Breathe. Write. Breathe. - 18 Energizing practices to spark your writing and free your voice by Lisa Tener

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18 Energizing Practices to Spark Your Writing & Free Your Voice

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How Your Lack of Credentials May Be Your Greatest Author Asset

Breakthrough Time! (I was hoping for a pic of Kari, but she’s on retreat without a picture)

Kari Vernon, a participant in my Bring Your Book to Life Program, called today to thank me for facilitating several breakthroughs this week while she’s been on retreat working hard on her book. “But I still feel I have to make up for not being an expert in my field. I’m thinking I need a logo, marketing materials–and I need to make them really good to make up for my lack of mainstream credentials.”

So, I told her a story about when my husband needed back surgery. I secured him an appointment with the top doctor at one of the top Boston teaching hospitals for the kind of surgery my husband needed. The surgery would mean at least two weeks of bed rest healing and possibly much more. They would need to chip away at some bones to get to the fluid that had leaked out of the vertebral disc.

My husband did his own research and found out from our chiropractor–who specialized in working with athletes–that several of Boston’s top basketball players all saw a doctor at the New England Baptist Hospital for their back surgeries. This doctor wasn’t an orthopedic surgeon. Instead, he was a brain surgeon who took the cutting edge (no pun intended) technology for brain surgery and applied it to back surgery.

The upshot? My husband, who had not been able to walk without debilitating pain, had his surgery and walked out a new man the very same day–no two to three week recovery period needed.

When the brain surgeon first brought his techniques to back surgery, he wasn’t an expert in the field. He was an innovator, a pioneer who applied information from his former field to another field of endeavor. Kari Vernon similarly applied her impressive success as an award winning teacher–one who drew numerous visits to her classroom to witness her innovative and highly successful methods–to the realm of parenting. She was a pioneer, but somehow that didn’t feel like enough to her. She thought she had to make up for her deficits.

Yes, there’s a place for author credentials, degrees and training, but sometimes those things get in the way of seeing the most creative and elegant solutions. Don’t discount the fresh perspective you bring to a subject. And do tout your credentials from another arena–even if they seem tangential to you. They’re part of what make you uniquely qualified to be the pioneer, innovator and genius you are.

author, expert anne burnett
Anne Burnett’s self-help book for parents of autistic children had a strong memoir element. This both established her expertise and focused on the area where she truly was an expert–her own experiences!

Some steps you can take to increase your author credentials: teach workshops to your new audience or market and get feedback on your ideas, methods and/or exercises; interview industry experts in your book (but be careful not to have this overshadow the expertise you bring to the table); start working with clients to implement your ideas–you don’t have to wait until your book comes out.

I’d love to hear from blog readers (yes, that means you!). Do you ever question whether you’re enough of an expert to write a book? How have you dealt with issues of confidence and author credentials? What challenges still come up for you? Please share your questions and comments below.

And, by the way, if you’re a parent and want to learn to apply Kari’s award winning teaching methods and insights to your life as a parent, you can visit her parent mentoring website (in its infancy while she writes her book) and sign up to hear more from Kari soon!

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions


  1. Ardell says

    Hi Lisa,
    Well my book “How to create your own Lemonade S.T.A.N.D”..(Start Taking A New Direction) for Women is in steady progression and this Sunday I’m hosting a special Ladies Gathering at my home to complete my final chapter having women write and share their life altering stories and will be included in my book! I’ve created a template of questions to assist them completing their story and I will have an amazing selection from various communities of my family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, women’s organizations, etc. I’m so excited with this portion of my book!…My question to you is…What type of disclosure statement(s) do I need to provide regarding their contributions to my book?
    I look forward to hear back from you and continue to work with your great book writing services as I move to the next steps with my book!
    Thank you!
    Best regards,
    P.S. I wish you could lived closer to the SF/BAY AREA…to be part of my the poolside, champagne writing event. I may have our local News Media here as well!

  2. Margaret Welty says

    Lisa your blog about credentials here is interesting to me and it makes me think that I need to address some of what seems at times to be a “pie in the sky” wish list by agents and publishers as to what the author MUST have done to be an author/expert in their field.
    At times I think that they use this as a way to cull the bottom rung before they apply. It probably doesn’t work as well to discourage the ones without the necessary experience as it does to intimidate would be authors who may not yet have lots and lots of accolades but DO have a great contribution to make to their audience.
    Just have to say that I do understand that the more you have tested your message and actually found an audience – the more assurance publishers have that the book will be a success. That is understandable.
    For me, there is a limit to what ALL I can do and still function as a writer and a college professor. My writing and production of new and innovative teaching methods is very consuming and I have spread out some of my domestic and professional work load by hiring more of “me” in the form of others. That helps a lot but I still can not spend full time focus in all of the required “fields”.
    I will possibly think of a way to address this in the book proposal – (not as I am here) — but in establishing that I do know what ALL an expert can do to demonstrate expertise and audience.
    I am already touting the varied experience that I do have that has shaped my drawing method. This includes being an engineer and physicist’s daughter, a nationally recognized swimmer and water polo player, a portrait artist at Disneyland, a creator of site specific corporate art work collaborating and presenting to designers, architects and corporations and a rural college art professor for twenty + years . . . oh, and I must not forget the all important teaching and practicing of dog training and well as being the creator and host (star) of the eight years running regional TV show on making art and (no small thing) ALSO somehow making my own art.
    The prevailing wisdom on all of this . . . can seem to be saying that my life doesn’t add up and it is not at a high enough level, yet.
    I think that it is most necessary for me to know, in my heart of hearts, that everything that I have done is and was what it took to be THIS expert for THIS book and for THIS audience.
    Then I have to secure the time, energy and resources it takes for me to write.
    I still think that getting my book done has to take priority over doing the “by the publishing book” stuff that we are told (by other experts) HAS to be there to demonstrate that the book and I will work in the market.
    Having my own confidence that I have credentials and smaller local experience will hopefully come across to publishing professionals.
    I don’t think that dog training has ever been mentioned by authors as a strong foundation for how-to books. Nor have I seen it listed in author bios on any subject outside of dog training. But I stand by it solidly! :)
    Love your BLOGS and engagement!
    Thanks, Margaret

    • Lisa Tener says

      Margaret, it’s wonderful to hear from you. I think some of what you are addressing in your comment is credentials but also platform. I agree that working on “platform” in particular, if we’re not careful can take us away from the most important part of our work–the core–writing and creating and, in your case, making art. So, it’s important to keep this in perspective.
      The issue of credentials, though, often comes up whether an author plans to traditionally publish or self publish. It’s one of those inner critical questions: “Who am I to write this book?” It’s often a variation on either “I don’t have the right credentials” or “Who would read this?” or “It’s all been said already.” And it takes some inner work to acknowledge that you have what it takes–even to view what you may be seeing as weaknesses as potential strengths.

  3. Felicia says

    I am in the very beginning stages of writing. I want to prepare a non fiction/self help book with hopes that there are other people who experienced the same thing I did and my words/experience can help them in their journey. However, some people think it’s silly, some say there are enough books on the market like this. I have searched and searched and I could not find any books in print or electronic that could help me with this subject. There are similar books that could help in one area but none, not one in this area. How would I do a broader search? Are surveys helpful? Do I need a professional to contribute? What are your thoughts?

    • Lisa Tener says

      Felicia, That’s a great question. So, I agree that research can be helpful here. If you searched on keywords on Amazon and Google for a book with those keywords and didn’t find one, I’d say likely there is not one on the market. You can also go to a bookstore and ask them to research for you. I would look at who is saying it’s silly? Maybe those people have an agenda. Maybe they can’t be supportive in this way. Can you identify who you are market is and find those people and ask them more about their needs?

  4. Catherine Marshall-Smith says

    Hi Lisa,
    I have a weird problem and I’m not sure where to post this. I just went through carpal tunnel repair surgery. I can only use the index finger of my dominant hand. I’m in the middle of implementing changes from my editor. I am not working on it because I am afraid of making mistakes. This is very frustrating. Can you suggest an alternative activity to get through this week after which the big cast like bandage comes off? Writing and running are my soothing, centering activities and I can’t do either. Help!
    Catherine Marshall-Smith

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Catherine,
      Here are a few ideas:
      1. Walk in nature with some device that can be attached to your person that can record your ideas (and that can be voice activated or operated with the mere touch of an index finger).
      2. Read the changes from your editor. Then walk in nature and let your ideas flow. When you get home, record them on a cell phone or recording device you can operate with your hands.
      3. Go outdoors to be in nature (centering activity) with a volunteer (family member, friend, intern) or pay a high school student. You can speak ideas while they record them in a notebook or on a computer.
      4. There may be programs that edit by voice, but I don’t know of any.
      5. Take time away from writing with the idea that you’ll return to it with fresh eyes. Walk and/or play a meditation CD or mp3 for centering. One of my favorite audios for both centering and manifestation is Julia Griffin’s manifestation exercise. I suppose that with only your index finger, you may need help to order it and type in your payment info, but maybe someone can help you with that?

      • Catherine Marshall-Smith says

        Thanks Lisa,
        This combined with the act of connecting with you and being honest about the discomfort were helpful.

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