Today I’m interviewing my friend and colleague, Nina Amir, of NinaAmir.com. Nina is a bestselling hybrid author, an award winning blogger and Certified High Performance Coach. Her latest book, Creative Visualization for Writers has just been released, and it’s on an evocative subject: how writers can profit from the tools of creative visualization. I was fascinated to hear how writers can use these tools to enhance their writing, their publishing, and their lives. You’ll love this one. Here’s the video [32:19], and a transcript is below.
Joel: Hi everyone. This is Joel Friedlander from The Book Designer.com. Today, I’ve got a real treat for you. With me today is Nina Amir – a friend, colleague, and a contributing writer on the blog. Nina is also known as the “inspiration to creation coach.” She’s also an Amazon best-selling author, as well as a hybrid author. What that means is she publishes some books with traditional publishers, and other books she publishes herself; a self-publisher. Nina knows both sides of the publishing equation.
She’s also a book and author coach. Nina also created a proprietary author training curriculum for writers and other coaches. Nina founded the National Nonfiction Writing Month, which I had been very happy to participate in for several years, and the Nonfiction Writers’ University. Also, Nina, and you may not know this about her, she is one of only 300 elite Certified High Performance Coaches in the world.
Welcome, Nina, and thanks very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit down and talk today.
Nina: My pleasure. Thank you so much for having me, Joel. Always a pleasure to talk to you.
Joel: Well, that’s great, Nina. I’m glad to hear that. This is going to be a little bit different. I’ve interviewed Nina before, she has interviewed me, and we’re almost always talking about book publishing. We’re going to touch on book publishing today. But, the basis for our interview today is a new book that Nina has coming out. It looks very exciting. It’s called Creative Visualization for Writers.” Do I have that right, Nina? There it is, Creative Visualization for Writers.
I’m very curious about this. I want to tell you a short story before we launch in the interview because it just so happen that a few months ago, I also started working on a book that isn’t exactly about publishing. It’s a book on creativity. Nina and I realized that we were both kind of working on parallel projects although hers is actually out. Mine won’t be out for months. I’m very interested in what Nina has found in her research for writing the book, Creative Visualization for Writers, and how that can help you in your work.
Nina, listen. You sent me this note and I’m really interested in it. We all know that surveys have constantly shown that over 80 percent of people in America would like to write a book someday. That’s a pretty staggering number because the population of the US last time I checked was around 350,000,000 people.
On the other hand, it’s a provable fact that only about 2 percent of people in the US will ever publish a book. What is going on with those numbers, Nina? What has that have to do with creative visualization?
Nina: So, the thing is that a lot of people want to write a book, but they don’t ever take action. The question then becomes, “why don’t they take action?” What’s stopping them? I know we both wrote some blog posts for your blog about mindset, that this is the secret sauce is what’s going on up here. I think that’s what stops the majority of people, is their own negative thoughts, their limiting beliefs, and their habits. They’re just not helping themselves accomplish their goal.
What does that have to do with creative visualization? The majority of people who want to be writers focus on book structure, platform building, writing craft; all these things that seem to be the nuts and bolts of how you become an author. What they fail to do is to consider how their mind can help them accomplish their goal.
That’s where visualization comes in because if you creatively visualize, you’re like consciously daydreaming about what you want to achieve. You’re visualizing it in your head. You’re imagining what it would feel like to achieve your goal. You’re kind of living it in your head.
What happens then is a lot like what happens to athletes. Athletes use creative visualization all the time. Let’s say you have a marathon runner. They want to run this big marathon. They visualize themselves crossing the finish line, but not only that, they visualize themselves at the half way point when they want to quit. Their body is tired. They’re finding it difficult to motivate themselves to keep going. They visualize that as well getting through that and then crossing the finish line.
As they visualize, their mind triggers their muscles in the exact same way as if they were running the race. They’re conditioning themselves to be able to move through the middle point where it’s tough, and then make it to the end.
It’s the same thing for writers. If we visualize our goals, we’re conditioning ourselves to get there. We’re helping our mind, our own conscious mind to negate some of the negative thoughts, limiting beliefs, and instill in us this picture of “I can do it.” The mind doesn’t know the difference, so it helps us. Does that make sense?
Joel: That’s very interesting. Yes, it does make sense. It’s very interesting, particularly the part you mentioned at the end of that limiting beliefs and negative mindsets, however, you phrased that.
I’ve written about mindset also. It’s a really hard topic I find sometimes to write about because it’s kind of amorphous. I wonder whether people really understand what it is that you’re talking about, but I was very much interested in the help that creative visualization could give a writer to overcome limiting beliefs.
I think a lot of people—we often heard about “writer’s block” or writers having trouble, sitting down, staring into blank page or a blank screen, not knowing what to do, putting projects aside sometimes for years at a time. What is the role that creative visualization could play?
I get the fact that—I like that daydreaming idea because it does help me when I see in my own mind the end result of what I’m working on. That’s very powerful, but how could creative visualization help writers overcome their negative self-talk that is kind of endemic to writing when you spend a lot of time alone in a dark room?
Nina: It’s actually endemic to everyone. We all have negative thoughts and limiting beliefs. As you visualize yourself achieving the goal of becoming an author writing your book, you see yourself writing the book, you see yourself finishing the manuscript, you see yourself with a book in hand, you begin to condition the mind that you can do it.
Like I said, those negative thoughts of “it’s too hard,” “I can’t do it,” “I’m not good enough,” “I never complete anything,” “nobody wants to read what I wrote,” you can visualize the opposite of all that. You can visualize the readers holding your book in your hand, the great reviews, all of that, and so it begins to convince you that this is possible. I don’t really know another way to say it.
You can combine it with affirmations. I talk about affirmations in the book as well because it has a lot to do with where you’re focusing your attention. What happens is the majority of people are focused on what they don’t want rather than what they want. That’s where these negative thoughts are coming at you. “I don’t want to fail,” I’m afraid that I’ll fail,” that’s writer’s block. I don’t really believe in writer’s block. I believe in fear. “I’m afraid I’m going to fail,” “I’m afraid I’ll get bad reviews,” “I’m afraid the book won’t sell,”.”it will be a waste of my time and money,” all those things.
When you’re visualizing and affirming, “I can do it,” “I have raving fans,” “my work is valuable and people are willing to pay for it,” and you’re visualizing that happening, you’re reconditioning your mindset.
Joel: That’s very interesting. An affirmation would be for me to say to myself, “Hey, some people may not like my book, but a lot of people will like my book, so why don’t I publish my book for the people who will like it or will get a good response?” Those are affirmations that you’re talking about?
Nina: Exactly. Usually, they’re done— they’re said as if you’ve already created it, but for some people that’s hard, especially those with really low self-confidence. The “I’m doing it” part is helpful, and then when you’re visualizing it, you’re seeing it happening. And so you’re reinforcing that.
Joel: I think that’s really important because I get a lot of feedback from authors. Many authors, as we know, are complete introverts and that’s part of where their writing motivation comes from. They’re on rich and juicy internal world. I get that.
In other words, a lot of authors are reticent to get into publishing. They don’t want to appear in public. They don’t want to hit that “publish” button. They don’t want to publish an article or something because they are afraid of the exposure, or something bad is going to happen. You get that whole “impostor syndrome.” “I’m not really good enough.” There are all these other people who know everything. I know nothing. Poor little me.” All of these things are very self-defeating.
I know there’s a lot more to your book, but I think this is such a rich vein for the writers I talk to who have serious doubts. I see them struggling to overcome the doubt and actually just push that thing out the door. Will creative visualization or what’s in your book help those writers, Nina?
Nina: It will because there’s also more to the book. It’s not just about visualization and affirmation. There’s a self-exploration section, and a goal setting section, and a section on creativity exercises.
I want to go back to the self-exploration part of this. You mention that I’m a Certified High Performance Coach. Why did I bother to do that? I’m already an author coach, a book coach, a blog coach-
Joel: Why did you do that?
Nina: The reason I did it was because what stops most people has to do with their habits. How you think is a habit as well. What I saw was that writers—because that’s the people I deal with most days, writers—writers are stopping themselves. And it’s because they’re not doing the personal development work, the self-exploration to discover their negative thoughts, their limiting beliefs. They’re not clear about what they want, why they’re even writing the book.
I mean if you have that big “why” and it’s important to you, you’re going to do it. But they’re not clear, they have no clarity. They are not courageous. They’re stuck in their fear of “I’m not good enough. Somebody is going to criticize it. It won’t get read,” whatever.
To me, the foundation of this book really is the self-exploration section, which is quite large because I think it’s the personal development. The changing your thoughts, your beliefs, your habits that is going to help people get their books written and end up in that 2 percent that actually publish. We have the 80 percent who say they want to write a book, but only 2 percent ever do it. I want to increase that number.
Joel: Let’s go 2 percent! Come on! You can do it! Publishing is actually fun. One of the other topics I know that you advocate in your book, and I was interested in, is the idea of the “whole brain approach.” I don’t know if a lot of people would really understand what you mean by that. What do you mean by a whole brain approach to writing? Am I doing something wrong? Is all of my brain involved here?
Nina: Yes, your whole brain is involved. That’s the thing that studies have shown that it isn’t just left brain versus right brain. Yes, most of us have one side of the brain that we use more than another. It’s our stronger side. For nonfiction writers, it’s typically their left brain because that’s the analytical side, the linear side. It’s the “language” side. We’re processing all that on the left side. Novelists, on the other hand, probably use their right brain side a fair amount because it’s the creative side, the side with imagination and visualization.
However, what scientists have shown or researchers have shown is that when you do things, so that you’re using both sides of the brain at the same time, you are more creative and more productive.
So, what you can do—and the book is filled with these exercises—is for instance for novelists, instead of just doing a profile or writing a profile of your characters, why not draw them? So that that way you’re activating the right side of your brain at the same time is you’re being analytical on the left side and saying, “This is my character. They were born on this date. This is what they’re like. This is how they look. This is their background.” Instead, you draw a picture. You’re drawing and you’re using the visual side at the same time.
Another thing to do is you can put on music while you write because that’s activating the right side of the brain when you’re using your “language center” on the left side of the brain. It’s an idea of trying to use both sides of the brain even if it’s not exactly while you’re writing. At least you’re doing it when you’re working up to that. It’s a matter of just trying to continually use the whole brain, so it’s a whole brain approach.
Joel: Listen, all of this, I find is very appealing to be honest with you. Like the idea of daydreaming, and that’s a good thing. Hey, I’m into that. I love it although it does sound—creative visualization sounds a lot more like structured or organized daydreaming. Nothing the matter with that, and using the whole brain, I think I do some things like that.
I’m more likely to focus in on my senses. I feel that that brings in other aspects of my brain. For instance, I frequently will use sounds in the environment because I found out many years ago that I could tune out the “monkey mind” thoughts—they’re going on all the time—if I just listen to something else. So, that seems to bring in a whole different way of looking at the world at least in my brain. I don’t know if it would in your brain, but that’s fascinating.
You say there’s a lot of creativity exercises in the book. Why don’t you talk about that a little bit? Can you take an exercise? Can you grow creativity like a muscle like by working out?
Nina: Yes, you actually can. For instance, you were mentioning daydreaming. Daydreaming actually puts your mind in a different state. When you’re daydreaming about a problem let’s say. Solving problems is a creative activity. That’s actually what we’re doing as writers. A lot of the time is we’re solving problems with our writing. What does the character do? How do I answer a question for my readers? If you’re daydreaming about the problem, often a solution will show up.
There are other exercises in the book besides daydreaming and coloring, which a lot of it has to do with coloring. There are a lot of coloring book pages. There are studies that show that if you recline when you write or when you’re working on your computer that you are more creative.
Joel: Oh, really?
Nina: Yes, so I suggest people try reclining, that they try listening to music. There’s a study that shows that people who sit outside the box, literally, outside a box rather than in a box, are more creative. I suggest that if you work in a “boxlike” environment that you sit with your back against the door outside it or just change your location.
Joel: That’s been a very powerful tool for me. Maybe I just stumbled on this stuff over the years, Nina. I don’t know, but I started leaving my home or at my office to do my creative writing. I started doing that years ago just to go to another location. It just became so much easier.
Now, you can try to find lots of reasons for that. Well, I’m not getting pinged or seeing the laundry or the dishes in the sink, but for some reason, your brain just starts acting differently. You have much more access to your own creative potential when you move outside the box. I think that’s great information.
I think creativity exercises is a really fascinating subject because just the idea—most people I think evaluate their creativity like it’s in their DNA or something. “I’m not artistic” or “I don’t know how to take pictures” or maybe, “I don’t know language” like as if it’s something fixed and immutable that can never be changed. But what you’re telling me is that’s not true at all.
Nina: No, it’s not. I was talking to somebody just the other day. They said something that I’ve heard so many times before, and that is that they are waiting for inspiration to hit. It’s like, “I can’t just go to the computer and write. Nothing good will come out. I have to wait till I’m inspired and feel creative.”
The fact is that you have to—writers write. The most productive writers are going to tell you that they sit down everyday and they write. Maybe the first 30 minutes is lousy stuff that they throw away, but they sit down and they write, and in that moment, it’s like a trigger. “This is what I do. I sit down. I write and the words come. It happens” because it’s a trigger for them.
But there are other things that can trigger your creativity. For instance, rituals. We go back again to athletes. Athletes have a lot of rituals. So do actors. They might wear the same socks, put on the same music before they swim. Whatever it is, they have their little rituals.
Writing rituals, this is my favorite creativity exercises. Writing rituals to actually have something you do before you sit down at the desk. Whether it’s a meditation or something you read. You light candles. You say a prayer. You jump up and down. Whatever it is, if that’s what you do every time that is going to trigger your mind to say “It’s time to write.” It makes a huge difference.
Joel: Interesting. I spent about a year writing in my car and that was very similar in a sense. It was just something to do that was different, but the great thing about it was you could drive anywhere that was a nice view and it was fairly quiet. The whole going there, parking the car, getting out the implements, that was the ritual part of that particular writing phase for me.
Nina, you and I are both old enough to remember a very famous book by Shakti Gawain called, Creative Visualization. It was a huge bestseller. It’s probably still a bestseller today. Did you take any inspiration from Shakti Gawain’s book? Would we be able to see that in Creative Visualization for Writers?
Nina: I actually quote her in the beginning, the definition of creative visualization. I actually took a class from her years, and years, and years ago. I met her. I interviewed her, so yes, it was an influence. To be really honest, Joel, calling the book Creative Visualization for Writers was not my idea. I felt a bit intimidated to call it that to be honest because Creative Visualization has been so successful. I happen to know the publisher personally, of the book.
Joel: I wondered if there was like—sometimes you could do that and it’s completely legitimate both for search. Remember that most book retailing sites are basically search engines with products attached. SEO, I mean if there’s a best-selling book and you can ride on the success of that book to some extent to let people who heard about that, but maybe didn’t hear about yours, that’s a really legitimate way. If you start typing in “creative visualization,” it would be nice to see Creative Visualization for Writers pop up.
Joel: Maybe that’s what your publisher was thinking, but since you’re traditionally published on this book, we’ll probably never know. That’s just the way it is.
Nina: The marketing guys were interested in the title as well. I had a conversation with them as well as the publisher. But now, I’m happy about it. To answer your question, yes. There was some inspiration from Creative Visualization that sparked this book.
Actually, the other part, that’s part of this book, is the coloring book trend because I saw that and I saw the people were still publishing books on “coloring books for writers.” Just as on a side, I met my publisher at the BA. I said, “Have you ever thought about doing a coloring book for writers,” and he said, “I was just researching that today.”
Joel: Good timing, Nina.
Nina: Yes, and we both agreed that we didn’t want the book to just be coloring book pages. Writers don’t have time for that. I want it to inspire writers and help them get their books out. That’s what the book does.
Joel: Okay. That leads perfectly to my next question because it seems to me a lot of what we’re talking about here is in like the author mindset that’s a kind of preparation, a way to condition yourself to go through publishing process or writing and publishing your book. Or we’re talking about character development. Or talking about other kinds of efforts that writers put in to create a really good manuscript.
Is there a way that creative visualization would work to help authors once they move in to the publishing process. Obviously, I’m asking that because that’s where I pretty much focus a lot of my attention, is on the publishing process itself. Is there any role there?
Or is it just pre-publication when you’re a writer and you’re sitting there developing your book, and developing the nerve to go out there and publish it, promote it, and be passionate about it?
Nina: There’s a role in every aspect of publishing and the book covers all of that, but I think that it’s-
Joel: Tell us more…
Nina: I think it’s the same thing is what we talked about with the writing. If you’re stuck in the writing process I guess you should say, either visualization is going to help you move through that because you keep showing yourself movies of doing it. Also, it inspires the action that goes with it.
It’s the same with publication. There are a lot of writers who can write, but they don’t think that they can do all the techie stuff, the metadata, design covers, which they should have someone like you designing the covers. You know what I mean? They get stuck at that point. They’re like, “Now, I have a manuscript-
Joel: Writing press releases.
Nina: Press releases, if they want to be traditionally published, the book proposals, everything. Yes. If you’re visualizing yourself doing those things easily, effortlessly, and successfully, you’re again conditioning your mind that you can do it. As you see yourself doing this, you begin to get inspired to take that action. You may even get the sense that, “I need to do this particular thing next.” I think the important part is it’s generating the energy for the action you have to take as well.
Joel: I love that. It reminds me a lot of what I learned on my side from studying internet marketing, which is odd maybe, but I came to something of the same result. What I mean by that is I learned that if you wanted to get a really outstanding result, you could model yourself on other people who are getting results, see what they’re doing.
In that visualization process, you say, “Yes, I can get that exact same result even though it may seem very far away.” Then you break down, “What would it take to get that result?” You say, “You’d have to do X. Then you’d have to do Y.” And then because I’m visualizing myself actually doing it, I see, “It’s not that hard to do X. That’s not a big project. That’s just one step, but if I want to get this unusually great result, I have to take this step then I have to take this step.”
The visualization allows me to see the process and break it down into the steps that I need to take to get that result I want to get. Is that making any sense to you?
Nina: Yes. It makes total sense because #1, that’s why there’s goal setting in this book because you can visualize till Doom’s Day, but if you don’t ever set any goals and take any action nothing is going to happen. Also, there was a study done and I mention it in the book. What I recall about it is that when you go and hear for instance a speaker, or you’re watching videos of online marketers. Whatever it is, or an author giving a speech, it resonates with you in such a way that it helps you move in that direction.
It’s another way of—it’s like their success resonates with you in such a way that you want to take action. You feel that you can and you believe that you can just in the way you were talking about. Then you break it down. With the goal setting, you break it down. “That’s my vision of where I want to go.” See, it’s the road map.
Joel: The road map.
Nina: Your vision is the road map to success because you’re seeing success, and now you have to figure out where are all the stops along the way.
Joel: I love what you’re doing with this book. I will tell you that story I promised before because that’s about my consulting business. I do a lot of consulting with authors. Of all the things I do including designing books, writing blogs, speaking, all that stuff, I get the absolute best feedback from people about the consulting sessions I have with authors.
Here is why it’s not complicated. People send me their stuff, their website, their manuscript, the book cover, whatever it is we’re going to be consulting about, I look at it and they describe their project to me, what I see is them being successful. I see their whole process that they could do this. They could attract an audience. They could find the people to follow. They got the audience. They could build this community. They could launch the book and have tremendous success. I am in the position of giving them a visualization of their own success. People leave these consultations…
It surprised me at first, Nina, because I wasn’t doing it on purpose. It’s just what I was seeing. People would be tremendously inspired. They go away and start working like crazy to meet that vision. I think that this whole idea of visualization is actually a very big idea. It’s not just a little thing you do.
We’re coming to the end of our allotted time. Is there anything you’d like to say about this visualization process or how big it is? How big this actually really is? We’re sitting here talking about developing a good manuscript for a book, but it’s much bigger than that, isn’t it?
Nina: It has to do with every aspect of your life. You want more money, a better relationship, anything at all, visualizing that end result is going to help you get there. It’s going to convince your mind you can do it. It’s going to help you begin to retrain those negative thoughts and limiting beliefs to positive ones and unlimited beliefs. It’s going to energize you to take action.
There are a lot of people out there who are probably going to say, “This is a lot like the law of attraction.” Well, I write about that too because it is, but I don’t believe that you can just visualize and feel yourself having achieved your success, all those things, and just have whatever it is drop in your lap. I do think the more you focus on things, the more you see them. You attract more of it. If you’re focused on you want a blue Toyota, you’re going to see more blue Toyotas out there. It’s just the way it works.
But I think that there’s that action step that has to happen, and that’s why in this book I go from the self-exploration to the vision, to the goal setting, to the creativity exercises, and then to focus. The affirmations and the coloring book pages, which are actually focused on what you want to achieve also. You’re not just coloring some mandala, you’re coloring a book in a bookstore or your fingers on the keyboard because it’s that constant focus on what you want to achieve that’s going to get you there.
I think that’s a missing step for a lot of people. They just think they’re going to write the book, or get a new job, or have a new relationship. It’s way more than that. You have to really want it. You have to have a big reason why you want something and then be focused on it almost to the exclusion of other things. That’s how we succeed. The most successful people will tell you that.
Joel: That sounds right to me, Nina. All the things that I’ve done that actually worked out well followed that basic pattern. You can visualize the goal, and then you have to break it down and see, “What do I have to do on my part to make this happen?” I’m really glad you published this book. Again, it’s Creative Visualization for Writers. It’s got that great cover. I really like this cover. It really pops. What’s the subtitle?
Nina: “An Interactive Guide for Bringing Your Book Ideas and Your Writing Career to Life.”
Joel: Beautiful. You’re going to help many, many writers. I know that has to be a great feeling. I’m going to put links to the book where you can find it below this video. It’s been great talking to you, Nina. I wanted to find out more about what was in the book and your idea about how it would help writers. Now, I have a pretty good idea and I think a lot of writers are going to benefit from this.
Anything else you want to say? Where should people go to find out more about you and your other books and programs?
Nina: Thank you, Joel. They can go to ninaamir.com. There you can click through the writing and publishing, blogging, personal development, any of those things, and you’ll easily find my coaching programs.
Of course, all the books are on Amazon. You can find them at booksbyninaamir.com. It makes it pretty easy to go to my Amazon page. I think that’s it, Joel. I just want to thank you and I can’t wait to see your book on creativity. I’m sure-
Joel: It will be out hopefully. Well, probably it’s going to have a 2017 date on it because we’re just in to that part of the year. But it will be coming around, and maybe then you can interview me. That would be fun too.
Nina: I would.
Joel: Thanks again, Nina Amir, one of the writer’s best friends. All the things you do help writers so much. I really appreciate that. Thanks for taking time out of your day. Thanks for all the viewers who took time out of your day to sit and watch. Again, I’m Joel Friedlander from thebookdesigner.com and I will see you next time.