Skip navigation

It has been five years since I have functioned as a professor of philosophy. For a good while, I thought I might never teach or write again without the carrot stick of “getting tenure.” 

In the field of academia, you have to “publish or perish”—get your work OUT THERE or die. I wondered to myself, “Without a job that pays me to research, write and publish, will I ever write again?” To wit: this is not a wise thing to think about when you’re jobless and utterly burnt out.

I have come to see writing like our circadian rhythm, that internal clock which governs our body’s temperature and the secretion of hormones… something that we cannot mess with for too long without paying a high price. Daily writing, like daily meditation, can help me “treat” an exhaustion in me that getting more sleep simply cannot touch. Still, sometimes it can be hard to get started.

In order to bust out of feeling stuck, I’ve come up with these eight steps to keep myself energized as a writer. I’m constantly editing these steps so please keep me informed about what works for you.

1. Keep a consistent rhythm

Pick a few things to do each day that nurture you…things that you would encourage a child to do in a daily way, i.e., go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time every day. Eat three small meals and two snacks-a-day around the same time (8am,12pm, 4pm, 6pm, 8pm). Sleep 8-10 hours a night. Did you know that Americans are the most sleep-deprived, profit-first people on the planet? That explains why we are adrenalin junkies with addictive tendencies; caff up, work hard, “play” (i.e., consume) hard. How do you think that routine is working for us?

People with seasonal affective disorder—most Pacific North Westerners—have to be especially careful to prevent disturbances in our cycles in order to keep our jobs/livelihood, friends, mates and family members. Long-term disruption to our natural rhythm creates physical, emotional, financial and creative havoc, just ask the sleepless people hooked on The Home Shopping Network. When they wake up the next day, the only thing they’re writing is a check.

2. Know the color of your lobster?

When you put a lobster in a pot of boiling water, it jumps out to preserve its life. You put the same lobster in cold water, turning up the heat gradually, and she stays in there, acclimating to the temperature, until, that is, she boils to death.

I can feel the temperature rising in my pot lately, so I’ve just ordered a bunch of ice-cubes – a week-long vacation, vitamin D supplements, extra coaching, Korean Spa time – to cool things down. Being burnt (out) leaves me utterly empty of good stories to share.

3. Buddy up

When on field trips to The Woodland Park Zoo as a kid, we were told to “pick a buddy and be accountable.” Teaming up with someone offered each one a chance to pay attention to a relationship—you now have another person to keep alive—okay, that might be a little extreme for kindergartners. But, let’s face it, writers are too often loners and as any scary werewolf movie will show you, lone wolves can become freakishly rabid.

To stay well, we have to stay connected. Writers who check-in with someone—preferably an ally—tend to get their work finished and, as a result, they are more likely to get that work published. If you are a people-pleaser like me, you’ll want to “be good” and get a verbal “gold star” from your writing buddy. Ask your pal to do this in writing as well as out loud and you’ll be on the right track.

Partnerships are famously successful when they are focused on one thing that is relevant to both members. For instance, in the workplace, some—especially introverts—resist a team approach to progress and, instead, prefer working with a partner to get things done well and on time.

Connection doesn’t just feel better it promotes collegial morale. In exercise or weight-loss programs, people seem more inclined to get up an hour early rather than hit the snooze button if there’s someone who’ll be counting on them for moral support. In twelve-step groups, people pair up to double their progress when walking together through the shadows of their past. On our own, we rarely unload destructive beliefs that feed into self-harming habits.

4. Squeeze in some “useless” time

There is another kind of rest that is almost as crucial to our well being as sleep and that is being useless—good for nothing and no one. In Chinese philosophy this way of being is called wu-wei or “action-less” or unselfconscious “action.” Non-doing is often necessary when we find ourselves spinning with worry and exhaustion. But, how do we do nothing? I start out by making a list of stuff I like to do that does not improve myself or anyone else (not even my loved ones or the planet). Even the most selfless Mother-Teresa type needs to charge her batteries.

Here’s my list of useless “activities”:

Watch things that make me laugh: Glee, South Park, Family Guy or Daily Show.
Watch my dog rub her back on the grass in serpentine shimmies.
De-clutter (desk, car, house)—seriously, this relaxes me.
Make beauty (wearable art) with my hands and oddly-imaginative design sensibility.
Give myself monthly 1/2-day meditation time.
Soak up ANY sun (as I said above, we in Seattle are bleached of Vitamin D).
Be near or in the water (a Jacuzzi or tub, on a ferry boat or listen to ocean waves)
Stare out a window.
Look up at the sky.
See fun movies with a friend.
Sing along with the great Ella Fitzgerald (et al.).
Read for fun (resist self-improvement books).
Warm up in front of any fire.
Walk in the woods with a friend (preferably one that has, or likes, dogs).

If your body is without a cushion for too long, you’ll get sore, brittle and perhaps feel like you are falling apart, like Humpty Dumpty. And, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but sometimes doctors—even new age healers—can’t put you back together again.

5. Know your triggers

After 20 years of therapy and 24 years of hanging out in some kind of support group, I think I have finally located my triggers that suck my energy:

a. going too long without eating protein;
b. forgetting why I am standing in a super-sized Target or Costco store with over 100 aisles of products manufactured in China;
c. screaming children ramped up on sugar, and;
d. having (or overhearing) conversations with people who think that absolutely every challenge (physical, mental, financial, creative) can be fixed with the right thoughts or positive self-talk. Grrrrrh!

6. Know you don’t have to know it all

Needing to be brilliant as a writer is as practical as needing to have your way at all times. It is a nice idea but it’s not going to happen. Energizing your inner writer—getting her to need to communicate—is an experiment. It’s not like knowing everything and then sharing this wisdom with the world…pedantic writing is NOT good reading.

7. You don’t have to have will power, just willingness

Making inflexible rules about writing is similar to being on a permanent diet. If you start off determined to avoid your favorite binge food by eating a salad for lunch every day, your diet will last approximately three days. At least that’s when I threw out the bowl of lettuce and reached for a gigantic tub of popcorn with a lot of melted, sharp-cheddar cheese on top.

You have to pace yourself—chunk down your writing goal to something small (and put the goal in WRITING). DDRR—> Declare it: commit to doing it (out loud), Do it, (then cross it off your list), Reward yourself and Repeat. If you feel like it, tell your buddy to keep the generative momentum flowing. My own business coach, Molly Gordon, says, “By doing this four-part DDRR routine you’ll be creating new neural pathways!” Plus, trying and fulfilling on what you say you’ll do builds integrity; it feels good to be someone who does what she says she will do. Don’t believe me? Try it.

Science supports my claim here: Humans have a limited amount of will power. It’s like oil. So don’t even try to quit smoking when you’re eating veggies, or abstaining from your one big glass of Chardonnay, or when you’re trying to live more simply by de-cluttering your house…. “Rots of ruck!” as my Mandarin teacher used to say. Instead of setting yourself up to fail with impossible expectations, make your writerly goals measurable and ridiculously easy to complete and don’t forget to celebrate ANY progress along the way.

8. Practice makes it a ritual

I’m not talking about reciting The Stations of the Cross while crawling on your blood-soaked knees. I’m talking about setting your watch for 15-minutes to write non-stop and without a censor. Do this as an experiment. Ask yourself a question related to what you like to write (and learn) and answer that question before the buzzer rings. Do this writing exercise once and then see how you feel. Try doing it everyday for a week if you really want to sink it into your bones.

Let me know if this works to enliven your inner writer. If you’ve experienced some better tricks that work for you, please share them with us here or contact me via my website.

Jennifer Manlowe, PhD, CPC is an author, educator, and Certified Publishing Coach with over 20 years of experience helping people express themselves in ways that bring joy, self-sufficiency, good pay and a sense of contribution. She loves hearing from readers and writers and is eager to support them as they launch their creative work in the world!

Be sure to schedule a 15-minute complimentary phone consultation to see how this kind of coaching works. Make an appointment via telephone: (206) 617-8832 or email:



“The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.” ~ Bertrand Russell

Halloween is my very favorite holiday. The days that follow, All Souls/All Saints Day, are equally celebratory. Still, I wonder why dressing up in various costumes, pretending to be scary monsters, has held such fascination for so many of us? Is it because we get to include what is called our “shadow” or a “disowned self”? Might it have to do with testing out a taboo version of ourselves, one that we’re not quite ready to include in our ordinary lives? Perhaps it’s just fun to play someone other than us for a night (or day). But, most important, what, if anything, does playing have to do with writing?

Playing has everything to do with good-enough writing. If we can’t start, we’ll never finish. Thus, I make writing anything into a game because I have a fairly simple kid within me who likes games and will take on any dare. I’ll say, “Hey, I dare you to write a really crappy version of that assignment you’ve been given (or have given yourself)!” Seriously, without fail, this invitation provokes me to give it a try. Why? Because I can’t fail at producing a really crappy version of anything and I hate to fail. What’s more, if there’s no version to work with, there’s nothing to share with the world (via publishing).

Such tricks (and their inevitable treats that follow) may get even the stuffiest intellectuals down on the ground with paint on their hands. When writing has no more at stake than finger painting, we’re all a bit more willing to throw ourselves into the game of creating. I know; I’ve been using this trick on myself since 1985 (graduate school at Princeton Seminary).

“I can’t write a book commensurate with Shakespeare, but I can write a book by me.” ~ Walter Raleigh, Sr.

Keeping your writing simple isn’t done just for you to get something out and down on paper, it can save your reader a lot of hassles. Consider this: if you cannot say what you mean in one page, you may need more time to keep writing in your journal (or on those pesky scraps of paper). Ask your inner writer, “What am I trying to share with my ‘just right’ reader?”

“Elevator speeches” can help, i.e., can you talk about your book project in the time it takes to go from the 1st floor to the 9th floor of a building? Using such a facile technique doesn’t mean the book will be thin soup for the reader, rather, they’ll have a sense that you’ve been working with a clear head and have a strong sense of where you will be taking them on their reading expedition.

Another trick I’ll use to stay connected to my reader is to keep in mind (as my imaginary audience) an intelligent and curious 8th grader. If I cannot connect with her, hold her attention, interest her, or help her flourish in a way that she’ll understand, then I’ll be missing most readers all together.

As a university professor and an academic writer from 1993-2005, I have developed lots of methods to impress my competition (the few readers of academic journals who love to find logical holes in other people’s arguments). While my skin got thicker every year, I lost my capacity to relate to my ideal readers.

Now, I write to connect, not to impress. My recommendation to you is this: “Have a non-academic friend read your book, preferably a teenager who loves to read. She or he may be your best test-reader and will offer you the most helpful feedback!” Of course, if you want further guidance and even more simple tricks-of-the-trade, give me a call.

Jennifer Manlowe, PhD is an author, educator, writing and publishing coach with over 20 years of experience helping people express themselves in ways that bring joy, self-sufficiency, good pay and a sense of contribution. She loves hearing from readers and writers and is eager to support them as they launch their creative work in the world!

Be sure to schedule a 30-minute complimentary phone consultation to see how this kind of coaching works. Make an appointment via telephone: (206) 617-8832 or email:

On a good day, many of us will find it difficult to bring into reality our dream vocation, our right-livelihood or what some call our “true calling.” But, the majority of us retreat into predictable routines—even preferring the stale office cubicles of our dreadful employer(s) to the unknown—as if these ruts were sacred rituals that could ward off even scarier changes in financially stressful times. It’s as if our inner critic, the energy within that’s determined to keep us small and safe, has access to CNN’s tickertape news. Our thoughts are overworking, 24/7, constantly alerting us to current tragedies and warning us of impending catastrophes. As fears rise, the only voices we seem able to hear—outside of us and in our minds—are reasons to play it safe: “Be warned, now’s a treacherous time to follow your heart” or “Only a fool would risk starting their own business in 2010!”

Whether the pundits are right about there being a recession or not, my work, according to Rudyard Kipling: “[is] to keep my head, especially when all about me are losing theirs.”

Here are some ways I keep, or better yet, “clear” my head:

MEDITATE DAILY: I realize not everyone is going to come aboard with me on this Choo-choo train. But this practice, (sometimes 10-25-minutes in the morning), helps me dump the detritus of my most futile thoughts. This practice is quite a vacation from thinking, really. And, when I’m in fear and worry, I really need a break from my catastrophic thoughts. My favorite techniques for meditation came from learning from my colleague in the mid-1980s, Jon Kabat-Zinn. While I was counseling stressed-out families whose loved-ones just survived heart attacks at U. Mass Medical Center, Kabat-Zinn was teaching these survivors—Type-Triple A-personalities—how to relax and release their obsessive thinking. For “how to” specifics, see Dr. Kabat-Zinn’s link: Mindfulness Practices. I find that even bringing little gaps of “non-thinking” through mindful-breathing can give me a much deeper gift of rest and renewal than gulping down my third iced-mocha.

TRACK HISTORY OF SUCCESSFUL CHANGE: Pretend you’re a scrapbook-aficionado looking through the pages of your life from age 20 until now. How often did you say, “This too shall pass?” Did it? How frequently did the worst things that happened only get worse? Were there times that the unbearably awful seemed to remain permanently awful? Have you ever actually experienced anything or any emotion consistently? Even Christopher Reeve said things shifted drastically after he accepted the pain and pace of his recovery.

EMBRACE CHOICES: This one was the most difficult for me because to receive the gift of freedom I had to be open to seeing my role in its creation. Some people call this being radically self-responsible. But, how can you embrace “choice” in your life today? Whatever you’re tempted to complain about, add the word choice to the front of the sentence. For instance, “I have to go pick up the kids from soccer, take them to baseball practice and then get a root canal.” In place of the words “I have to,” say, “I choose to,” or if you’re really ready to see “shift happen” in a drastic way, say “I get to.” This may sound glib or even sarcastic; but the point is: Be willing to see that you might be the creator of your experience—something we can first start doing by shifting our language from the passive-martyr to the active-artist in our lives. Resist the urge to think you’re not choosing when you decide to resign yourself to your professional rut. Consider who benefits when you quit taking small steps in service of realizing your dreams.

DON’T LET THE PAST TURN TO STONE:When I was on a meditation retreat the other day the instructor said: “Don’t reify your past experience as if it were your present and predictable future.” So often we want to know what’s ahead of us so we can brace ourselves or be the first one to say, “I’m on top of it!” But most of us are just like a dim fog-light on a bicycle at night; we can only see three yards in front of us. If we’re fixated on NOT getting caught off-guard and into another nasty accident—like the last time we got hurt when we were 17—then we’ll never experience what comes up in the moment—hardly Lance Armstrong’s safety strategy. It’s almost impossible to focus on “what’s calling to us here and now” when we’re in a panic about a dastardly past or an even more-frightening future. Try seeing what it would be like to just notice that, in fact, you have everything you need right now to be skillful. As Zen Master Suzuki Roshi asked his students, “Is anything in this moment, right here, really lacking?”

REMAIN OPEN TO CHANGES IN YOURSELF:The other day, I heard Christiane Northrup, one of my favorite medical doctors, speak about midlife-change. She said, “Lots of times, when we ask the universe for clarity, we have to be willing to have our whole house swept clean!” She then said, “Many of us pray for our highest good and don’t even understand what such a request might require of us.” We may need to be willing to go wherever we’re meant to go for life-altering transformation (i.e., toward a less “Me-and-Mine”-centered world). Not that “the Universe” is Nurse Ratched, waiting to teach us how to live without joy—but, you get the picture. Dr. Northrup went onto say that “being willing to go where we’ll grow most often means moving out of our past identity, rigid role, and ego comfort zones.”

Growth doesn’t have to be awful but it does require a willingness to work with whatever comes up and whatever our context demands of us. Ask yourself this question: “Am I willing to be (and do) something other than I used to be (and do)?” Several laws within the world of Quantum Physics—e.g., The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle—prove that when one part of us shifts in our system, all that moves around us gets to shift, too.

ARE YOUR DREAMS OF THE PIPE VARIETY? How do you know that your professional dreams are realistic or right sized? A dream for your life calling is realistic when it fits smoothly into the larger picture of your life. Does your “heart’s calling” further your vision for your life or would it be a great escape—some kind of Tahiti Syndrome? Is it compatible with the other goals and time commitments in your life? Is it flexible enough to allow for the unexpected? If the answer isn’t clear when you ask these questions, another good test whether or not this is “pipe dream,” is to notice how you feel when you state out loud your mission for your right work. What goes on inside you when you see yourself living this fuller life you want to be living?

I say, “Recession or no recession, don’t wait for a better tomorrow to start creating truly enlivening work in the present.” As H.T. Whitman says, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive!” Don’t let resistance to your creative calling win. “Remember,” says Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art, “Hitler wanted to be an artist. Apparently it was easier to start World War II than stare at a blank canvas.”

Jennifer Manlowe, PhD is an author, educator and publishing advisor with over 20 years of experience helping people express themselves in ways that bring joy, self-sufficiency, good pay and a sense of contribution. She loves hearing from readers and writers and is eager to support them as they launch their creative work in the world!

Be sure to schedule a 30-minute complimentary phone consultation to see how this kind of coaching works. Make an appointment via telephone: (206) 617-8832 or email:

“I became famous when I was willing to stop being anonymous.” ~ Sophia Loren

If you’re like me, you don’t have the $15,000 minimum to hire a publicity agent who will do the work you find horrifying – promoting you and your book. You’ve nurtured this manuscript for at least a year and it’s probably been gestating for longer than the traditional nine-months.

When we stay with this metaphor of “birthing” your book, as if it were a baby, we wouldn’t hesitate sharing photos of our new born. But, when it comes to marketing our own work, many of us feel we’d be turning into that slick, sales guy that won’t get off our back when we just want to browse. What if there were another way to get out there?

Here are a few tips to consider if you’re a new author who feels sick to her stomach when she thinks about sharing her latest work.

• Like Sophia Loren, (another shy woman), be willing to give up anonymity. Though a lot of writers are not extroverts, unless you’re expecting to give away (not sell) your book to your friends and family, you’ve got to come out of your shell.

• Be willing to get in front of those “just right” buyers by interviewing them in sections of the bookstores where your book would be placed. In a very relaxed way, tell them you’re conducting research about your audience. Ask if they’d share their favorite authors in this genre, where they shop, what magazines they read, their website, blog, what radio/TV programs they love, etc.

• Create a website (my favorite website builder is Dedicate this site to selling your book and link it to your blog with aspects of your book’s message and philosophy.

• Start selling your ideas via products on your website. Keep it simple and book-related. You can do this through Ezines, newsletters, articles, booklets (often no more than 52 pages). People purchase my products from my website via Some of my friends use

• Find out the name of the book buyers in your favorite local independent or blockbuster bookstores. Ask them if they’d be willing to let you give a reading or have a place on their shelf. Keep on expanding your presence.

• Get visible in multiple arenas that are free to you: local radio, local access TV, local magazines, Chamber of Commerce as well as all relevant business venues in your locale.

• If your book has an inspirational or spiritual agenda, I’m sure your denomination or sites of spiritual affiliation would welcome a presentation, plus back-of-the-room book sales. This will help you share your message and, perhaps, get specific referrals for speaking publicly (for pay) as an author.

• Join relevant business networks and offer a free event — based on your book’s key points. Make them available at the back of the room for a discount. Be sure to have a evaluation form that will give you feedback about your presentation and, most important, further recommendations for future event offerings.

• Build your mailing list and get your book into the hands of those who will give you great testimonials; these can go on the back of your book AND the front of it.

• Use the right key words to reach audience in your electronic promotions; If there’s anything else you want to know about succeeding in your book publishing, marketing and promoting endeavors, please schedule a sample session with me by calling (206) 617-8832 and see my webpage:

About the Author: Jennifer Manlowe (PhD, CPC), founder of Life Design Publishing, is an award-winning author, international speaker, educator, content editor and certified book publishing coach with over 20 years of experience helping people create and publish their book(s).


The above essay by Jennifer Manlowe is “lifted” from her book Getting Into Print, which can be ordered here.

Be sure to schedule a 30-minute complimentary phone consultation to see how this kind of coaching works. Make an appointment via telephone: (206) 617-8832 or email:

“You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.” ~ Mary Manin Morrissey

Fear can be a huge boulder in any writer’s path, preventing her from being able to see that there might be a way to work with, even capitalize on, its universality.

Fear has a way of throwing us off balance, making us feel uncertain and insecure, but it is not meant to discourage us. Its purpose is to notify us that we are at the edge of our comfort zone, poised in between the old life and a new one. Whenever we face our fear, we overcome an inner obstacle and move into new territory, both inside and out.

Many would-be authors let their fears keep them from embracing their writerly possibilities. Which type of fear keeps you from fulfilling your writing goals? Here is just a small sampling (based on my clients’ and my own experiences):

• Fear of change(s)

• Fear of the unknown

• Fear of failing

• Fear of succeeding

• Fear of getting outside the “comfort zone” (those comfortable but stinky slippers)

• Fear of being too old to be relevant or too young to write a memoir

• Fear of being seen as frivolous or vain

• Fear of losing money – no guarantees

• Fear of being broke

• Fear of having to BE AN AUTHOR (“Will I have to pump out books like Stephen King for the rest of my life?”)

• Fear of not having what it takes (discipline, talent, passion)

• Fear of being wrong (too many typos and grammatical errors)

• Fear of not being able to begin (or finish!)

• Fear of humiliation, worries of what friends, family or colleagues will think

• Fear of self-delusion; that your experiment as an author will appear to be grandiose, full of fallacious arguments and factoids

• Fear that it’s all been said before anyway

• Fear of being audacious, “How dare I think I have something unique to say!”

• Fear of no longer having this goal (dream?)

• Fear of lawsuit or of physical retaliation (from those that think you’re REALLY writing about them!); and finally, the biggest fear of them all:

• Fear of being ordinary (just another schmo on the bus).

The point of this list is for us to see that we all have fears! It’s called being conscious. If we don’t feel fear, we may be suffering from PTSD (a kind of numbness born of trauma), or we might be a sociopath — one who has no capacity for empathizing with other living beings. But, my guess, most of us suffer from neither of these troubling conditions.

The majority of us feel fear and wish we didn’t get stopped by this fact of human existence. Well, I’m here to tell you, there’s no way around it, just through it.

I promise you, everybody can find ways to confront and move through their fears. I say to myself and my clients, “Just keep walking!” All dark tunnels have openings.

“I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.” ~ Annie Dillard

While comfort with fear is a contradiction in terms, we can learn to honor our fear, recognizing its arrival, listening to its intelligence, and respecting it as a harbinger of transformation. Indeed, it informs us that what we are doing (or about to do) is significant.

When we work with, or befriend our fears, we can take the focus off resisting them, (the main reason we’re all so exhausted, let’s face it), and commit to our readers. After we have made the mental commitment to completing our book or other writing, we will have evidence — in our hands — that fears can be walked through, perhaps even worked through, at least for today.

The decision to write a memoir is a big choice. Sometimes a memoir is written to help others through similar problems that you’ve dealt with successfully, but more often, they’re written just to say, “I have some good stories to tell, they may or may not enlighten or entertain you.”

Any kind of writing journey can be a challenge to navigate alone, and a memoir can have particular challenges. Having another author guide you can make all the difference!

Should you decide to get started on your own, here are some basic tools to support you:

• Some writing ability (or a professional ghost writer – something that I can be for you)
• Patience

• Word processing software

• A copyright

• Good publishing software
(if you are publishing it yourself)

• Someone to proofread it and give her honest & constructive opinion

• Photos, letters or drawings to add to your book for extra interest

• A bevy of memories to recall

What’s helped many writers to jog their memory is to keep a small recorder or a pad of paper and pen with them at all times to record a flash from the past. Even a few words will work – no need to write the whole story at this time. Save it for your morning exercises (10” a day of writing, what I call the daily data dump).

As a memoir author, you can get ideas by listening to some of favorite music from your past. Look at old photographs, magazines, movies, newspapers, or other periodicals of those decades-in-time. Your local library may have access to these vehicles.

Don’t forget to ask family members, friends and other people involved in your life (at different times) what they remember about you.

If you’re a little worried about having your stories stolen, speak with a copyright attorney (I know several). Too, they can help you determine if there are any facts that may be considered libelous.

Be prepared to be honest about your actions, thoughts, feelings and anything that happened to you or within your family. Make sure your emotions come through in your memories. People identify with your vulnerability not your triumphal or teacherly/preacherly orientation (my early lessons in this regard can save you oodles of time).

My strongest recommendation for would-be memoirists, don’t hesitate to get started today. Give me a call and we can see what’s possible as a team. Too many people wait until it’s too late.

Know that I got into this kind of coaching when a 40-year-old friend of mine on her death-bed told me that her only regret was not writing a collection of life-lessons for her daughters. Don’t put this off. I can help you get it done this year!

Marcy Jones, (JD), attorney, divorce coach, lecturer and first-time author has written a superbly informative and emotionally supportive book entitled Graceful Divorce Solutions: A Comprehensive and Pro-active Guide to Saving You Time, Money and Your Sanity. Jones understands firsthand that facing divorce can feel equal to experiencing one of the greatest losses of your life: the loss of your hopes and dreams as a couple. Jones’s stated mission for her book is not small, she wants to see the transformation of a faulty legal system which she says is “broken.” She goes on to claim, “Right now, we don’t do divorce, it does us. Simply stated, the whole system is illogical and out of control.”

The good news, there is an answer in the 21st century called being informed about the current legal system and its alternative called “Collaborative Divorce.” Throughout this work, Jones encourages us to trust that “by using our common sense and a bit of emotional intelligence, we can begin to apply some practical solutions that are needed in order to protect the many families and children who are affected by this life transition.”

Like an empathic divorce coach, Marcy Jones conveys authentic care for her readers, after all, she knows intimately of their suffering.

Coming to accept the fact that “this marriage is over” can be excruciating. Whether you’re the one asking for divorce or the one being asked for one, your life and everything you knew prior to this date will be forever changed.

Emotionally, dealing with divorce is much like dealing with a death of a loved one. One will most likely have to go through what author of On Death and Dying, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, calls “the five states of grief” which include: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Jones reminds her readers that the person who files for divorce may already be experiencing “acceptance” of the marriage’s end whereas the one asking for a divorce may be in stage one, “denial” or two, “anger.” Either way, for her or him, acceptance can seem to take an eternity. But filing for a divorce affects each person differently.

Graceful Divorce Solutions offers multiple vehicles for learning “how to” get a divorce that works well for all people involved, including children. Jones educates her reader to know that the emotional process of divorce is just one piece of the bitter pie. She claims couples will have four divorces to work through to experience a satisfying or, at least, workable ending to their marriage (which applies to both gay and straight couples alike). These four stages include: The Legal Divorce, The Financial Divorce, The Social Divorce and The Emotional Divorce.

Because this time in a distressed couple’s life can be vexed, like riding a never-ending roller-coaster, guidance and correct information are vital if you’re to skillfully negotiate the labyrinth called our legal system. And yet, when your life feels upside down, the last thing you feel like doing is learning how to work with the ins and outs of a truly upside down legal system.

Throughout the book and in uniquely-helpful ways, Jones makes her convictions known, “I object to the conventional way we do divorce, and so should you! The system is not just flawed. There’s not just a little crack there. It’s totally busted. It is so senseless and out of control, it’s hard for me even to find strong enough words to express this truth.” Like the civil-rights hero Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Marcy Jones is dedicated to transforming this unjust system into one that values collaboration and workable outcomes for children of couples that decide to end their marriage.

Jones will have little reader resistance regarding her disappointment with the training and behavior of most lawyers. Yet, most of us don’t know that the U.S. legal system was largely founded on the premise that civilized people need protection from violence, political tyranny and threats to their personal property. Most of us go to court only to serve as jurors or to fight a speeding ticket in traffic court. For some, filing for a divorce may be our very first encounter with the legal system. Understandably, the prospect of dealing with lawyers, courts, and legal mumbo jumbo can be overwhelming.

One of the best ways to steel yourself for what’s to come and boost your self-confidence is to find out about the laws that apply to divorce and the legal processes involved in getting a divorce. Marcy Jones’s book, Graceful Divorce Solutions, serves as free legal counsel and offers you room to explore your own questions, needs and fears in this wholly accessible guide.

The reader can’t help but see that the legal system, in its current incarnation, is not friendly to families, kids or to couples seeking to be non-combative. A peaceful resolution is a rare outcome when one goes to divorce court, in part, because lawyers have been trained in Zealous Advocacy – to argue for the best result they can get for their client regardless of how it affects or damages others. But, such an aggressive framework can be infinitely destructive not only to the parties involved, but to the children that the couple may need to co-parent for the rest of their lives. Jones reminds us, from first-hand experience, that to co-parent in a skillful way, adults need to do their best to get along. Children need stability to thrive and watching unhappy and bitter parents resent each other, perhaps vocally assault the other parent’s character, is always destructive.

Prior to becoming a collaborative attorney, Jones, herself, survived working with our archaic legal system in going through her own divorce. Both her husband and past bosses were practicing attorneys who frequently used an adversarial approach to “solve” disagreements. The word “collaborative” was rarely used or thought of positively and would certainly prove less profitable for the firm. There seemed to always be a “winner” and a “loser” in the court of law, according to Jones. For most, that’s just the way the system rolls.

Who wouldn’t be discouraged with this current state of affairs? Yet, after reading this book it is clear that Marcy Jones has not lost hope. She believes change and empowering ourselves can come through a commitment to learning alternatives. She testifies: “The truth is, more and more lawyers who specialize in family law are also feeling the destructiveness of the conventional divorce process and looking for a better way.” She goes on to announce the solution: “Collaborative divorce was the answer.”

Perhaps a little background on this method is in order. In the late 20th-century, around 1990, attorney Stu Webb began using his own “collaborative divorce” model in a way that swept rapidly across the legal world. Some disgruntled family lawyers began to work with mediators (non-legal professionals trained to be impartial coaches in service of both parties finding non-violent ways to find common ground). Others thought, “This process could benefit with a matrix of support for each person involved (whether the frustrated couple lives with or without young children).” Hence, they gave birth of the Collaborative Divorce method.

Pauline Tesler, author of Collaborative Divorce: The Revolutionary New Way to Restructure Your Family, Resolve Legal Issues and Move on with Your Life, was one of the earliest trainers traveling across North America to meet this demand. Like Tesler, Jones has become one of the most active collaborative lawyers in the field. She functions not only as persuasive leader but almost like an evangelist for life-altering change in the field of divorce law. She’s embraced an interdisciplinary team approach for creating a supportive process for all en route to a non-aggressive settlement. Now, more than ever, this team model has become available in most states and provinces in North America and, due to the rave reviews from content clients, word of mouth is spreading on how this collaborative method works and why it seems to be so successful.

All divorce is painful but a collaborative divorce, according to Jones, allows the greatest possible support to each person involved. A team of helpers from the fields of law, psychology, and finance can provide coordinated support and guidance to slow down, reflect, focus on the big picture, each person’s goals and values. All of this is done in service of making the best decisions together. When couples agree to work non-combatively—to find agreement in relation to division of property, debt, assets, and child custody—there becomes no need to go to court.

Settlement outside the legal system is what all parties involved must agree to in order for this collaborative arrangement to work. As a matter of fact, agreeing NOT to go to court is a requirement in order to begin the process of a collaborative divorce.

Until all people know this, Jones will not stop educating the rest of us, inevitably leading the way to a family law overhaul. Like ending racism, Jones believes that ignorance about alternatives to the current legal system is not only radically disempowering, putting many at the mercy of the courts, it is destroying lives. What’s even more frustrating for Jones is how many people don’t know the consequences of going through our current legal system in search of creating a viable settlement.

So many would-be clients of divorce attorneys do not have a clue about how divorce proceedings work in their state. Complex laws—including state property laws and federal tax laws, plus numerous interpretations of those laws—can make deciding who gets what an overwhelming undertaking, especially if you and your spouse have managed to amass a considerable amount of assets.

If you and your spouse can work together to resolve these issues, your divorce can be relatively quick and inexpensive. However, if you can’t resolve it between the two of you, or if your divorce has complicating factors (your marital property or debt is substantial, for example) ending your marriage can take time and money. In a worst-case scenario, you must look to the courts for guidance, something that’s as expensive as it is unavailable.

The “cost” of divorce is hard to measure even if one keeps their focus entirely on money. Certainly, the result of most settlements—unless you’re married to Donald Trump or Tiger Woods—has left more ex-wives than ex-husbands financially challenged. Too, the older your age, if it’s been a while since you’ve worked, can make earning a viable income unlikely. Therefore, getting an adequate amount of spousal support, (formerly called “alimony”), for a long enough period of time is essential to maintaining an acceptable post-divorce lifestyle. However, if your divorce is rancorous, your spouse may fight against paying you the amount you think you need or go after you via character assassination to avoid meeting what you consider to be their financial obligation.

Time management and mental health concerns are also important factors to attend to when filing for a divorce. Again, Jones sees the present legal system as monstrously inadequate. When we look to it for help, it’s more like playing Russian roulette with your (and, if relevant, your children’s) future. Among other factors, local norms and cultural values can enslave you to the will and whimsy of the courts. A judge in a socially-conservative part of any state may decide the same issue—alimony or which parent gets custody, for example—quite differently than a judge in a more progressive part of that same state. You can appeal a judge’s decision, of course, but appeals are rarely won. Moreover, appealing means spending more money, time and mental-health on an attorney and then, if you win your appeal, you’ll spend even more money on a new trial (the timing of which is as predictable as a wild monkey).

Wading through the swamp of the legal system on one’s own becomes less and less desirable. There’s no doubt that people need experienced guidance. Jones offers her readers exactly this kind of help. She shares not only useful information on collaborative divorce but also on the current practices inside family divorce law. As such, through writing exercises and useful summaries in each chapter, she helps readers decide which way they may want to go.

Jones lets the reader know that while one may resolve legal, property and financial issues via pursuing a divorce through the court system, she warns that the same law will not resolve the anger, guilt, fear, or sadness each person may feel. Jones says, “Don’t look to the legal system to do that for you. You’ll be left feeling disappointed and frustrated when your divorce is over.”

Marcy Jones, with great sincerity, broad experience and emotional intelligence, wants her readers to be informed and “at choice,” as they say in the life-coaching world (something for which Jones has also received certification). One of her favorite slogans Jones uses more than a few times in her book is “Knowledge is Power.” There is no doubt that Graceful Divorce Solutions is equal to several empowering consultations with a wise divorce coach, family counselor and one who knows the “ins and outs” of the current legal system. Jones gives divorcing couples, and those who care about creating a peaceful end to their marriage, practical support that they will not get anywhere else, certainly not for free.

Graceful Divorce Solutions will enable any spouse to bypass the truly awful, adversarial process of the courts and find a collaborative result that will surely leave each member part of a humane, compassionate and viable future.

“Ideas spread like populations, from one person to another.” ~ Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

“The traditional approaches to marketing and branding are now obsolete… we can no longer market directly to the masses. One hundred years of marketing thought are gone. Alternative approaches aren’t a novelty–they’re all we’ve got.” ~ Seth Godin, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

What if you could make marketing easy by publishing simple essays? Just by sharing what you’re learning from your customers in writing can be a way to begin the spreading of your good news. Because you’ve connected and recorded the needs of your clients, you will most definitely add value not only to them but to others who need and want your services.


1. Make a list of questions your clients or customers are asking you? Find out by asking them: “Right now, what are your urgent concerns, what do you think you need and, especially, what do you need from me and my offerings?”

2. Write a short paragraph or two in response to each question they’ve asked. Don’t forget to bring empathy regarding why it is so important to them.

3. Next, come up with a few simple tips or steps that you can offer them only after asking them, “What’s worked in the past?” Good news: You will be delving into your own expertise here and giving valuable, and most importantly, solicited advice. Your answers will reflect your thoughtful listening skills and will be easy to share because they’re something you really know about.

4. Write a couple sentences about each of your simple points/tips, (creating a skeleton), then use bullet points or numbers to make it easy for the reader. Now, add some flesh on this skeleton by offering a “case example” or brief story of how this tip has helped your past clients.

5. Next, write a short paragraph simply summarizing the benefits — one more time — and what will happen if your would-be client were to follow these points.

6. Finally, add a simple bio that offers up-to-date contact information and, possibly, a free sample session with you should they want to see what you two might create together. And, something I’ve learned the hard way, be sure not to give away the store! Remember, work to connect NOT to impress.

Here’s my example: Jennifer Manlowe, PhD, CPC, is the founder of Life Design Publishing and a certified publishing coach helping people step out to authorize their lives through writing. Her books can be found at: Be sure to take advantage of Manlowe’s 30″ sample session to see how you might work together. Call 206.617-8832 to arrange this complimentary appointment.

Another bit of good news — you’re not spending a dime to share this kind of research. The next time someone says you need to spend money on advertising or a new logo or promotional items to “build your brand” remember this article. Then think about all the ways you can give your customers a good experience every time they have contact with you/your business. You’ll be building your brand not by telling but by showing your customers that you are listening to their concerns and really care about offering them true value in relation to who they are.

“There is probably no hell for authors in the next world—they suffer so much from critics [especially the ones they’ve internalized] in this one.” ~ Christian Nestell Bovee

If you are stuck, are you saying things like this about your manuscript?

• This has become so disorganized that the outline makes no sense.
• I can’t seem to finish. There’s something critical missing.
• I’ve been stuck for so long that I can’t seem to get going again.
• Every time I think about working on it, I put it off.
• I think my manuscript is great stuff in it, but I don’t know who would want to buy it.
• I make strides on it once in a while, but I have trouble putting consistent time into it.

These problems are neither unique nor insurmountable. The fact is: books continue to be published every day—190,000 a year. So take heart, it’s really not just you! Many people don’t know how to begin writing a book, let alone completing, publishing and marketing it.

This 190,000 figure should be taken as a rough guide because this doesn’t take into account the huge amount of books of local history, course textbooks, or other books that don’t require ISBN numbers.

Thanks to the invention of digital printing, we’re free to get just one or one-thousand copies of our own books printed, so whereas once the publishing industry was akin to an exclusive club where publishers thought they were gods, new authors, like us, can authorize ourselves.[1]


“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” ~ Dale Carnegie

First, you need to think about what has been stopping you from making forward progress. If you have stopped making progress on your book project, do any of these excuses sound familiar?

• I’ve lost track of the big picture. Every time I sit down to write, I get bogged down in the details and I’m not sure if what I’m writing is relevant.
• My life is full of distractions. I need someone to keep me focused and push me forward.
• I know what I know, and others have assured me that my knowledge is valuable, but I’m not sure how to pull it all together into a book.
• I need to focus on earning and don’t have time to write.
• My mate thinks writing isn’t the best use of my time when our mortgage needs to be paid, and the kids need dental work, etc.

These problems need not stop you. Published authors aren’t really any different from anyone else; they’re just audacious.

People who write (or make any kind of art, for that matter) often have family and financial obligations. Think about Nabokov, the author of Lolita, he had seven children and an ill wife. He did most of his writing in the bathtub (the only room in the house where he could be alone).

J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, as everyone knows, lived in her car and flopped on couches of various friends due to financial woes. Margaret Atwood and Toni Morrison both had financial distress and children to tend to and yet, both made time to write. Morrison swears her first two books were written on her kitchen table between meals or before going off to work.

I try to remember this phrase said by my friend and mentor, Valerie Young, “A dream without action will make you crazy and action without a dream is a nightmare.”


“I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.” ~ Annie Dillard

Take the focus off yourself and commit to your readers. After you make the mental commitment to completing your manuscript, you will turn your dream into a reality.

Get online and start receiving my Free Newsletters or my free podcasts full of tips to jumpstart your creativity. Learn new tricks of the self-publishing trade every month with my help or with your librarian’s support. Such guidance will keep your book project at the top of your mind and inspire you to get your book done sooner rather than later. Stay inspired by reading biographies of other writers.

Still feeling overwhelmed? Why don’t you take up my offer to have a complimentary sample session to see what we might create together. Call today to set up a 30-minute appointment: 206.617-8832.

[1] For more on becoming authorized in your life, order my book here on this very website under Manlowe’s publications.

Terry Malloy, a former middle-weight boxer, (played by Marlon Brando), speaks to his brother, Charlie, in the back of their car in the 1950s movie, On the Water Front, it is clear that his reflections express regret for not taking more risks during the first half of life.

Terry now works at the docks of Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), the corrupt boss who exploits the desperation of day laborers. What Terry sees at the docks repulses him.

In an economically-depressed environment, much like our own climate, many are out of work, more gather by the docks each morning hoping to secure work for that day than can be hired, placing Johnny Friendly and his forces in a position to capitalize on their hungry situation. Those who complain of the working conditions or wages one day don’t work the next day, or are placed in harm’s way. Consequently, most tolerate being abused.

Still, Terry doesn’t see how he might make a bigger contribution in this situation than he ever could as a famous boxer—one who sought his own fame and profit over a meaningful life. When our value depends on making an impression rather than contributing great things in our community, we can grow dispirited, without heart and hope.

Here’s an example of the conversation of egoic-regret, rancor, blame and his current feelings of ordinariness.

Charlie: “Look, kid, I – how much you weigh, son? When you weighed 168 pounds you were beautiful. You coulda been another Billy Conn, and that skunk we got you for a manager, he brought you along too fast.”

Terry: “It wasn’t him, Charlie, it was you! Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, ‘Kid, this ain’t your night. We’re going for the price on Wilson.’ You remember that? ‘This ain’t your night!’ My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charlie, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn’t have to take them dives for the short-end money.”

Charlie: “Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.”

Terry: “You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charlie.”

Though this is a work of fiction, it has great resonance with many of us. Sometimes we blame others for our despair or resign ourselves to the smallest version of ourselves to avoid embarrassment, failure, discomfort or ridicule.

Clients in search of life direction (especially after age forty) often wonder what they might have been had they only applied themselves in school or after college. Instead, they chose the easier, softer, safer way; the way of their peers or the “familiar” way—the choices their family-of-origin thought was more impressive or worse, practical.

Famous dancer Martha Graham reminds us that we must listen to our deepest calling, the truth of who we are and bring this authenticity (our being) into the world of doing. She writes,

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique…. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” ~ Martha Graham

Before we can affirm, even authorize the next stage in our lives, we need to affirm the first half, no matter what choices we have made or have not made when we were younger.

So many of us find ourselves moving as fast as bumble bees in search of honey–seeking that golden ring of “better than the present.” Pausing and reflecting, as Socrates reminds us to do for a “life worth living,” can be a way to turn around unrewarding habits of regret and despair for creating a more enlivening future.

It’s especially heart-warming—especially on Labor Day—to know that Terry, eventually wakes up to his true potential. He comes to see that his struggle for fame could morph into something more useful not only for himself but for those around him. He uses his heart to give him the guts to organize his peers to stand up to their corrupt bosses thus enabling them all to receive better working conditions and more-adequate pay.

How might we turn our lives, and our sites for income, toward a more worthy and rewarding focus? Don’t we all have “bigger fish to fry” than our own personal profit/ego?

It can be a challenge to think of the good of the whole when we’re feeling financially desperate or personally despairing about a less-than-ideal past. My motto is much like the book by Martha Sinetar, Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow. I say, Do What You Love to do for others, the Money Will Follow.

What you love to do for others needn’t be a form of martyrdom. As Harold Thurman Whitman says: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive!”

What do you love to do for others that brings you the most joy? Do that and I promise you a rich and enlivening future beyond your wildest dreams.

Keep your mind open, experiment, and let me know how it goes. If you need my support to hang in there in this experiment, please contact me and we’ll see what we can create together.

Life Design Unlimited

Share on Facebook