maui writers conference


“Inspiration often emerges from our work; it doesn’t precede our work.” – Madeleine L’Engle (author of A Wrinkle in Time)

A client emailed me to say she was having a hard time making progress on her book.

I sent her the following message – and thought it might have value for you if you’d like to get in that delightful stream-of-conscious state where the words are flowing out of your head so fast your fingers can hardly keep up.

(Name of client) . .. please keep giving yourself props for writing, writing, writing.

E.L. Doctorow was asked what it was like writing a book.

He said, “It’s kind of like driving a car at night: you can only see to the end of your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Keep driving to the end of your headlights.

Keep producing pages and getting your thoughts on paper.

They don’t have to be perfect and they don’t have to be right.

Just getting your thoughts down will trigger more – which will trigger more – and before you know it, your book is out of your head and on paper.

THEN – you can go back and start cleaning it up.

Don’t try to think up what you want to say. That keeps you in your head. Blocked. Stymied.

Just get your thoughts written down. That keeps you moving forward. That produces a momentum where your writing takes on a life and pace of its own.

All the best-selling authors at Maui Writers Conference – from Mitch Albom to Frank McCourt to Nicholas Sparks to James Rollins to Jacquelyn Mitchard – agreed.

Ink it when you think it.

Jot the thoughts when they’re hot.

Muse it or you’ll lose it.

If writing is hard, it’s because you’re thinking too hard.

Free up the flow.

How do you do that?

Get out in nature. Go somewhere the sun is shining. Fill yourself with the fresh air of a beautiful day, the serenity of deep, calm water, the eternal beauty of green trees or a sweeping vista of towering mountains. Drink in the quiet but powerful energy of that place.

Now, ask yourself:

“What do I passionately believe?

What do I feel is important?

What have I learned – the hard way – that might have value for others?

Who is my target reader? What is that person’s name? What is their story? Man? Woman? Married? Single? Kids? Working 60 hours a week? Out-of-work? What are they going through? What’s keeping them up at night? What are their doubts, fears, hopes, dreams? What could I share that would keep them going, help them deal with their challenges, put hope in their heart?

Fill your mind with that person. Picture him or her in front of you.

Now, reach out to that individual with your words.

Put your pen to paper – your fingers to keys – reach down into your gut – and start writing to THEM.

Pour out your heart, mind, soul and insights to THEM.

Make writing a outreach to that man or woman.

No fancy language. No struggling how to say it just so.

Write and reach out to them with your words until you see the light go on in their eyes.

Writing is not meant to be an intellectual execise where you are in your head, thinking, “What can I say?”

Writing is meant to be a communication – a bridge between our experience and expertise and our readers. The question is, “What would they benefit from hearing?”

Write to connect.

Write to share what you know, beleive and feel in a way that might add value for anyone reading your words.

When you do that, you free yourself up to to serve.

Writing is simply a way to pour out, “Here’s what I’ve experienced, observed, learned . . . and I’m sharing it with you in the hopes it might be of benefit.”

Write on.

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Guy Kawasaki . . . Genius in Action,

By Sam Horn, The Intrigue Expert

 “It’s not enough to be the best at what you do; you must be perceived to be the only one who does what you do.” – Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead

I’m always keeping my antenna up for people who are one-of-a-kind at what they do.

I had the privilege of seeing one in action last week.

As The Intrigue Expert and a communication strategist for the past 25 years; I’ve seen and given thousands of presentations. (Really).

So, when I say Guy Kawasaki’s keynote at the Invent Your Future conference in Silicon Valley was one of the best presentations I’ve ever experienced, that’s saying something.

I was compelled to take notes because it’s a privilege to watch a master in action.

I shared my observations with Guy afterwards and am sharing them here so you can learn from his shining example and adopt/adapt some of his approaches so you can enchant (and intrigue) your future audiences.

Here’s why Guy’s keynote Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Action was a perfect 10.

Everyone was drawn in (and enchanted) -sam horn

Everyone was drawn in (and enchanted)

Please note: I’ve distilled this debrief of his brilliant presentations into three blog posts. Check back the next couple days to read and reap additional techniques.

      1.   Guy had us at hello.

“You’ve got to be a good date for the reader.” – Kurt Vonnegut

No perfunctory opening remarks. That would have been predictable and predictable is boring.

Guy pleasantly surprised everyone by starting with an amusing riff about how most speakers run long and no one’s ever angry at a speaker for ending early so he was going to jump right into things.

Guy knows people are BBB – (Busy, Bored or Been there-heard that) and that we make up our minds in the first 60 seconds whether someone is worth our valuable time, mind and dime.

He earned our good will in the first few minutes by being a “good date” and by kicking off with humor vs. the old-fashioned “Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em approach ” which would have had us reaching for our smart phones.

Bestselling author Elmore Leonard gave a keynote at the Maui Writers Conference (which I emceed for 17 years.) During the Q & A, a participant asked, “Why are your books so popular?” “Dutch” smiled and said, “I try to leave out the parts people skip.”

Guy was instantly popular because he left out the parts people skip.

      2.    Guy engaged our head and heart – our left and right brain – with facts and feelings.

“I never developed a plan for where I was going. I just counted on one interesting job segueing into the next. I let the universe do its work.” – Bernadette Peters

Any extreme is unhealthy. Many speakers (think engineers, IT professionals, physicians, professors, etc.) focus primarily on data, theories and facts. This makes for a lopsided speech because it’s long on logic but short on interest.

Other presenters (think motivational speakers) share inspiring stories but there’s no “meat” – no tangible takeaways we can apply to reap real-world results.

Guy was a sublime balance of head and heart. He let us know from the get-go he’d distilled his presentation into ten insights and 45 minutes.

People love top ten lists because it indicates you’ve done the homework for us and edited the superfluous, which means we’ll be hearing only the most salient points, the best of the best.

Anxiety is defined in two words: “not knowing.” If we don’t know how long this is going to take or the format, we may resent the speaker because, in a way, they’re keeping us in the dark and holding us hostage.

Covering 10 points (or 7 steps or 6 keys or whatever) in a specified amount of time builds pace and momentum and keeps a speaker on track because you don’t have time to ramble. Logical left-brainers think “Oh, good. This is clearly going to be bottom-line and a good use of my time because it’s measurable and replicable.”

Furthermore, a 10 point plan provides one of the quickest organizational constructs known to humankind because it provides an easy-to-understand-and-follow pattern. Listeners feel they’re in “the Allstate Plan” (they’re in good hands) and feel well-led as one interesting point segues into the next.

Better yet, Guy balanced rhetoric (words) with photos (senses) throughout his presentation. Everyone was drawn in (and enchanted) because he “peopled his points.” His beautifully produced slides featured intellectually satisfying ideas, visually stunning images and named individuals which produced a holistic sense of symmetry. Well done!

      3.    Guy condensed his concepts into one-of-a-kind sound bites.

“    Remember, you’re more interested in what you have to say than anyone else.” – Andy Rooney, 60 Minutes

“Invoke reciprocity”.

“Conduct a ‘Premortum.”

“Incur a Debt.”

“Frame Thy Competition.”

“Separate the Believers.”

These are just a few of Guy’s featured sound-bites (and chapter titles).

How could you NOT want to know more?

Guy got his ideas in our mental front door because he was not content to be common.

Instead of lazily sharing platitudes and clichés (“Make it a win-win. It’s all about team.”), he coined first-of-their-kind phrases that got our eyebrows up.

(Side note: What’s The Eyebrow Test? It is a technique described in my book POP! that gives you a way to test how compelling your communication is . . anywhere, anytime . . . in 5 seconds . . . for free.

Eyebrow Test? It is a technique described in my book POP!

The goal is to get their eyebrows UP

You don’t have to convene a focus group and spend thousands of dollars to determine whether your idea is commercially-viable.

Simply tell someone your main point (or your elevator speech, business name, book title, the first 60 seconds of your pitch/presentation, or the first paragraph of your marketing copy) . . . and watch their eyebrows.

If their eyebrows knit or furrow, it means they’re confused. They didn’t get it. And if they didn’t get it, you won’t get it.

The goal is to get their eyebrows UP.

Try it right now. Lift your eyebrows. Do you feel intrigued? Curious? Like you want to know more?

THAT’s your goal as a communicator – to get the eyebrows up of busy, distracted decision-makers because it means you just got your message in their mental door.)

Guy’s succinct sound-bites made his content POP! Because no matter how many books we’ve read or seminars we’ve attended, we’d never heard this before.

Comedian Jonathan Winters said, “I have a photographic memory. I just haven’t developed it yet. By developing original take-aways and NURDS (new words like Premortum), Guy made his content memorable and sticky.

Unique sound-bites give his content a long tail of influence. People love “the next new thing” and are more likely to share freshly-phrased ideas around the water-cooler – which means they’ll become Guy’s tribe and take his work viral by becoming his voluntary word-of-mouth ambassadors.

Phrases like “invoke reciprocity” are also monetizable and merchandisable.

People will pay for refrigerator magnets (or coffee mugs or t-shirts) with catchy phrases like this. This keeps you and your proprietary ideas “in sight-in-mind” with your target customers which gives your material even longer legs. It’s all good.

Check the next blog to discover more ways Guy demonstrated
platform brilliance.