Recently I had the privilege of interviewing author and blogger Jeff Goins. In the space of the last 12 months, Jeff has grown his blog ‘Goins: Writer’ from almost nothing to getting thousands of readers daily. He guest posts for various blogs and periodicals, and recently signed his first book contract. His first book, ‘Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into your Beautiful Life’ (Moody Publishers), will be published later this year.
As someone who is passionate about writing and creativity, I felt he had a lot to offer both myself and you, my readers, on these subjects, so asked him if he’d like to be interviewed, and he graciously accepted.
In this blog post and the next, I’ll be sharing our discussions here. I hope they bless you as much as they have me.
James Prescott: Hey Jeff, its good to see you. Thanks for accepting my invitation
Jeff Goins: Hey James, no problem, my pleasure.
JP: For those who might not have encountered you before, tell us a bit about who you are, what drives you, what you’re passionate about, what you do.
JG: Well I live in Nashville, Tennessee, ‘Music City USA’. I got married about four years ago, and I’ve written my whole life, but only recently, in the last year or so, seriously called myself a writer. That was because of a series of conversations I had with a bunch of friends, and at one point, about a year ago in one particular conversation they really challenged me as to ‘what’s your dream’ and I just said “Well I don’t have a dream, that’s kind of silly” and they said to me that if they were to look at me they would say my dream would be to be a writer. I agreed with them but thought this was a little far fetched.
Then they said to be that I didn’t need to dream about being a writer, that I already was a writer, and just needed to write. That was really powerful , and really set me on this road I’ve been on the last year, of just falling back in love with writing, something I’ve done my whole life.
I felt a calling to do this, and knew I was gifted at it but I was also neglecting it, partially because the results weren’t there, because I wasn’t doing it professionally that I couldn’t call myself a writer.
The irony is that I started to live in this thing that I believed to be true about myself and as a result a lot of affirmation and confirmation surrounded me in the form of a lot of people following my writing, connecting with the content of my blog and eventually this led to me connecting with a publisher and getting a chance to write a book. That’s been the last year.
Beyond that I’ve been working with a non-profit, Christian missionary organisation (called Adventures in Mission, find them here) helping moblise and send missionaries around the world. This last year I’ve been working on people who’ve returned from experiences like that and help them find what’s next in their live and help them apply the life change they’ve experienced on a short-term missions trip.
I’m also working on a book and my wife and I just announced that we are pregnant and expecting in June, so there’s a lot going on, it’s going to be a big year, 2012.
JP: So what’s the book going to be about?
JG: Kind of about what I’ve been doing for the past five years, working with young adults, people who go abroad for as long as a year or as short as a week, people who go do somewhere that’s different. I noticed that people would come back from these kind of experiences and say “I’m wrecked” or “I’m ruined” or “I’m undone”, and usually it had something to do with some kind of experience where they were immersed into poverty for the first time or witnessed some kind of humanitarian injustice.
Whatever it was it was something uncomfortable for them, and the book is kind of about. It’s about why having an experience like that is essential for finding your identity, for discovering your purpose in life. Having an experience that forces you to think of somebody other than yourself is essential to you becoming the person that you were meant to be and then how to navigate through that experience and apply it to the rest of your life.
I’ve seen lots of people mis-apply these experiences where they essentially try to re-live it, or they try to move on too quickly. So they go on a missions trip or serve in the peace corps or whatever and they try to move on with their life, where either they try to recreate that experience or completely dismissing that experience, saying ‘that was then this is now’.
I think we have to learn to live in the tension between coming alive, doing something that made us more alive than we normally feel – because hopefully most of us can relate to that kind of experience – and then you go back to work or the office and life gets boring and can start to feel mundane – so what do you do then? In the book I try to answer that question, I share stories, some from my own experience, things I’ve learned in my life, things that I’m learning and things that other people have learned and things that I’ve learned from observing other people who are living their lives well for other people, and how that’s been fuelled by their faith and how that has impacted their live decisions.
JP: How are you finding the process, challenges and difficulties of writing a book?
JG: It’s a lot different from talking about writing a book. For the first couple of weeks, I had a deadline, and I knew what my average word count per day was in order for me to meet that deadline, and it was something small – like if I wrote five days a week every week, for the next four months, I would have my manuscript. I did that, and wrote 300-500 words every day.
But I was so excited to write my 300-500 words that I would keep going, and I would be getting up earlier to do this, and some days I found I had written about 3000 words, which was a chapter.
I did that for a couple of weeks, and then life caught up with me, I got busy, mainly I got distracted and bored and I wanted to move on to something new. I don’t think this is true for everybody, but it’s true for a certain group of writers like myself, who are so creative and so enamoured with the idea of creating something and sharing it with the world, which is why I love to do that and I love blogging, it’s kind of a thrill. You get to create something and then immediately share it and get a response.
It’s so thrilling that it can become addictive, and there are times when I’ve been addicted to that thrill, and times I need to go and create, and create, and create and then wait, to share it with the world. So a few months into writing the book I just got bored with writing it.
I believed in the message still but nobody was responding to it. I mean literally I was writing this and nobody was reading it. I was writing it and then saving it to my hard drive and then sending a couple of samples to my editor to check I was on the right track.
Occasionally I was sharing it with my wife, and my agent, but that was about it. That’s going to change pretty soon but for the most part it’s been between me and myself, and that’s been unexpectedly hard. I think as writers we often tell ourselves lies, like ‘When I get this big break, or this thing happens, then I’ll do this’, but the reality is if you’re not practicing it every day, it’s not going to happen.
So I was practicing writing every day for my blog, so I knew how to do that. But I wasn’t practicing writing things and not sharing them, and that’s been more difficult than I thought it would be. But it’s been good also, it’s forcing me to craft a message, deliberate over it and wait, and wait and just kind of tweak it – I hate doing this, some people love it.
I have a friend and it took him four years to just massaging the text, so it was ready to be published. I could never do that, I would get bored and move on to something else. I need to work on very short-term projects, but this has been good for me because it’s been teaching me how if you have something that you want to say and it’s meaningful, you probably have to honour that and respect that and spend some time just massaging the message until it’s ready for the world. So I’m thankful for the process but it’s not been easy.
JP: Yes, that’s what I’ve been finding writing a book, it’s kind of evolved from one thing to another thing to another thing. Like you I don’t like writing something then not being able to share it, I want to get it out there, so I definitely appreciate and understand what you’re saying and I think it’s something we all need to learn as creatives.
That’s the end of part one. Part two of this interview will be on the blog in the next few days, where Jeff and I talk about more general struggles and issues relating to creativity. Keep your eyes peeled!
Meantime, Jeff has graciously opened up a great offer for readers of www.JamesPrescott.co.uk. I don’t often do offers, but this is one that I can heartily recommend to you. You can currently get copies of two of his amazing e-books – ‘Every Writers Dream’ and ‘Before your first book – 5 tips to getting published now’ for a combined price of just $2.99 (about £2.00).
Simply use the code “stopstalling” at this link here (scroll down the the bottom of the page and you’ll find the offer – though read the post first!) – just make sure you do before the end of the day on January 27 2012 and you can get two excellent e-books for a bargain price.
I’ve read them myself and can’t recommend them highly enough, especially if you are an aspiring creative or writer – they’ve been a huge help to me in my journey and I’m sure they can have the same impact for you.
If you’re reading this after Jan 27 and have somehow missed the offer deadline, the books will still available for the relatively cheap price of $4.99, (about £3.00) which for two quality e-books isn’t bad at all – and it’s well worth the investment.
You can also download his first e-book, ‘The Writers Manifesto’, for absolutely nothing on his blog – it’s at the top of the page – and it’s another that’s well worth reading.
Part two of my the interview will be online within the next few days and is well worth a read. See you then!
I’m James & I’m a writer & creative passionate about helping people discover their identity. I blog regularly here at www.JamesPrescott.co.uk and I’m a regular guest blogger at bigbible.org.uk and other sites. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.
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