“Where you write matters” in becoming a great author, an interview with authors Sara Connell & Cynthia Johnson
Where you write matters. I rented AirBnBs, offices, hotels, etc. to find the best places for inspiration. Where you write and what is around you is so important.
As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cynthia Johnson.
Cynthia Johnson is a global entrepreneur, marketing professional, author and keynote speaker. She is Co-Founder at Bell +Ivy, a marketing and PR firm in Santa Monica, CA, and Las Vegas, NV. Previously, she was Partner & Director of Marketing for RankLab, a digital marketing agency listed in Inc. Magazine’s Fastest Growing Private Companies in 2015. In July 2015 RankLab was acquired by American Addiction Centers. She is an Advisory Board member for The Millennium Alliance, a leading technology, business, and educational advisory firm serving Fortune 1000 C-Level executives.
Cynthia has been a keynote speaker for companies and events such as Alibaba Group in China, World Government Summit in Dubai, Global Ventures Summit in Indonesia and Mexico, and Web Summit in Lisbon, among others. She has been involved in influencer and marketing campaigns for PayPal, HereMedia, Chevy’s, PETA, and several other leading brands. Cynthia was listed as top personal branding experts in 2017 by Entrepreneur, top 50 marketers on SnapChat by Mashable, top 12 Female Entrepreneurs that Inspire by Darling Magazine, and top 20 people in SEO by Guardian. She is a contributing columnist to Entrepreneur, and has had work published in Forbes, TIME, and several other industry-specific and top-tier publications. Her first book Platform published in February 2019 with Penguin Random House.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
I worked on the platform side of a live-streaming social media company as an intern and then an employee. I was able to learn how to use social media and how it worked from the inside first and that really helped 1) me become better at and have a unique perspective on how to use social media tools and 2) I was obsessed with the idea of an autonomous work life. When you work on the internet, your job is anywhere and everywhere.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
Not sure about the “most” interesting, but I can share an interesting story! I got my first job at the previously mentioned live streaming company, because I was in a hurry and didn’t think I had a shot at the job. At the time I was studying Mandarin and the job posting was listed as “Asian focused” company. I drove to the interview, which was at the top floor of the largest building in Downtown Los Angeles and parking was $45 per day. When I got to the interview I realized that it was a Japanese company, not Chinese. I immediately became more concerned with saving on parking cost than the interview itself. When the interviewer started to tell me about the website, I responded (in an effort to hurry him up) that there was no need to explain, I had already been on it. The company had never listed the website on the job posting. I was given the job over other candidates because they thought I was the only person who had taken the time to be on the website. I found this out after working there for a few months and laughed to myself. A happy and unexpected turn or events.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
I was managing social media accounts for healthcare companies on the same schedule tool for my personal account and accidentally sent a video tweet out for the Gremlins 2 movie trailer to all of the health accounts instead of my own. I found out when the client emailed me concerned that they had been hacked. It was terrible!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I work on many interesting projects. Lots of Advanced technology, global companies, Cannabis, healthcare, etc. I think they all attach to my company, Bell + Ivy, so, that is my favorite. Plus we get full creative control.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer?
I am great at asking for help and feedback without taking it personally. Along the way I had many people read chapters and leave notes.
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
I talked about and compared Elon Musk and Travis Kalanick (founder of Uber). I think many people found that interesting.
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
If you are the right person to speak about a topic and you don’t, then you could be contributing to the world’s problem of fake and misleading news. We need the experts who are hiding behind prideful humility to speak up and help us correct the incorrect out in the world.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it?
My biggest obstacle was myself. I was scared. It is a lot to put your work in a book, sell it, and have it rated. As for getting past it, I am not sure you ever do. You just sort of learn to embrace it and learn from it.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from?
Magazines, the print versions. In a world full of digital, I see magazines as the most important and relevant content, which is why it was printed. Plus magazines are more relevant and up-to-date than most books.
How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?
I hope it motivates the hardest working people in the world to find the story in their story. People underestimate how interesting and inspiring they are to others.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?
Make sure you have time. It is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, and mostly because of the time. If you aren’t in a mood to write, you will stare at the computer for a long time with nothing coming to you. Make sure you account for that!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”?
1. Where you write matters. I rented AirBnBs, offices, hotels, etc. to find the best places for inspiration. Where you write and what is around you is so important.
2. It takes time. I thought I could write the book in a month, it took me four. It is much more time consuming than you would think to write a book.
3. Not everyone will love your book and that’s okay. I had a couple of people who were so-so about the book, and I reached out and thanked them for reading and the feedback anyway. Books are ideas, and not everyone agrees.
4. You will not like hearing your audio recording. I read the audio version of my book and every time I hear clips I get chills and so nervous. People (myself included) can hardly stand our own voices!
5. Your family will read it. I never thought that my grandparents or mom would read the book and pf course they all did. It is so weird crossing the lines between family and work, especially with family. My mom references my book all of the time now, and it is so funny!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would have everyone ask for what they want, for everything, no matter how ridiculous it sounded to them. I believe that most of our problems come from assumptions and that if everyone was open about what they want and need, we would see such a difference in our lives. #AskForAnything — send us your stories of how asking for the ridiculous changed your life.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!
About the author: Sara is an author and writing coach with a private practice in Chicago. She has appeared in Oprah, Good Morning America, NPR, The View and Katie Couric. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tri-Quarterly, Good Housekeeping, Parenting, IO Literary Journal, and Psychobabble. Her first book Bringing In Finn was nominated for ELLE magazine Book of the Year. www.saraconnell.com