If you want to convince me, show me the evidence

If you want to convince me, show me the evidence

One of the great things about writing a business book is having the time and space to explore an issue properly. You have something you want to say, or an experience you want to share, and a book allows you to do this in a way that feels 'complete'. It allows you to present a well-rounded argument.

If you're being honest with your readers, your case will be built on a solid foundation of evidence. You won't present an ideological view that you then back up with evidence that supports your case, no matter how tenuous, while conveniently ignoring anything to the contrary. That is the domain of neoliberalsclimate change deniers and anti-vaxxers

Rather, you will use real evidence. But what is 'real' evidence?

In the context of a business book, as opposed to an academic dissertation, there are two main forms of evidence.

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How to ghostwrite a memoir in 7 steps (and 7 years)

How to ghostwrite a memoir in 7 steps (and 7 years)

Regular readers of this blog will have known that Scattered Pearls, a memoir of Sohila Zanjani, co-written with myself was due to hit the bookshelves in Australasia in early April this year. And indeed it did – on April 1, no less. It's incredibly satisfying to have the book out there, especially as it's taken a long time to get to this point.

So how did we get to this point? It's a question I've been asked a few times, and I think it's a good tale that I hope provides some insight into the writing and publication process. (Please forgive the longer than normal post.)

1. Find your subject

Sohila and I had known each other a few years before we started on this project. I had done some work for her as a consultant, and kept in touch via an occasional (paper) newsletter. As I moved the focus of my work to writing, I added the word 'Ghostwriting' to my list of services on said newsletter. Sohila noticed that and gave me a call.

2. Take a punt; make a commitment

We met.

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The power of a 'go to' routine

The power of a 'go to' routine

I've been a self-employed, home-based, full-time writer now for something approaching a decade. Which likely makes the extroverts amongst you a bit jittery. But it's a way of working that suits my particular personality quite nicely, thanks.

I'm often asked how I manage to work at home and not become distracted by other things around the house – housework, hobbies, even just the television. The answer is actually very simple: I have a routine, and I stick to it.

In fact the routine I use is more or less what I've been using ever since the first day I started working from my home office. Back then, I realised that if I was going to make the work-from-home thing work I would have to be disciplined about it – especially as I am someone who generally dislikes routine. From the very first day I was at my desk by 8am and it has been that way (give or take 15 minutes) ever since. 

The routine I use is built around my energy levels.

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Stay on the path and reap the reward ... whenever that may be

Stay on the path and reap the reward ... whenever that may be

Yesterday I received from our publisher a 'uncorrected proof' of a book I've been working on ... working on for the last seven years. Scattered Pearls is a memoir of Iranian-born Sohila Zanjani that I have co-written with her; it will be released in mid-April. The proof is effectively the final book – fully laid out and bound with the final cover. The final version for bookstores will have a glossier cover and include a handful of last-minute corrections.

To hold this book in my hands and flick through its pages is a surreal experience.

It's not the idea of a finished book that is so outlandish – I've worked on many of those now, many in the intervening seven years. It's just that this book has been such a large undertaking, so it's hard to believe that it's DONE.

My point in relaying this is not to suggest that Sohila and I are legends in our own time for having finished this project. Nor is it to create the impression that writing your book will be a herculean effort.

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Relearning the art of focus for greater productivity

Relearning the art of focus for greater productivity

One of my favourite albums of 2015 (and a favourite of many it seems) was by Melbourne artist Courtney Barnett. It also has a ripper title: Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit.

'Sometimes I just sit.' Imagine that.

When did you last just 'sit', as opposed to 'sit thinking' or, more likely, 'sit staring at your phone'?

I tried to do it the other day, while killing some time before picking up my daughter. I left my phone in my pocket, so I succeeded in avoiding that last one, but I found it almost impossible not to have the brain churning over my to-do list while I watched the world go by. 

Perhaps it is the modern malaise that we are destined to be 'always on'.

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'Likes' are worthless. It's time to get real.

'Likes' are worthless. It's time to get real.

By now you’ve probably heard the story of Essena O’Neill, who made headlines after very publicly ‘outing’ herself as having been paid for numerous posts to Instagram, Youtube and other sites. After building up a base of over half a million followers on Instagram – a dream for many Instagrammers young and old – she has now left it all behind.

Essena’s story touched a nerve for many. Even for those of us who are much older, much less attractive and much less likely to attract the attention of potential sponsors, there is something alluring about being ‘liked’ on social media. I count my own Instagram following in the tens rather than thousands, but I still enjoy it when a picture I post gets noticed. I also can’t help but feel a little miffed when another photographer posts what I think is a mediocre image and it is ‘liked’ by hundreds or even thousands.

The problem with all this is that we (by which I mean those of us who have a blog or post to social media sites) have started to equate the level of attention we manage to garner as an end in itself. When – as Essena obviously worked out – it simply isn’t.

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This year, give your seasonal greetings some heart

This year, give your seasonal greetings some heart

The silly season is upon us again. Amongst other things, that means swinging into those annual routines around the office. Dusting off the decorations, planning the parties ... and composing the greeting cards or emails. Now that last task might sound fairly ho-hum, but it is a good example of how even a small amount of thought can make a big difference to your writing.

Most people approach Christmas cards and their kin as mass produced fodder. A pile of cards is circulated; signatures are scrawled in writing that would make a doctor baulk; the cards are fed into mail merged envelopes and sent off. Job done. At the other end, each greeting card is pulled out, glanced at, and slotted onto the venetian blinds.

The effect of this process, whether in cards or emails, is the same as the effect of using words like ‘outcome’ and ‘going forward’: that is, nothing sticks.

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Are you keeping your creative side at arm's length?

Are you keeping your creative side at arm's length?

Last week I found myself sitting through a full day’s worth of corporate presentations, each of them supported by the usual array of PowerPoint slides. And when I say ‘usual’ I really mean it. Amongst the dozen or so presentations, there was not one that stood out in any way. Putting aside the fact that most of the slides broke the cardinal rule of including far too much text, there was simply no evidence of any creativity on display at all.

The speakers themselves were fine. They all seemed comfortable behind the lectern, were properly prepared and presented structured information. They all, thankfully, were conscious of the time.

It’s just that there was nothing vaguely memorable about any of them. 

The myth of the non-creative type

Superficially the reason for this lack of inventiveness could be sheeted home to the fact that most of the presenters were public servants and all worked in a science- or engineering-related field. They were likely the kids who did science and maths at school, not art and music. 

But I’m almost certain that wasn’t the reason for the blandness. The idea that engineering types aren’t capable of being creative is simply wrong.

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5 ways to ensure your company's story lives on

5 ways to ensure your company's story lives on

This year my wife has been studying family history, most recently doing a subject in which she had to collate a series of pictures of her mother at different stages in her life and tell the stories behind the photos. Joan died 16 years ago so my wife was totally reliant on any notes on the photographs along with existing family history, insofar as there is any, and the recollections of surviving members of her mum’s generation and their offspring.

Watching her pull this information together was a good lesson in the importance of keeping notes and records of our lives – in how what seems trivial today could be of deep interest to those who follow us. There were many frustrated hours spent trying to decipher some images – work that could have been avoided had those images been labelled. 

This applies as much to the business context as it does the family one. In fact you could argue that it is even more important in the business context.

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Don't kid yourself. There are no shortcuts to writing a good book.

Don't kid yourself. There are no shortcuts to writing a good book.

They pop up now and again, either in my email inbox (as uninvited guests) or floating around social media. ‘They’ are the latest wonder solution to writing a book. ‘They’ are usually accompanied by a very long sales-pitch website featuring long lists of benefits, numerous glowing testimonials and, right at the bottom, an ‘order now’ button and a money-back guarantee. Either that or a great ‘limited time offer’.

The promise is to help you get a book written, easily and in quick time, by following a secret formula or revealing some other shortcut such as recording yourself speak and having those recordings transcribed. A bit of tweaking and … voila! It’s a wrap!

Unfortunately it is not that simple, and it can’t be. Not if you want to write a good book.

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