Don’t expect to be a perfect writer; writing with intention is the goal.
As part of my series about “How to write a book that sparks a movement” I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Eckhardt.
Lauren Eckhardt is the CEO and Founder of Burning Soul Press, a book coaching and publishing company on a mission to capture the stories, lessons, and messages within our life journeys to empower voices and inspire generational change. An award-winning, and best-selling author, book coach, and ghostwriter, Lauren is passionate about ensuring people feel truly seen, heard, and understood and accepted as their most authentic self.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the “backstory” about how you grew up?
From an early age, I’ve always been in love with books. I started writing stories at the age of six and haven’t stopped creating elaborate stories sparked by songs or events ever since. After feeling a bit beaten up by an English teacher in high school because she wanted perfection within my stories (I’m not a grammar guru and really don’t want to write a book that’s purposely perfect to someone other than myself), I lost my passion for writing for a period. That led me into more of the “expected” life path, including multiple degrees and certifications and working in the corporate world. However, I quickly discovered that one could be successful, but not fulfilled, and I wanted to be both. For me, being fulfilled meant being creative and having zero boundaries to work within. It was a value of mine that I wasn’t living. It was after the birth of my two kids that I knew it all had to change. I needed to live a life that lit my soul on fire — because I wanted the same for them.
When you were younger, was there a book you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story?
My favorite book as a child was “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. I used to read it once every year. It’s interesting as I’ve gotten older because I feel like a lot of my greater purpose — capturing the truth of stories in our life journeys — reflect that of the Giver within the book, as though we were kindred spirits from the beginning. I knew I didn’t want to live in a world where everything was perfect or attempted to be perfect; I value the good and bad, the mountains and valleys, the light and darkness, and everything in between so much because of the lessons and growth learned within it all. It’s the human experience that I’m in awe of, and “The Giver” provided a stark contrast between living as wild and free as we were meant to vs. living in a perfect society.
What was the moment or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
My life got to a point where it felt like my tongue was bleeding from biting it so hard holding back what I truly wanted. I felt I was disappointing people despite trying to constantly meet their expectations of me and suffocating because I couldn’t get this rock of fear of failure off my chest. I had to get real about what was important to me and not what I assumed was important to other people. I stopped looking at people in their human bodies and started looking at them more as souls who were trying to find their way — where every single person is on an even playing field.
People who had expectations of me were really reflecting expectations of themselves. It wasn’t my weight or responsibility to carry that anymore. I wasn’t serving myself, my children (who were my ultimate catalyst), or anyone else if I wasn’t being the real me. Once my boys were born — my why — I finally wrote my first book and became an author. Once I became an author, other people asked for my help to write and publish their books. Every time I helped someone, my soul was lit on fire.
That’s when I started Burning Soul Press, a story sharing agency focused on transforming life stories into powerful books that empower others and create everlasting change. We create safe spaces that allow for the sharing of people’s stories to build deeper connections and provide future authors with the support, encouragement, knowledge, and tools to write and publish their books with confidence.
Now, I don’t have to worry about disappointing anyone anymore because when I’m living from a place of integrity and authenticity, I can give my all to everything and there’s no longer anything to feel guilty or bad about.
What impact did you hope to make when helping others share their stories?
For me, this life is about this wild journey to grow, learn, and become better. Yet so many people try to sweep pieces of their life under a rug instead of honoring the path they’ve been on to become who they are today. There are so many decisions we make in life that ultimately affects who we are day by day. It’s so easy to say, “I wish things were like this” or “I wish that didn’t happen in my life”- but who’s to say that you would indeed be better off than where you are today without those things happening? Instead of wishing away our life or being ashamed of it or hiding it, it’s so important to acknowledge every step (and misstep).
Early in life, even as a little girl, I remember people randomly opening up to me and sharing their life stories. I was able to create this safe space that helped them feel seen, heard, and understood. When we open up and share our lives, we create deep connections with other people — and we also find more empowerment and strength within because I believe we can learn so much about ourselves from others’ stories. I want to help more people feel that they are indeed important, and they are seen, heard, and understood for who they truly are. I also want to foster deep connections and life-changing growth within and between our authors and their readers.
Do you feel that you’re making the impact aligned with your expectations? Can you explain?
I see the impact every day through the effect our authors have on their readers. But, I’ll admit, I don’t really have expectations on the impact I’m making. I don’t believe we will ever truly know the impact we make in this world. There are too many variables and extensions of the ripple effects. All I want to do is intentionally serve with the gifts I’ve been given and trust that it’s contributing to the positive change in the world. But what I’m doing does feel 100% aligned with who I am and my surefire measurement of my alignment is when the right people and right opportunities continually fall in your lap as a result. It may not always be easy, but there are events and true signs that will validate your efforts.
Burning Soul Press is big on creating change. What does it mean to start a book-led movement? Please share a story.
A book-led movement, to Burning Soul Press, is a story or message that leaves a significant impression with a positive influence on the readers. And while that message that begins within a book, it jumps from the pages and creates a ripple effect from the growth of its readers.
To start a book-led movement, we begin by identifying the core messages that have risen from the experiences within your life journey. Think: what have been the reoccurring themes that have gotten you fired up, that have sparked your passion? For some people, it’s the negative experiences we have in life that show us what really matters to us the most, leading us to become advocates and fighters for those causes. It’s important to us to help people examine their life journey through that lens and approach their book as a catapult to make a lasting change. It starts with the message within that ignites a bigger movement.
What feedback do you get from your authors’ readers? Do you have a good example to share?
One of our authors, Jennifer Hobbs of the military memoir “Calmed.” receives almost weekly feedback from readers all over the place about how her story has helped them feel like they’re not alone. Right after her book launched, her family in New York were speaking with a man they’d never met outside their home — and he was clearly a veteran who was hurting. They went inside to get her book to give it to him, and he said, with a big smile, “I’ve already read it. It really helped me.” She also had the child of one military family do a school project for their book fair about her book.
Jen entered a very specific niche from her life experiences, and it resonated with an audience who wanted to hear stories just like theirs. People aren’t just reading it and shelving it; they’re reading it and wanting to connect with her and bring her story to life even more.
What is the most moving or fulfilling experience you have had as a result of your work? Can you share a story?
It was the first time someone trusted me to ghostwrite their memoir. It takes a lot of emotional, mental, and spiritual strength and work to write a truly powerful memoir. We spent hours together as I would interview her on her life to uncover the themes we could write about. She had to revisit a lot of hard parts and then relive them as she shared them with me. But there’s a beautiful transformational process that happens when those stories are then written on paper in a story-way vs. a journal-approach.
She found so much healing within even though she had held the belief before then that she had already healed from them. It’s such a gift to be able to work with people on some of the most intimate portions of their life and know that they trust you with bringing it to a book with their name on it.
Have you experienced anything negative? Do you feel there are drawbacks authors face when writing a book that starts such colossal conversation and change?
Oh absolutely. More than likely if you’re writing something that will drive impact it is choosing one side of a polarizing view that many people will not agree with. We are living in a “everybody is an expert” society and for many people, there is simply black and white, you either agree with me or you don’t. It’s challenging for many people to be open to new ideas that are being presented.
There’s no considering that maybe our core beliefs are set on automatic from the time we are born and maybe as adults, it’s time to revisit those and figure out where those beliefs came from in the first place. So anytime anything is shared publicly with a particular opinion on viewpoint, it will naturally receive backlash. But an author has to prepare to be okay with that, which is something we coach our authors on — it’s a mindset strengthening exercise. Usually, the authors who are determined to make a positive impact are the ones who are already prepared to handle anything negative that may come their way because they know their efforts are far more important.
Can you articulate why you think books in particular have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?
I really believe books have more power than any other physical tool in this world to change lives. They LAST for generations and they get passed from person to person as they’re shared. Books don’t go out of style. They don’t get deleted just because a platform is no longer in existence. Those who want to grow or do more are oftentimes the people reading that genre of books so it’s strategic to reach the right people too.
What is the one habit you believe contributes the most to you becoming a bestselling writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
The one habit is being very clear and returning to the internal “why” for completing your book in a way that feels truly authentic to you. Writing a book is much harder than people assume it’s going to be, and that’s why many people stop once they set out to do it or they dial it in halfway through. Having a clear vision and your why will drive you to complete it in the way your soul meant for you to. Also, having a team that can help fill in the gaps is important, in the sense of if you’re not great with grammar (like I’m not), then having a strong editor to help you is a huge asset. Don’t expect to be a perfect writer; writing with intention is the goal.
What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career? Can you share the lesson(s) that you learned?
This urge of hurrying up and getting my story out into the world before someone else does. It’s funny because I once thought it was only a fiction thing, but as I work with nonfiction writers, they’re also worried about it. No one will have your exact story in your exact voice, and hurrying can only damage your book and your author dream. Once this book is out in the world, there’s no taking it back. There’s no stealing it from the homes of people who have bought it already. It’s there. It’s live. It can be shared. Make sure that it truly reflects the story you want to tell and you feel like it’s had all the checks and balances to make it great (like again, editing which I can’t promote enough).
Many aspiring authors would love to make an impact with their stories. What are the 5 things writers need to know if they want to spark a movement with a book? (please include a story or example for each)
- Be absolutely clear on your message — you have to know what you want to influence, who will help you do so, and why you want to make a difference in that area. Again, usually it’s our life that contributes to uncovering what that message is, which is why it’s so important to go back and reflect on what we’ve experienced and what gets us lit up. Sometimes we have trouble narrowing in on an audience especially that we want to impact. When I work with clients on trying to get clear with this, I give them a “3-room test,” meaning if they had only an hour left to live to deliver the most important speech to influence people, and all three of their target audiences are separated into 3 different rooms, which room would they choose to leave their final message? Many people are surprised by the room they actually end up choosing when the stakes are that high.
- Be ready to promote your book. You can’t just write a book and expect it to reach the people you want and make a difference on its own. No one will sell the book like the author can, especially when it’s something so meaningful to the author. Leverage other people’s platforms who are also out there doing similar things as you or driving a similar message. Collaboration is key. It’s how the flow of messages get passed from one person to the next. Be proud of the book you’re putting out into the world. Celebrate it and be as excited as you hope other people are to read it.
- Consider what else you can do to support the message of it. Take inventory of your other passions and skillsets and consider how else those may be combined to further elevate the impact you want to make. Are you skilled with art and can illustrate the message in new ways to bring awareness? Are you a fantastic coach or teacher and can host a workshop on the message? Can you run your own podcast breaking down the message in new ways and having other people on to provide further perspectives? The fun of this one is that many of these activities can support your message and also provide some extra income to support the impact you’re making.
- Know that you will naturally run into trolls or people who disagree with you, so prepare your mind now to be okay with that. Encountering trolls means that your message is getting further out into the world, outside of just your comfort zone, which means that you are reaching more and more people. (CELEBRATE THAT!) Also keep in mind that the nature of the beast is that those who have the most complaints tend to speak more loudly and often than those who have been changed or are grateful for the message. Preparing yourself and surrounding yourself with other authors making similar impacts will keep you uplifted and your mind on what truly matters.
- Similar to the last point of #4, surround yourself with an incredible support system who can be there when you need them and provide you with new opinions and perspectives as you’re making waves. Sparking a movement means no longer staying small, and it’s important to have an army around you as you navigate the path ahead, and who will celebrate all the incredible victories along the way.
The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you!) starts next? Can you explain why that is so important?
I love the idea of stripping down social media filters and reflecting reality vs. the altered versions of the pictures we put out there. Especially in a time where Covid is separating people even more, I feel like people are at risk of more damage to their self-esteem when they get to hide behind filters vs. their true image. People need to start owning that they are enough just as they are.
Celebrating authenticity and our truest selves in every way possible would be the missions I get behind in a heartbeat.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for these insights. It was a true pleasure to do this with you.