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How Following My Desires Led Me to a Memoir: Part 2, Expansion

Part 1: Genesis
Part 2: Expansion
Part 3: Contraction


On the plane ride home from Portland, I was already brainstorming new titles and lists of themes for the new-and-improved Hejira project. To be honest, I was a little freaked out at the idea of making the newsletter into something bigger when I hadn’t even been able to follow through on my initial modest concept. I shared this feeling with Michelle as the emails flew back and forth, and she hit me with my first dose of Farinella Faith-InfusionTM . She assured me that mini-meltdowns were normal when making a leap like this, and that I could practice the art of blurring the background noise and listening to what was inside me.

So, despite the fact that we were in our final week in Ottawa, with a thousand things to do and a firehose of emotions running through my system, I was planning a book in my head. As we drove out of town and away from the rooted life we’d known, I was reading Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks, to get ideas for how to structure the narrative. I had a conference call with Michelle from the basement of my in-laws’ house to talk strategy. I was, you could say, taken captive.

Somewhere along the line, Michelle and I developed a code name for the project ~ we started calling it B.I.G. The book didn’t have a name yet, and B.I.G. captured the scope of what we were undertaking. The idea at this point was to release the book serially and write and design as we went along so that people felt part of the journey as it was happening. I could sense myself stretching and expanding when I thought about what this project would demand from me.

In July, our family settled in to Grosse Pointe for the summer, and Michelle and I stepped things up a notch. I completed two extensive design briefs for her, which captured everything from the chapter outline to key words that described the project. She prepared cost estimates and lists of deliverables: naming structure, identity, cover design, and interior prototype.

And I sat down to write Chapter One.

This was the moment of truth. I’d been caught up in the flow of Hejira and my coaching business for months now, carried along by the energy and never-ending tasks generated by these two endeavors. Would that flow carry over to B.I.G.?

Oh baby, did it ever. Writing that chapter was pure furious pleasure, and it came pouring out in one-hour sessions, early mornings at the kitchen table in our rental or evenings at the library down the road. The voice, the movement back and forth between time periods, stories of my history of depression interspersed with vignettes from the Great Glebe Garage Sale, it all showed up almost without effort.

Now, I was cautious about how to interpret the ease with which I wrote the first chapter. Did it mean the writing wasn’t very good? Was I rushing? Was I still skating around on the surface?

At this point, I brought in another valuable team member. Writer Brenda Leifso and I have been in-real-life friends for several years, and I knew I wanted an editor to make sure I wasn’t fooling myself about the quality of my prose. I told her about the sekrit B.I.G. project and showed her the first chapter, and was happy to get as much critical comment as praise. From her feedback on scene development and creating suspense, I knew that together we could make the book well worth reading.

I was getting close to a decision point. Would I commit to hiring Michelle and Brenda to design and edit B.I.G.? Or would I take the safer route, write the book on my own and maybe look for an agent or publisher down the line?

I needed one more person to help with the decision. Bridget Pilloud and I met at that same Portland business conference. I loved her salty plain-spoken approach to spirituality and entrepreneurship, and the fact that she was a successful earner with integrity. At the time she offered something called Lucky 7 product consulting, and I ran B.I.G. by her to see if we would be a good fit.

Bridget came back with a proposal to support me on the business side of this whole scheme, with consultation on marketing and product development to make the book project profitable. I felt my shoulders drop at the prospect of having someone help me with strategy, promotion, and profit/cost analysis! And it didn’t hurt that Bridget really liked the idea and thought I could pull it off.

Of course, Shawn and I had been discussing the project all this time. What can I say, this guy believes in me. He believes in my writing, in my creative vision, in my ability to get things done. He believes enough to put it all on the line: his time and emotional support and the money in our bank account. Together we considered the angles: I laid everything out as it came up, and he asked a lot of due-diligence questions.

And the conclusion was ~ we both felt this book, this way, was the right move. A safe risk. My version of Great Work.

So. In early August, I officially commissioned Michelle’s design services.

B.I.G. was happening!

Continue reading Part 3, Contraction.

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