Q: Can you please describe how you started writing? Why do you think you have to write?
A: I used to keep a personal growth journal and I did this for years. I found it very therapeutic to write uncensored thoughts, as it revealed insights when I saw my thoughts written down in black and white. I've also been writing songs for many years, although I haven't written one recently.
I write all the workbooks for my workshops, trainings and courses, and I've written articles and stories for magazines and newsletters. All this type of writing was done before I wrote my first book. It was great practice to get into a habit of writing.
It was interesting for me to see the process with You're a Genius! as a book, as it was totally unexpected. I had finished developing a course for Chinese students called "Mastering the Art of Study". I was in New Zealand and Kirsten (my friend and translator who is also an English college teacher) was doing her best to promote the course in Beijing before I went there to run it. This was around October when I was planning to go there the following April. During one of our phone conversations she suggested I write a book to help promote the course. I thought it was a good idea. However, some of my other thoughts were, "How on earth will I write a book before next April?"
Meanwhile, I was listening to some audio recordings of Dr Wayne Dyer, a well-known American author and speaker. He talked about feeling inspired after being in Europe and wanted to write about some of the great people who had left legacies of their life teachings. (I think this book is titled "Wisdom of the Ages: 60 Days to Enlightenment", which was published in 2002.) What took me by surprise was Wayne making a decision to write about a certain number of people in the same number of days. He gave himself one day to research, get a feel for and then write about one person each day until the book was finished.
I thought this was a mammoth task, but it inspired the thought, "If he can do that, surely I can at least TRY to start my book!" So I did! :)
And by Christmas that year I had the first draft of the book "Mastering the Art of Study" finished! I was amazed, as it showed me what I could do when I make a decision and follow through on it. It really blew me away that I could write a book in such a short time.
Later the title was changed to "You're a Genius!" This was on Kirsten's suggestion, as she thought it would be more attractive to students if it had a "lighter" title. When I came up with "You're a Genius!" she agreed that this title would work better.
Q: Among the world's writers, who do you think have most influenced you?
A: I have mostly been influenced by authors of "Self-Help" books. Although I've read some good novels, self-help books appeal to me because of the practical applications offered by the authors. I enjoy the stories about their personal experiences and those of other people. Practical exercises are invaluable when learning any subject, whether this is how to relax, or how to improve one's memory.
Some of my favorite authors over the years are: Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, Sondra Ray, Stuart Wilde, Shakti Gawain, Neale Donald Walsh, Rhonda Byrne, Esther & Jerry Hicks, Jack Canfield, Eckhart Tolle, and many others.
Q: You have recently published You're a Genius! as a bilingual ebook. What do you try to convey in this book?
A: You're a Genius! has practical strategies for all aspects of study, plus personal growth concepts that may be new for many students, such as personal learning styles, positive inner self-talk, and utilizing time to imagine and visualize the future they want.
Q: You are obviously a very creative, artistic and spiritual person, as demonstrated in your use of stories in your writing, your practice of yoga and your beautiful song Within on YouTube. How do you think these have helped you deal with the ups and downs of life?
A: Yes, I do have a smorgasbord of strategies I use to help me ride the waves of life. I've been practicing meditation daily for almost 40 years and this really helps me to have a calm and positive attitude when I start my day. I also practice Qigong, which balances my energy. Saying affirmations has played a big part in keeping me positive too. Affirmations are positive, believable statements we can say to ourselves to uplift and inspire. E.g. "Good things keep coming to me!" "Life is on my side!" "All my dreams are on their way!"
Other tools I use are NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) strategies, playing my original music, reading and listening to uplifting topics, walking in nature, writing journals or blogging, and sometimes dancing. When I feel inspired I'm a much nicer person to be around and I like me better, too. So I make the time to do these things as often as I can.
Q: In terms of writing a book, or a "user's manual for the brain", what do you think a writer should be aware of when writing them?
A: I think it's important to find out what the readers' needs are. Kirsten and I did our research on live subjects. :) We asked students what they needed help with and then I did my best to fulfil those needs, as well as adding other helpful information and strategies. Kirsten also sought out the opinions of students about the exercises during the translation of the book.
Stories can convey meaning easily, so I thought it was important to include stories to inspire, to make students think and to trigger their own imagination about how to deal with life's challenges.
Keeping the book culturally friendly was a challenge for me, even down to details like taking all the YouTube links out. That was frustrating because I'd used a large number of YouTube video links as visual information and to back up what I had written. However, unless a person has a VPN (virtual private network) in China, YouTube is not accessible on the Internet.
I know much more about Chinese culture since my longer stay here this time (I've been in China five times now). Kirsten helped to keep me on track about cultural differences, but you can still tell it's written by a Western cultured person.
Q: Have you ever encountered problems while writing? How do you conquer them?
A: The main problems are time and inspiration -- and having that wonderful mix of both on the same occasion. I have to commute long distances on the subway or by bus here in Beijing, which takes up a huge amount of time. One tactic I use is to print out what I've already written, re-read, edit, and write more while I'm on the train or bus. This is only possible if I can get a seat or if I'm not too tired.
The ideal scenario would be to have lots of time at home in a quiet environment and to be feeling full of inspiration. I think that is writers' heaven. :) At least I've started my next book using the strategy I've just outlined above.
Q: In your view, what is the most difficult thing about writing for an educational purpose?
A: You're a Genius! is not a textbook and does not fit into any traditional educational system. Since I am an NLP trainer and communication skills instructor, the education that students receive from reading You're a Genius! is about HOW to learn, retain information and be able to access it at will. This can be applied to any subject. I don't think you could find a book like this (if it was a hard-copy book) in any Chinese university at the moment. You're a Genius! is more of a self-help book for students who want to ride the leading edge.
Q: If someone asks you how to become a writer, what will you say?
A: If you've ever written essays, letters, articles, or kept a journal, then you're already a writer. When you have something you want to say, it's important to take notes. You can arrange your thoughts into a comprehensive format later and then polish it. Yes, making notes is important. Always carry a small notebook and pen for those moments of inspiration.
Q: Among all the self-help or popular science books out there in the market, which aspects do you think should be further developed and promoted?
A: I think, mainly, the art of being kind to oneself could be further developed. We are our own worst critic and we sometimes think that if we tell ourselves off, it will help to improve our performance. Most of us have been brought up with this belief. When you analyze this logically, though, you see it doesn't work.
Which is more inspiring, someone praising you for what you HAVE done well and encouraging you to do even better, or someone focusing on your mistakes and criticizing you? I rest my case.
But in case you're not convinced, remember the story of the competition the sun and the wind had. They wanted to see who was best at making the man take his coat off. The wind blew and blew, but the man only pulled his coat tighter around his body. All the sun did was to shine and the man's coat came off easily and quickly.
Self criticism and judgment stifles inspiration and creativity. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to speak to ourselves kindly as we would to a good friend.
Q: As a writer, in your view, what are the advantages and disadvantages of publishing your writings as ebooks?
A: The advantages that I came up with when I thought about it are:
- eBooks are cheaper to buy for the readers.
- If you have an iPhone or other device, you can have access to the book wherever you are.
- You don't have to carry a heavy book around.
The disadvantages are:
- There is no hard copy, so you can't wrap it as a gift and you won't see it in a bookstore.
- Unless you have a smartphone or iPad, you have to wait until you're at your computer to read it.
- It's inconvenient if you need to print it out.