Jas Rawlinson: “Discover a life that you love.”

Trauma does not have to be a life sentence. I know it can be a bit of a controversial statement to make, but you really can go on to create purpose from your pain. Nothing has taught me this more strongly than a decade of interviewing and coaching survivors of child abuse, domestic violence, and […]

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Trauma does not have to be a life sentence. I know it can be a bit of a controversial statement to make, but you really can go on to create purpose from your pain. Nothing has taught me this more strongly than a decade of interviewing and coaching survivors of child abuse, domestic violence, and suicide. Yes, everyone’s life journeys are different. Yes, we all experience unique traumas or adversities. But it is possible to go on to discover a life that you love; a life that has a purpose. Your trauma does not have you define you. You can re-define it to create something meaningful.

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 Jas Rawlinson.

Jas Rawlinson is an Australian mental wellbeing speaker, story writing coach, and best-selling author of the internationally renowned book series ‘Reasons to Live One More Day, Every Day’. Passionate about empowering people through the healing power of storytelling, Jas has featured across international media outlets such as ABC News, House of Wellness and news.com.au. Above all, she believes that everyone has a story with the power to change lives.

Thank you so much for joining us Jas! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

The short and surprising answer? Getting fired from my job in a bulk food store! It was 2010, and I had been jumping between casual retail jobs since completing my creative writing degree two years prior. Like many other graduates, I found it tough to break into the writing industry, as I had a degree but no real experience. I remember going to work one day, and I was just so sick of being depressed, anxious, and feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere. Since a young age I had always been fascinated by writing and creativity, and knew very strongly that I wanted to do something meaningful; something that changed lives…but I couldn’t work out how to ‘find’ it. Around this time, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to volunteer at a festival she was organizing north of Brisbane. I checked it out and saw that they were looking for volunteer photojournalists. Instantly, something inside of me said: ‘That’s me!’ I grabbed my camera, took leave from work, and set off to photograph and report on fascinating international musicians, artists, and social change-makers. Unfortunately, my boss at the time wasn’t happy with me asking for a few days leave and I lost my job. But looking back, it was the best thing that could have happened; because that festival was where I found myself and my passion for writing. It set me on my course to becoming an author.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

Most interesting story? Probably the fact that despite telling my mum I would never become a teacher (something she tried to push me toward for years), I have ended up doing just that! Becoming a writing coach was something I never even dreamed of; it was never even on my radar as a possibility. Not only that but growing up, I was so chronically shy that I avoided being in the spotlight as often as possible. I hated being relied upon to lead a group and didn’t believe I could ever be in any kind of leadership position.

Even as a PA for a high-level member of faculty at a well-known university, I still didn’t believe I had the talent or strength to be seen as an expert in anything. I’d say things to myself like: ‘You’re never going to be a manager/leader type of person.’ ‘You’re great in the background, but you’re not strong enough to be in charge of anything.’ I guess it’s no surprise that I became an author — after all, it’s the perfect job for introverts and deep thinkers.

Looking back, I never even thought about how writing a book might open up other career avenues. But around 12 months after releasing my first book, I realized I could actually use all of my own experience and expertise to coach others through the process of bringing their manuscripts to life.

Today, I’m a mental health speaker (which is just hilarious to me, given I once bribed a teacher into letting me out of public speaking!), and a story/writing coach for multi-passionate entrepreneurs and individuals with stories of triumph over adversity. And none of it would have happened without writing that first book!

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?

The biggest challenge for me was working out how to publish my book. So many writers think of their completed manuscript as being the final goal post; almost like the flag on the top of Mount Everest. But finishing your manuscript is actually just the start! Because from there, you have to work out how to actually publish your book, and for me, this was the biggest cause of stress. Do I self publish, or go the traditional route? And if I do self-publish, how do I avoid my book becoming a DIY disaster? These were some of the biggest questions I struggled with in the months after finishing my book. Interestingly, these are also some of the biggest questions that my clients come to me with when we begin working together, and it’s one of the main reasons why my coaching focuses not only on the writing process but also on self-publishing and marketing.

I think it’s important for first-time authors to know that self-publishing can actually be incredibly profitable, and for most authors these days it’s the number one choice. But that said, you need to do your research and make sure you make the best decision for both yourself and your book. I have a list of ‘questions for publishers’ that I give my clients to help them decide on the best option for their work. The top 3 questions you should be asking any potential publisher are these:

  1. What are their copyright/royalty terms? In most cases, self-publishing is the number one choice for aspiring authors. You retain full copyright, set your own pricing, and sell on your own terms. For example, the majority of my book sales are funneled through my website, which means that I retain 100% of the profits. However, you definitely want to check what each publisher’s terms and conditions are around these two elements.
  2. Do they provide marketing assistance? Here’s the thing — regardless of whether you’re a marketing pro or not, you don’t want to be wasting your precious time promoting your book day and night. Finding a self-publisher who can market your book for you can save hundreds of hours of time!
  3. Where are they located and what is their communication policy? For example, if you were to run into challenges or issues throughout the publishing process, would you be able to jump on the phone with them straight away or would you have to submit an email and wait days/weeks for a reply? One of the top reasons I went with my publisher was that he was quick to answer emails, and could jump on the call very quickly if I had an urgent question. When you’re trusting your manuscript to a stranger you need to know they have your back.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Like many authors, I thought that getting published through a traditional publisher was as easy as submitting your manuscript, and if you were accepted, prepping for the release of your book within the same year. HA! What a learning curve I was in for. Imagine my surprise when I emailed a publisher a copy of my manuscript, only to find out that they were booked out 18–24 months in advance! At the time I couldn’t believe it — now I look back and laugh at the fact that I thought they could look at my book and publish it the same year!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m so excited to be currently working on my first fictional novel, ‘Where you Least Expect.’ Following the journey of a small-town girl named Billie, it’s a story of a young woman who runs away to the city to escape her past, only to become entangled in an organized crime network. It’s a story that’s very personal to me and weaves in a lot of the research and advocacy work I’ve done over the years around issues of human trafficking and domestic violence.

I’m also working on the third and final volume of my book series ‘Reasons to Live: One More Day,’ which is a collection of inspiring stories from people across the globe who’ve risen from severe adversity, to find their purpose and passion for life.

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

One of the most fascinating stories in my book series ‘Reasons to Live: One More Day, Every Day’ comes from an Australian speaker, author and humanitarian named Michael Crossland. He’s also a survivor of stage four neuroblastoma cancer, which he was diagnosed with just before his first birthday, and which almost killed him. In fact, Michael was given only a 4% chance of survival. However, his mother — the biggest cheerleader in his life — refused to give up, and made the agonizing decision to put her young son through an experimental drug trial. During that trial, 24 children passed away. Michael was the only one who survived.

Today, he’s an internationally renowned speaker who has shared the stage with legends like Richard Branson, featured on the global platform Goalcast, and changed hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. As some of my close friends know, I actually grew up in the same street as Michael. So to me, he’s always just been ‘Mike.’ But the one thing that’s true beyond a shadow of a doubt is that he is truly inspirational.

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

Trauma does not have to be a life sentence. I know it can be a bit of a controversial statement to make, but you really can go on to create purpose from your pain. Nothing has taught me this more strongly than a decade of interviewing and coaching survivors of child abuse, domestic violence, and suicide. Yes, everyone’s life journeys are different. Yes, we all experience unique traumas or adversities. But it is possible to go on to discover a life that you love; a life that has a purpose. Your trauma does not have you define you. You can re-define it to create something meaningful.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Read, read, read.
    It’s amazing how many people still believe that they can ‘wing it’, when it comes to writing a book. That they need only to rely on their own talent and don’t need inspiration from anywhere else. This is the biggest mistake you can make! As a writer, you need to humble yourself. You need to admit that you don’t know everything — heck, you probably know very little. And you need to learn from others. How can you know what people enjoy reading if you don’t look at the books people are investing in?
  2. Commitment over talent wins every time.
    So many people buy into the idea that to write a best-selling book, you need to be an incredibly talented writer — the next JK Rowling or Mark Manson. They look at the news, or their favorite bookshop newsletter, and say, ‘Ugh, I’ll never be that talented.’ But you know what? Talent is actually a tiny component. What you need is more commitment. It’s a piece of advice I keep very close to home and implement in my own life. When I’m working on a new book, I commit to getting focused and creating structure very early on. I spreadsheet what I need to do month by month in order to achieve my goal — and then I begin working on it one piece at a time, one day at a time. For you, it could be about committing to writing 500 words per day or investing in a writing coach/mentor to help you stay on track. But whatever it is, remember: commitment is the missing puzzle piece.
  3. Less theory, more stories.
    If you’re a non-fiction writer, you may think that storytelling is only for fictional novels, children’s books, and celebrity memoirs — but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, storytelling is the most effective way to convey your message, establish the ‘know, like and trust’ factor with your audience, and turn readers into raving fans. Surprisingly, science has shown that when we read/hear stories, our brains actually perceive them as though they were real.
    One of the best examples I can give of someone who has mastered the art of storytelling is Australian best-selling author Constance Hall. To many, she’s just an everyday Australian. A mum. A wife. A bit of a bogan. Yet, she was also 2016’s highest-selling Australian author. The most surprising part of this is that if you take a quick look at her social media you’ll see that she’s not your average ‘writer’. In fact, her posts are littered with typos and grammatical errors. The truth is, Constance Hall is not your typical university-degree writing professional. But you know what? She’s a fantastic storyteller. And that’s why she’s been so successful. Also, don’t forget that all of the greatest authors out there still work with editors. If you have a great story/idea, but you know that you struggle with writing, or you’re short on time, you can also work with a ghostwriter, who will help shoulder the load and do all the writing for you.
  4. Remember — it’s not all about you.
    To be a great author, you need more than just a great idea/story — you need to know what it is that your audience actually wants. If you’re writing a book to promote your brand or business, ask yourself: who is my target reader? What is the solution they’re looking for, and why am I the best person to deliver it? How can I ensure my book fulfills my goals, as well as those of my target audience? This is something I dive deep into with my own writing coaching clients because if you can nail this at the beginning of your writing journey, the rest is so much easier.
  5. Start your email list early.
    Look, let’s be honest; no one wants the beautiful book that they’ve spent so long crafting to launch to the sound of crickets. You don’t want to spend your days hustling amongst friends, trying to sell copies of your book. You want people to know all about your book before it comes out. The biggest lesson I wish I’d learned prior to publishing my first book, would have been this. So start your email list early, and make sure you’re driving people to sign up for exclusive content/sneak peeks at least 3–6 months before your book is due to come out.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?

I mentioned this briefly earlier, but without a doubt, the number one habit that guarantees success is commitment. A lot of people get bogged down by the ‘talent’ myth; that you can’t write a book unless you’re super-duper talented. In reality, it doesn’t matter how talented you are; if you don’t commit everyday to your goal of getting your book done, you will not achieve it. I know this very well myself.

A lot of people probably make the mistake of thinking that it’s easy for someone like myself — with a natural talent for writing — to create and complete a book. But it’s bloody hard! It’s about so much more than the writing; there’s also the publishing and marketing side of things, as well as the mindset hurdles you have to jump through in order to get in the right frame of mind to actually share your work with the world. I’ll be the first to admit that writing my fictional novel is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I started it in 2015 and gave up on it after only a year. I didn’t pick it back up until late 2019, but now, I’ve finished the draft and have started the first round of edits. This didn’t happen because I was super talented; it happened because I committed to working on my book at least 3 times a week, reading widely to improve my writing style and going back to scratch with my characters and storylines.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

It’s a bit of a surprise, but I really love suspense and thriller novels. One of my favorite books (I’ve read it twice!) is ‘My Lovely Wife’ by Samantha Downing. This book was instrumental in showing me how to grip a reader right from the start.

Aside from that, I also love reading real-life inspiring memoirs from everyday people and celebrities.

You are a person of enormous 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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Something I believe in very deeply is that everyone has a story within them with the power to change, influence, and inspire millions. Everyone has a story waiting to be written. As a writer, coach and storyteller, my ultimate goal is to empower people to take ownership of their lives and stories and use them to create positive change. To show people that no matter where you’ve come from and where you’ve been, that there are better days coming. I believe a movement of storytelling, where every person felt empowered to truly own and share their story, could change the world.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I love hearing from readers! Get in touch with me at www.jasrawlinson.com or via Facebook (@Jas Rawlinson — Reasons to Live One More Day, Every Day) or Instagram (@jas_rawlinson).

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!

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