The 2020 Writing Challenge
One of the rituals that make my business work is the regular strategy day I have with Pól, my right hand man. A couple of times a year we get together in Derry or London and spend a day planning out the next six months or so. It is always a grounding, sense-making experience.
We did a strategy day in Derry last week and it struck me that this year marks a new chapter in the business. We usually begin each strategy day with a review of the sales analysis for the past 12 months. This year’s analysis prompted me to go back to notes I’d made in late 2015. I had attended a mastermind meeting and used my time in the hot seat to ask the group’s advice on my new plan for the business.
It was a time of change. My business partner – my brother – was leaving the company and I was planning to stop selling web design services when he left, despite the fact they accounted for 55% of our sales. I had long since stopped any day-to-day involvement with the web design arm of the business and I couldn’t stomach the thought of going back to it when my brother left.
I shared two realisations with the group at that meeting:
- I was now clear my primary goal was not growing sales and profits. My number one goal was getting my “be yourself” work and message out into the world.
- If it takes time that’s ok.
On the whole the group’s advice was to hire a salesperson to take over when my brother left so we could keep selling websites. They accounted for over half our sales, after all. I understood the reasoning but I couldn’t face it. I knew I’d be happier scaling back and working to replace the web design income over time.
By the following summer we’d taken on our final new website client and a few months after that I went on maternity leave. Sales took a big hit while I was away. But the next year was our best ever. And the 12 months of 2019 marked another high point.
I don’t keep a super close eye on sales. I know how much is in the bank and I know the ballpark figure of how much each program or event sells but I’m not obsessing over sales targets or constantly tracking whether or not we’re up on the previous year. I’d probably be a better business owner if I was more sales focused, but it’s not how I do my best work. I tried it in the past and it got in the way of building my body of work, which, in turn got in the way of making more sales. I find I make more money by focusing less on sales and more on the work.
That’s not to say it doesn’t feel good to see the revenue go up. To me, sales increases are an indication that the work is landing. That’s what I care about most. And when I look back at what has changed since 2015, the most exciting thing is the body of work we’ve created.
The Cumulative Effect of Regular Writing
All of this – replacing the web design income and surpassing it faster than I ever would have predicted, and making my ideas tangible out in the world – was possible primarily because of one simple thing: writing. But not the kind of writing I was trained to do as a marketer.
I began writing regular emails to my list a couple of years before I made the decision to phase out the web design work. But the writing deepened after that decision point at the end of 2015. By early 2016 the writing I was putting out was first and foremost an outlet for me. It wasn’t a strategic thing; it was something that was welling up from within.
In January 2016 I began a month-long writing series titled “30 Days of Uncertainty.” I had no strategic reason to explore the topic of uncertainty other than I’d been thinking about it a lot. In fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It had been showing up in my life from every direction: among other upheavals I was making all these drastic changes at work, my brother was about to leave the business, and I’d just had a miscarriage. So I did the writing series with no plan or agenda other than to hopefully find a way back into some kind of groove with my work after what felt like a block stemming from personal crisis.
Fast forward to the second week of January 2020 and after looking at the sales analysis with Pól my immediate thought was “this is the writing paying off.” When we were still predominately a web design agency I would talk about shifting away to the “be yourself work” and my brother would ask for clarity on the vision. “But what would you actually sell? Where would the money come from?” Fair and reasonable questions to which I didn’t have a very specific answer.
My real work was on the tip of my tongue. I had a sense of the direction and potential but it was mostly this cloud of unarticulated crumbs of ideas that I couldn’t quite string together yet. Still, instinctively I knew if I kept going deeper into the work it would spawn something worth paying for. And as my body of work has developed over the past few years various products, services and events have naturally emerged alongside it.
2020: New Decade, New Chapter
This year marks a new chapter as we’re set to put out a book as well as share some video shorts and other things we’ve been working on behind the scenes. My work is no longer tied up in my head, invisible to all but me. More and more it’s out there in the world in tangible forms.
The book I’m releasing this year is a collection of three of the writing series I’ve done since 2016. I’ve come to see the yearly writing series I do as a backbone of my work. I can’t develop my work without these intense periods of focused writing.
For the third year running I’m not only starting the year with a four-week writing series, I’m asking you to join me in the challenge.
Writing – and publishing – every weekday for four weeks is an intense process but it is rich and transformative. It’s the best way I know to unearth the gemstones in your work and your thinking. The writing challenge and daily prompts will force you to articulate your deeper ruminations. It’s a way to go from an amorphous cloud of thoughts and ideas to something tangible and communicable.
Ritual and Patterns
Over the past few months previous participants of the Writing Challenge have been asking, “Are you doing a writing challenge in January? Do you have a start date I can put in my calendar?” They are getting ready. Some are excited about the burst of momentum it will give them again. Others have half-formed thoughts swimming around their head that they know will become concrete by the end of the four weeks of writing.
The 2020 Writing Challenge, starting on January 24th, will focus on revealing the core language at the heart of your work and your story. I’ve been thinking about the concept of core language for a couple of years now and it’s helped me define and develop my work in a profound way.
I first came across the term in Mark Wolynn’s work. He is the author of It Didn’t Start With You, a book about inherited family trauma and his Core Language Approach method. He says, “The emotionally charged words and sentences we use to describe our symptoms or fears are often connected to traumas in the family history.” They’re like breadcrumbs that lead us to events in our family’s past that nobody wants to talk about. When we can uncover this missing language – the Core Language – and make the link to these traumas, Wolynn says, “it’s like finding the missing piece of the puzzle that lets the whole picture come into view and explains why we feel the way we do.”
I was fascinated by this idea because I’ve always understood language to be a very powerful way in to thinking about something more deeply and finding patterns that are hiding in plain sight. So it struck me that there is core language at the heart of our work too. The language you use in your work is powerful and revealing and if you understand the patterns in it, this core language can form a framework that reveals a deep organisation and coherency in your work and your whole life story.
Much of the work I do with my consulting clients or in story work is pattern recognition. I’ve learned that everyone has deeper patterns waiting to be discovered. And when they are made conscious they reveal signposts to your deepest work; the work only you can do.
The prompts in the 2020 Writing Challenge will lead you through four weeks of discovery and help you reveal the core language patterns in your work. I’ll also be kicking the whole thing off with a masterclass about core language as it relates to our work and our writing.
The Writing Challenge is an opportunity for you to widen your audience, deepen your connection with them, and add to your body of work in a very tangible way. But it is also a sense-making exercise. The whole process will help you make sense of what your work is about, what’s truly unique about it, and what it is precisely that you’re trying to say.
This year’s Writing Challenge is about going deeper into the forces that have shaped you and deeper into the core of your work. My hope for you as a Writing Challenge participant is that you end up writing pieces only you could write.
Struggling to Write
A four-week writing series is the most common challenge I set for people after they consult with me. When you apply the Be Yourself writing techniques I teach and write an email or blog post every day for four weeks it does so many things. It develops your authentic voice and clarifies what it is you want to say. It draws out your personal philosophy. It communicates what is unique about you, your experience and authority. It builds your audience, engages your existing customers, and creates trust. The pieces you write can be used again and again for email autoresponders, as copy for ads, blog posts or even a book. There are very few challenges that can’t be significantly improved by doing a four-week writing challenge. It was a four-week writing challenge that kick started the current incarnation of my business almost seven years ago.
But what I’ve noticed is that while people say, “Yes, that’s exactly what I need to do,” they often struggle to do it. They’re not sure what to write about, they can’t get past the fear of putting their writing out into the world, or they can’t seem to consistently write something new every day for a month. The biggest problem most people have is they spend too much time thinking about what to do and acquiring knowledge and not enough time getting stuck in and doing something.
So I have a challenge for you to kick off 2020 by doing something that will expand your work, your ideas, your audience and your business in ways you couldn’t plan for.
Introducing The 2020 Writing Challenge
I’m inviting you to join me in a four-week writing challenge starting on Friday 24th January 2020. Here’s how the challenge works:
Every weekday for four weeks (we’ll have weekends off) I will guide you through the writing challenge. I’ll send you a writing prompt each morning directing you on what to write about. I’ll join you in the challenge and will write a piece each day that serves as an example of the prompt in action. You can publish your daily pieces on your blog, to your email list or online followers, or you may choose to use them as part of your marketing funnel.
The daily writing prompts I’ll send you are designed to uncover the core language of your work and story, and so, the next layer of your body of work. The prompts are informed by the process I’ve used to uncover the core language of my own work, with each prompt designed to shed light on a pattern in your work or history that may not have been visible to you before. By the end of the 21 days of prompts you will have scratched at the key elements of your core language, and previously undiscovered patterns and gems in your work will have emerged. Your audience will also feel like they have a really good sense of who you are and why you are uniquely placed to tackle the work and topics you do.
You will be required to choose a topic or theme that you would like to explore with your writing. That topic doesn’t have to be specific to your work, it just has to be something you’re curious about and want to explore at a deeper level. It can be directly related to your work or completely unrelated. Themes I have explored in past writing challenges include uncertainty, self-disclosure, story, gentleness, and cultural forces.
When you register for the Writing Challenge you’ll also get an annual membership of the Be Yourself Community (if you’re not already a member). With your membership you’ll get access to the private Be Yourself Community group on Facebook where you can talk to other members who are taking part in the writing challenge as well as ask me any questions you have as you go through the challenge. The Be Yourself Community is filled with insightful and generous people who are committed to putting their real self into their work and are openly sharing their journey in the private Facebook group.
A key part of the Writing Challenge is not just writing something each day but actually having people read it. To get the most value out of the writing challenge you need to have some skin in the game. Having readers makes it real. So whether or not you choose to share your daily writings with your audience, I encourage you to share them in the private Be Yourself Community Facebook Group. In the group we can read each other’s writing, learn from each other and offer feedback and help.
The value in this Writing Challenge is in actually doing the writing. To give you an extra incentive you’ll get a 20-minute call with me if you complete the challenge. If you write each day and also share in the private members Facebook group you’ll get a 20-minute call with me where I’ll critique a piece of your daily writing and answer any questions you have.
A quote I regularly remind myself of is by William H. Murray who said, “The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.” If you commit to the Be Yourself Writing Challenge then at the end of the four weeks you’ll be amazed at what you’ve written, the reaction it has generated and how much powerful content you’ve created in such a short space of time. When I did my first writing series, I wrote 18,260 words in four weeks. The average non-fiction book is around 50,000 words. I couldn’t believe how much I’d written in a month. But this is about more than quantity.
Lots of people tell you to write regular emails, blog posts and social media posts as an effective marketing strategy, but it’s not about just writing anything and contributing to the deafening wall of noise that is the internet on any given day. It’s about being able to say something that’s true and relevant, and that only you can say. Something that matters. If you give yourself to the process you’ll walk away from the Writing Challenge with a body of work that reflects who you are and that moves people.
How Much Time Should You Spend Writing Each Day?
It’s possible to do the Writing Challenge in 30 or 40 minutes a day but I recommend scheduling an hour a day for writing. Do what you need to do to find that hour; it will be the most valuable hour of your day. Get up an hour earlier each day or finish your regular work day an hour earlier and use the final hour of the day for writing. That’s how I did my first writing series. I’d let my ideas percolate through the day and then spend the final hour of the day writing. I’m a night bird so sometimes I stayed up an hour later to write if I needed to. Here’s what I’ve learned: when you make the commitment to yourself, to me and to the rest of the group, you’ll find the time.
It’s worth remembering that writing is not something you have to do sitting behind a desk either. For my last writing series I wrote many of the pieces on the tube; I’ve become very adept at typing on my phone whilst walking through busy tube stations. For some people writing while on the move is the way their brain works best. Writing and exercise go very well together. I’ve been known to go for a run or a walk, let the ‘writing’ flow in my head and then pause when I need to quickly type the words that are spilling forth. So if you’ve got a commute or a regular exercise routine or a daily walk ritual then that’s a perfect time to write.
Years of Progress in Weeks
If you want to get your ideas out there this year, if you want to grow your audience and put yourself into your work, if you want to create a bank of effective and meaningful writing tos use in your marketing, then join me for the four-week Writing Challenge starting on 24th January 2020.
Most challenge participants will write more meaningful, quality copy in this four weeks than they did in all of last year. My guess is you have years of experience, knowledge and wisdom but much of it is still locked inside your head because you haven’t had the time, opportunity or focus to get it out to the world. This is your chance to do that. When you commit to spending four weeks putting it out into the world you experience all of those years of effort finally coming to fruition. The momentum you’ll gain from the writing challenge may very well carry you through the rest of the year.
The Writing Challenge is the most affordable way to hone your writing and storytelling with my help. I’ve intentionally made it very affordable because I want a group of us to get stuck into this together, regardless of what stage you’re at in your work. This kind of writing makes a seismic difference at all stages of your business or work and it costs nothing to implement. It’s time to share your writing with the world.
The Writing Challenge begins on Friday 24th January 2020. Register now.
Bonus: Annual Membership of the Be Yourself Community
When you register for the Writing Challenge you’ll also get an annual membership to the Be Yourself Community (normally $229 or £175+VAT). Your membership includes:
- Access to a Private Facebook group: Get direct access to me and other community members who are out putting their real self into their business and marketing. We’ll support each other as we strive to make an impact on the world around us.
- Monthly AMA (Ask Me Anything): Ask me anything you want and I’ll answer live in the Facebook group. We’ll have real discussions about what really matters when it comes to business and what it takes to get paid for who you really are.
- Regular Conversations That Matter: As I explore ideas for my work I regularly seek out people who are doing things that interest me and I interview them as part of my research. They may have a particular expertise I want to better understand or they might simply be living and working in the kind of way I want to. They may be entrepreneurs, artists and everything in between. What they are not is the usual stream of ‘experts’ you’re normally exposed to in the world of business and marketing. I call the discussions I have with these people The Conversations That Matter. When I do these you’ll get a recording of the conversation. From time to time you’ll also get recordings of me exploring an idea at the cutting edge of my work.
- Worldwide Network: You’ll meet members from near and far who are also committed to conducting their business and marketing as a real human being and telling a story that’s worthy of who they are.
- Be First To Hear About Upcoming Events: You’ll be first to know about any upcoming online and offline events and programs we have. You’ll have first access to any limited events we do.
The Writing Challenge begins on Friday 24th January 2020. Register now.
What People Are Saying About The Writing Challenge:
I appreciated the Be Yourself Writing Challenge for several reasons. I appreciated being in the community that Megan has established. I think a good name for it would be "The Cocoon". It's a safe place to wrap around yourself; a place where reflection and growth can occur. In this environment the daily prompts were skillful in helping me dive deeper into my past experiences. Unarticulated thoughts that had been floating around my head began to crystalize.Stephen Harris
The reward for the modest investment and commitment has been to provide me with insights that have allowed me to start communicating with my audience on a level I couldn’t have achieved before the challenge. I’d heard about the theory and understood it, but I hadn’t committed to actually doing it, the challenge and the group provided me with the drive, the forum to deliver it too, and the feedback and encouragement I needed.Lewis Bacon
I found the use of prompts really inspiring. Each morning I looked at the new prompt and sometimes my heart sank! But however impossible it seemed, I found inspiration would strike, usually in the afternoons when I went for a walk. I found this a powerful approach that challenged my creativity.Chris Sissons
What People Are Saying About Megan’s Work:
John Dyer-Grimes Dyer-Grimes Architects London, UK
We've seen a 50% increase in the level of enquiries through working with Megan. What's been very interesting is the different response we've had from customers. In the past we'd be contacted by clients who were perhaps apprehensive about what it was like to speak to an architect. Through Megan's email sequences we're able to reveal very frank and honest parts of my character, my team, my life experiences. This seems to break down barriers so that potential clients are able to be more forthcoming and trusting as soon as we start talking.
What Megan is really doing is acting as a catalyst to draw your experiences out, and to put that on paper... which is a very difficult thing for a business owner to do. We've thoroughly enjoyed the whole process, it's been very commercially productive for us and we look forward to carrying on working with Megan and her team.
Megan is an incredibly gifted person who knows what makes human beings tick. She “got” me and my ideal customers. More than a marketing expert, Megan is an artist.Christopher West Founder and President The Cor Project Pennsylvania, USA
Megan's work and insight not only help me clarify my message but also helped me understand the fundamentals I needed to know about marketing. She will help you get clear about yourself, your strengths and how to reach your people.Shannon Post Career Coach SPostSolutions
Megan is the Brené Brown of marketing.Perry Marshall Author of 80/20 Sales and Marketing
Since working with Megan I’ve really noticed that my business is now consistently thriving... I’ve got clients on demand basically. I no longer have to worry about where my clients are coming from.Michael Arnold Acupuncture In London