Bedrock for Writers: What You Can’t Help Believe

What and how you write, how long it is, and the medium you choose to use express your ideas in reveal your relationship to your beliefs. Every time you sit down to write is an opportunity for you to use your beliefs to inspire your best work. As part of the human family, we share many truths. How we express them depends on nature and nurture, the family and culture we grow up in, our vision, our personalities, our creative gifts, and how we see our mission.

The Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes believed that truth is what we can’t help believe. People made tools 1.7 million years ago, painted caves and invented the flute 35,000 years ago, and built religious sites 9,000 years ago. Like us, they were born to be free and to create tools to communicate their truths in words, music and art.

Truths I Can’t Help Believe

Seven decades have brought me these irreducible truths:

  • Pain may be an early warning sign. It helps us learn and grow, but most of the time, it only hurts.
  • Injustice and unjustified suffering are obscene.
  • Human needs, fears, desires, and aspirations unite the human family more than money, power, culture, history, resources, religion, and politics divide them.
  • To be born gives one the right to food, clothing, shelter, health care, a healthy environment, freedom, an education that prepares one for the work that’s available, jobs that sustain those who do them, and the chance to develop all of one’s potential. These needs aren’t gifts; they are as essential to the health of a community as they are to the individual. Providing them is a test of government; if it fails, the people must replace it.
  • Systems can’t work. Why?

–They were created imperfectly with compromises, lack of foresight, and by the same committee that was asked to create a horse but produced a camel.

–They can’t encompass or respond well to all of the possibilities they encounter.

–The world is changing faster than they can change the system to cope with it.

–They are run by bureaucrats who try to justify their existence, shift responsibility, and resist change.

–There are people who try to undermine them and take advantage of them.

Increasingly ineffective systems become part of the problems they were created to solve. They magnify our burden, because we have to fix both the problem and the systems, which resist change. What would the founding fathers think about how their inability to end slavery led to the Civil War? How would they respond to the challenges we face?

  • Decisions generate trade-offs, so the challenge is to make the decision with the best set of tradeoffs.
  • Morality is a luxury of peace and prosperity. If people’s identity, beliefs, or well-being is threatened, they will fight to preserve them.
  • Nobody has a monopoly on truth, wisdom, or virtue.
  • Being a multicultural country will be an essential source of strength for our future.
  • Whether in art or politics, it’s easy to mistake technique for content.

The Effect of Technology

The rate at which the technology business is relentlessly transforming civilization is accelerating yet

  • No one understands it
  • No one is in charge of it
  • No one knows where it’s going
  • No one can control it.

But we still have to keep coming to terms with technology at home and at work. Author Ray Kurzweil predicts that by 2045, computing power will be greater than the collective human intellect. What could go wrong with that?

Technology helped bring about the miraculous changes in the Arab Spring that led to the Occupy Movement. But how do we balance technology’s potential for helping to create change with its potential for political and economic control?

The Laws of Power

  • Power corrupts. What individuals and institutions need is enough power to be effective but not enough to be corrupted.
  • Nobody who wants power should be allowed to have it without controls, including time limits.
  • The first job of those with economic and political power is to maintain the status quo so they can keep it. It takes a quarter of a mile for an oil tanker to make a right turn. The larger and older businesses and institutions are, and the larger–and newer the challenges they face–the harder it is for them to respond effectively, even if they want to.
  • The Golden Rule of Politics: He who has the money makes the rules. Contributions force politicians to favor those who provide them, which is why we have the best government money can buy.
  • People and institutions don’t yield power willingly.
  • If a society must choose between order and freedom, it will choose order.

The Greatest Opportunity Writers Have Ever Had

When Mohammed Bouazizi, a fruit vendor, immolated himself in a Tunisian marketplace, he set the world ablaze with the unstoppable urge to do whatever it takes to be free, because being human creates the need for freedom. Part of that freedom is the need to learn and share the truth.

Thanks to freedom and technology–writers of prose and poetry, fiction and nonfiction–have the greatest opportunity writers have ever had to express their truths. In the void left by government, business, and religion, they can use their wisdom, guidance, and inspiration to push humanity in the right direction by helping people to understand what’s in their best interests, and to act on it. Not to do so, in what may become one of the most important years of the century, is to leave the world at the mercy of those whose words and actions benefit themselves, not the human family or the planet.

IBOR: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Two suggestions that will help from Kirk Boyd, a client I met at the conference and author of the regional bestseller, 2048: Humanity’s Written Agreement to Live Together (Berrett-Koehler):

  • Fostering a global consciousness based on what all of us have in common
  • Having an online forum so anyone connected to the Web can express and discuss their ideas with links to different subjects and countries.
  • Having an enforceable International Bill of Rights (IBOR) that’s posted on that you can sign and share. Kirk and I are collaborating on a book about the IBOR.

Another suggestion: Continuing online international groups of representatives, dedicated to the public good, discussing, mediating, and adjudicating issues. Have these discussions streamed live on the Web, so the public can comment and vote on them.

Three Questions That Will Determine Your Future

What’s bedrock for you?

What beliefs sustain you?

What is the best way for you to use your beliefs to serve your readers, your community, and yourself?

Your life will be the answer to these questions. Not to ask them and answer them honestly is to deny the only person and the writer you were born to be.


I will be moderating a panel about writing for change at the San Francisco Writers Conference, and we will be organizing a Writing for Change Conference this year.

I write the blog to help you and me understand writing and publishing. Did I get this post right? Rants, comments, suggestions for changes, questions (or answers) are most appreciated.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference/A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community/February 16-20, 2012/ / [email protected] / /@SFWC/

415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109

San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean/free classes/[email protected]/@SFWritersU

The Royal Flush of Content: Aceing Big Brother—Part 2

In The Royal Flush of Information: Content is Queen, Community is King, Marketing is the Jack, and Passion is the Ten. Control of Content is the Ace.

Perhaps a decade ago, a book described how industries tend to wind up with three dominant players: Ford, Chrysler, GM; Wendy’s, Burger King, MacDonald’s. Blogger, industry maven, and co-director of PublishersLaunch, Mike Shatzkin thinks that the Web will wind up with three major aggregators of content. The candidates: Apple, Google, and Amazon, the potential
Big Brothers.

President Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Robert Reich believes that the largest banks are so big, corrupt, and irresponsible (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/6) that they should be broken up. In a hyper-connected world, information is the coin of the realm. Tech companies don’t care about writers, books, or publishing. Whatever their executives may personally believe, their job is to follow the money wherever it leads, putting profit before any other purpose.

Printed books have been around for 500 years; none of these companies or technologies will be around in 50 years. Giving Big Brothers the right to control access to culture will be a disaster. Now’s the time to end the bromance and split Apple, Google, and Amazon into companies with less power for controlling culture and less potential for becoming more corrupted by that power. Divide the Brothers before they conquer.

BTW: The Joker is the Future, which no one knows, and no one can predict or control. But as techno-visionary Alan Kay famously said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
This is where you come in. Give your readers stories to rave about. Enlarge the possibilities for using technology to tell stories in new ways. Dazzle us with your creativity. We will love you for it, and the joke will be on everyone who rejects your work.

[Formatting anomalies not in draft. Suggestions welcome.]

I write the blog to help us both understand what we need to know about writing, publishing, promotion, and agents. I hope you find it worth reading and sharing. Rants, comments, questions, corrections, and ideas for posts greatly appreciated.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community /February 16-20, 2012 / / [email protected] / / @SFWC / / 415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109

San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / / [email protected] / @SFWritersU


The Royal Flush of Content: The Writer as Queen—Part 1

Went to three conferences last week, which is why you haven’t heard from me.  Storyworld which was about transmedia–telling the same story across different media platforms; the PublishersLaunch conference about E-books; and the New Media Festival. They were all excellent, and I will tell you more about them. But in this post and the next two, my overall
impressions and takeaways with great news for writers.

The accelerating revolution in communication made possible by technology in the hands of the growing number of people around the world is transforming the world. Intel CEO Paul Otellini says that “Computing is undergoing the most remarkable transformation since the inventions of the PC. The innovation of the next decade is going to outstrip the innovation of the last three combined.” By 2020, there will be 15 billion mobile Web-enabled devices. Anywhere, anytime access to all information and entertainment, along with the ability to communicate about content and collaborate on it are a writer’s dream.

Mike Shatzkin, the visionary co-founder of Publishers Launch, writes “The Shatzkin File,” a blog that’s essential reading. Mike believes that the age of top-down broadcasting, whether
it’s four television networks or six publishing conglomerates, is dying. The creation and success of content will be bottom up. Audiences will help create content and share what they love. Content will be Queen.

But because of word of mouse that can go viral, community will be King. Crowdsourcing ideas and responses to your work will help ensure you write what your fans want to read. You will still have to trust your instincts and common sense, and use what works and forget the rest. But your success will depend on your readers’ fingertips and the tips of their tongues. Engaging your community by connecting with them as often and in as many ways as you can will be essential to building your career. Writing helps build community; maintaining your community helps builds a career.

Are you ready for an easy-to-use smart TV that has all of the stations in the world? It was Steve Jobs’ vision, and it’s in the works. Theater attendance is declining, in part because we’re already starting to live with three screens: a computer/tablet, a smart phone, and a television. MTV viewers watch all three simultaneously, so MTV is providing three screens with different content about the same show. Viewers can use split screens if they wish and will soon able to move what’s on one screen to another.

Adapting stories you can tell in movies and on television, computers/tablets, and smartphones as well as in books, games, and three-minute webisodes is the promise of transmedia, and it’s starting to happen. Audiences want great stories, but they use different media to enjoy them. The challenge is to create scalable stories that can be repurposed in as many ways as possible. But you can still write that first draft with a No. 2 Ticonderoga, so have at it!

The rest of the Royal Flush of Information: Marketing will be the Jack, and passion will be the Ten. The Ace? Control of Content. More about that and why all you need is an audience of one in the next post. I’m thinking about the rest of the deck, but the cards are stacked in your favor.

[Formatting anomalies not in draft. Suggestions welcome.]

I write the blog to help us both understand what we need to know about writing, publishing, promotion, and agents. I hope you find it worth reading and sharing. Rants, comments, questions, corrections, and ideas for posts greatly appreciated.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / / [email protected] / / @SFWC / / 415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109 / San
Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / / [email protected] / @SFWritersU

Collaboration: The 7th C to Becoming a Successful Writer in a Hyper-Connected World

Elizabeth and I just got back from two weeks in France, which gave me the chance to read one of the most important bestsellers of this young century: That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum. It provides a comprehensive perspective on America’s four largest problems and how to update our five-step formula for national greatness so we can play the role only America can and for which the world depends on us.

The World at Your Fingertips

One reason the book is essential for writers is its vision of a hyper-connected world. Two billion people are already on the Web, many using the 4.5 billion cell phones for the planet’s 6.8
billion people. Smartphones explode your potential for connecting, creating, and collaborating. They are already transforming the world. You can get online on the top of Mt. Everest. By the end of the decade, most of the people on the planet will have smartphones that will be even more amazing at delivering all media all the time anywhere.

You are writing for a hyper-connected world. This offers you vast opportunities for reaching a growing worldwide audience in as many forms, media, and countries as you wish. To be a successful writer in a hyper-connected world, you need to be a one-person, multimedia, multinational conglomerate. This requires a large continually growing team of collaborators,
online and off. In Part 4 of my six posts on “The 6 Cs for Becoming a Successful Writer in the Digital Age,” I mentioned collaboration in the section on “Contentpreneuring.” But reading That Used to Be Us made me appreciate how essential collaborating is to every part of the writing and publishing process and why its importance will continue to grow. I think we will see more authors, like Friedman and Mandelbaum, collaborate to take advantage of both their combined craft, creativity, and ability to promote their work, and the growing opportunities to profit from it, but most authors will continue to write their books alone.

9 Ways Collaborate on Your Success

Once you finish your manuscript or proposal, the rest of the process requires collaborating with

  • early readers, a critique group, or a freelance editor
  • an agent, if you use one, on prepping and selling your book
  • an editor on preparing, publishing, and promoting your book
  • the rest of the house on your book’s success
  • your communities of fans, writers, and publishing professionals on building word of mouth and mouse
  • the media to develop effective appearances
  • co-agents to help you sell the subsidiary rights you keep, such as film and foreign rights that create more opportunities for collaboration
  • pros who can help you develop your book for other media such as apps, if you have electronic rights
  • organizations that can offer you speaking engagements

You and your communities will help each other. You can barter for goods and services, partner with professionals, and hire virtual assistants. Be creative and resourceful in choosing the best people and tools to get a job done. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the challenges, just do your best, and you’ll get better at it, and benefit from your efforts.  Collaborating will be a continual learning process, but the Web has opened a world of possibilities, and I hope you will make the most of them.

(A money-back guarantee: If you read That Used to Be Us and feel I wasted your time, I will happily refund what you pay for it. Just send the receipt and tell me where I went wrong.)

[Formatting anomalies not in draft. Suggestions welcome.]

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community /February 16-20, 2012 / / [email protected] /415-673-0939 / / @SFWC / / 1029 Jones St. / San Francisco, CA 94109 / San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / / [email protected] / @SFWritersU




7 Steps to Monetize Your Social Networking

Marketing whiz Judy Cullins wrote this outstanding post about making social media pay, and I’m delighted that she’s letting me share it with you.

Most people want to know what do first, second, third, and the rest… These steps are based on my seminars, books, and my own social media successes that include 3 interview joint ventures this month, through which I can

  • reach new audiences
  • create bigger sales for my newly launched affiliate program for more than 15 products and books on writing and marketing
  • vastly increase the number of active members in my groups
  • generate just enough book and coaching sales to make me content

Step One. Revitalize and update your website.

That means add a Word Press blog to it. Three months after I did 2 or more blog posts, my website’s ranking soared in Google and in (lower scores are
better). It means optimizing your site frequently, each 3-6 months, with new long tail key words. It means creating a short sales letter for every book or
service you want to market.

Step Two. Make a social media marketing plan.

It should include your money goals, your strategies, your promotion actions, and yes, a schedule to make it all come true.

Step Three. Know where to start. Twitter, FB or LinkedIn?

I’m glad I made most of my mistakes early on in Twitter, such as wasting time and money to get a lot of followers. No more. The better way is not collect followers, fans, or contacts. If you are starting out, join Twitter. Then follow only those professionals who can give you solid marketing information. Forget the masses who may not even want your information. Develop a
relationship with the ones who have gone before you.

Step Four. Join Facebook and get your message out.

Two ways: Write a Welcome page sharing what you can give your fans. Include a short back story to brand yourself, your business and your books.  Include your
most popular books with links to your site where you sell them. I’m updating mine this week! Create a fan page where you can share your blog URLs and
interact with your fans. The names change, but this is the page where you shine. Add new graphics–a book cover, your website, or your own group at
LinkedIn or Face book or Twitter. Put Judy Cullins into the search bars on any of these places to see this marketing in action.

Step Five. Join Linkedin and see your book and service sales increase 5-fold.

Most people join, put up a bare bones profile, then stagnate because they don’t know what or how to do it.  Establish a name for yourself by joining appropriate groups–the ones you can network in and the ones in your non-fiction niche or fiction genre. Read eBooks on LinkedIn Marketing or Monetizing your LinkedIn Profile. Take a seminar to figure how to get more
visibility, credibility, and trust from your target audience.

Step Six. Integrate all of your social media to serve you best.

When I added my Word Press blog to my business website, in three months, my targeted monthly traffic went from 2000 to over 4500 a month to my site. These numbers keep going up. My audience comes mostly from LinkedIn, actually LinkedIn is my 2nd source of traffic behind my website URL because I’m consistent and follow my plan with scheduled writing days alternated with commenting days. My time investment? About an hour a day, since I found out how well this method works.

Step Seven. Stay consistent and give regular tips in the group discussions where you can.

Ask a “stupid” question too to get interactions. Add new groups to network in. And drop those with small numbers or who aren’t active. Why waste a minute on the unlikely audiences who aren’t into your work, your information or your personality? Establish yourself as a thought leader.

Form your own LinkedIn group. Spread your ideas. When you build a successful community, your members of the community itself will do the work required to grow the site, generate content and expand your business further. For example, my writing and marketing group grew from 50 2 years ago to more than 2400 as of July 2011. How did that happen? I followed these steps, have a knack for seeing opportunities online, and I know how to write powerful promotion copy.  These insights, strategies, and actions are what I show
my coaching clients in a 30-minute strategy phone session with my “Walk About” for each social media venue.

For more information about Judy’s resources, see


Book Coach Judy Cullins helps you transform your book idea into a helpful, entertaining, and engaging book. Now you can get far more visibility and credibility for your business. Author of 13 business books include “How to Write your eBook or Other Short Book-Fast!,” and “LinkedIn Marketing: 8 Best Tactics to Build Book and Business Sales.”

Get fresh, useful free weekly publications on book writing, self publishing, and online marketing at

[email protected]


The goal of the blog is to help us both understand what we need to know about writing, publishing, promotion, and agents. I hope you find it worth reading and sharing.

Rants, comments, questions, and corrections greatly appreciated.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / / [email protected] / / @SFWC / / 415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109 / San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / / [email protected] / @SFWritersU

[Please excuse the formatting anomalies which are not in the draft.]


From Content to Contentpreneuring: 6 Cs for Becoming a Successful Writer in the Digital Age—Part 4

The first three words in The 6 Cs for Becoming a Successful Writer in the Digital Age are Content, Clarity, and Communication. The fourth word is Contentpreneuring, and there are four aspects to it: Service, Knowledge, Technology, and Contentpreneuring.


Unless we give what we have to others, what we know and value will be irrevocably and utterly gone.

–The editors of Conari Press in The Practice of Kindness

To get people to know, like, and trust you, online and off, you have to serve, not sell. The more effectively you devote your life to serving your communities, the better they’ll serve you. As author and speaker Zig Ziglar says: “You can have everything you want out of life, if you help enough other people get what they want out of life.”

As a writer, you are the most important person in the publishing process because you make it go. Readers are the second most important people, because they keep it going.


To take advantage of the opportunities waiting for you, you have to know more and do more than ever:

  • You have to be an expert on your subject or the kind of book you’re writing.
  • You have to have a positive but realistic perspective about publishing and its future that balances the challenges and opportunities.
  • If you want an agent, you have to understand what they do and how they work.

The more you learn, the more you can earn, and you have access to an astonishing array of free resources for learning what you need to know and making learning a life-long quest without leaving your desk.


There’s a famous New Yorker cartoon showing two dogs sitting in front of a computer, and one is saying to the other: “On the Internet, nobody knows if you’re a dog.” Unless you’re using Skype, but they will know quickly whether you know how to use the Web.

Technology is forcing writers to reinvent themselves as contentpreneurs. The Web is as important to writers as oxygen or electricity. You have to know how to make use of the greatest gift to writers since the printing press for writing, sharing, and promoting your work, and building and maintaining your communities. Use techies when you need to, but keep maximizing the amazing power of technology to help you with every aspect of your work.


You have to be a contentpreneur

  • by making your content scalable from a tweet to a book and your promotion scalable from a one-line pitch to a one-hour radio interview
  • by making your laptop and your smartphone your office so you can work anywhere
  • by producing a steady stream of work for free and for fees that maximizes your pleasure, income, and visibility
  • by finding ideas you can re-purpose in as many forms, media, and countries as possible
  • by building communities of web-enabled, project-based teams of collaborators–interns, professionals, and virtual assistants–with whom you can develop and market transmedia products and services such as apps, videos, audios, video games, merchandise, classes, and information products
  • by learning how to run your small business. There’s a cartoon showing two guys sitting in a bar talking, and one of them is saying to the other: “Since I started freelancing full time, I’ve made quite a few sales…my house, my car, my furniture.” If you don’t want to be like him, you have to take entrepreneurial responsibility for the quality, promotion, and sales of your work.
  • by anticipating trends and being flexible and resourceful in figuring out how to solve problems and take advantage of new opportunities
  • by learning to kiss change on the lips. Embrace accelerating change as the chance to create ideas, publicity, sources of income, ways to improve how you work, and renew your sense of mission.

Next: the fifth c word in The C Model for Becoming a Successful Writer in the Digital Age–commitment.

The goal of the blog is to help you understand writing, publishing, promotion, and agents. Rants, comments, questions, and corrections are greatly appreciated.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / / [email protected] / / @SFWC / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109 / / 415-673-0939 / San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / / [email protected] / @SFWritersU