focus to a topic and some associated key points, I usually use my phone and send myself an email with that information. I keep an archive of these emails for future usage if my email isn’t for the current week.
My development process is where I actually write the post. I write my blog posts using Microsoft OneNote. There are probably more appropriate tools, but I use OneNote in all aspects of my life. It is one of my most essential tools.
When writing, I start with a bullet point outline of the structure and points I want to address. Then I write each section and use a grammar checking service to review each section’s syntax, structure, and style. Once I have the full text done and checked, I choose a title for the post with the help of a headline analyzer tool. This tool helps me ensure that I have a title that will resonate with people and meets best practices for search engine optimization (SEO).
At this point, my post is about eighty percent complete. Then it is on to the implementation phase for the last twenty percent.
For my blog posts, implementation is when I move the final text from OneNote into Word Press and start my formatting process. This step includes writing an excerpt to summarize the post and to use in my social media share. Then I incorporate images and any relevant supporting quotes from my books. This is also when I select a “dad joke” from my vast archives of groan-worthy jokes and a quote to include as a lead-in. I schedule the post to publish on Sunday and then schedule my social media posts and create my email.
That’s it! Everything is scheduled and will automatically post on Sunday morning. The only step left is for me to watch the stats roll in as people open the emails and visit the site. From concept to go live, I spend around four hours working on each blog.
How long did it take you to write your book?
My creative process for publishing my books is a little longer and more involved, but it follows a similar process. The big difference for my books is that I have an editor read the drafts and help me get them right. Fortunately, I am married to a talented editor who masterfully reviews my books.
For my first book, my concepting process included figuring out my angle or how best to present my story. This process only took a couple of weeks of stewing on it while I walked, ran and completed my initial weight loss during my sabbatical between jobs.
My development process included writing the first draft of my book. This process went very quickly because I had time to focus on it. I started by sketching out a basic outline and doing a little research for the chapters that weren’t a recap of my journey. Then, I wrote my first draft in just a few weeks. The draft was far from ready to publish, but I had content that I could use as a starting point.
The implementation process took far longer than the development process. Implementation began with the editing process, which was iterative and took months to complete because my initial writing wasn’t great. I worked hard on writing quickly and wasn’t using any grammar checking at the time. I learned a lot about being a better writer as my wife reviewed my draft.
Speaking of learning a lot, I wasn’t simply waiting for edits; I was doing lots of learning about the publishing process. This was when I discovered what self-publishing was and how it works. I spent time formatting and setting up some additional structure to support my publishing. This learning process included deciding when and how to publish my book and my initial marketing plans.
The implementation process for my first book took about eight months. From start to finish, my first book required about a year of effort.
Ask Me Anything!
Do you have a question you would like to submit for a future Ask Coach Tony post?
- Do you want to know more about me?
- Do you want to know more about my weight loss journey?
- Do you want to know more about my books or my creative process?
- Do you have a question about how to achieve your goals?
- Do you want to know more about coaching?
Whatever your question, I am here to help. Ask Me Anything!
If you want to have a deeper conversation and get more one-on-one help, click here to learn more about my Operation Melt coaching services.
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