FIGURING OUT YOUR BRAND, FINDING YOUR FLOW: AN INTROSPECTION

Back around the 2020 holidays my writing had taken off like a rocket.  Inspiration struck as I did a complete (and very lengthy) re-write of a long form sales letter, the final project for the training program I’d been doing for copywriting.  I got my certification and I was off to the races.  Journal entries were often doubled up with supplemental additions, averaging over eight hundred words per entry, daily – daily – in January.  Almost seven hundred words daily through February.  When I started my blog posting, the ideas just kept coming.  The blogging started in late January, and I averaged a post a week, each post averaging just over a thousand words.  Pardon if my focus on word counts is annoying, but I’m a math and engineering nerd by trade, so I put numbers to my words.  It provides a benchmark to check my progress.

The blogging kept up through February.  Then, in early March, the inspiration started drying up.  The creative juices weren’t flowing as much, and it became harder and harder to put words to page.  Within a week, I was barely putting out a few hundred words a day in journal entries…and that was it.  No sales letters pitched to clients, no blog posts.  Nothing.

This about sums it up…

My lofty goal of blogging weekly and launching a successful side gig as a copywriter sputtered to a quietly miserable stop. I bumped right up against a brick wall.  Nothing.  No signs of life.  The last post was on March 12th.  Even my daily journal entries thinned out.

The Well Has Dried Up…What Now?

Part of it was too many irons in the fire.  I’d been blazing along with all of those things, all at once.  It’s part of the “all in, all out” mentality.  When I get into something, I’m really in – all in.  I put everything else aside, physically and mentally, and I focus on the one interest.  It comes from a) a sheer fun desire for the experience, and b) a drive to master a new skill or hobby. It’s a very common and usually positive state of mind, Dubbed Hyperfocus, or Flow.  Anyone can get hooked into a keen interest and lose themselves in it.

How Flow Works

I’ve started researching the state of Flow and its positive aspects.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian-born psychologist and professor at the University of Chicago and Claremont Graduate University, discovered the concept of Flow and its conduciveness to happiness and productivity.  When we are fully engaged in our work, a hobby, whatever, we’re in Flow.  Also known as in the zone, in the groove, our senses are heightened and focused on the one task to the point where we forget about everything else around us, including time.  When athletes achieve a state of Flow during competition, they are performing at their very best.

When we love what we do, when we are intrinsically motivated by our work, it’s much easier to enter a state of Flow.  When I’ve got the Flow going, whether it’s writing, working out, playing hockey, or even working on a car, there’s no stopping.  And while Flow is widely recognized as a positive, productive condition, I do my best to moderate the interest level.  Keeping organized and structured is key to fending off the uber-intensity of, and subsequent crash from, the Flow.

No doubt, being in the Flow is a great thing.  But nothing lasts forever, and what goes up, must come down.  And with me, it’s usually a complete crash.  No motivation, no ideas for what’s next, just bored and moping about.

Have you ever had that nasty habit of second-guessing yourself?  One minute, you’re flying along, things are going great, and you’re on top of the world.  The next, things have crashed to a halt, you can’t get anything going, and you feel like a complete dud.  You start with the “what ifs”, but that’s only the beginning.  You wonder, “Where did all my motivation, my inspiration, go?  I’ve lost it, lost it all.  Maybe I’m not even supposed to be doing this.”

So…just get back in the Flow, right?  Yes, and no.  “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven:” From Ecclesiastes 3:1.  What I take from this, personally, is that no matter what, I will have good and bad times.  For every Flow, there is an ebb. Tide comes in, and it goes back out. I will have a stretch of incredible creativity and productivity, followed by a drought.  When I’m in a drought, I’ve got time to do some introspection.  I pray and meditate, think on what I’ve been doing, and what I should be doing according to the His plan.  It comes down to priorities and motivations.  Did I veer from the path?  Did my motivations or priorities change to something more self-serving?

We are all made with certain talents; strengths that come naturally.  When we use these talents, we work and feel at our best, right?  Correction – when we use these talents PROPERLY, outside of selfish ambition, we are at our best.

What I’ve found during this down time is that I wasn’t using my talents properly.  I was motivated by material returns – making money.  That was at the forefront of my mind.  I was pushing hard to start making a side income, so I could be wealthier.  This is why I was pursuing copywriting, and why I was so concerned about output – hitting big numbers.  What I should’ve been doing was developing my writing for the sheer enjoyment of it.  Not that God doesn’t want me to make a side income with my writing, but that shouldn’t be the main priority.

Teachers love to teach.  They don’t get paid very much, they work long hours outside the classroom, and often have to fund some or all of their own supplies.  But they do it because it’s a calling; they’re making a difference in kids’ lives, and they love that.  I’m a writer, and I want people to be entertained, enlightened, and encouraged by my words.  I want to make a difference in people’s lives.  That should be my main motivation.

This is my Brand.  I didn’t even fully understand what that word meant a month ago.  Entrepreneur.com partly defines it like this:

Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.

Wikipedia has an entry for “Personal Branding”, with its opening line as follows:

Personal branding is the conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning them as an authority in their industry, elevating their credibility, and differentiating themselves from the competition, to ultimately advance their career, increase their circle of influence, and have a larger impact.

While I don’t subscribe as wholeheartedly to the moneymaking or competitive business aspects of branding, I fully believe we all want to be heard, to make a difference in others’ lives, to have a positive impact with our words or actions.

Once I settled that, the gates opened back up.  And I mean, REALLY opened.  I tried starting a new blog in April, but it wouldn’t take.  I tried a couple of times, even organizing my thoughts and ideas on paper, but I had to give up on it.  You might be thinking, “But you just said the gates opened back up…”  Right. I had to give up on the blog not because I was still blocked; on the contrary, the topic I chose was so huge that it wasn’t going to fit into a blog post.  Or even a couple.  It needed to be a book.  Talk about an “ah-HA!” moment.  Some literary stars aligned that day.

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was a kid in sixth grade.  I made some attempts at it about fifteen years ago, but I was going about it the old-fashioned way and trying to get my short children’s stories accepted by traditional publishing houses.  These were the big ones – Random House, MacMillan, and so on.  Rejection letters from every one, at least the ones that bothered to respond.  There were “vanity” publishers, outfits that would gladly take your manuscript – and your money, several thousand dollars – and turn you into a published author.  I couldn’t afford that, though, so I was stuck.

But now in 2021, I figured, why not?  There are much better resources out there that are either free or low-cost to help the budding writer self-publish into real authorhood.  I acquired one of these resources, read the instructions, and got to work.  The whole process, from starting with a blank sheet of paper in front of me to finished, edited manuscript, took about four months.  The book is done and launched on Amazon.  It’s available in e-book and paperback formats.  A link to the product page is below.

And guess what?  The well hasn’t dried up.  I’ve got this post done, and I’ve got another one already in the oven, spawned from ideas hatched while writing this one.  And I’ve already got ideas for a couple more books.  One’s pretty much written, one of the children’s stories I tried pitching back in the mid-2000s.  The other one is another non-fiction work, a “How To” guide.  And I’m sure there will be many more where those came from.

One more thing.  While it’s important to dig deep and figure out your personal brand, it’s even more important to know who your brand master is.  You’ve probably heard the phrase, “God is my copilot”.  Well, He is my brand master.  Yes, I’ve figured out my brand.  I know who I am and who I want to be, and how I want to be perceived.  I know now what’s really important.  By letting Him lead the way, I may still have droughts, but they will be fewer and farther between.  To quote Becky Walker, successful YouTuber and entrepreneur – Put God first.

Check out my book here: