Melody Wilding is the author of Trust Yourself: Stop Overthinking and Channel Your Emotions for Success at Work. Recently named one of Business Insider’s Most Innovative Coaches for her groundbreaking work on “Sensitive Strivers”, her clients include CEOs, C-level executives, and managers at top Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Amazon, and JP Morgan, among others. Melody has been featured in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal and is a contributor to Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Psychology Today, and Forbes. Melody is a licensed social worker with a masters from Columbia University and a professor of Human Behavior at Hunter College.
💝 Key Takeaways
- Melody shares some fabulous tips on self confidence.
- Find out how Melody’s first book came about.
- Discover insights into the writing process and tips to help you if writing a book is something you want to do.
- How to structure your book chapters.
- Discover ways to market your book and promotion tactics.
📚 Resources Mentioned
🔗 Where You Can Find Melody
Facebook Group: https://melodywilding.com/community
🌹 Rose’s Resources
📖 (Imperfect) Transcript
We use Descript to provide this transcript which isn’t always perfect but wonderful all the same. (affiliate link 😃)
Rose: Hey, it’s Rose and welcome to another episode of The Sensitive CEO Show.
And in today’s episode, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Melody Wilding. Melody is the author of Trust Yourself, Stop Overthinking, and Channel Your Emotions for Success at Work. And the excellent topic that Melody’s going to be talking about today is writing a book.
So welcome, Melody.
Melody: I am so happy to be here. Thank you for having me.
Rose: Oh, you are most welcome. And I would love for you to share with the audience a bit about your background and what you do.
Melody: Sure. I came to this work because I was trained as a therapist, so my background is as a social worker. When I started my therapeutic career, I noticed that the people I was working with tended to be high achievers and very career-oriented; what they were struggling with the most was managing their thoughts and emotions as they related to things that were happening for them in the workplace.
So, I carved out a niche for myself there and discovered over time that the type of people I was attracting were not just professionals, but they were also high achieving professionals. People who struggled with feeling different than their colleagues with, you know, some of the challenges that come along with our sensitivity.
People pleasing, perfectionism, and overthinking but also had strengths that leveraged the upside of their trait. So being very thoughtful. The one on the team who would point out gaps and opportunities. Who was a deep thinker and could see the big picture very well. So l carved a niche out for me there.
And now I’ve been coaching for over ten years. As you mentioned, I’ve written a book and teach human behaviour at a graduate school in New York City.
Rose: Wow. What an amazing background. And I’m sure you’ve got so much goodness to offer your clients, but also through your book, I’ve read your book, I’ve read it two times now because every time I dive into it, I find new, wonderful snippets of information.
Please share with the audience a little bit about what your book’s about.
Melody: Yeah, Trust Yourself came about because I wanted to give people a manual to working with me. I wanted to take people step by step through the coaching process and how I could distil that into a book.
But also, as I went through the writing process, I didn’t initially start with this in mind, but I realised through writing, I wrote the book I needed when I was not necessarily even younger or earlier in my career, just less mature and aware of my journey as an HSP related to navigating my career.
So I wrote the book and the manual I needed, all of the tools and the strategies for navigating some of those most common challenges.
Rose: And how long did it take to write a book? And I know everyone’s different, but how long did it take you, Melody?
Melody: Well, the entire process took about five years. Now I want to caveat that, writing the proposal took me three and a half, four years, and that’s because I didn’t know what I was writing about.
We can talk more about that, but once I had the idea, I had clarity on the actual manuscript. So it was 80,000 words. Yeah. Eighty thousand words when it was all said and done. That took me a little under eight months to finish.
Rose: So what made you want to write a book in the first place?
Melody: Since I was a child, I dreamed of writing a book, and I thought it was a far-off dream. One day, when I have a cottage in the woods, I’ll sit in my writing cave and produce books. I thought it was this very far-off thing. I had the opportunity fall into my lap.
This is instructive for anyone wanting to write a book that you have to build a platform first, especially if you want to go the traditional publishing. So, because I had been writing articles, I had been blogging, I had been present on online, and I had been building an audience for several years.
Melody: I had a publisher approach me actually after a speaking engagement. And so that’s what kicked off this entire process. I ended up going with a different publisher, and the book idea was vastly different from what I started with. But for anyone interested in going the traditional publishing route, they’re most interested at the end of the day in selling books.
So they want to know, do you have people following you so we can sell books to?
Rose: That makes so much sense. They don’t want an author to come out of nowhere and not actually have their own audience. How did you decide on what to talk about or what to write about?
Melody: Yeah, it was a very painful process.
And I spent many years. Confused and trying to find what the big idea was. And so one day, in a fit of frustration, I took to a whiteboard and I, I got a bunch of sticky notes, and I started grouping the challenges that my clients faced, and I tried bucketing them, and it became very clear to me as I was grouping things that there were two major camps of challenges. One challenge was a high achievement, perfectionism, putting much pressure on yourself to succeed, and almost this addiction to productivity. But then, on the other side, there were aspects related to high sensitivity. It was one of those divine intervention moments where I really did have a flash of insight, and I said to myself, Oh, sensitive striver.
Sensitive striver. And I saw it very clearly at that moment. And that is because of the book’s cornerstone, defining this personality as being a sensitive striver, which is being highly sensitive but also having that high achievement. And from there, once I had that concept, everything started to click into place because I had a framework to say, Does this idea belong in the book or not?
Is it the most relevant, important idea that this person needs to hear, and is it most relevant to their journey of trusting themselves? Or not. So having that big idea and having that clarity just made everything so much easier.
Rose: I love that. I definitely fall into that camp. I am very sensitive, but I’m also a high achiever, so that’s probably why it resonated so much when I first picked up your book.
And I love that you took problems or issues that your clients had that you were able to help with to write a book? Because it makes so much sense to write about something people are struggling with, which is one of those other things. I know what comes up for me. I’ve recently started my new program, the HSP Business School, and my first group that’s going through all of them talked about self-confidence, and that’s a big thing, not just for highly sensitives and introverts but for many people. Do you have any tips you could share that would help people with their self-confidence, mainly around their business?
Melody: Yeah, this is 100%. The biggest issue that people come to me for is imposter syndrome or a lack of confidence; what have you? And definitely, you teach what you most need to learn. And in my case that has been confidence, especially in business. And I have, for a long time, struggled with doubting myself.
Am I good enough? Can I do this? Oh, that launch was a fluke. It won’t be like that next time—all that classic start of symptoms of a lack of confidence. What I have found as a helpful hack, we could do a whole episode on confidence in itself. But just one helpful tip is separating the voice of your inner critic from your inner coach.
And many of us, we are coaches, we are helper s, healers, but we have that very loud voice of the inner critic. I call mine bozo because it is very annoying and it’s quite a nuisance at times. But I also have the voice of a wise inner coach. You know that that intuitive side, that’s much calmer, That’s much more reassuring.
Melody: Takes things more slowly, often, more deliberately, versus my inner critic is very, everything is urgent. The sky is always falling. And being able to label those and identify them and have a way to work with them more specifically like that has been very helpful to me. Because I can see when the inner critic comes out and says, “ Okay, I see you there”.
But then I have the moment of pause to be more intentional about, okay, what does my inner coach say to me and what do I want to believe?
Rose: I love that. I love labelling and giving names.
So going back to the writing process, Melody, what are some other insights that you can share into the writing process? I know you said it took five years, but there are various parts of writing a book.
Melody: Yes. Many parts of writing a book. So some of the things that were most helpful to me, not for Trust Yourself, but I’m working on a second book, and something I’ve found instrumental is I have done audience and client interviews.
And so for the second book, I’ve interviewed 35 or 40 people and asked them open-ended questions, got their stories, got their perspective, and it has been hugely helpful for guiding the book’s direction because I’m hearing from people in their own words; how do they describe their challenges?
What goals are they trying to achieve? They provided me with stories I could use, and of course, they provided me with permission to use them within the book. And so having those interviews is hugely important. Another thing that has helped is that in. Both Trust Yourself, and this new book has chapter structures.
I am someone who, without structure, I will overthink everything. And I will go off in a million directions and try to add so much more extraneous information. And a paragraph that should be 4,000 words will be 10,000 words because everything is essential, and someone wants all of the context and all of the information, but having a defined chapter structure, so for example, Trust Yourself, every chapter starts with a client story, and then there’s a description of the tool that we’re going to talk about in that chapter. And then there’s a strategy that looks at applying that tool. And then we see the client in the story apply that strategy, every chapter ends with an exercise.
So I created these templated chapters that I could sort and plug in every time. Mentally and emotionally, it made the writing process so much easier because it felt more like writing a blog posts versus this daunting idea of writing a book. For some reason, feels a lot bigger and scarier.
Rose: Yeah. I love the idea of structuring everything like that’s also another common trait for high sensitive people to be overthinkers, so that is a great idea. Is that something that you intuitively do? Or did you do a writing course or read how to write a book?
Melody: I did not take a writing course, nor have I read some books about writing books, which are very meta. Again, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is very helpful from the mental and emotional side of writing. She has this idea. From me, the first draft permits you to brain dump and get everything out on the page.
And I have to do that because my perfectionist will, I will try to write and edit at the same time, and as I’m writing a sentence, my brain is thinking, this is not good. This doesn’t sound very pleasant. You’re not saying what you want to say; you will choke. And there are some days when that gets the better of me.
And I write ten thousand words and there. Are better days where, you know, I can get a thousand or 2000 words down because I, I let, I, let myself let it be bad. That’s very important. But I do work with essentially a book coach. So someone that I hire independently of the publisher. Who is a developmental editor who can help me think through the structure of the content, how the ideas fit together, the flow of the chapter, and where we might need stories to plug in?
So just having that outside third party even to be able to talk things through with and get out of my head is invaluable.
Rose: Brilliant. And there are so many different coaches for different aspects of our business and life, and having a book coach makes so much sense.
And what is your second book? Do you have a title?
Melody: Still needs to get a confirmed title, so I can’t share that. But it is broadly about taking control of your career path and gaining influence while remaining true to who you are. So how do you exercise autonomy and authority without compromising your values?
Rose: Sounds amazing. Yeah. And when do you expect that to be published?
Melody: That should be out sometime in fall 2024. Quite a long time from now.
Rose: Yeah. But still, that’s, And when did you start writing it?
Melody: This June. So June 2022.
Rose: So your writing is getting shorter. The first book took five years.
Melody: That’s right, That’s right.
Now, in the first book, I learned from many mistakes. And I was learning how to write a book because it differs from writing Instagram posts or LinkedIn. Or even blog posts. You, it’s helpful to work in sections, like I mentioned, but then you have to zoom out and think about the arc of the book as a whole, how a reader is moving through this whole book, and where might they get hung up or where would they get bored?
And it’s a very different type of thinking that it just took me some time to wrap my head around.
Rose: And something I am really important as well is being highly sensitive. Is there a link between wanting to write a book and being highly sensitive or even introverted?
Melody: I think for many people, yes. By the nature of being HSP we’re deep thinkers and for those who are introverted. You know, I tend to find we’re idea people, we’re curious; we’re more comfortable with the written word and expressing our ideas that way because we can sit with them and think before we have to share them with somebody else so we can chew them over and process them.
Before we have to share them with the world, I think just a book is such a great way to synthesise your experiences or your knowledge, which again, for us, HSPs, making those connections can be a great way to exercise our strengths, but also be fun for us as well.
Rose: Brilliant. Yeah. So when you’ve written your book, Obviously you need to promote it. What are some tactics that you can share with the audience on promotion?
Melody: Yeah. It is easy to get into the creation process, whether it’s a book, course, or whatever you’re working on in your business.
It’s very easy to go under the hood and toil away building the thing and then come out one day and say, Here, I made this for you, but you need to bring people along on the journey. And I could be so much better at this. I have colleagues who are excellent at it, but I did; I did it somewhat for the first book, which was to let people into the process.
So documenting a writing day or giving people updates about my word count. Giving people sneak peeks of diagrams or images from the book or little sneak peeking the cover when it was ready. And so those just little snippets are light touches that keep your audience engaged. It builds excitement and anticipation.
And that was important because I had an audience that was waiting for this book, I had hyped it up, and I had, I had seated it for so long that when it came time to ask people to join the launch team or for pre-orders, they were ready because they knew about this book. They were excited about it; they were bought into the process.
So it’s something I had to keep in mind because I am that person who is constantly doing my own thing and do realise, Oh, I should be talking about this. But it’s essential to look for those opportunities along the way.
Rose: I love that. And do you share that with your email l, social media, or both?
Melody: All of the above. Yeah. I shared it broadly on social media when I was working on trusting myself to die. But now, for this new book, I have an insider team. So I went out to my audience and said If you want to be part of a special group of readers who helps me build this book, whom I look to for feedback, whom I can contact if I need interviews or I have questions, who I’ll give sneak peeks along the way of the content and you’ll get special access to Q&As for me, I have a special group of those people who are on the journey with me, who can then, down the line, serve as ambassadors for sharing the book?
Rose: Brilliant. Something I wanted to ask Melody about is finding a publisher. How do you find a publisher, but then you changed. Did you say you changed publishers?
Melody: Yes. So in traditional publishing, again, there are so many different ways this can work. I have had colleagues who, like myself, a publisher may contact you based on your writing and the content you’re putting out there. They may come across it and say, Hey, we like what you’re doing.
Do you wanna turn this into a book? Or they may say, We have this book idea. Are you interested in writing this? I’ve also had that happen to colleagues as well. Or you may have an idea. And you can approach a publisher in that case, but that cannot be easy to do on your own. So most people go the route of finding a literary agent first.
So you can, you know, there’s databases online, or you could Google literary agent, whatever type of, I’m assuming most people listening to this want to do something called prescriptive nonfiction, you know, business nonfiction. And, or you could do what I did: I went to the back of all of my favourite books, looked up who their agents were, and contacted them.
So an agent will represent you. Your agent is your advocate and your intermediary between you and the publisher. And the benefit of having an agent is that they are savvy. They know all the inside information about the industry. They understand how to navigate royalties, rights, contracts, and all sorts of things and give you advice and direction on your proposal, idea, and drafts.
So most people, if they want to work with publishers, Want to find an agent who is willing to be their advocate and who can open those doors for them because it can be tough to get into a publisher and get their attention another way.
Rose: Wow. So many great tips and so much that you’ve shared today Melody.
If someone was starting, and this is probably a very broad question, but if someone is starting out wanting to write a book, what steps would you recommend they take?
Melody: Yeah. Try many things. I wouldn’t have landed on my book idea if I hadn’t explored several different areas within my topic.
And saw what resonated with people the most. What did people get excited about? What was there the most response to? But then also, what did I enjoy talking about the most? Because you need to realise that whether you traditionally publish or self-publish, you want to or need to be talking about your book for a year, three years, or five years.
It would be best if you were ready to talk about this subject day in and day out, so you better enjoy it too. But I was testing it in different ways. Also, as I was writing, trust yourself, I would float pieces of the content out there in blog posts or videos again to sort of workshop it. Workshop it for myself in terms of the language or, again, see how it landed with people if people like certain angles better than others.
Try a lot of different things. Try to think about what is the under served area of your niche. So something helpful to me is figuring out who the authors my readers are already reading. What are their favourite books, and what are the gaps they are not filling?
And I did a research project. I went to Amazon, and I looked up the two and three-star reviews for all those books, and I assessed what people were saying about, what were those books. Where did they miss the mark? What questions didn’t they answer? What else did people want more of or less of?
And that helps inform what direction you take your book.
Rose: Brilliant. Thank you so much. And wow, I’m gonna have to re-listen to this again because you’ve shared so many wonderful tips, and I’m sure the audience has so much to take away from this.
I have one more question before I let you go today, Melody, which I ask all of my podcast guests, When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
Melody: For me, that is the sign that I need to stop. My typical MO used to be that I would try to push through those feelings. If I felt overwhelmed, I would tell myself to work harder and, calm down, get over it. You’re being dramatic. If I felt unfocused again, I would say, get through this. It would be best if you got these things done.
And I would force myself to sit in front of my computer or push through that thing, and I’ve realised, that only prolongs my suffering, and usually, whatever I’m working on is worse for it as a result. So when that happens to me, I use that as a signal, a trigger that I need to disconnect. I need to get up and take a walk, do something completely different, rest, reset, and return to whatever I’m doing with fresh eyes.
Rose: Brilliant. Well, I’m going to pop your links into the show notes. I’ll be popping your book; Trust Yourself in there. And I also wanted to put the book by Anne Lamott. What was, what was the name of that again Melody?
Melody: It’s called Bird by Bird.
Rose: Great, I’ll pop that in there are all and all your links will be in there.
Where would be the best place for people to find it?
Melody: You can find me on my website, Melodywilding.com. And if you want a free chapter of Trust Yourself, which we talked about today, you can head to Melodywilding.com/chapter.
Rose: Brilliant, thank you so much. It’s been wonderful talking to you today. Again Melody.
Melody:. Thank you.