Writing Epiphany: Tips on Writers Block, Keeping the Faith, & Having Epiphanies from Epiphanies

I have an book signing and Q&A at the Mystic Journey Bookstore in Venice, CA this Tuesday, July 26 from 7-9pm, and some of my amazing interviewees from the book will also be joining me: Andrea Buchanan, Wendi Cooper, Orian Williams and Judith Orloff. (More on that later.) The interview below is the book store’s interview with me about the writing of Epiphany.

· What inspired you to write this book?

Well, shockingly, I had an epiphany! Seriously, I did have an epiphany but that was more of the spark of the idea for the project. It was really other people’s epiphanies that inspired me to pursue this project. At the time that I had my epiphany, I didn’t say to myself, “I just had an epiphany!” It was several weeks later that I woke up and realized my life was so completely different that I asked myself, “How did I get here?” My mind began flashing back like a movie and it stopped at this instant that changed everything for me. In my case, this instant revelation revealed a fear that was so deeply buried in me that I was in complete denial about it and not only was this fear revealed, it was released. It actually felt like it snapped from my body and I felt instantly lighter. After this revelation, I was able to start taking action in my life to change it – I had been stuck for years and had been unable to leave a very unhappy marriage. (You can read the whole story in the intro to the book, which is online on Amazon and on EpiphanyChannel.com if you don’t have the book.) I was so amazed that this one instant had changed me so much and I remember thinking, “I had an epiphany. That’s what they’re talking about when they talk about having an epiphany.” It was so intriguing to me that one moment, one instant, could have such an impact, that I started asking people if they’d ever experienced these life-changing moments. The stories were so fascinating and people were so interesting when they would tell the stories that I started filming their answers on sets as I was working as a filmmaker and actress. Then what really became interesting to me was that I would find myself thinking of these stories later and I was utilizing the wisdom from them in my life and it was really helping me. Then a company wanted to develop the project as a reality show and so I was developing and writing a treatment and began doing interviews on the phone and writing the stories and realized they were just as powerful in the written format as the filmed format, just in different ways, and one thing led to another and I was writing a book for Random House!

· You have some pretty big names in this book, Maya Angelou, Dr. Oz, Deepak Chopra, to name a few. This is your first book, how did you get them to contribute?

Everyone I interview is asked the same question: What is your greatest epiphany in life? Through the project, I have discovered that our greatest epiphanies contain some of our greatest wisdom. When you share your epiphany stories, you are sharing some of your greatest wisdom with others and that is a generous act – especially since these stories tend to be very personal in nature. Everyone, all of us, are so busy these days – from homemakers to Dr. Oz – so to take the time to share their stories with me, especially a first-time author (and many of the people gave me interviews before I even had a book deal – including Dr. Oz), was very, very generous of them. I say that every person in the book is an example of someone acting out of pure generosity. No one got paid anything to share their story. Many times you will find the most successful people that are doing amazing things out in the world are some of the most generous. The adage “the more you give, the more you get,” seems to be very true. Some of the people, like Dr. Oz, Deepak Chopra and Dr. Roizen, I knew through work, some were friends of mine, some I met through friends and some I met randomly, and many people, like Maya Angelou, Craig Newmark and Ali MacGraw, I cold-called. Because every single one of these people is generous, they gave me interviews.

Also, I found 4 things to be constants for every life-changing epiphany:

1.) Listening
2.) Belief
3.) Taking Action
4.) Serendipity

I have to say all of these factors were constantly happening while I was putting together this project – so much so that I now consider the project to be my greatest epiphany in life. The serendipity I experienced writing this book was incredible, especially when it came to getting my interviews!

· Did you find the writing of this book to be easy? Difficult? How so?

Easy? Sometimes, sometimes not. It was a lot of work so it wasn’t easy in that sense, but most of the time it was extremely rewarding and fun. I had the privilege to deal with such amazing material in these stories and learned so much about different areas of life, not to mention I was always being taken on an emotional journey with each story. I loved the work so that made even the difficult times very rewarding – I was literally growing and changing because of all the stories, inspiration, information and hope people were sharing with me. And thank God for my editors! That made it so much easier to know that once I did the best I could in assimilating it, someone else would take a look and give me perspective and make great changes and cuts. Overall, I really, really loved the process.

· Did you ever get writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?

YES! The most difficult part of this book for me was writing the introduction. I wrote it last and had TERRIBLE writers block when it came time to do it. I turned it in at the very last minute. I literally couldn’t write anything for at least 2 weeks and every day I would stress about it as my deadline loomed ever closer. To overcome it, I just had to finally sit down at my desk and just write whatever came to my mind. I basically wrote stream of consciousness and didn’t edit anything at all that was coming out of my mind through my fingers onto the computer keyboard and onto that page. When I had to go back and edit it, and as time went on, I settled in and could write more coherently. I turned in 17 pages I think at first, and my editor got it down to 10 pages…see, great editors are key! Before I finally sat down though and wrote that stream of consciousness, I did speak with friends and people who help me with healing my life and psyche, and we worked on what was blocking me and on clearing it. For me, it was primarily about fear. Fear of actually finishing, fear of actually moving into another chapter of my own life, fear of not being good enough and on and on … once again, fear was blocking me and making me stuck in my life. (Remember my original epiphany?) At least now when I get blocked, I know that I will get through it … but it’s definitely not fun.

· Did you ever feel discouraged during the writing process? What did you do to push forward?

I was the most discouraged while I was writing the book proposal for my agent to submit to publishers. I had no idea what I was doing and it was SO much work because I was also editing the filmed interviews and creating and launching EpiphanyChannel.com and I had no idea if anyone else would care about it or not. My agent and I believed in it but there were no guarantees…there never are, especially in the arts. At that point, I had spent a year of my life investing my time and money developing it. I remember one day just freaking out thinking, “What have I done? What if no one cares and I’ve spent all this time and money and I’m so tired, etc.” I was transcribing all the interviews I’d done myself at that point (for the book, I hired a transcriptionist) and then was writing them for the proposal. And I remember I was working on Christopher Lee’s story, a missionary that I had randomly filmed in a van traveling in Africa, and his story is this miraculous story and for him it was all about faith…at the end of his interview he says,

“It was solely by faith, not by sight. It wasn’t about my seeing or knowing anything. But my faith opened me to the message. My epiphany is that faith truly does produce fruit. I had faith and I acted on it and it produced fruit. It’s like my faith was a plant and this grew my roots deep and supplied me with a lot more strength in my life.”

I just started crying and realized I had lost faith and that all these people I had interviewed had such faith in their own lives and in their epiphanies and look what had happened for all of them – and many of them had to face much heavier, difficult challenges than hopefully I’ll ever have to face…And now they had faith in me. They had shared their stories with me and were allowing me to carry them into the world. In that moment, their stories gave me strength to keep going. It was an epiphany of sorts for me. They renewed my faith in the project and in myself. I realized that even if I didn’t get a book deal or no one cared, I had gained so much from the project myself already – I had learned and healed so much because of it – that no matter what happened, it had all been worth it. The lesson for me was that you have to really do your projects for yourself first so even if no one else finds value in it, if you do and are a better person for it, then every minute, every dime you put into it, is worth it and you’ll be glad you did it no matter what. That’s how I approach all my projects now, otherwise, in the scary, discouraging times, it might prove too difficult to keep going and I find projects uninspiring if I’m only doing it with the hopes of others liking it and paying me for it. So I found my faith again, and kept going and the rest is history…

· How has the whole experience in creating this book changed your life?

In so many ways. I divide the book into categories of epiphanies just for the ease of the reader and for some sort of organization but the truth is that most, if not all, of these epiphanies could go into several or all of these categories, which are defined at the beginning of each section of the book:

New Directions
Comings of Age

I call this project my greatest epiphany in life now because it has been all of these things for me. People always ask me about which story or stories mean the most to me and I can’t really answer that because literally every single one of these stories has helped me and impacted my life in some way, and I couldn’t even fit all the ones that have done that for me in the book! I am a much different person since I started this project…much more calm, much more at peace, happier, wiser, much more ‘grown up’ in many ways, I did a ton of healing through it, not to mention I have a whole new career as a writer! But I would say the one of the greatest changes in me is that I have realized how important it is to believe in yourself and in Life in general, how important self-compassion and self-love are and what those are exactly. As many of the people I interviewed talk about, when you truly love yourself and have compassion for yourself, you are able to truly love others and have true and deep compassion for others. This has been a huge shift for me to understand this. It may take some of us practice and work to do that (ie: yours truly) but there are tools to help us develop these aspects of ourselves, and this project and these stories have been an important tool for me to do that and have helped me find other tools to help me cultivate these aspects of life. That’s one of the reasons I put everyone’s links in the book and on EpiphanyChannel.com – I hope it can act as a place of resource for people too.

· Any plans for another book? If so, can you say what the next book will be about?

Yes! I hope to do another Epiphany book and eventually have a series of them. That has always been my vision and plan for Epiphany and I practically have the next one ready to go with the interviews I’ve already done and the ones that are coming in on the site. I also have a novel I’m working on that is sort of Bridget Jones’ Diary meets Eat Pray Love – I call it “a fictional memoir…sort of” which is a whole other ball of wax with tons of writers block involved but if I ever get it done, it should be loads of fun…I hope…



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