Crowns, Flamingos & Writing Rituals
Two “magic beans” catapulted my growth like Jack’s beanstalk this year. Though they needed a lot of nurturing to take root, I’m confident you can excel in 2023 by planting the same ones.
Back in January, I was privy to the most Canadian gender reveal ever.
It was mid-Winter, and my entire family was “up north” a couple of hours outside Montreal, where people skate, snowmobile, and cross-country ski across frozen lakes.
My sister gathered everyone around the lake-turned-skating-rink, her husband took a slapshot, and a hockey puck exploded with blue powder. Everyone cheered. My mom cried. My dad was confused.
Fast forward eleven months and my nephew turned six months old today. By fluke, my entire family was together in the same winter wonderland to celebrate.
When I realized we went from “let’s hear it for the boy!” to “happy six-months!” between January and December, I was in awe of how much growth can take place in a year.
That’s when it hit me 2022 was my first full year of solopreneurship (I quit my job in September 2021). When I think about how much I’ve grown in that time, I’m equally astounded (okay, maybe not equally—but you get the gist).
There are two “magic beans” that catapulted my growth like Jack’s beanstalk. Though they needed a lot of nurturing to take root, I’m confident you can excel in 2023 if you plant and nurture the same two beans.
1. Create a Writing Ritual
Today marks a sixty-four-week publishing streak for this newsletter.
What started as a course assignment quickly became the drumbeat of my development as a solopreneur. My newsletter has been both my weekly reflection prompt and a picture window to share my journey with you.
Here are three reasons why I encourage you to develop a writing ritual in 2023:
You’ll become more articulate. The practice of refining my thoughts through writing and editing has made me more articulate in every aspect of my work.
You’ll get better at processing your thoughts. Publishing weekly has been a forcing function to converge on my biggest takeaways each week.
You’ll feel calmer. Writing is a form of meditation. It’s an opportunity to process a jumble of thoughts into a cohesive whole and create space for new thoughts to emerge with clarity.
Most importantly, you’ll raise your standards for reading and writing. When you start writing consistently, you get better at distinguishing good writing from bad writing. The more you devour good writing, the better you’ll write.
Here’s a classic example of how writing has raised my standards for what constitutes good writing: I wanted to gift my nephew a book he would treasure for his first Christmas. A quick online search yielded a number of best sellers, but most of them were terribly written.
Even after consulting a few new-parent friends, most of them said the popular books they bought—including the series by talk show host Jimmy Fallon—are among the worst purchases they’ve ever made. One friend even admitted she was embarrassed to find out how bad they were after gifting them to another friend based solely on the fact that “everyone has them.”
“There is no moral to this story. There’s no like, ‘Hey, don’t be a bully.’ The only thing is the secret agenda for the baby to say ‘dada.’ It’s a little sad but it’s what dads want,” he said.
—Jimmy Fallon quoted by a Toronto Star writer
Determined to find a good book for my nephew, I eventually found one I could personalize. The company’s mission is to “celebrate the uniqueness of each child” and that was a bonus in my book (no pun intended).
Here’s a glimpse of it with an accompanying ornament to which you can add the baby’s photo on the opposite side:
The more you write, the more you’re able to gift others—children and adults—with good books (not the crappy ones masquerading as good ones). But the question is, how do you get started with a writing ritual?
How to Get Started
I encourage you to start whatever ritual ignites a spark in you. I use the term ‘ritual’ versus ‘habit’ because rituals signal more depth and fulfillment. For example, my morning writing ritual entails hot coffee, and a calm and cozy set up next to big windows overlooking the nature beyond them. It’s an experience I look forward to, not something I have to do.
If you’re unsure of where to start, I would try writing a newsletter on Substack.
Why Might a Newsletter be a Good Option?
Contrary to what you might think (particularly based on my newsletter, as I tend to ramble), a newsletter doesn’t have to be long. Some of the best writers I know refer to their newsletters as “digital postcards.” They try to confine each edition to the equivalent of a mobile phone screen. Then they hyperlink text to additional content they want to plug without extending their word count (ex. a standalone article they wrote or something else they wish to share).
I gained a lot more from writing a weekly newsletter over the past sixty-four weeks than I did from sharing fragmented thoughts in short posts on LinkedIn and Twitter. Mainly because long-form writing prompts deeper reflections.
By contrast, you’re probably not as concise in a newsletter as you would be on Twitter or LinkedIn. But personally, I feel deeper connections to writers and ideas by reading newsletters than I do social media posts.
Substack is free and simple to use. Unlike other newsletter platforms, you won’t get distracted by features you don’t need (assuming your primary focus is to write), other Substack users can recommend your newsletter to help you grow your subscriber list, and my favourite aspect is people can like and comment on your posts.
In addition to encouraging readers to ask questions and share feedback publicly—which is a win-win—Substack is more inviting as it showcases previous newsletters on your publication page. It creates a lively community vibe around your newsletter versus the cold, lifeless archive vibe I get from other platforms.
How to Set Yourself Up For Success
Here’s how you can rapidly start publishing a newsletter:
Form an accountability pod with 3+ writer friends. I say 3 because with 1-2 people, there’s a greater risk of your pod being derailed by someone slacking.
Pick a day to publish each week and commit to publishing at least 5 editions. It takes 30 days to cement behaviour change so give yourself a fair chance at making your ritual stick. Also, get everyone to commit to publishing on the same day to help you stay accountable.
Pick 1-2 newsletters you want to emulate. It can be difficult to start from a blank page. So find a format you like and try to recreate it with content of your own. Think of it as an experiment to help you find your style.
Commit to writing about a topic. Pick one focus area so you don’t get stuck overthinking what to write about. If you find it hard to stick with the topic, you can pivot until you find the right focus.
Schedule sacred hours to write and edit. Once you decide on your publishing cadence, you need to work backwards to figure out how you’ll honour it. That means carving out blocks in your schedule to get your writing and editing done.
Set aside 30-60 minutes on publishing days to engage with your pod members’ posts. Read each post and share feedback privately in your pod group chat. Be specific about what a writer did well and what they could do (or avoid doing) to make future editions even better. This will make you a better self-editor and prompt reciprocal feedback.
You can also like the public post and paste positive feedback as a comment. This helps kickstart engagement and increases the likelihood of others doing the same for you.
If you start a Substack newsletter, feel free to hit reply with the link once it’s up and running. I will gladly support you with as much engagement as possible.
2. Crown Yourself First
One of the funniest things my sister told me about having a baby was her reaction to hearing a nurse say “it’s time to go see mommy” for the first time. Despite nine months of carrying a child, every mom I know has attested to the surrealness of realizing “I’m mommy” once their baby is born.
It reminds me of the FRIENDS episode where Ross becomes a dad for the first time. Even Dr. Know-It-All needs coaxing that everything will be alright when it’s time to head to the hospital.
Becoming a parent is possibly the best metaphor for making any big change in your life. Take solopreneurship for example. I shared in a previous newsletter how I was timid about referring to myself as an entrepreneur throughout my first year of self-employment. Because after many years of aspiring to quit my job and become an entrepreneur, it felt surreal to finally be doing it. But I was.
Ironically, once I found the confidence to crown myself as an “entrepreneur,” I was more emboldened to act like one. That in turn made me feel more aligned with the title.
My New Philosophy
Here’s an image that sums up my new philosophy about gaining confidence to make major changes in life. It’s a photo of a flamingo wearing a crown, and to me, it represents the idea of crowning yourself with a title before you feel ready to own it. Hence why the flamingo is standing on one leg.
When you crown yourself first, you’re making a declaration about the new you. Whether you’re becoming a writer, solopreneur, course creator, or any number of other things, you have to make the internal identity shift in order to conduct yourself differently. That in turn forces others to see you differently.
By embracing the flamingo philosophy you can start with one foot on the ground as you get comfortable wearing your new crown. You don’t have to have everything figured out and be as solid as a football player ready to fend off a tackle. You can ease into the new you with a slow and steady grace (ex. a new writing ritual).
The main thing to keep in mind is you’re stunting your development if you wait around hoping to be recognized. Take the initiative to crown yourself first.
My challenge to you is, what crown can you give yourself in 2023 to amplify your progress toward a dream you’re chasing?
Thank You & Happy New Year
Thank you for being an early supporter of my writing and solopreneur adventures.
I appreciate every like, comment, and heartfelt reply more than you know. I’m grateful to count so many cool, interesting people in my corner and I love that my weekly writing ritual keeps me connected to friends around the world.
One of my biggest highlights this year has been meeting some of you in person. Whether you’re a fellow Montrealer I’m lucky enough to hang out with regularly, or one of the gems passing through our quaint little city—shoutout to Gwyn and Janahan below—it’s been incredible to deepen our relationships by making the shift from online to real-life friends.
I look forward to meeting more of you in 2023. Until then, wishing you a healthy and happy start to the new year.
Have a wonder-full week.
All the best,
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