Anxiety is an aspect of many writer's lives, so how can you write and publish while still balancing your physical and mental health? Plus, how writing can be a fulfilling second career. These topics and more in discussion with Lisa M Lilly today.
In the intro, big publishers sue Audible over the new Captions feature — but will this turn into a discussion of AI copyright? [The Verge], The 3 reasons why Amazon is making it harder for retailers on its stores, discussed on Land of the Giants episode 6; and the BBC announces their new voice assistant which will distinguish between British regional accents.
Plus, my Second Edition of Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and Other Introverts is now available for pre-order, coming 1 Oct 2019 in all formats, including my self-narrated audiobook.
Today's show is sponsored by IngramSpark, who I use to print and distribute my print-on-demand books to 39,000 retailers including independent bookstores, schools and universities, libraries and more. It's your content – do more with it through IngramSpark.com.
Lisa M. Lilly is the bestselling author of suspense, thrillers and supernatural novels as well as non-fiction for writers. She's also an attorney and adjunct professor of law. Her latest book is Happiness, Anxiety, and Writing: Using Your Creativity to Live a Calmer Happier Life.
You can listen above or on iTunes or your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.
The benefits of having more than one simultaneous career
Directing anxiety in another way so that it feeds creativity
Staying healthy while writing a lot
Using affirmations to bolster creativity and confidence
Balancing several creative pursuits
On the connection that happens with audiences when they hear our voices
You can find Lisa Lilly at LisaLilly.com and at WritingAsASecondCareer.com on Twitter @lisamlilly
[Header image Laptop and Notepad, Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash]
Transcript of Interview with Lisa M. Lilly
Joanna: Lisa M. Lilly is the bestselling author of suspense, thrillers and supernatural novels as well as non-fiction for writers. She's also an attorney and adjunct professor of law. Her latest book is Happiness, Anxiety, and Writing: Using Your Creativity to Live a Calmer Happier Life. Welcome, Lisa.
Lisa: Hi Joanna. It's so great to be talking with you.
Joanna: Great to have you on the show.
Tell us a bit more about you and how you got into writing, especially as a second career.
Lisa: I'm one of those people who started when I was a kid. I was about 7 and I had this older cousin we visited maybe every couple years and she happened to be keeping a notebook where she wrote poems and I thought that was so neat.
So I got my own notebook when I got home and started writing. And I think it was the optimal age to write because I wasn't worried about if it was good or would anyone like it. And after that I just I kept writing. I liked reading books so I wrote novels and it wasn’t until college that I actually thought about doing it as a career.
I got my degree in writing, in English, and figured I'll just write my first novel sell it and I'll never have to work again. I wrote the first novel and the second novel and the third novel and at some point, I got kind of tired of doing day jobs where I had no real responsibility.
I went to law school and that was the start of squeezing writing in around another career where I had all these responsibilities and I found that it was very different than when I did the equivalent of punched a clock and went home at 5:00.
So my thoughts about writing as a second career were how do you juggle two things that you love so much and that you see as careers, not just a job or a hobby but multiple careers.
Joanna: It's really interesting because it's fantastic that you love your law career as well because a lot of people are trying to escape that other career.
What are some of the positive aspects of having a job that pays a regular wage and presumably quite a good wage? And how does that help your writing having that stability?
Lisa: I was surprised by how much it did because initially, I resisted the idea of having another career. I was a paralegal and I would help get ready for trials and help write appellate briefs and do research, but I couldn't try the case and I couldn't argue the appeal. I had so many questions and my boss said to me why don't you go to law school and become a lawyer? And I said no, I want to be a published author. And he said well some people think you could do both. Like John Grisham and Scott Turow.
And I thought oh well OK. And it took a while to come to terms with it, but it turned out in so many ways.
The financial side was nice. It was the first time in my life I didn't worry about money from when I was a kid. We were always struggling and I always had to think about could I afford things and how much was I spending. But more than that was just a broader range of experience.
I met so many different clients. I learned about their businesses. I met people in all different walks of life. I developed a professional network and all those things work their way into my writing in one way or another. And I really feel like they make it richer and give me greater perspectives to write from.
Joanna: I'm so glad to talk to you about this. We're going to get into the anxiety thing in a minute. But this is such a great perspective because I feel like the overwhelming vibe in the author community is you must make a full time living as a writer.
And of course I do, but I have multiple streams of income, so it's not all on a book sale, for example. But Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Big Magic, talks about this, about how you shouldn't rely on your art to feed you. You should feed your art. And that's basically more what you’re doing because you're very much involved in writers’ communities and things.
Do you think this is a healthier balance, having something that earns money and then the writing?
Lisa: I think it really depends on the person and where you are in life. For me, for a long time thought I just want to be able to sit in a room and write all day and just write and only do that and tend to my author business and for about six months I did that.
I ended up depressed and very anxious because for me it was too much time in my own head and it was a lot of pressure on how am I going to make this pay and make some money writing but would it be enough to support me by itself.
But I also realized I'm just happier when I do multiple different things. So it took a while to realize that I was unhappy when almost all my hours were practicing law and I had little time for anything else. And then I wasn't really happy when it was almost all writing. So I have a nice mix right now and I think everyone has to figure out what that is for themselves.
Joanna: Yes, of course, the old adage ‘know yourself’ is so important. I'm similar in a way that I can't just write all the time. I like doing other things like podcasting for example. So I understand that too.
Let's get into the book because you mentioned anxiety there. So anxiety and depression are very common in the general population, let alone writers, of which I don't know whether it's more common in writers because we're in our heads a lot, as you say. But it's certainly a big deal in the community. So let's talk about anxiety.
How has anxiety played a part in your life and what are some of the common anxieties amongst writers?
Lisa: For me that I started having severe anxiety in my mid-20s and it surrounded work because I developed a repetitive stress injury and at the time, I was making my living by word processing and secretarial work and then I wrote on this side. And I also played guitar and I was getting my hands going numb and hurting and shooting pains. And at the time that people weren't all that familiar with repetitive stress injuries from keyboarding and there weren't very good medical options.
It was basically surgery and then go back to the same job and then have surgery again. And that seemed like a bad idea.
So I stopped working for a while and I became extremely anxious because I didn't know what I was going to do for a living. Everything I had done had partly at least dependent on my keyboarding skills and I couldn't write. It really hurt me. I couldn't play guitar and it just felt like everything was gone in my life and I, in a way, lost my home.
I moved back with my parents and I used to lie awake at night and just think and think and think and they were very disempowering thoughts. “What if I never get better? What if I never support myself again? What if my hands always feel this way? What if I totally lose feeling in them?”
I got through that time and I retrained – that's when I became a paralegal – but for about a year this anxiety was really intense. When I started working again I remember feeling so anxious. I felt like I couldn't breathe and I would go into the ladies room and lock myself in a stall and just breathe, just take deep breaths.
The good thing is everything I learned during that time I then carried forward and when anxiety would come back I started developing better ways to deal with it, which is part of what's in the book or most of what's in the book.
As far as writers go, I feel like there are some anxieties that are specific or really common to writers and one is just how personal our work is. We work so hard on something, especially if you're a novelist. The first novel I published, I spent like five years on it. You're putting it out there and so much of who you are is in your characters and your plot and you're putting it out there for people to judge. And they will judge it and criticize it and they will criticize it, somebody will. You could get 20 good reviews and the one that you're going to focus on is that one bad one.
[From Joanna – More here on fear of judgment which is one of my biggest mindset issues!]
So there's that real fear of putting ourselves out there and being rejected or feeling like a failure.
And I think that I know a lot of writers who are very talented who can't even finish anything because underneath it is that fear if they finish it then they'll have to put it out there and maybe find out that someone doesn't like it.
Joanna: And actually, that's true. Someone won't like it.
Lisa: That’s right. It's almost guaranteed.
I think you have to find ways to deal with that. And I do think it gets better. I'm sure I've heard you say similar things, the more books you put out the less you feel that each one is you, and the more it's OK. There's this book and the next book and the next book and it doesn't feel quite as personal anymore.
Joanna: I usually say that ‘your book is your baby; metaphor might work for the first three or maybe four books but it doesn't work when you get to twenty-seven!
Lisa: Right. That's too pretty babies.
Joanna: They’re not babies anymore, they are employees, doing their work.
I'm interested in why this book now. Because I feel like your anxieties, a lot of them were from earlier in your life.
What did you see in the community that made you want to do this book now?
Lisa: I feel like having had that severe anxiety, as I went on in life smaller things would happen that would throw me off. And it was almost like a rubber band snapping me back into those anxious thoughts, even though I wasn't facing as difficult a situation.
Each time I think I got a little better dealing with it and now I'm probably at one of the best places I've been in terms of feeling pretty calm most of the time.
But last year I broke my foot and I ended up in a cast from my toes up to my knee for about eight weeks and then still had to stay off of it for some time. It was a weird experience because I knew that that was a short term issue. I knew I would get better.
And yet it really triggered some of that anxiety. It forced me to be inside more and I couldn't interact as much with people. So again I had that I'm in my head all the time and I found myself really slipping into these patterns of worry and anxiety. And it was hard to sleep and when I don't sleep that triggers more anxiety.
So I really had to draw on all the things that I had learned over the years, some of which I had forgotten about because things have been going pretty good. I decided to do something positive out of it which was to sit down and write this book. That was partly to work through what I needed and put what I had learned together and to share it with other people.
The reason I focused on writers was over the last few years of meeting more writers at conferences and connecting online. I was surprised how many people when I would say I have a little bit of problem with anxiety and I felt almost embarrassed about it or like you're supposed to seem like you're together all the time.
I was shocked how many people who I had perceived as always being so calm and focused and centered and upbeat say yes I have that too. I have that same thing and I do that same thing. What if this terrible thing happens and what if the next terrible thing happens. So it seemed to me I was running into a lot of creative people who struggled with that.
Joanna: I would say I don't know anyone who doesn't suffer from some kind of worry. I know obviously with anxiety and depression there's a scale of these things where it can get super bad for people.
Let’s talk about some of the ways in which, as you say in the book, you can use writing and your creativity to help yourself you through those times. Give us a couple of ideas.
Lisa: One of the things I think for writers that we do that's great for our writing is that ‘what if’ scenario, because we want to give our protagonists challenges and there needs to be conflict.
We say what if this thing happened to the protagonist and then we do an escalating series of conflicts where it gets harder and harder and then we turn around and do that with our own lives. And that creates anxiety.
One of the things I found most helpful is to take that mental effort and energy my brain's going to spin around anyway and direct it in a different way by changing the questions I ask myself. I got this mainly from Anthony Robbins, one of his books.
Instead of saying what if this awful thing happens and the next terrible thing after that, I might say, OK what if that happens? And my next question is, how could I be better prepared for that?
For instance, if I'm worried about getting laid off because a lot of my anxieties would focus around jobs I would say OK what could I do right now that would make me more valuable to my company so I'm less likely to get laid off? That might lead me to say I could develop a better relationship with my boss. Or maybe I could take a class that would help me have more skills.
Or if I did get laid off, what could I do that would make me someone people want to hire? So maybe I update my resume. Maybe I go to some networking events.
It's basically putting your brain to work in a good way and instead of all that mental energy being focused on fears, it's on solutions. I often find that leads to great things. Maybe that leads me to find a better position.
The other thing is really using our skills at creating vivid scenes. Something I found very helpful is in the morning I will write down five things I'm grateful for, and at least one of them I won't just write down I'm grateful for it. I will write why, and the scene.
In the book, I give the example of if my cousin came to visit and I'm grateful, I got to see her. So instead of writing that I would really write out the scene and say we had such a great time. That pasta we made with the fresh garlic tasted wonderful. The present she brought me, the candle with the chocolate scent, smelled so good. And we sat by the fire and we shared stories about our parents and it made me feel closer to my mom and dad who are gone.
By doing that you're not just feeling grateful you're actually re-experiencing good things in your life. And it's a nice counter too so often we re-experience bad things or we relive the mistakes that we made or the thing that upset us.
This helps get in the habit of reliving the great things to. And the reason I say add a few more is it makes us start looking for a number of things so just as we scan for things to worry about, we start scanning our day for things that we're really happy about.
Joanna: Oh there's so much there. I’m really pleased you shared some of that. I'll have to share some of mine.
I think that gratitude thing is amazing. And I also don't write it down every day, but if I feel negativity coming on.
I seem very positive to everyone because that's the side I share. Obviously, I have down days, but when I sit down to write a big list of gratitude I often do start with really simple things like where we live now, if I open up in the window I will always hear a blackbird singing. And so there's always birdsong and there's just a little patch of wild stuff just around the corner and I walk there almost every day and I hear the blackbird singing and it's like well okay so this happened and this happened but the blackbird is still singing.
I know you could listen to birdsong on headphones and stuff but nothing beats going and listening to some birds.
It's a really basic tip, right? Just go be in some nature and you will feel better.
Lisa: I love nature for that. I live in Chicago, very close to downtown, and I love being in a big city and I don't see moving away. But I find it very relaxing to even just go to a large park where I can't see traffic and I can't really hear it. And like you said, you hear birds or I just smell the grass and the trees.
Joanna: Yes, and it just helps you. And you get some perspective. I walk along the canal a lot here and I just get a lot of ‘Oh OK. This is real life.' Get off the Internet and social media and look at the river and the canal and the water and the heron fishing and hey everything's all right. I'm breathing. The world's okay.
Lisa: I have a thing where in my head if I start feeling blue or down and I think, “Lisa, get out of the condo. Just leave the house and go somewhere.” The lake here is maybe a mile and a half from me Lake Michigan. So that's always a nice place for me to go. And look out at the water. Look at the seagulls. And see that there is a whole world out there.
Joanna: Doing other things and living lives. That's one thing and then I wanted to come back on the ‘what if’ thing.
When you were talking, I realized that I do that. That's why I almost have the futurist segment on the podcast. I think my obsession with at the moment about the way A.I. is changing things, and about voice tech, is because I'm thinking what if my business model shifts. Well, it will. It has to. We've all found this. You've been doing this a number of years as well.
The business model even in the last 18 months has changed. So we have to say what if? What if my website traffic halves? Does that mean my income halves and what can I do about that? So, the ‘what if’ scenarios actually driving my actions to the feature.
My mum is in her 70s and she's very worried about climate change and war and all the things we can all worry about those things. But I said, “Mum, what are you going to do about it?” So she's writing a prepper book. Like an urban survival book for older people and not just older people but any of us. I don't have a clue. You probably don't either. We live in a city.
It's making her feel so much better to write a book about prepping for urban survival, even though, fingers crossed, it's not going to happen. It's still making her feel better.
So those are all great ways of helping, aren’t they?
Lisa: Yes. And I think you make a really good point. Asking that ‘what if’ can be a very positive thing, even about your own life. To say ‘what if’ prompts you to think about here are our options and look around life's corners a little, as long as it doesn't make you just obsess about the bad things. So you look ahead and say oh well what would I do.
I love your mum writing the preparation book because she's gathering information. She's thinking about what she could do and presumably having a lot of fun writing the book. People will also you know find enjoyable and learn something from.
Joanna: Exactly and I did say to her, “Mum, it's a really great niche.” It should be pretty good for income as well.
I want to come back on the physical health issue. You've mentioned RSI. You mentioned your leg last year and I remember seeing the pictures on Twitter that you posted sometimes of your leg.
[More about physical health in The Healthy Writer: Reduce your Pain, Improve your Health, and Build a Writing Career for the Long Term.]
Physical health for many people, whether it's chronic health conditions. I still get a twinge of RSI sometimes, just a twinge because I do yoga a lot to try and maintain my physical health now.
What are some of the ways that people can still write because often that injury could either stop them completely so what are some of your tips?
Lisa: There were a number of years when I really had to do a lot of what I think of as workarounds or accommodations like you might do in a job.
Some of the things I've done, even before there was dictation software, I would tape on a cassette tape my first draft of the story or a journal entry and I used to take it to my writer's group, and we usually read anyway, we would read our stories. So instead I would play them the tape and they would comment.
And then when I actually sat down to write it at my keyboard I would be doing the equivalent of a second draft so that would save me about half of the typing. I also did a lot more in my head. Before I had the RSI I would sit down for a few hours at a time and just type and if I was thinking through a character I would just type it out. I was a very fast typist so it was like I'd be thinking and it would appear on the screen and that was how I liked to do it. Well, I couldn't do that anymore.
So instead I might just sit down and think about my character and imagine interviewing my character in my head or imagine situations in my mind and maybe take a couple brief notes about it but not actually write it all down and then I would do this thing, it was sort of like a walk-and-talk on TV but it was just me. I might be out in the park just walking back and forth and talking through my story and I'm sure people thought it was very odd. Now I could do it because I could just put an earbud in and they'd think I was on the phone.
Things like writing in shorter bursts, which really helped me later as a lawyer when a lot of my writing was done 15 minutes at a time here and there. So I might sit down and handwrite for 15 minutes and then walk away from it and come back later and work on that.
I also found figuring out small things that helped. You mentioned yoga. I found some stretches that helped. I did things like when I was making maybe eleven dollars an hour, I actually paid someone fifteen dollars an hour to clean my little apartment because scrubbing was very hard on my hands. So I tried to figure out what are all the things that I could change so I could save that time that I could use my hands for my writing. And over time all those small things really helped a lot.
I kept looking for a big thing that would fix everything and instead it was a combination of smaller things.
Joanna: I think that's so true. Over the years talked about dictation a lot but I think it's so important for writers before they are in pain. So if you're listening to this and you're like I'll just never need that because I'll never be in pain. It always sneaks up on you.
If you're listening to this and you're in your 30s Well you know think about when you're 45. That’s life, isn't it? That's physical health. Things happen and you have to maintain things and that's why Euan and I wrote The Healthy Writer. There were just all these things that you learn over time.
But also dictation has becomes so much easier and so much cheaper. I'm using now a service for this show called Trint.com, which is a transcription and it takes about 45 seconds to transcribe this whole interview.
[Note from Joanna: I have now switched to using Descript instead of Trint because they also allow audio editing, and others have recommended Otter.ai, so check out your options if you want to use transcription.]
Lisa: That's amazing.
Joanna: It's just brilliant. You have to do a light edit but you have to do it like that if you dictate yourself and whether you use a human transcriber and it's a lot cheaper. So that's the type of thing you can use.
I'm also glad you mentioned a cleaner because I've had a cleaning for probably 15 years at this point in all the different places I live because I don't particularly enjoy it and I'd rather pay for someone else so that I can use that time to do other things. But you’re right also about the physicality of it. If you're right-handed, and my RSI has been in both arms at different points, but you have to look after yourself and spending money on something that frees you up physically and also mentally gives you more time is great. And obviously, if people listening love cleaning then awesome go for it.
Lisa: Right. If it's something you enjoy but if it's something you don't it frees time and it helps you physically. It's worth it if you can do it.
Joanna: You also have a chapter on affirmations and I was thrilled to see my own affirmation in the book, which was just lovely. My affirmation for the listeners is, “I am creative. I am an author.” That’s what I said to myself for about 18 months before I even put pen to paper.
How do affirmations work, these positive statements?
Lisa: I think there are a few ways. The first is, to create the affirmation you have to figure out what it is you want. So you had to come to the conclusion that that was something you wanted in your life. You wanted to be creative and be an author. So it makes us sit down and really think about where we want to be.
I feel like a lot of people get stuck because they don't do that. I meet a lot of lawyers that way who will just say they don't like practicing anymore but they can't really envision anything else, even changing to a different law job. They can't picture that.
So you need to say hey this is what I want. And by saying it. I think it gives our brain the signal to start moving in that direction. Once you say “I'm creative. I am an author” your brain starts saying, what does a creative person do? How does a creative person go about life? Your brain starts doing the things you need to do to get you to where you want to be. And then it also gives us motivation and I think it helps us feel and experience that excitement about being an author or whatever it is you're affirming or envisioning and that keeps us going during the tough times.
I'll do affirmations, I also will do visualizations. I used to, when I was writing and I was having trouble moving forward, I would picture having the finished book in my hands like a manuscript printed off the printer with all the pages or actually holding a book with a book cover. And that helped give me a push to keep going, even though it was taking a long time and there were moments when I didn't have the confidence. I think affirmations can give you that.
Joanna: I think you're right about the focus. I hadn't thought about it like that. If you say the same thing over and over again and then in your head… I couldn't even say it out loud at the beginning and then eventually, amusingly, it was probably two years after that when I came up with the name The Creative Penn for my website, which was my third Web site I never would've associated the word creative with myself.
Lisa: That's amazing.
Joanna: And now people are like, “Of course that's what your Web site is.” And I'm like well, I never thought about it that way. Even my name, Penn, I didn't associate that with an actual pen. It's crazy isn't it, the things we don't believe about ourselves but you can change it.
I’m a Tony Robbins fan as well. His books have certainly made an impact on me. I do want to come back on the affirmations because you actually said earlier that you had this dream of being a published author.
How and when did you decide to go indie and how is that related to you to your dreams and your goals?
Lisa: I mentioned I had written a number of books. I call it climbing the rejection ladder. I was getting more personal rejections and I was getting feedback and invitations to submit your next book. I had written my novel that I ended up self-publishing, The Awakening, and finished it around when I started my own law firm.
I had taken it to a conference and a publisher actually asked to see the whole thing and he read it and he gave me some really good comments about it, particularly the pacing, and I looked and I thought I think it's good the way it is. But I was immersed in starting my firm and so I spent most of the first year in my practice focusing on that.
When I came back to the book I was thinking to send it out again to agents and publishers, maybe even back to that editor, because when I read his comments I now thought Oh I see what he's saying and I think I know how to address this.
Right around then I happened to read a Wall Street Journal article about John Locke and how he was publishing his books.
Joanna: One of the early 99 cent millionaires.
Lisa: Exactly. So I didn't think I'd make a million dollars right away but I did think huh.
He made the point that he had started I think his own insurance agency and no one said that's self-insurance agency. That's because you couldn't make it in the real world. It's like why shouldn’t I start my own publishing company?
And I thought I started my own law firm and that's going really well. I did that so I could have more control over the business and what I wanted to do. And I thought Why am I not doing that for my writing? So instead of sending it out to agents again and querying, knowing I would have to probably wait six months to get a response I thought I'll publish this myself.
I also got advice from a writing teacher I had, a really good thriller author Gary Braver, and I said What do you think. And he said ‘well if you like running your own business you will probably like self-publishing.' And I thought I do like running my own business. So that's why I decided to do it that way. And I've really never looked back.
Joanna: I love that answer because that is the right reason; it's the control and empowerment and an active decision to do that yourself. I much prefer that choice than, “Oh I just couldn't get a deal.” I always find that a bit annoying. This is a great choice. This should be an active choice.
Lisa: It's not the consolation prize.
Joanna: Exactly. Running your own business is very respected.
Let's come back on your law career, because you've actually got a blog. When I had a look I wondered how on earth do you manage this as well?
You've got writingasasecondcareer.com and as well as all your books, your fiction and non-fiction, and your law, you've got this other Web site.
How are you managing both parts of the life that you love without burning out and getting RSI again?
Lisa: I feel like for me the key was realizing that that balance whether it's work-life or I used to joke work-work-work balance for all the kinds of work I do. It really changed a lot over time. I've finally gotten better at it. Or maybe you've just caught me in a really good time.
But there were times in my life, like when I first became a lawyer, that most of my work was in law and other things were secondary and then that would shift around a little. And then when I started my own firm again most of my hours were at law and there was a point where I started to burn out. It took me probably too long to realize it.
I figured out the key was to recognize when I started to feel overloaded and really think about making a change. So there were about two years when I started and continued to feel kind of angry. I'd feel angry as if I had no control over my life even though I was running the law practice and I was doing my publishing but I felt like I couldn't control anything. Like it was a runaway train.
I finally realized that was not just temporary. Because my answer to that was always I'll just work harder. I'll put my head down and power through. And I realized I can't. This is not a way to live. That's when I made a change and it took me about three years to gradually shut down my law practice. I don't have my own law firm anymore so the bulk of my time is writing. And then I do try to teach one class a semester and for law I do project work for another law firm that I use to share cases with.
It's great because I just have pieces of things, maybe I find the experts for one case or I'm working on a certain issue and writing making arguments on just that issue. And if there is an emergency I am not the person who has to rearrange my vacation to deal with it. And when I was a newer lawyer I wanted the responsibility.
I couldn't wait to run the case and be the one who talked to the clients and do all of that. And there was a time when that was really fun. And I didn't mind squeezing my writing around the edges of that, but now it's nice that I've been able to flip that. Law fits in around my writing at this point and probably that's how it'll stay but maybe sometime down the road, I'll flip that around again.
Joanna: That's really great. And again it's about changing over time because the John Locke thing probably would have been 2010.
Lisa: I think yes, about 2010, 2011. Yes, that's when I published my first book.
Joanna: Yes, right around then. I connected with John back in the early days. I'm pretty sure he's still around, but a bit like Joe Konrath and Hugh Howey and people around at the beginning have gone a lot quieter. There are a lot more voices in the indie space now.
But it's interesting because you've adjusted your work-work-work balance. I’m the same way, we’re so similar in that way. I love work. I work a lot and I love it.
As you say, doing different things means that there is some balance with the different aspects of work. And you may well change the balance again, as I'm doing too.
So then, just the last question because I'm really interested. You've been doing this a while now and I find that being learning junkies we are changing things up. But as we are more advanced in the space now, we’ve got a lot of books, we know what we're doing.
What things are you finding interesting? What are you learning about right now?
Lisa: I just started reading an advance copy of Jim Kukral’s book Unskippable.
Joanna: Jim's been on the show taking about this – episode 435 on How to be an Unskippable Author
Lisa: That's great. I'm not all the way through but he makes a couple really points that really resonated with me.
The first one was about it's not just about your business and making money, it's about your whole life and what you want out of it. And for me that's been partly recognizing that after so many years of working so many hours I want to set aside more time for leisure and fun and that it's OK if I'm not going to put out a book a month, which is just probably never going to happen, that I might do a slower pace.
But the other is he's talking about how you can advertise and I've been playing with Amazon ads and so forth but that only gets you so far and what you really need is to connect with people and to have them trust you and think about how and you how you would do that.
For me I've been thinking more about audio – this is no surprise because you talk about it a lot – but it is really a way to connect. I've been looking at would I want to record my own nonfiction books. I don't think I'd ever do novels but the nonfiction so that it's actually my voice and I actually downloaded the audacity software that you recommended for podcasting. So I've been thinking about that as well.
I have an idea for the last year that I've been planning and considering and I feel like anything like that, that is more personal and specific to you and who you are and that no one else can do the way you do is probably key going forward.
Because almost everyone I know, people I never would have imagined listening to audiobooks or podcasts, are telling me that's what they do on their commutes or that's what they do where they're cleaning their house. And it's what I do when I'm doing laundry and I'm thinking about going that in that direction.
Joanna: I think that's great. And in fact, this book that we've been talking about, Happiness, Anxiety, and Writing, it's got quite a lot of memoir-y things in it that are personal to you and your life. I think you know it would be great if you narrated it and because you’re used to teaching and speaking in your law practice and you have pacing… I can hear your pacing as you speak and naturally, you seem to have good pacing.
Lisa: That's good to know.
Joanna: I think so and obviously I want to encourage everyone who wants to get into audio because I think there is a connection.
You’ve listened to my show for a long time and we've connected in person and everything but it makes a huge difference to hear someone's voice and you just learn so much more about them.
Lisa: It adds to that trust factor. And I was thinking as I was reading Jim's book, it was fortuitous that you and I were talking today because going back to writing conferences the Smarter Artist Summit in Austin, I went there completely because you talked about it on your show and said you were going to be there.
I had never heard the guys podcast. I had never heard of the Smarter Artist summit but because I had listened to your show and learned so much over a few years and I even had read your blog earlier when you weren't podcasting yet I thought well if Joanna Penn is going to speak there this must be a good conference and I want to go. It was my first indie author conference and that was why I went and it was a great experience. So I feel like you really proved Jim's whole premise, so you can tell him that for me.
Joanna: That's really funny. I actually have read your blog post about that and you're like, “I didn't know who these guys were and then I was listening to the podcast” and then I was slightly worried. It was really funny.
That's the guys from what is now the Story Studio podcast and that conference is no more so that's another interesting thing. I mean these cycles of who you learn from and what you're learning. I just wanted to point that out to people to that that changes over time and so always be learning, always be changing.
We are out of time, but where can people find you and your books online.
Lisa: You can find my fiction and nonfiction both at LisaLilly.com. Also on Twitter and Instagram, it's at Lisa M. Lilly. And then my blog on writing is writingasasecondcareer.com.
Joanna: Fantastic. Thanks so much for your time, Lisa. That was great.
Lis: Thank you so much, Joanna.