Focus on the impact of your work.

Takeaways from London Writers Salon’s interview with non-fiction writer and columnist, Elizabeth Uviebinené.

Elizabeth Uviebinené is an award-winning author, columnist for the Financial Times and experienced brand strategist. In 2018, she along with her friend and co-writer, Yomi Adegoke, became best-selling authors with their book, Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible. They also edited the collection of essays, Loud Black Girls: 20 Black Women Writers Ask: What’s Next? This year, Uviebinené published her latest book, The Reset: Ideas to Change How We Work and Live, in which she addresses the collective desire to work differently and offers fresh ideas on how we might achieve those changes.

Matt & Parul from London Writers Salon sat down with Uviebinené to discuss researching and writing non-fiction work, using it to gain a stake in conversation, shifting her brand’s focus and moving past self-doubt.

Here are some of my takeaways.

Trust in your work

“Focus on the impact on every book you’re going to do or every project. If you focus on the impact and conversations you’re going to start, everything will fall into place.”

Don’t try to please everybody

“Not everyone is going to agree with you…you can’t please everybody. If your aim as a writer is to please everybody, you’re going to write a water-bound version that nobody is really going to talk about.”

Write what you’re curious about

“You have to have a very curious approach to your writing journey and not be bogged down by the airs and graces of how things should be. [Just think,] ‘Oh, I find this curious. I want to write about it. Or this is my provocative opinion around it. Who wants to listen?’ If you think about it, you’re never going to get it done. You’ve got to be strict about, ‘This is what I want to say’ and ‘Who wants to listen?’”

On narrowing down a topic

“Try to absorb as much as possible. It can be overwhelming…I remember someone giving me the advice a years ago, ‘Observe the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between.’ You need to observe that, and then you know what to take in and what to take out and how to join the dots together. Take in. Then start selecting. Thread ideas… Try and connect the dots. Connecting the dots should be that moment. When you get that moment, that’s when it should be [your topic]. You can’t force that.”

Stay adaptable

“A really important skill for any career person who does multiple things is to adapt…You have central skills and, depending on the time or topic area, you’re able to adapt and pivot…You’re joining the dots. It can feel like it doesn’t make sense to other people, but it does make sense…It’s like joining the dots backwards. Sometimes in life, you’ve got to be able to that, but you’ll only be able to do that later on. If you worry about everything connecting so much, you’re going to just be still and not innovate.”

On reaching hard-to-reach people

“Put your ego aside…If you talk yourself out of it — it’s easy to do that. ‘They don’t want to hear from me. My email isn’t good enough. They’re so busy.’ You just never know…Sometimes you’ve got to be smart. You don’t need ten big dogs, you just need one. Be strategic and say, ‘Okay these five people are still busy, but they’re a bit more accessible’…Get out of your head. Put your ego aside Don’t talk yourself out it because that’s never going to work….Don’t be afraid to be scrappy.”

Go after what you want

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get. That’s the circle of life. Sometimes you have to a bit more aggressive and tenacious with what you want. If you really want [to interview] that person, you’re going to regret not pushing it [more] than you’re going to regret pushing it…You have to go for it.”

Be selective with opportunities

“What do you want to be known for?…That’s the number one thing because that’s going to guide your decisions on what opportunities to take because that might be a good opportunity, but is that a good opportunity that’s going to bolster your personal brand or undermine it?”

The discussion will be ongoing. It’s okay to choose a stopping point.

“Books are a snapshot in time….You have to know that things will change, but at that moment you know to be true x, y, z. I think that comes from integrity. You know this to be true because you read it there, so this is what you what you are basing your opinion and everything [on]. If you keep digging, you’re going to debunk your myth. There’s always going to be a research paper that says something different to what you’re saying, so you just have to be disciplined and not give yourself a hard time about that.”

✍️ Each week we interview a writer on the craft of writing and the art of building a writing career. Join us for the next one.

P.S. LWS Silver & Gold Writers get free access to all past and future London Writers’ Salon interviews.

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