This week I welcome AJ Harper to the podcast. AJ is an editor, publishing strategist, and a developmental editor. Previously, AJ was a ghostwriter, and has written dozens of books, some of which are New York Times Bestsellers (but we’ll never know which ones!). AJ left ghostwriting to create the Top Three Book Workshop, and in so doing has helped hundreds of authors write life-changing books. Her forthcoming book, Write a Must-Read will inevitably help innumerable more.
AJ is on the podcast to share about the first book she’s written that has her own name on it. She shares what it was like to rediscover her voice, how vulnerable it was to share life’s work, and where she’s headed next. She tells us about her own struggles with writer’s block and how a shift in her mindset released it.
Join us as we discuss:
01:56 – AJ discovered later in life that her great work is writing however it is more than writing but helping people become the writers they were meant to be.
04:30 – How the War of Art helped her overcome her struggle to finish things and the anxiety it caused.
09:42 – AJ discusses her long-term strategy and how her book fits in with the change she wants to see in the world.
14:19 – Her experiences as a ghostwriter and the importance of understanding who your reader is.
16:35 – Your core message is the foundation of your book, not your slogan or tagline.
22:21 – Don’t become overwhelmed in the process, and you will find that as you are writing one book you may have many more based on your framework.
26:49 – Uncovering what brings AJ joy in her great work.
29:23 – Losing her own voice as a ghostwriter, AJ has recovered her confidence in herself and discovered that demystifying something creates the confidence to move forward.
36:28 – The influence that Dr. Amanda’s book has had on AJ in creating the space to write.
About the Guest:
AJ Harper is an editor and publishing strategist who helps authors write transformational books that enable them to build readership, grow their brand, and make a significant impact on the world. As ghostwriter and as developmental editor, she has worked with hundreds of authors, from newbies to New York Times bestselling authors with millions of books sold. AJ teaches her method in Top Three Book Workshop and the Must-Read Editing Workshop. She is the Head Writing Coach for Heroic Public Speaking, the premier speaker training program created by Michael and Amy Port. She is writing partner to business author, Mike Michalowicz. Together they’ve written nine books, including Profit First. AJ is the author of Write a Must-Read: Craft a Book That Changes Lives–Including Your Own.
You can find her book on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Write-Must-Read-Craft-Changes-Lives_Including/dp/1989603696
About the Host:
Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist, speaker, author and coach changing our perspective on the world of work. It IS possible to do Great Work– launch a successful business, make a scientific discovery, raise a tight-knit family, or manage a global remote team– without sacrificing your health, happiness and relationships.
Amanda is the Author of the forthcoming book, Great Work: Do What Matter Most Without Sacrificing Everything Else, and the creator of the Great Work Journals. Amanda’s TEDx talk has received more than a million views and has been featured on TED’s Ideas blog and Ted Shorts.
Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global.
Sponsored By The Aligned Time Journal
The Unleashing Your Great Work podcast is sponsored by the Aligned Time Journal! The Aligned Time Journal is here to answer the question “But HOW?” How can we figure out what our Great Work is? How can we get started, stay with it, and finish our Great Work so it can go out in the world and have an impact?
Click here to learn more, and try it out for yourself!
For more information about the Unleashing YOUR Great Work podcast or to learn more about Dr. Amanda Crowell, check out my website: amandacrowell.com
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Welcome to unleashing your great work, a podcast about doing the work that matters the most to you. I'm your host, Dr. Amanda Crowell, a cognitive psychologist, coach, and the creator of the great work journals. Every week on this podcast, we are asking the big questions. What is great work? And why does it matter so much to us? What does it take to do more of your great work without sacrificing everything else? And how does the world change when more people are doing more of the work that matters the most to them? So whether your great work is building your own small business, or managing a remote team that a multinational company, you will find insight and answers here.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Welcome everybody to unleashing your great work. I am super excited today because AJ Harper is on my podcast. AJ Harper is the person who helped me take an idea and turn it into a book. My book is coming out very soon, and I would never have been able to do it if it wasn't for AJ. AJ is an editor. And a publishing strategist who helps authors write transformational books that enable them to build readership, grow their brand, and make a significant impact on the world. As a ghostwriter, and as a developmental editor, she's worked with hundreds of authors, from newbies to New York Times bestselling authors with millions of books sold. AJ teaches her method in the top three book workshop, and the must read editing workshop. And she's head writing coach at he wrote public speaking. Welcome to the podcast, AJ,AJ Harper:
Hey, how are ya?Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Good. I really am so excited that you're here. We've been planning this for a long time. So yeah. So tell us AJ what, tell us just a little bit about your great work? Well,AJ Harper:
my great work is writing. But it's actually I discovered later in life, that it's more than writing, it's helping people become the writers they were meant to be. So I love to write, and I am good at it. And it's fun. And it's been very rewarding. But what I've discovered is that helping people figure out how to craft a book is even more rewarding than that. And so I think that's actually my great work. It's a surprise.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. So what is it that stops people from being the author that they want to be?AJ Harper:
Well, so many things, I would say chief among them is a misunderstanding about what makes a person a great author. And it's not a some sort of talent you're born with. It's although that can help. It's really craft and a commitment to that craft. So craft being learning the skill set, that you need to be able to write for a specific genre or person. There are different skill sets required for different types of books. But once you learn them, it demystifies the process and then talent becomes not irrelevant, but it's not the main thing. The main thing is understanding how to craft to get the result you want.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
So would you say then that most people feel like they don't have writing talent? And that's why they're not writing their books.AJ Harper:
Yes. And the other reason? Yes. I mean, most people think they mean that the question I'm asked most often is, who's going to read this book? Why should I bother? This is a common feeling of self doubt. And it honestly doesn't really go away people. You know, I know many really successful authors that wonder those things all the time. It's just getting up and doing it anyway. So that's the second reason people don't become authors, is because they are experiencing what Steven Pressfield calls resistance, and other people call writer's block. And it's really just that feeling of inertia, you know, where you just will not let yourself do it. And most of the time people give into that feeling. And then the book never gets done.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
And it's Have you ever experienced that feeling?AJ Harper:
Yeah, that's, that plagued me for years and years and years. And I write about that in my book, about how I finally solved it. That's why I always recommend The War of Art. I'm sure you're sick of hearing me talk about it. I'm such a super fan, not a stalker promise of Steven Pressfield but I'm before I read his book, The War of Art. It was a constant struggle for me to finish things. And it caused severe anxiety in me So once I read it, I came to understand that that feeling that he calls resistance is ever persistent. It's not something that you have that you're going to fix. And that it wasn't personal. It was, he likens it to gravity is a law of the universe. That's a great mindset shift, because then I don't feel like I'm doing something wrong. And I don't feel bad when I'm having a rough day of writing, I then I developed a system to cure that. But until I did that, I don't think I was able to do my great work. I did my hurry up and finish work, or I missed a ton of ton of deadlines. In fact, I have a little section in my book where I talk about the things that I totally missed. opportunities that I failed to grab, grab by the horns, because because of that issue,Dr. Amanda Crowell:
and yet you have it seems that you have solved it, because you've written a few books. How many books have you written at Harbor?AJ Harper:
So this I've got, I gotta figure this out, because you're the second person to ask me that on these put on the podcast tour? I don't know, I stopped keeping track. But it's dozens. It's got to be maybe even over 100Dr. Amanda Crowell:
over 100 books. Yeah,AJ Harper:
I don't actually know I have to figure it out.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
And you're not 250 years old. You didn't write a book?AJ Harper:
or writing a book? Correct. But a book can be 20,000 words, a book can be 75,000 words. You know, there are all sorts of lengthsDr. Amanda Crowell:
still, but don't diminish it. Because that's a remarkable for somebody to say, Oh, I had all this resistance. And I missed all these deadlines, but then I fixed it. And I wrote 100 100 books is is like quite the accomplishment. I mean, you must have figured this out.AJ Harper:
I have figured it out. But it's still a challenge. And I think that's important to keep it real. Because it's not like I'm sitting here just flying with the little, you know, Snow White little birdies or the Cinderella mice going around and making my life easier. It's not roses, it's really hard. A lot of days, I have to make myself do it. So yes. And still. It's still rough, you know?Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. And this book that you have coming out May 23. Yes. May 24. May 24. Very exciting. This is the first book you've written under your name. Is that true?AJ Harper:
Yep. Number one in 17 years.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
100 bucks in 17 years. So how does that feel?AJ Harper:
It's really scary. And it's given me a new perspective on how my students and my former clients, you know, have felt over the years. When I was a ghostwriter. I would finish a book and I was on three or four more 10 more books before it even came out. So I wasn't even really tracking it very often. I didn't know if it came out. I wasn't paying attention to it. It's the Freelancers life where you're just continually going on to the next project and juggling multiple projects at the same time, which I frankly often didn't do very well. So so I didn't pay very close attention. I was always moving through things. And then of course, there are some books that mean so much to me, even though I'm the co author on it and not the not the author on the cover such as the books I write with Mike McCalla wits are really special to me. So I pay closer attention to when they come out and support them. But honestly, I'm not reading the reviews. We're on to you know, we have one book in final proofread right now and just started. Another one was how we were constantly going. So I never got really intimate with that feeling of Wow, okay, this is my life's work that's going out into the world. It was something I was proud to be part of. But it wasn't my life's work. It was his or other clients. So are working as a developmental editor. I'm really proud of my students and clients. But I don't have anything at stake there. So it's actually really scary. And also it's exciting. Oh, yes, yes.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. So what are you doing? What are you doing to sort of work through that show up for it like what is required of you to do this new level?AJ Harper:
I think it's it's about thinking about a long term strategy and how the book fits in with the change I want to see in the world. So I set consent the scary feelings aside, if I think about all the people Well, I want to help. And now we'll be able to help more people because the book exists. And so then that I can cut through any sort of fear that I have, by just thinking about the people I want to help, which is honestly the main message in my book anyway. But how to get a great book done is focusing on the person that you're writing for. SoDr. Amanda Crowell:
let's back up actually tell us about your book.AJ Harper:
So it's right a must read. And as the title is, right, a must read, because I really want people to write better books, I am on a mission. And I know that they can, I really want to make better business card books, and 90 they write a book in 90 days, all of that I don't, I have nothing against people who want to do it. But I think we can do better. And so I'm challenging people to do better. And then hopefully through the book, showing them how. So the book is based on the workshop I teach, which is a program for people who want to write a book that people love, recommend, keep forever, a must read. And in the tenant, the core tenant of that workshop, and the core message of this book, is that a book is not about something, a book is for someone. I'm thinking that mindset shift is critical. And it changes everything. And it also opens a lot of possibilities for authors who are just learning the craft.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Why do you think it changes everything? What what do you where were they where do they go? Like, what's the shift, they'reAJ Harper:
the shift from thinking about this is my idea, my story, my intellectual property, my book, first of all, that sets yourself up for a lot of angst if you're having self doubt. So your inner critic is going to win a lot of the time, when you're putting so much of yourself on the line. When you write in service, you can cut through the inner critic, you know, the noise of the inner critic really quickly, let me just do this for my reader today versus let me write my own story, it actually works to kill that noise, at least for the day. But really, more importantly than that, it shapes the content. So when you write a book for someone, then especially the type of books that I teach people how to write, which are prescriptive nonfiction, any book that helps you make something better, right? Your business, your marriage, your body, your spiritual self, whatever. When you focus on who you are writing the book for, and how to get them from where they are to where they want to be within the pages of the book, that changes everything, it changes, the type of content you include, it changes the order in which you include it, and how you even think about your voice and what's needed. But when we think about our own stuff, we're not really thinking about how it's being received by the reader.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah, so I mentioned it a little bit at the at the outset of the podcast episode. But I, I, he helped me write my book. But what's interesting is most of the people he helps write their book go through her workshop, and I didn't. But I was at a very, very, very advanced reader of the book. And so I feel like I'm in a unique position to say, even if you don't go to the workshop, and you read the book, it can change very much the way that you approach the book. And I just want to share my experience of it. Because I think I came, I think we all sort of come into writing a book with this feeling of like, I have 1 million ideas, and it could be ordered in 1000 iterations, and how do I shove every single insight I've ever had into this book. And I think that my experience of that shift was like from almost like a rudderless kind of, I don't know. And, like, I don't know, like a sea of ideas with no structure into something I was doing. It was suddenly a project that had a purpose and an engine. And the book gives you a structure. And I really think what was remarkable even before he could even get my hands on the book made me wait for him is I went to just a workshop where you talked about core message and promise, yes, even that, can you tell us a little bit about that? Because even that totally blew my mind, mate.AJ Harper:
Thank you. It's so funny, because this comes from my ghost writing days. And I didn't know what I was doing. So let's be really clear here. I started ghost writing books, having never written books. I was a playwright for a really long time. And then I decided to shift to different type of work. Honestly, just because I wanted to be home with my kid. And you know, we all make those type of decisions. So I, I had to learn on the job. It was trial by fire. And at first I would talk to all these people on the phone I was writing for, and they would talk in circles, much like how you're describing. They were in experiencing the same thing you experience. And so I had To come up with a system to streamline this process, so I wasn't spending 10 hours on the phone with them when I could be spending three. So I wasn't looking through 500 pages of their notes, when I could be looking at a more condensed version. If you think about it, we go very fast into writing before we spend much time with book development. And you've got to spend more time in that first part. And the number one thing is identifying who is your reader. And once you do that, you have that clarity, you can craft a core message, which you just mentioned, and a promise. And those three become a filter. So that when you have all that content, you can ask yourself, if it connects to your reader, helps you support your core message, and helps you deliver on the promise to that reader. And if you get a yes on one of those, then you can move forward. Maybe it goes in the book, if you don't get a yes, it goes in a different book, blog or somewhere else. And that alone, just having a filter. Yeah, decide does this go here? Do I just really like it? I want to tell this story, because it's going to illuminate something for my reader, make them feel less alone help explain a teaching point. Okay, good? Or do I just want to just want to share it because I like it? Or would it be more useful in a workshop versus in this book? So these are the questions. But without understanding your core message and promise, then you it's almost impossible to make those decisions.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. What is a core message?AJ Harper:
A core message is the foundation of your book. It's their core truth on which everything hinges. So we make mistakes. And we think the core message is like a slogan, or a tagline. We want it to sound really clever and cute. We confuse it with our title, we confuse it with our promise, an elevator pitch. It's none of those things. It's just the main truth on which everything hinges and in workshop, and in the book, I challenge authors to come up with a transformational core message. Meaning if you hear it on the street in conversation, and you take it in, you could actually change someone's life. So for instance, when I say a book is not about something, a book is for someone, right? Most people will lean in, it's the Lean In factor they want now. Wait, what that's I've heard that before. But if you think about it, if that's all you ever heard from me, you could write a better book. Yeah, that's, and that's the definition of a core message. It's not everything you want to say, which is everything hinges on it. SoDr. Amanda Crowell:
that's your core message, which is a book is not about something, it's for someone. And the promise, then is if you learn everything in the book, something happens to you, or could happen,AJ Harper:
you'll know how to do it, you'll know how to write a must read. But I can't promise you will have a must read done because you're so many variables. Maybe you won't finish, right, you won't publish it, I can promise the best seller, there are too many variables, I can't promise I'll get published too many variables. So the promise, the distinction here is what's the promise that you can give within the pages of the book? Page one, the reader is in one place. What how are they different by the time they turn the last page? And how does that connect to what they want. And then that actually forces you to do two things to craft a realistic promise that you can actually deliver on which is amazing for a reader. And then they want to tell everyone because this works, right? But also it forces you to challenge yourself? How am I going to do this? What other content do I need to be able to make this happen? How can I make this easier? How can I make this more doable, more relatable? So it challenges you to write a better book just by having it and it works beautifully. But you have to get those components around down those three pieces. Yeah, right the filter?Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Well, what's interesting about it is I think about the people I know in your workshop in your writing Sprint's group which I was in, you know, the people who are likely to read your book are often business people, right people who have their own businesses or their own consultancies or coaches or whatever. And I feel like we write so much marketing copy. And so much of marketing a copy is not really about. I mean, I think that one of the problems is a lot of the marketing copy we write are not promises we can keep. Right? It's not like death, right? It's like making totally bombastic, outlandish promises. And I think when you sit down to write a book, where you're saying, Let me teach you something, it's a more intimate relationship. And if you make a promise you can't keep you know it. They know Everyone's like I'm a fraud. And what I love about your promise and talking about the promise being within the pages of the book is it, it actually stops everybody, the reader, but also really the author and say, like, wait, what can actually happen in the pages of a book. And then you're like, Oh, if that's what I need to accomplish, I can do this. It just drag drains, the whole thing of that sort of like, blown out of proportion, feeling we have in marketing copy, and pulls it back into like, I'm in relationship with my reader, they have a problem, I have a solution, I need to tell them in a way that doesn't overwhelm them. And now you know what you're doing. I really is quite transformational. I've tried to write a book, AJ, I have tried to write a book for like, 15 years. And I've gotten I've written probably 17 books worth of blog posts. But I couldn't wrap my head around. This longer form bigger message until you came along.AJ Harper:
I'm so gratified to hear that because your book is amazing. And you should share your core message.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Okay, so my core message is that you can do your great work the way that work that matters the most to you, without sacrificing everything else. Your health, health and happiness and all of that.AJ Harper:
Yeah. And I, I would see you as you you worked on it, and you shared it in writing sprints. And, and you got and you nailed it. You got it. It took you a man to get there. That's true. But it did help you shape the bow. So yes, it's a touchstone. You just keep coming back to these three piece pieces. And then you can course correct, because that's a lot of writing. So we get the first draft down. And then we just have just a slew of edits of just course, correct. Course, correct? course correct. Using reader core messaging promises that touchstone?Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Well, I like what I like about it is it really is like you call it a filter, it's like a very hyper simplifying, it's a tool for hyper simplification. And it's sort of an exciting outcome of that is that you realize you've got not one book, but seven. And when you have seven books that you need to write, you can just let all that stuff sit over there for a minute and write this one, which is really great. IAJ Harper:
mean, well, people like you have a lot of things to say. And then that becomes very hard. You think this is my opus, I'm just gonna do this one time. And the beauty of the work I do is when authors realize, Oh, I'm actually going to be a career author. And they always tell me, I'm just writing this one book. And then after our work together, they say, Ah, I think I think I'm more books. We don't why because they now know, they don't have a, they have a process. They have a framework, it's demystified. And they know what the editing process is like, which is a big question mark for most people. Once you've been through it, you can do it again. Yeah,Dr. Amanda Crowell:
it has been quite the quite the twisty turny road like you think you're done. And then it's like, Okay, now the door opens. And it's a whole other set of edits that you need to do. But, you know, I think that's actually one of the best parts of the experience for me. I wrote the book, it was terrible. And then I got a round of edits, and then it was better. And then I got around of edits. And it was, I was like, this is pretty good. I read this book. And then I got a round of edits. And I was like, what just happened? And then you did a round of edits. And I feel like that round of edits and I don't mean to diminish the people that helped me with all the many rounds of edits before they had, I think, probably a much bigger task of crap to wade through. But I feel like there was, it was like a real partnership. And I'm saying this because I want people to know that by AJs book, read it, write your draft. And then if at all possible, go and work with her. Because she will really help you realize where the engine in the book sputters out a little bit. That's what I felt like I really got from you. You were like, here's where it starts to stall. Here's where it starts to drift. And that's, that was a remarkable experience.AJ Harper:
thing that's come that's us. Yeah, editing. I love editing. It's so much fun. It's a blast. But that's I created a workshop.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. Tell us about the workshop. Well,AJ Harper:
so my main workshop is I only take 30 new students a year. It's often cost prohibitive for most people. And so I wanted to create a six week course, that is more of a masterclass on walking people through the editing method that I created, which is this multiple paths editing method that is designed to make it easier and I was hoping that you know, folks who self publish who might not be able to afford a developmental that are who is the most people don't know they need it. It's the first editor that you should have. That's helping to make sure your book actually works. It's not your copy editor, who is making sure your book is correct in terms of grammar, punctuation, spelling, syntax, all of that. It's the person that's making sure that your book works and you realize your vision for it. Most people don't know they need it. They'll get it with most traditional publishers and some hybrid publishers. But what does self published people do? If they don't have the cash for a developmental editor, I think the method that I use is really based on my own method for the developmental editing and can be learned. So again, try to try to demystify this. So I created a more affordable class where people can go do this self Edit process that I know you read about in the book.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah, so that six week, it's a six week course next week, which is that liveAJ Harper:
masterclass. Yeah. But this masterclass dial, so lots of Live Edit examples. And, you know, everybody working together to try and edit theirDr. Amanda Crowell:
book over six months. Sounds pretty cool, actually.AJ Harper:
Yeah, you know, I want it I love it. It's so fun. And I and I want people to do this important work before they hand it off to a copy editor.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. Okay. So this, I feel like it's a great segue to a question I, I always like to ask, you know, great work. One of the things like yes, it, I mean, yes, it expresses your unique point of view, and you do it in collaboration, it creates a legacy, but it doesn't matter if it doesn't feel good if there's not a lot of joy in it. So I want to hear like, What Why are you doing all of this? Like, what is it about this space that brings you joy?AJ Harper:
Well, I love watching authors find their voice, and start to trust their instincts, it happens over time, and then before they don't even realize it's happening to them. And all of a sudden, they're making choices based on what their reader needs. And I catch them doing it, and then I know they're gonna be okay. And I love getting them to that place where they start to trust their instincts, find their voice, because think of all the good that's going out in the world, especially because all my authors are writing prescriptive nonfiction, trying to help people. So here I am helping people write better books, because then those, their readers are more apt to read it. If it's a good book, they'll read it, their lives will be better. It's just, you know, it's just a cycle of goodness, that's really awesome to be part of. And it brings me great joy, when an author realizes they can do it. It's very emotional, actually. And there are a lot of people who come to my class, or writing sprints, or whatever, and they have just stopped down on old dream. It's a book in a drawer. They've always wanted to be a writer, but they had a bad English teacher, and now they don't think they can. And just seeing that possibility open up for them is really gratifying.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. Oh, I love that so much. That's really great. So he What, what's next for you? What, what do you still have coming for your great work?AJ Harper:
So despite writing all these books, I don't feel I've lived up to my promise as a writer. And a lot of people will say, What are you talking about? You know, because being a writer who can pay the bills is a miracle, honestly. Yeah. So I shouldn't complain about it. But there's this knowing deep inside of me that I have more great work to do. And you know, reading your book actually helped me to think about that in a different way. Because when you're when you're doing stuff you already love to do that brings you joy. Sometimes you forget about this other nagging thing that you know, is part of the story. So I don't think I've actually realized my promise yet as a writer, in terms of the things I want to create. So I help people create but that's actually been on my mind since since reading your book, what's what other aspects of my great work do I need to get out of my drawer?Dr. Amanda Crowell:
What's what's sort of nagging on the edge of your mind? Like, what, what's out there?AJ Harper:
I think, you know, writing this book, it took me a minute to get into it. Because of all the ghost writing, I had lost my own voice. And now that I have it again. Getting that voice out there, I think is important. But also I'd like to get back to fiction. And take what I know now about publishing and writing in general and pull dust off some old ideas that I think I'm capable of writing now. So to go deeper into the work that I love that isn't I'm Not thinking about how it's going to be consumed by students or the business world, right to just get really involved in a piece of art, a piece of work for however long it takes. And honestly, reading your book is the thing that got me thinking you're putting this off, you really need to realize your realize this promise. SoDr. Amanda Crowell:
what kind of stories do you love to tell?AJ Harper:
So I love to tell stories about ons, groups of people, ensemble casts quirky folks, diverse representation. And ultimately, I see a symmetry here stories of personal transformation, which is what I write about in nonfiction too. So I have a number of ideas that I've been, have literally been in a drawer. Wow. And I think I thought of it as separate is something that I would do later. And when you think about what you call great work, that sometimes it's I got confused about great work that people need right now are great work that helps support my family or great work that I really love. But there's this other great work, which is like a contract I made with myself, you know, from a young child about writing books, right? And writing stories. So I think your book is helpful in just reordering the brain into honoring and acknowledging that important great work, even if it seems like it doesn't fit in. This is really true for people who have success in something. If you have success in something this happened to me once before. I gave a ghost writing and everyone thought I was nuts. And I gave it up to do something else. And found great work doing that. And reading your book helped me to say okay, well, what's my priority over and above? What other people think would be make sense? Right?Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Wow. Well, I can't tell you how much that means to me. It's really great to hear that. And I, one of the things I love about great work is that it has movement, that you're doing it now you were doing it when you were you know, in Los Angeles riding at that flower shop or whatever it was on your yellow legal pads. I clearly read that book, like it was the Bible, I just read and read and read so sweet. And there does come a time where what it was remarkable and a miracle and everything you ever wanted. The joy of that is that it opens the next door. You know, like that's why we do it. Otherwise, what are we gonna do? Stop? Yeah,AJ Harper:
yeah. And I think I have more confidence now to approach those projects. Because again, just circling back, it's when you demystify something, that's where you get confidence, demystifying creates confidence. And so now I don't I'm not scared of the publishing industry. I'm not scared of any of that. So I feel like pulling that stuff out of a drawer is easier. And I also like from your book, to just do it because I want to do it not because there's any sort of, you know, commodification happening. Yeah.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. Well, I can't. I can't wait to read it.AJ Harper:
Well, yeah. I mean, it might take me several years, but it'll be fine. Because it'll be something I love. Right? That's yeah.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Well, right. Because now I mean, if you think about, like, what is it? What goes into the kind of great work that you're describing? Right, like you've demystified all of the auxilary. Right. And so now you have the wherewithal to go deep into the art of it.AJ Harper:
Yeah, because we think a book is successful, based on what we see in the movies, or we read about where people talk about best sellers, which can mean any number of things. Yeah. But we really don't know what it means. We don't know how many books that is or how it happens or how books are sold. And I think that that is a deterrent, putting the book out there to not understanding things. And it can be really helpful to just get the facts straight about stuff and just educate yourself because then it doesn't seem like fate, you know, or lucky people. Because it's not it's just persistence and showing up consistently, and trying, trying, trying. It's really it. So makes it easier to say all right, well, let me write this for think that something from nothing and hope people will love it. It's much easier to do that when you know that there's just a basic strategy to follow. And it's not a big question, Mark.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Wow, that's exciting. Yeah. So I think that what it feels to me, like, what happens when there's something we really, really want to do is that we, we sort of surround that thing with mystery and question marks and self doubt and criticism and, and then we use those things we've placed around it for the reason not to do the thing we want to do. And it feels like in the last, whatever it's been, like, 17 years, did you say that you've been ghost writing or whatever. And those 17 years, you've sort of one by one, it's like, picked off the pieces that, you know, were keeping you from really addressing the fact that like, this is what you really want to do. And now you've created the space to go into that thing, and give it the space that because it's not like, it's gonna be easy to do this, or you would have done it already. So I wonder like, what's in that space? Like, what is what are you going to develop who you're going to become like, what space in yourself is going to mature? In order to write these stories? Do you have an idea like, you're like, I didn't even know it could be very in the weeds of writing. Like, it's all for me, I really need to figure out how to do dialogue. I don't even know what it would be. Yeah,AJ Harper:
it's just, I'm not saying this because of your book. Because I'm on your podcast. It's actually doing what you teach us to do. And great work, that's been the missing thing. Oh, honoring the space and honoring that. Work time allowing that because creating a book, there, it's a lot about what the time you just think about it. So it's, you know, writing a little bit every day or whatever your schedule is consistency, but then also allowing stuff to just spin around and spin around and spin around. And that's what your book is helping me to see. Because, you know, people cry when someone tells me, I just quit my job. So I could write my novel for a year, I kind of get scared for them, because they have no idea what publishing is like. And they really, really should keep at least a part time job to keep some income coming in. And then there's the other extreme, where it's me where I'm all the time working and not making space for those stories I want to write Yeah, so I mean, I've made tons of space this year, partially because of your book. So for example, I'm not teaching a second class this year. I'm taking the whole summer. Amazing, and I'm just gonna think about it. But I but I love what you said about the mystery. And this is really important for books. Because if I had written that story that I wanted to write back 20 years ago, when I thought of it, it might not have been a success, because I didn't wouldn't have known about publishing. And, and then I would have thought that was confirmation. That would have been evidence I see this with authors all the time, their first book doesn't do so well. So they decide, oh, well, my mom was where I'm English teacher was right, my inner critic is right. And they move on. And they have all this wasted potential, because they don't understand. So one thing that you did when you were working on your book was you mentioned it earlier, you would just ask me questions all the time. You just take the question mark out, get the answer and move on. I think this is maybe a key thing just demystifying the, what's the world around the thing you want to do? Mm hmm. And then making space to do the thing, which is what you teach?Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. Well, and it sounds like the thing that's gonna mature inside of you, as you learn how to like as you build yourself expertise to be able to do this project is to allow your own wants and desires to take up space in your life. Yes, yeah. And that's hard. Not everybody has that problem. But the people who have it the people like us, it's really, really hard to say, I'm not going to help you. I love you. Please don't be mad at me. Not going to help you. Because I'm going to take this time and I'm going to do this thing that's calling me from the inside. Yeah, and that's going to be awesome.AJ Harper:
Yeah, I mean, I think the combination of not being afraid of the industry anymore, and then having some space that's going to be an unstoppable feeling. I can't wait. Yeah. Yeah. Can't wait. So thanks.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Thank you. mutual admiration society over here. The best kind, all right, well, I want to just tell the whole world that Aj is the best. She really like the way that she thinks about writing these books, makes it feel doable, the way that she supports you while you're doing Get some my favorite ha moments are like, when we're sitting in these like writing sprints, she has a writing sprints community where you can come and write for an hour of twice a day. I only I personally only go to one hour a day. But I guess you have it twice today. And you can just go there and be around people who are writing, which is very, I don't know feel like identity building or like, I'm in a community of writers, you know, you feel fancy for a minute, which is great. helps a lot.AJ Harper:
So fancy in our pajamas. Yeah, well, right. Well, that's howDr. Amanda Crowell:
writers are fancy. So there are fancy Yes. But in those moments, we're able to ask questions of AJ, which really is how I sneakily got tons and tons and tons of her advice was in my writing Sprint's group, and I love how you always keep it really, really real. You'll say, like, I wrote 200 words today, and I'm done. And you know, somebody wrote 100 books, some of which are New York Times bestsellers, and she wrote 200 words, today, you're like, maybe I can do this. And we borrow your understanding of what it takes your belief in us. It's just an amazing, you're an amazing mentor in this space, and I can't recommend you enough. So how can people do all the things they're going to buy? I'm gonna put in the shownotes a link to your book, so they can buy it immediately, and read it. And then what else can they do?AJ Harper:
That's okay. So that's the thing I care about, most honestly, get the book. And if you can't, if it's not in your budget, get it from requested from your local library. I love a library purchase. I just want people to read it. I think that's a good foundation. But otherwise, there's the writer must read that comm website and I didn't really cool thing, where I created a behind the book series and walked people through. It's super meta, and allowed me to give visual examples about how to do some of the things in the book by showing people how I put my book together. Yeah. So definitely go there. And check that out. And if anybody is interested in writing sprints, or workshops at AJ harper.com is where you can find that info. But honestly, the book is there because I want people to have all the knowledge. It's the workshop and above, basically. So it's an affordable way to learn some important things that will help you be a better writer.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. Yes, agreed. wholeheartedly. Well, thank you so much for taking this time to be on the podcast. It means a lot to me. Thank you so much for your Take care.