Invest in Yourself: Lessons from Michelle Ward

Ever wondered how writing and reflection can inspire you to excel in your life? I'm excited that today, Michelle Ward, is “Speaking From the Heart” and sharing her experiences with all of us. I am really inspired by Michelle's vision and passion, so I asked her to be part of this series; she is a mentor to me. I spent the early part of my twenties reflecting on what I wanted to be when I grew up. 

Michelle Ward has one question for you: What do you want to be when you grow up? She's answered that question for herself, and today she helps women transition out of soul-sucking jobs and into work that feels like play. You may have seen or heard her on Etsy, AOL Jobs, Newsweek, SXSW, Freelancers Union, Psychology Today, the Forbes Top 100 Websites for your Career list or 100+ other media outlets. Her first published book, The Declaration of You, was co-written with the artist Jessica Swift and can be found on real and virtual bookshelves everywhere. Discover what you wanna be when you grow up at whenigrowupcoach.comRead her interview below.

(c) Michelle Ward
(c) Michelle Ward

Why do you believe self-expression (speaking from the heart) is important?

For me personally, I know that being vulnerable in public (which has to be true in order to speak from the heart) is both valuable in my own experiences/healing as well as what seems to resonate most with others. In a hippy-dippy way, it's how we all feel less alone and how we can positively add to the love and understanding in the world. Just a lil' important!

How has writing empowered you in other areas of your life?

Generally, it's allowed me to feel understood - and that's a very empowering feeling. It also gave me permission to make my writing and other creative outlets (I'm a musical theater performer, too) "important". As adults, I think it's hard for us to see our creative passions as something that's more than a "silly" hobby, too flippant to make it a priority in our lives where we're already jugging our work and home lives. But if I stop writing or performing? Watch out - I'm not a happy, healthy Michelle then.

How did you find your authentic voice through writing?

It's funny, because when I started to get complimented on what a good writer I am, I was surprised - and still am. I've always had an English/writing brain (as opposed to a math/science brain) and feel like I've written well from an educational standpoint...but when I started writing my blog (back in '08!), I wrote the way I spoke. That was it. You'll find a lot of "wanna"s and "hafta"s and "gotta"s in my writing, too - and while that wasn't intentional, it helps me convey my tone: friendly, casual, conversational, energetic and personal. That's who I am when I'm coaching, and I'm really proud that what you see is what you get with me whether you're reading something I wrote, watching a video I made, or engaged in a coaching session with me. 

How did you develop the courage to stand tall (i.e., get the courage to share your writing)?

When I started blogging, I knew it was to build my business...and that led me to put a mask on of the know-it-all life coach who has no struggles and lots of wisdom to share. I hid the fact that I was in a full-time desk job, and instead painted this rainbows-and-unicorns life for myself. And y'know what? It was boring as hell. After a couple of months I realized I wouldn't read my own blog, and I really conscientiously decided to take the mask off and expose myself: my past as an actor (and real estate agent! and salesperson! and account manager!) and my present as a life coaching student and Executive Assistant. That was a huge turning point for me. That's when I started finding my people and realizing that truth, vulnerability, and authenticity "works" in attracting the type of people you wanna be working with and building a strong business foundation.


When you have a hard time writing, what do you do to work through it?

I actually wrote a whole workbook on this! But for me personally,it's all about starting with what feels "easy" to write at the time, whether it's the meat of a post (as opposed to starting from the beginning) or the last chapter in a book outline. I'm also big on not pushing unless it's crunch time. If the deadline isn't today or tomorrow, I'll put it off until I feel more ease with it.

How did you find your support group?

Through my clients and blogging, mostly. That's where I've found my tribe initially...and then we followed it up with Skype sessions, calls, visits, and collaborations.

Because I think that finding peeps who really, truly, honestly understand your goals and struggles and offer real support is so super key to being successful, I even created my own virtual Clubhouse to perpetuate those relationships. I've been running it for two years, and it makes me the happiest to see the members making their first sales, hiring each other, writing their books, launching their services, etc. The best! 

Any advice for new writers/authors?

Read The War of Art. That, and do what you can to take the pressure off. Pretend that nobody but you will ever read what you write, and remember that you're not obligated to share anything you don't want to. Write for yourself, for self-expression, for your own heart and healing first and foremost.

Thanks for speaking from your heart and empowering others, Michelle! Keep up the fantastic work!

If you have any specific questions for Michelle about her writing process, please feel free to ask :) 

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What lessons did you learn from reading Michelle’s interview? Write the lessons down and why they spoke to you. If you met Michelle, what would you like to tell her? Share your thoughts in the “Comments” section below or in your personal journal.

Thank you for reading and your presence at this beach retreat. You Rock! I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below.

See you at the beach!