Today’s guest post comes from Ritu Kaushal, the author of the memoir The Empath’s Journey, which TEDx speaker Andy Mort calls “a fascinating insight into the life of a highly sensitive person and emotional empath.” Ritu was recently awarded the silver medal at the prestigious REX awards, instituted by the United Nations & iCONGO in India, and given to people creating social impact through their work. Ritu writes about highly sensitive creatives on her blog Walking Through Transitions. Her work has been featured on Sensitive Evolution, Tiny Buddha, and Elephant Journal, amongst others.
Last year, my book The Empath’s Journey was released. As someone who has had significant creative wounds, the process of birthing the book was full of labor pains. Because it’s a memoir about being highly sensitive, the writing process felt full of landmines, some of which I successfully avoided and some of which I walked right into.
To say the least, it was a difficult birth.
While I was writing the book, completing it had felt like climbing to the top of the mountain. But then, once the book came to full-term after a two-year journey, it felt like the mountain had shifted. Or maybe, it wasn’t so much that it had shifted, but that I had only reached base camp.
I felt exhausted, burnt out, and ready to crash. But I also felt the pressing need to market and share the book.
So, for the first few months after the release, I had this terrible tussle inside me. I felt empty and listless now that the energy that had been animating me for the past few years was suddenly gone. I felt terrified about becoming even more visible. (I blog about being highly sensitive, so I’d had some experience with this.) And I felt resistant to some of the ideas about marketing that I’d been telling myself I “should” do.
All this brought me to a grinding halt for a few months.
It was only when I let up a little and let myself take baby steps that things started shifting. In the past few months, as I have stayed with this process, I have started to find my legs with the process of marketing my book.
I have started to find my voice, in the same way I found my voice as a writer.
In the past few months, I have sent my book out to Little Free Libraries (as advised by Lauren in Firefly Magic); given away more than 100 free digital copies of my book in a Bookfunnel promotion (check them out, they are great); gone to my first author’s fair (25 authors were given individual tables and could sell directly to readers); and been chosen to speak on a panel where one of the authors had a book that had an endorsement by a Pulitzer prize winner (yes, I was intimidated).
I have also learned how to speak about my book in simple terms that others can understand. Doing this was harder than I could ever imagine. For example, I didn’t realize how I often tend to give too many details and overwhelm the person I am speaking to. I have been thinking about some of the topics in The Empath’s Journey (intuition, the difference between codependency and empathy, working with dreams) for literally years. BUT the other person hasn’t. So, I need to build a bridge between my world and the other person’s world. (By the way, check out Adria DeCorte’s wonderful podcast Unforgettable for help with getting to the heart of your message. She is amazing!)
During this process of trial and error, I have also learned many things. I have learned about my resistance, the ways in which I hold myself back, and my strengths and weaknesses as an INFP creative putting my book out there in the world.
Marketing Really Is a Spiritual Process
I have found that marketing really can be a spiritual process. I think of myself as a generous person, but I have come across these pockets of constriction and lack in myself. For example, it’s really hard to leave someone else a book review when you, yourself, haven’t been getting any for weeks.
So, I have had this chance to see who I am more deeply through this process. Now, I consciously leave reviews for books and other products that I buy from artistes/individual makers. I want to feel abundant and as if there is enough to go around and not hold back in a miserly fashion when things are going slow for me.
Synchronicities and Good Things Have Come My Way
New opportunities for sharing my work have come my way synchronistically. Last year, to my surprise and delight, I got nominated for the Rex awards, which are given in partnership with the United Nations in India to people creating social impact through their work.
Not only was I awarded a silver medal at the awards for all my work with helping create awareness about highly sensitive people, I also got selected to be a speaker (they have TED-style talks at the three-day conference). So, I ended up speaking about highly sensitive people in front of 500 people, many of them awardees doing truly amazing work in the world—social workers doing grassroots work, doctors who had left bustling cities behind to work in rural India, and environmentalists protecting the very planet we live on.
My voice did shake while speaking in front of all of them, but I got a really great response afterwards. And I am so glad that I didn’t talk myself out of applying to be a speaker when the opportunity came because I had been in two minds about it. In fact, I had almost talked myself out of it.
But then, I decided that I want to say Yes more often and that it was okay to do things imperfectly in this journey of sharing my book. So, I let myself go through the process of submitting my talk, then revising it as they needed, and taking the chance of being selected or not. I let myself feel the vulnerability that comes when you put yourself out there.
To my surprise, my “imperfect” talk got selected.
The day my talk was scheduled, I was very nervous and kept dropping things. But I did it. AND I did well. Even though my voice shook at times, even though I wasn’t as “perfect” as I wanted to be, I got some amazing feedback afterwards. Several people came and spoke to me after the talk. It felt like I had connected and been seen and that, they too, felt seen because of the talk.
I made a difference.
And that’s really what my hope for my book has been—that it will make some difference. Maybe twenty years from now, because of all our collective effort, less and less sensitive children will grow up feeling the way I often did as a child—faulty and broken.
This experience taught me that I am ready for more than I think. It taught me that I don’t have to “look perfect”—whether it is to appear completely self-assured, talk without getting nervous, or anything else like that—to speak up for what I care about. When you truly care about something, that energy does come across.
We Need to Have Compassion for Ourselves as Sensitive Creatives
If you are putting your work out there as a sensitive creative, I highly doubt that you are selling a product that you are detached from. You probably care a lot about what you are offering to the world, and releasing it into the world can feel VERY vulnerable.
My book has felt like a little piece of my heart beating in the world.
Sometimes, it has felt very threatening to talk about it. But when things have flowed, talking about it has also felt like a form of connection. I am getting to connect with like-minded people and finding these sparks of energy that make my work feel meaningful.
Marketing My Book Has Also Shown Me the Things I Am Truly Good At.
If you are an INFP like me, you probably have these strengths too. You are good at spotting new directions. You are good at reading energy. You probably have a felt sense of what is calling or attracting you.
All these are things that make you, an INFP or INFJ writer, good at connecting the dots for the other person. It makes you authentic. And that’s worth something.
I hope you have faith in your process, as I am learning to have. Books are not “made” in a day and neither are writing careers. In a way, ours is a spiritual apprenticeship, this taking of step after step in the dark.
If you didn’t have a “perfect launch” for your book or felt that the process of putting your book out there was emotionally HARD, it’s okay. We are all learning. We are all growing. Growth is hardly ever flashy. Strength is built by doing many little things again and again. It’s built by falling and getting up again and again. Until you learn to walk.
This applies to marketing too. It’s a process of experimentation, of learning to say what you think, of saying the wrong thing sometimes, of putting yourself out there and then retreating because you revealed too much. It’s all these “mistakes” that in the end show us how we want to talk about our work. It’s all these “mistakes” that, in the end, add up to experience.
And experience is valuable.
So, this year, let’s—you and I—build up this experience. Let’s say Yes to more things we are not completely ready for. Let’s throw our hat over the fence and push new buttons and levers and see what happens.
And if it all gets too overwhelming, let’s soothe and talk to the little one inside and take tiny steps forward. Together, we can do this.
Ritu Kaushal is the author of the memoir The Empath’s Journey, which TEDx speaker Andy Mort calls “a fascinating insight into the life of a highly sensitive person and emotional empath.” Ritu was recently awarded the silver medal at the prestigious REX awards, instituted by the United Nations & iCONGO in India, and given to people creating social impact through their work. Ritu writes about highly sensitive creatives on her blog Walking Through Transitions. Her work has been featured on Sensitive Evolution, Tiny Buddha, and Elephant Journal, amongst others.