SEASON 21 – The Business Book Podcast – Author of “This Book Means Business” by Alison Jones
Derek: Come on in ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another episode of the business book podcast. I have with me today, Allison, who just a, is it just not two months, three months, Allison, that your new book, this book means business came out?
Allison: Yeah, about three months ago now, Derek.
Derek: Yeah. And if some of you have been following either one of us on twitter, you’ve seen that I had a bit of a snafu with Amazon. So as I’ve been following Allison for a while, and as soon as she made her book available for preorder on Amazon, I jumped on and I preordered it. I liked to pretend, I like to think that I was one of the very first, but has so often happens to us pioneers. Amazon went through this whole debacle of the release date kept moving forward. And I thought that maybe Allison was putting the final tweaks on it and but after that happened, three or four times, I said something on twitter about looking forward to getting the book whenever it finally ships. And she said, there are people I’ve had the book for over a month now. Well it did turn out actually to be an advantage for me because Amazon was so apologetic. The first time I went to them, they actually gave me credit for another book and then I went back to them again and they gave me credit for another book and then the book actually shipped. So I have four books for the price of one.
Derek: I enjoyed that. As I said, okay, if they’re going to mess up, they can mess up like that. That works for me.
Allison: At least they put it right there. They might be disorganized, but at least their customer service is good.
Derek: Yeah. They were really nice about it, but one of the reasons that I or the reason I guess that I was so excited and then I jumped on the preorder as soon as it was available is because I’m in this genre and thought leadership books and business books. We don’t have a lot of resources. There are plenty of books out there for people who want to write novels or if they want to write their memoirs or if they want to write fiction or a Sci-Fi or romance or crime thrillers, but for one of the largest genres, I’m incredibly few resources out there, so I was thrilled whenever I saw Allison creating this resource to add to the greater community. So first of all, thank you Allison, because I know how work goes into creating a book like this personally and professionally and I appreciate you taking the time to take all of your, all of that knowledge and expertise and put it into a book to share with a wider audience.
Allison: Well thank you for the thank you. But I can honestly say it was a pleasure. I loved putting that book together.
Derek: Okay. So that is not usually the story I hear most people love having finished putting it together. Very few actually enjoy the process. So what made it so enjoyable? What’s the secret there?
Allison: Well, one big secret I think was its funny, isn’t it? Your memory plays tricks. I remember all the joy of writing this book and now I think about it more closely. There were some pretty grim time too, about 18 months in when I was just getting nowhere fast. I started the extraordinary business book club podcast and I started it entirely for the reason that I just knew I wasn’t going to do this myself. So I went public and I said, I’m writing this book and I’m going to interview these people and get their thoughts and so on (laughing) and that way I have to do it because I’ve told everybody I’m doing it. And it worked like a charm. It’s become such a huge part of my life now, but genuinely it started just as a way of getting the book written.
Derek: You know, whatever works. And apparently that really worked for you because it’s a fun book. And you started the extraordinary business book, podcast because you wanted to write this book. So that made you have a platform and kind of you’ve told the world that this is what you’re doing and so now you’ve got to actually do it or are you wind up with where they go where they go on your face. Right?
Allison: Exactly. And to be honest with you, it’s very much walking the talk as well. So although the book is really about how the period while you’re writing a business book is such a fertile time for growing your business as well. So you know, it’s talking about writing the book. The second half of the book is all about writing and how to just know, get the damn thing done. But the first half is much more strategic. So it’s talking about you know, where’s your business going because let’s, let’s plan your book in the context of that and also growing your platform and your network and also yourself. And so that bit about growing your platform. And I think you know, the time when you’re going out there and you’re saying to the world, I’m writing a book on this topic. I’m doing research. I’m having original thoughts, you kind of shift your place in the world and the podcast was, part of that is part of me kind of putting a stake in the ground and saying I am a thought leader on, on business books and publishing. I’ve been pushing on my life and business books at the unit specifically and do you know what I’m going to lead the conversation and this is how I’m going to do. I’m going to get the best people on my podcast and just like you do Derek. And that was, it turned into this real great platform builder. And then of course when you launched the book, you’ve got people who are going to A: shout about it because they were guests on the show and they’re quoted in it and B: are already engaged in listening to the stuff that you’re doing because they subscribed to the podcast and then they can’t wait to buy the book. So it’s kind of virtuous circle.
Derek: So there’s, there’s two things in there that I’d love to point out. One is that your book, like you said, the part one is really about before you even begin writing the book, it’s about creating all the assets and the platform that need to be there to support the book and vice versa. And then you just told us how you actually did that. You’re yourself. So in the process of writing the book, you created the platform so that the book had something to build on versus building on top of the book. So there have been a number of authors that’s I’ll talk to. Okay. Well once you’re finished with your book, what do you plan to do with it? Oh, well, I hadn’t really thought about that. Yeah, I mean, so that’s I applaud their desire to write the book and I believe that they absolutely should. But I like your approach, Allison, because it’s much more purposeful, right? It’s not just writing a book, it’s writing a book for a purpose with a, with an aim and a goal.
Allison: Yeah. And I think it’s really important that you step back before you start to lean in and right and just say, well hang on a minute where am I going personally and professionally because so many people start from what they know and they say, Oh, I’ve got this content I could turn into a book which is, which is great, but if it’s not going to move you forward to where you want to be, then it’s a big job writing a book and you want to use it to really take you forward to where you want to go in the future. And so taking the time to think about that is I think massively important. And then, and a lot of people treat their book as a sort of side project. So they lock themselves away in their room and write their book and then they kind of launched on an unsuspecting world and big surprise, nobody’s that interested because there’s a lot of books out there and you need a reason to care. So I think it’s about giving people that, that awareness, that reason to care. Getting them intrigued and invested in the book before we actually launch it.
Derek: Yeah, and you’ve just given us a beautiful murder narrative of how you did that. You created the podcast and involved all these people in this, in this network. So they already had your book already had kind of a family to welcome it whenever it came into the world versus coming to the world as a one of those as almost an orphan as so many business authors do.
Allison: Yeah, that’s a really nice metaphor as it did. And it did feel like that and it was lovely. The sending out the book, the publication announcement to all the podcast guests and because it’s getting them to share it with their tribes and I’ve got lovely messages back and what if, which I won’t quit the guy actually, but he just said congratulations and if I may say so about bloody time. It was like having your brother comments on it, it did feel like a family thing.
Derek: Oh, that’s fun. Well, okay. So in that context, no wonder writing the book felt in enjoyable because it was really, it was more about, I guess the people on the journey then is what you’re saying made it such an enjoyable thing to create versus just sitting down and writing itself, which is whenever you’re writing for yourself is quite painful.
Allison: It is. And it’s very hard. It’s very easy to kind of get solipsistic about it. When I was never allowed to do that, I did notice though in the writing, they were kind of two phases. Well maybe three. So I had the interviews and I’m an extrovert. I get my energy from bouncing off of the people I get my ideas as I’m talking to people and I’m articulating what I think. So that was great. That was the raw material if you like. And then I would blog about what we discussed in the ideas that were coming to me and what that meant for you writing a business book and that would go out and be part of my content platform and then I’d sort of drop those blogs into the headings in the book. And so that was quite a kind of an ongoing extrovert kind of engaged, used other people a lot. And then I found I had to get away and I had to be my introvert self. I didn’t actually know I had an introvert side, but it turns out that there’s into creative introvert buried in there and she needs absolute focus. And I had to leave my family sort of two weekends and then a few days in the last summer as well because that work of pulling all that stuff together and shaping it into a book I just couldn’t do on the fly in that same mode. It was like a different. Going into a different mindset almost. It’s really interesting.
Derek: I like to put persona sometimes with those kinds of things and it sounds to me like with the first phase that you are more like an explorer scouting the Savannah and seeing what’s there and where are the edges of the map and then you had to turn into an architect right where you have all of these ideas, but texts are put them down on paper and to put the sketch together in the walls are going to go here and do we go with this designer that design or this idea that one. And I find that a book is like an attorney like that where it’s not linear at all. In fact, one of the neatest ideas that I took from your book, Allison was a Nautilus Shell, right? For this you start in the center and you kind of iterate your way out and around. And I said, what a, what a beautiful example of how I see these kinds of books. It’s not a linear process at all, but it’s more of a process of discovery and, and designing and building and then you’re already seeing and going back and forth.
Allison: Absolutely. And I’m glad you liked that. That spirit Mirabilis you know, that the logarithmic spiral, it’s such a beautiful thing and it’s, what I love about it is it’s logical. It’s mathematically, it’s logarithmic, but it’s also organic. So she said that’s the Nautilus Shell, but it happens at every scale. The nerves in your cornea and the arms of the galaxies it’s kind of embedded in nature, but it’s also a very, very logical. I do love that organic thing and it gives you that sense of just expanding and circling round and revisiting, but also growing each time, which I just think it’s a great image.
Derek: Can you, would you mind just taking a little bit deeper into that and showing what is it, what does it really look like for, for you? I mean, did you have pieces of paper scattered all over the house? Do you like to keep everything open on your desktop? Do you go between digital and analog? What does actually writing a book like this? What did it look like in your journey?
Allison: I’m laughing because this is exactly the sort of thing that I asked people on my podcast and nobody’s ever asked me, so I’m kind of similar teams be thrilled, but yeah (laughing) actually that’s really changing. I do flip between analog and digital and I did the, the most creative, you know, from ground zero stuff on post its because I just find a real and on a big wall there’s something about the freedom of that and that sort of direct line between your pencil and it was a pencil and your brain and the fact that you can do once you’ve just brain dump everything, you can move it around and cluster it and see how it fits together and just move things wholesale and there’s no friction there. Any mind mapping software I’ve ever used gets in the way somehow. So I still am mind map and I use post it notes and I ended up the post it notes going to become the headings, the board sections of the book. And I did, actually, I put it together slightly differently. I can’t remember how now, but I put the whole manuscript up as a beater and invited everybody in had been the extraordinary business book club to comment on it, which was terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. It was brilliant because somebody said, oh actually I see it more like this. I can’t remember the detail now, but it suddenly clicked for me and I shifted the structure slightly and it fell into place. So I do recommend that it’s really terrifying giving your baby to anybody else read. But it’s always, always so useful.
Derek: I understand. And in fact I try to counsel my authors to be pretty careful with that because especially in the end the kind of it’s toddling.
Allison: But it’s another baby. Yes. You’ve got to get it to a certain age.
Derek: You might know that you have an ugly baby, but he can’t really take that from anybody else. Like it’s even with a professional project like this where it’s explicitly a business book about business books, it’s still an intensely personal project, isn’t it?
Allison: It is. And when you’re writing a book about building your business as a book to build your business, there’s also an incredibly (laughing) self-consciousness was crippling. I couldn’t tell you. And it was just so aware of all these people looking to me and thinking, Oh, if I flush this up, this is gonna be really embarrassing. So yes, there was a lot of that for me as well.
Derek: Well, I guess, how did you, what’s the question I’m trying to ask Allison? How did, how do you filter the comments that they had? So I imagined that everybody knowing you as they do would have been, what do you were, you were asking criticism from a warm audience. So imagine that you probably didn’t get too many people being blunt, but especially in the early phases. I don’t ask this about your book specifically and then also for your, the authors that you work with, how do you go about soliciting that feedback? How do you feel like it’s at a place where some feedback would hope that it would actually make sense? And then how do you, whenever you receive it, how do you gauge whether it’s worthy, whether it’s accurate, whether it’s maybe an irrelevant?
Allison: Yeah, that’s a great question. And I think it’s a gradients. They’re called Beta readers for a reason they’re not Alpha Reader’s, I think there’s a draft that’s just for you and this is you shoveling the sand into the pit so you can kind of build something with it and it doesn’t, that’s the ed catmull’s raise about the ugly baby, the guy at Pixar was saying you’ve got to be gentle with them at this stage. And there was stuff that wasn’t ready to show anybody because I was still processing it. And one of the great revelations for me, and it’s a while ago now, but it still hits in you every time I do it, is how great a thinking tool writing is. So you can start. I mean, I wouldn’t, I think it was, I really discovered this on. I did morning pages and you start and you got nothing and you start writing and you’re just writing complete dribble. And then suddenly halfway through the second page you, you’ve hit gold and you’re coming out with really meaningful, intense and helpful stuff. Anything goodness. This is incredible. So no, nobody else is going to read it to, to allow yourself to do that. So I think it’s really important that you allow yourself that phase, the Hemingway’s shitty first draft is it’s a thing and its real and you don’t give people. It’s not unless you really know and trust them when you work really closely together. I didn’t, when I got to beat the stage was when I was like, do you know I’ve got this to a point where I could use some input because I, some cyclists to it now I can’t see it anymore and that it’s good enough. It’s polished enough, it’s ready for someone else to look at. It’s not there, but it’s getting there. And that was the point at which I put that full be to draft up for people to look at and I also didn’t just do that because that was a bit open ended. I mean I did get some good feedback but I think I was probably quite lucky, but I also actually explicitly sought out and kind of bribed with wine and coffee, a few people that I didn’t trust and value. And I really wanted to get your opinion on this. And I was quite clear about what I wanted from them as well. I think a lot of people tend to say, Oh, I’ve given it to these people to read, but if you haven’t given them a steer on what you want from them, they’re just going to copy edits it and that’s pointless. You know, you’ve got a copy editor for that. You need to say to them, you look I see you as a potential reader for this. I want you to tell me where you lose the argument, where you get bored what you don’t understand yet, give them things to think about as they read and then you’ll get really valuable feedback.
Derek: I like that. So being very clear about the kind of feedback that you’re asking for.
Allison: I mean that’s the thing in the book about choosing your board or most of you, if you think about putting a board together to run a business you bring in people to fill a particular roles with particular skills and backgrounds and expertise and your Beta readers are kind of like that. You want a test reader, somebody who you genuinely see as a target reader. Maybe you want a peer who can say to you, “Oh, you have thought about this aspect of whether the discipline’s going because I don’t see it in there. You want somebody who’s maybe a really strong writer who can give you some feedback on your style and whether you can put the stuff together properly. I got a development editor who works at my office on that, so picking people for specific reasons gives them a much more satisfying role and probably gives you much better quality feedback as well.
Derek: I really liked that. I’ve never quite thought about it to that extent. I usually have a place in the process where I’ll tell the author, you will need to get at least someone on the professional side who can give honest feedback, candid feedback about whatever subject matter that we’re addressing. And then on the personal side, you need to have someone who can read it and say this, this sounds like you this part that doesn’t sound like you actually fleshed it out. Well, but I like yours. I like your approach because it goes a little bit further than that. It’s because it’s inviting people to be. I like that the kind of the members of a board, I’m creating this business or this organization or whatever it is that I need to have some, some advisors who are going to be invested in the success of it and have them have them come in earlier kind of inner circle, if you will.
Allison: That’s exactly the idea.
Derek: I really like that.
Allison: One of my authors took this to the next logical level and she actually got them together. They had, I think three days where they just joined together and she gave him the early drafts of the books and she asked them to try out the exercises and stuff. It was a book on visual thinking. So it was, she actually had people trying out the exercises that she was describing that and seeing what came up for them and also getting some stories, getting some examples of how they can work in different businesses. It’s terrific.
Derek: And I like the idea of asking for that explicit feedback versus in fact I just had this colleague of mine ask for feedback on this manuscript and it was. What am I trying to say, Allison? It was, I didn’t really know him quite well and I didn’t really know his book and so I was, you know, reading it quite cold versus, you know, having, having been involved in that process. And I think that my feedback, if I would’ve gotten it earlier and in smaller pieces would have been quite different than me. I’m giving him feedback on an entire manuscript that was basically finished. I like the idea of asking them to come in earlier and maybe getting that incremental feedback. You said this particular author of yours, she did it for three days or she did three different. Three different sessions.
Allison: Yeah. Three different sessions at different stages. Yeah. I like that. Not everybody can do that. I couldn’t get people together in the same place. It’s logistically, it’s too challenging, but she managed it I think. Yeah, we’re really well for her.
Derek: Well, just the idea of having a couple of people, even if it’s just two or three that come in at an early stage and then maybe a kind of somewhere in the middle and then maybe at, towards the end and especially those that you’re targeting as your reader because as a business book, you want to make sure that you’re actually giving real value to a real business problems. And if you can’t do that then I’m in, what are you doing?
Allison: And I think often for writers, the problem is they know their topic so well that it’s just killing them to keep it down. Less is more, but you would say something and then you need to backup and explain that and then we’ll, there’s an exception to that. And before you know it, you’ve taken your best intention and you need somebody to just say, stop. I don’t need to know that. Now what I need to know is this. And really, those readers a gold.
Derek: Yeah. The way that I try to help my authors focus is by going through the reader exercise and this is where I tell them to visualize a target, an archery target, and you have the bullseye and then you have those two outer rings. So there are plenty of people that are on the target, but who is the bullseye that we’re that we’re aiming for and what’s the answer to that question. Then everything stems from that because it’s, okay, this is, this is the person we’re writing the book for. This is the problem that we can solve in the book or at least that we can help them make some progress and traction towards. And then how what’s their background, how do they like to take in information, how do they. All of that stems from that one idea of who’s my one reader and what problem of theirs, am I solving by having these. Yeah. And by having these people involved early on, you can make sure that sure you’re targeting the exact right person and that’s you’re answering the exact question,
Allison: Get even smarter than that, you see, because if you take that step back and you say, well, hang on a minute, where’s my business going? And who were the people that I would have reached and I want to work with and maybe one step beyond the people I’m working with right now. And you target them. Then getting your stories during your research, bringing in your Beta readers, all of that grows your business because it’s growing your network and its developing relationships. So it’s double smart. It’s the business on the writing, you know, coming together and one fueling the other.
Derek: And I think that that’s something that I’ve had a quite difficult time articulating, Allison that you’re doing such a great job of saying it is that the process of writing a business book actually improves your business. It helps you discover things about your business and yourself, even that you didn’t know.
Derek: There’s a, I hate using the word synergy because it’s overused, but there’s the double smart a squaring or a cubing factor there. An exponential factor. I think that the stories that you’ve been giving show just how great that is. How one can lead to the other. Yeah.
Allison: That’s the best of that logarithmic spiral again, are we?
Derek: (laughing) center of the universe, the secret at all?
Allison: Nobody does. I mean, it just makes so much sense. But if you don’t do that alignment in a right back when you’re planning your book and then you’re moving down and you’re writing this book and it’s answering a perfectly valid question, but actually this is not the question that you want to be working with people on. Perhaps you’re writing for people who can’t afford to buy your services. You know, it sounds kind of crass and obvious, but thinking about how you want to spend your days and then aligning the book so that the people who are reading the book where they want more, they have an obvious next step and you want to step up and deliver that, that’s really important.
Derek: While you were saying that there was a great question that jumped into my mind and then as soon as he finished it, jumped straight out. (Laughing)
Allison: Podcasting can do that to you.
Derek: Well, and also I haven’t had my daily quota of coffee for the day. Oh, here’s a softball question. What are you doing this, what surprised you about this book?
Allison: Well, what surprised me about me was this creative introvert. I didn’t think I had a scrap of introvert in me. I am off the scale on the extra. So that was quite pleasing because I’ve always secretly wanted to be an introvert. So it’s quite nice because being that there is a mode in which we need to just get away from the world.
Derek: She said she’s always wanted to do (laughing)
Allison: There’s just so much cooler.
Derek: Oh, I guess for the introverts we always kind of wished that we had the gift of the Gab, like an extrovert. They seem to be the life of the party and everybody wants to be around. And then now we find out that there
Allison: We just wanted to be looking at you can moody key people. You’re so cool to be straight. Do you know how many people would pay to have their hair? Like, what you want, what you haven’t got it, don’t you? So that, that surprised me and pleased me. I have to say the other thing that surprised me and was also very pleasing actually. It was just how receptive people are even incredibly evident people of whom you’ve always been in or when you reach out to them and you’re writing a book on the subject that interests them. People are so incredibly generous and interested and I’m happy to engage. So that was I kind of knew that. I sort of said that to people, but it still came as a delicious surprise when it helps me. So that was great and I think that’s the fact that I am an obligor. No Gretchen Rubin’s tendencies framework. I want to be an upholder. Actually. I’m an obligor, so making myself do it by committing to do it for the people. Great trick. I’m not proud of that, but it works.
Derek: Whatever it takes, you have to use every, every trick in the book to get it out of your head.
Allison: Absolutely. It’s all fair game. Just whatever, you know, what did they say? There are no rules here. We’re trying to get something done.
Derek: Speaking of people reaching out and people being receptive. I do not mind admitting my outright jealousy of you having Seth Goden endorser book. That’s pretty cool.
Allison: And, and that’s kind of what I mean. Do you know, it took me about a year to reach out to Seth Godden, who was one of the people that I invented the podcast for frankly, and it during that year, the, I think the only reason I didn’t ask him was that while I hadn’t asked him, he hasn’t said no yet. And then I— (laughing)
Derek: (laughing) if I don’t ask him, he can’t say no particularly,
Allison: That’s ridiculous, isn’t it? But I think that’s the only reason I can think of. And then I literally, I sent an email and just I come in Saturday as well. It was just like, do you know what? I’d love to interview. I’m doing this thing. I think you’d be really fun to talk to. I think you’d enjoy it. And I’m literally 10 seconds later I got a reply back. Sure. Sounds Fun. And I thought they were just shell-shocked reply the other hand. And he was like, no, well why I would know this sounds really interesting. And I thought, well yeah, why would you not actually, even if you hadn’t, nobody does something that you should be doing. You’re not doing. You can do it
Derek: As long as nobody dies.
Allison: This is the good thing about publishing however badly goes wrong. Generally no body dies. It’s quite a privilege.
Derek: Generally nobody dies.
Allison: It really well. Yeah. It’s just, why? Why did it take so long about?
Derek: I can’t remember who the quote is by it said, but what I love about writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time. Online say.
Allison: (laughing) brain surgery. (Laughing) Let me stress about it so much. And if you get the words wrong, you can go back and rewrite. It’s okay. I mean, you do want to get one chance to make a good impression on Seth Godin when you do have them as guests on your podcast, I guess, but even if somebody thinks you’re a bit of an idiot, it’s really not the end of the world and if you just get over yourself, you’ll have a much better time and achieve a lot more, I think.
Derek: Yes. Since you, since you broached that subject, do you mind if I ask you a little bit of a personal question? One of the, one of the main blocks that I see that writers authors have is stems from fear of what other people will think about them, fear of reception, fear of anything along those lines. Do you mind sharing just some more ideas around some of the things that you were afraid of some of those personal mental hurdles you had to get through to get to get the book?
Allison: Sure. I mean that’s why I procrastinated for so long with, it just fear, fear of. And again, it’s the Seth Godin principle. While I hadn’t published this book, I was still writing a book and nobody can criticize you for that can. They still haven’t got anything that they can actually look at and criticize. So I was absolutely slave to the fear. And in the book there’s, um, there’s a whole section, a note on fear because it’s just such a huge thing. So how did I get over it? Or partly because you do it in stages, you say, I’m going to do a podcast and it’s quite easy to do that and you can just say it. Then of course you have to do it because you said you’re going to do it and then you have some material and, but you only put it as blogs first and that’s less of a hurdle and then you get enough blogs and you start sort of thinking, well, you know, if it works, put it into book, look like this is not quite true because I knew I was gonna write a book, but you kind of trick yourself all the way along the line by just thinking, well, what would they be willing to do it necessarily? But if I were going to do what might it look like? And then by a combination of sort of doing that step by step, you do it by doing it frankly is the only answer. I’m telling people that you’re doing it to the point where they’re going, where is this book? And then about 30 times. (Laughing) And do you know there’s other things as well? I think it’s an age thing, you know, I’m, I’m getting on 50 now and this stuff, I can much, much less about what people think about me, which is hugely liberating. I wish I could got here in my twenties, thirties. So that helps. And then there’s other stuff. I’ve given birth twice without pain relief. I’ve run five marathons, I’ve just done stuff that makes you feel resourceful and strong and you can draw on that. So you know, the stuff you do in your life, the risks you take, the, you know, the adventures you have, all of that I think feeds into going, well this is just another thing. And I know what it feels like to be on the other side of the thing that felt impossible. And this is just another one of those.
Derek: I like the analogy is there of the marathons and the we’ve already like in the book.
Allison: Yeah, I’m originally from metaphors, but man, they work.
Derek: Yeah. Well, that’s because they’re— that’s because we keep finding truth in those my wife is, she’s a midwife her herself and so I get to hear all the stories and the more that I listened, the more I realize that that quote is true. I’ve got it in my book that I’m writing a book is the closest that a man will ever come to childbearing. Yeah. And I mean, we’re in, it’s not a contest all, when I cannot wait.
Allison: To say thank you because we know you have something instead of other human sample. In the podcast we did with him last week, he was likening writing to a public, which is a Scottish word for, for a pimple basically. And he said he hit, builds up and builds up and it’s just, you’ve got to squeeze it at one point at which I thought was as your book,
Derek: There’s your book, or at least hopefully that’s just the rough draft. (Laughing) Maybe you’ve got to clean it up a little bit you gotta get your bangs (laughing) Thinking back, to this other. I’m a colleague of mine who’s his book I was reviewing one of the things that I kind of pushed back on was he was very adamant about having a very strong outline at the beginning and some of the things that you’ve been saying just in this conversation, Allison, about tricking yourself into it and using every tool that you can. There are no rules. We’re just trying to get something built here. I think that that’s something that, especially people who aren’t writers are and maybe not even creatives, whenever I say creative, not by nature, but I mean by profession that they’re not used to, to delving off, excuse me, dive in golf into a project that doesn’t really have parameters. There aren’t really any rules. And so here’s the one hand, this one person that was very adamant about spending two or three or four weeks on an outline and making sure that everything is as black and white and very rigid and very defined. And I find that the better process is the one that you’re describing where it’s much more organic, you’re doing these kind of mind tricks that you’re doing the mind tricks, that it kind of works because you’re just looking at it out of the corner of whatever it takes to.
Allison: I’ll have to say. I think creating an outline is, is a Jedi mind trick. I think that’s really helpful because you can, and again it’s like rhythm to it, isn’t there? At the beginning you—it is the fluke, it’s just brainstorming. So if you’re getting stuffed down as much as you can and there’s not much directed to it, but then you kind of have to step back and this is where the post is come in really handy and then you can only get so far like that I found then. Then I think the structure and you need a framework and it shouldn’t be, it’s not rigid, it’s like as a strait jacket for you. But what it is, is this kind of flexible organic thing that you can actually start putting your content into that will hold it and keep it there while you do something else. And, and I think that if you haven’t got that framework and you haven’t kind of satisfied yourself, that there is a kind of logic and a progression to this and a balance between the parts, I think you probably run out of steam quite quickly. So it’s, it’s about getting aware, I think of when it will serve you to drill back and think about the metal story of your book, about the structure and about the balance of the parts and maybe start thinking of bullet pointing what you’re going to put in each one and then when it’s best to take your foot off the break if you like, and just dive in and discover what you want to say by writing it. Because these are all different modes and they’re all different tools in your toolkit kit. So just using one of them it’s crippling. Getting the confidence of when to use each one. And how to fit them together. I think that’s the trick.
Derek: Yeah. And I think that you’re saying beautifully what I couldn’t quite communicate to him, which is the idea that of your framework has to be for your structure of your outline or whatever. It has to have working table of contents. I like that. It has to be flexi. You have to let it breathe, you have to have an ebb and flow, right? So there are some things that you’re going to put down that are going to be the kind of the edges of the map, if you will. But then they’re going to be some places that sure you’re building something that it just doesn’t work and you realize that this whole section doesn’t belong in this book belongs somewhere else. You didn’t want that to be okay with taking the scalpel. And I couldn’t communicate that to him that you can’t, that rigidity, you called it a strait jacket. It’s, it isn’t since crippling. It handicaps you and your—.
Allison: Absolutely. And if you’ve got a file of stuff that’s not for this book but you don’t want to lose, that’s really helpful because it means you can put it there and then you can forget it because you know it doesn’t, it’s not going to be forgotten. You can focus on what’s in front of me, but it’s so true because what’s not in your book as important as what is in there you use that word, the edges of it. And I think that’s really important. And the working table of contents helps you say what’s in scope and what’s out of scope. And that’s really important. Otherwise you’re just never gonna finish. And once you have a working table of contents and you think, okay, if this book’s going to be 50,000 words, I’ve got 10 chapters that means they’re all roughly 5,000 words. And I’ve got 10 sections in this. So they’re each roughly 500. I mean you can rob Peter to pay Paul, but you’ve got a sense of what you’re aiming for. And you know, frankly, when you’ve finished, if you’ve, if you’ve written 500 words and you haven’t touched the subject yet, you better change it now before you’ve written 25,000 words and got yourself into a hole.
Derek: Followed Alice down the rabbit hole.
Allison: So many rabbit holes along the way for writing a book. So many.
Derek: Don’t stop and chase the white rabbits.
Allison: It just, you’ll never come out again.
Derek: That’s too much fun. I find that you and I can laugh about it because we’ve done it enough that we’ve got confidence that things are going to turn out okay. We know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I think for people especially, I find them a lot of business people who are a bit more cut and dry. It’s terrifying for them to trust the creative process to get in this car with no idea of, I don’t want to say no idea where it’s gonna go you’re heading west and you’re kind of where you want to land. But all the different routes and detours and roadblocks and stops that can happen between point A and point B. It takes a bit of faith to believe that it’s, you’re going to arrive where you’re supposed to. Even if you don’t have a, you know, Google maps directing us at every turn.
Allison: That if you didn’t get on your own, if you’ve never done it before, that probably is quite misplaced faith because it probably won’t happen if somebody to write a tiny proportion of. Imagine if you’re, if you’re a business person, there’s no reason why you should be an expert. Also. I mean that’s not what you do. Why on earth should you be expert at writing? So that’s why you, you know, you couldn’t a book coach or a or a ghostwriter and you said, you know what, this is important to me. This is what I want to say. I need help. You know, you wouldn’t build your own website. You get a web designer in today because they’ll do it better and faster and you know, it’s the same sort of thing, isn’t it? You get the right help on board. I do think though that there’s something about writing, even if you don’t share it, even if what you write, you then kind of passed her development, edited it to shape it for you. That process is so important in developing your own voice and your own sense of what you’re saying and actually your own intellectual property and creating a model or a taxonomy or, or even just have a capillary around what it is, the opening into the world. You know, writing a book can really help with that. And then that feeds into everything you do. Your training, you’re consulting, whatever it is. If you’ve got that distinctive model, that’s the sort of thing that, um, it’s hard to delegate,
Derek: Yeah, I think I’m not. I think I know Allison you’re right. I was projecting actually I’m thinking about whenever I as a business ghost writer to work with business authors that it’s hard for them to accept whenever. Especially whenever we see it. How do you say the Scottish word again? A [inaudible 45:49]
Allison: You good. Very good.
Derek: Whenever we got started and they see the [inaudible 45:57]\ it’s a little scary for them and I have to kind of hold their hand and even if I don’t have the answers to try to project to project to try to help them understand that it’s, it’s the creative process is inherently chaotic. There is some, some chaos and, and trying to communicate that ebb and flow that we have to have an outline or a sketch that kind of tells us where we’re going with at the same time we have to be ready to discover things along the way, discovered things about their business, discover things about them, discover who their reader is, find a better way to communicate their messages than what we had originally intended. And that that’s all part of the process. But you’re mature. Exactly right. That you can’t expect that to happen the first time you do something like that, which is why it’s important to have someone who not only knows what they’re doing, but it has the—I guess it’s important. I know this sounds totally self-serving for both of us, but it’s my podcast. I guess that’s okay. It’s an, it’s important to find a professional who can have a foot in both camps who knows enough to know when things are getting off the rails and how to make sure that we stay on the target and so have some structure and some parameters and boundaries there. But on the other hand, to also be creative enough to allow these new discoveries to come in and, you know, to take the scalpel and remove some things and a color outside the lines elsewhere to. So to have that chaos and control and being able to hold it in both hands without losing either of them.
Allison: And of course you don’t write the book in isolation because all the time you’re writing, is that a reflective practitioner approach, isn’t it? You’re also working in the day job and you’re having new conversations and you’re moving, you’re thinking along. So there’s got to be a sense in which that that feeds back into the book as well. And you might find that actually they’re swathes of the book that you had to write to get here, but now you don’t need them anymore. And that’s good too. It’s not wasted.
Derek: Right. I love that.
Allison: I genuinely don’t think that. I just think that there’s something about the process of dating engagement that the creativity and also the discipline. It’s like being able to unwind your thought, isn’t it? Yes. And a thought comes in. It’s gone in a second, but there’s something about writing that allows you to kind of bring that promethium fire down and put it onto the page. And, and so much of it is garbage but it’s necessary garbage because at the end of it there’s the insight, there’s the gold so no matter how much you throw away the writing, it was never wasted.
Derek: Right. This has to be one of the most poetic podcast.
Allison: That’s brilliant. Thank you.
Derek: (laughing) this has been neat. I’ve learned quite a few things, which is always a, what’s the word I’m looking for? Delightful. I love working, talking shoplift with the other professional and seeing how kind of getting a look at their work bench, right? To see how you do things, kind of to secretly spying on you and you have been quite open about how you work magic with the people that you work with. And I appreciate you being so open and honest about not only your work with them but especially about your work with your own book.
Allison: You’re very welcome. And I have to say it’s an absolute delight to talk to you as well, Derek. I said no view for so long, but it’s lovely to finally talk to you. So thank you for having me on the show.
Derek: It’s my absolute pleasure. So Allison tell us where you are, tell us where your podcast is and tell us what’s in the future for you.
Allison: Okay. Well, is this three sites for me it’s www.allisonjones.com and you can pretty much find links to most of the stuff there, but the, the show, the podcast is extraordinarybusinessbooks.com. That’s the extraordinary business book club and if you like it, if you want to hang out with us, we’ve got a Facebook group as well as be great to have you in there. And also my publishing house is practical inspiration publishing, so practicalinspiration.com. And I’m primarily a publisher. That’s kind of what I’ve been all my life and I’ve segwayed into this going upstream with people and getting their and their strategy and their business aligned and supporting them through the writing and then publishing them and then supporting them afterwards as well. So it’s, it’s a much more satisfying approach to publishing. Then in my traditional publishing corporate days, I have to say.
Derek: Imagine, yeah, you get to be there from conception to graduation.
Allison: The child birth thing again. No it’s great. If you’re a twitter person, I’m at books to the sky. So do come and say hello.
Derek: Allison, I certainly appreciate it. And again, thank you so much for putting all of these years I’ve experienced into another business book. Excuse me, one of the few books out there on how to, to write business books, we desperately need more of it because there’s, we didn’t even get to this and maybe this is another podcast, but I love business books. I love the potential that they hold and it hurts my heart whenever I read a business book that could have been wonderful and it just, it’s not because who knows, for all the reasons why, but I’m glad that those authors or the ones who follow in their footsteps of another awesome resource to turn to get ideas on how they’re supposed to take all of this great information. And insights and expertise and the insurance with the world. I appreciate you.
Allison: And there’s a great phrase from Daniel Priestley, actually the business book awards in March, he was giving a keynote speech and he said, do you know the world doesn’t need more books? Other? Honestly, I think I disagree with them here, but anyway, he said the world doesn’t need more books, but it needs more authors. And I think that’s something too finished it down as well as keeping but just as important and just as significant, isn’t it?
Derek: That’s a beautiful sentiment. All right, Allison, thank you so much again. This has been seriously. This has been a pleasure.
Allison: Thank you, Derek. Goodbye.
Derek: Bye. Bye.