One of the most fulfilling projects I’ve worked on over the last year was designing my friend Gala Darling’s first book, Radical Self Love. This is close to my heart because I met Gala online 13 years ago and even back then, she was fanatical about writing. Her dream was to become a published author but it took years of behind-the-scenes hard work to make it a reality.
A few years ago, I designed Gala’s first book proposal and when things didn’t work out, we were both crushed. But, she persevered and never lost sight of her goal. Now, it’s clear to see that everything worked out as it was meant to be — her book just debuted on Amazon’s Movers and Shakers list and the pre-sale alone has already sold hundreds of copies. Gala’s journey is a great reminder that overnight success is rare but if you stick with what you believe in, amazing things can (and will!) happen. We just sat down for an interview that I hope will help you stay motivated and focused on making your own dreams a reality. Enjoy!
A lot of us have big ideas for projects but as they wear on, staying motivated and on-task can be difficult. How were you able to remain focused on a project that was years in the making?
As a little girl, I’d sit at the kitchen table writing stories, then staple them together, draw a cover (barcode included) and imagine what it would like to be published. Authors were my heroes: I spent hours at the library with my father every Saturday, and I was constantly working through a huge stack of books. Writing a book has always been my big dream.
This book evolved a lot. It started as a monthly serial — I’d send out the chapters as they were completed — and a couple of years after it was done, I realised I had a whole book sitting right there. I had a meeting with a big publishing company, but they didn’t really “get it”, and my agent told me it was a hard time to sell a self-help book. I was extremely disappointed, but I can see that it was all perfect. I’m so glad I didn’t publish the book in that incarnation or at that time!
Over the last couple of years, technology has changed so much, and has put the power to produce back into the hands of the creators. It’s incredible. There are no gatekeepers anymore. You don’t have to wait to be chosen: you can create your own Youtube show, publish your own book, record your own radio show.
I was able to stay focussed on publishing my book because even though I experienced some crushing disappointment, I had a burning desire to get it done. Once I saw that a few women I knew had self-published (with great results), I was inspired to give it a try. I wrote the original manuscript for this book in 2009, so this is definitely not an “overnight success” story — it has taken six years to get to this point!
For me, it was essential to break the project down into stages. I did my edits, then hired an editor to go through it again. I researched book design, then hired you to make the book beautiful. I hired a photographer to shoot the cover, and so on and so on. This has been such a massive learning experience for me — I never knew how many small details would become so big and important!
If you have a dream, I encourage you to pursue it with gusto! You only get one life: you should create and do EVERYTHING that you want to. And if your dream has lost its lustre? Go back to the drawing board. Spend some time alone, contemplating it. You may have outgrown your dream, or it may have evolved. Or maybe you just need some outside perspective. Ultimately, if you really want to make it happen, you will.
With some projects, not everyone is going to get what we’re doing — and that can be hard to deal with. What are your suggestions for dealing with negativity?
Exactly. In my situation, I was crushed when that meeting with a publisher was a bust! Honestly, I wish I could say I bounced back from that quickly, but I didn’t. It took me another two years to re-write my book proposal, and when I did, my agent told me it was too hard a sell. I was so frustrated, but then I looked around at the people who were self-publishing and decided to give it a shot. I’m so glad I did!
There are always going to be ups and downs with any creative project. Remember that people’s opinions only have as much weight as you give them. My agent told me she couldn’t sell my book… But when I pre-launched it on Amazon, it went to #1 on the Amazon Movers and Shakers charts.
Know what you’re trying to achieve and why. When you know your “why”, it becomes so much easier. In my case, as much as writing this book is a dream come true for me, the thing that kept me going was knowing that this book would change women’s lives. I knew that if it got into the hands of a woman who really needed it, it could encourage her to get help with her eating disorder, it might inspire her to leave a bad relationship, it would remind her how beautiful she is and how much we need her! You have to have a deeper motive than just stroking your own ego… Tempting as that can be!
As an entrepreneur, why is loving yourself so important? If your confidence is wavering, what are some things you can do?
Ultimately, loving yourself ties into self-respect and how much you value yourself. If you don’t have a healthy sense of appreciation for who you are and the work you’re capable of, it’s all too common to get stuck. You might find yourself constantly going after the wrong kind of clients, refusing to hire an assistant even if you need one (and drowning in work that is not your zone of genius), not knowing how to pull your business out of a plateau, or undercharging for your work. All of those things lead to resentment and burn-out. The bottom line? Radical self love is good for your business!
If you ever doubt your inherent awesomeness, try writing a list of all the things you’ve achieved. It’s so easy to lose sight of the big picture and celebrate all those small triumphs along the way! Even having the courage to strike out on your own as an entrepreneur is so huge, and many of us downplay that (or forget that for most people, being self-employed is too terrifying to contemplate). I promise, once you get started writing down all the things you’ve achieved, you’ll be amazed… And it might even inspire you to increase your rates!
I hope this interview reminds you that no matter how big and scary your dreams may feel, they are possible. Interested in picking up a copy of Gala’s book? It’s on sale starting today and you can grab your copy here. —Shauna