By BRUCE DENNILL
Author Asha Tarry, an award-winning community mental health advocate, psychotherapist, and certified life coach, wants to help people to live a meaningful life in her book Adulting As A Millennial: A Guide To Everything Your Parents Didn’t Teach You. In her work, Tarry has found that many people struggle with negative thoughts about their past, present, and future life. She also notes that they are tolerating lacklustre relationships instead of manifesting powerful connections in their lives.
As a counsellor and coach of millennials, Tarry has witnessed the social and emotional challenges that accompany imposter syndrome, anxiety, and insecure relationships. A significant portion of Tarry’s work has been conducted in marginalised communities with survivors of inter-generational trauma as well as with professionals in search of a fulfilling life.
As a writer and speaker for several publications, which once included one of the nation’s largest online medical news outlets in the black community, BlackDoctor.org, she has effectively demonstrated anecdotal evidence that therapy works and that mindfulness is a holistic way of healing oneself on a continuous basis.
How do you know when an idea is worthy of developing into a book? With songs or other shorter formats, you can get to a point of knowing if something will work relatively soon, but getting several thousand words into a manuscript and then deciding it’s a waste of time is far more frustrating.
You need to have enough experience to give anecdotes and lessons to the reader to enjoy and contemplate. I believe that when you reach a level of achievement in your personal or professional life, you typically have significant experiences to share in story form that can help other people and that people would enjoy.
When you do decide that a theme or story is worth exploring, how do you go about unpacking that?
For me, it came in the form of a writing coach and publisher. If it is your first time writing long-form, as it was for me, I needed guidance on how to begin, as well as how to format a book that would be interesting and tell a congruent story in each chapter. Thankfully, I had a team that assisted me, including a writing coach/publisher and editor. Every week, I met with a group of budding writers and my coach to help me do this in a way I would enjoy, and hopefully lots of other people can be helped by it.
Research: how much do you do, and how detailed is it?
I do all of it in terms of deciding the chapters, chapter titles, content and references. My coach provided a thorough outline to follow and each week when we met, we discussed progress, concerns, and questions. Based on his years of experience as a writer and publisher, he provided average lengths to each chapter for me to follow. I dug as deeply as I could, but where I was stuck, the editor suggested ways to unpack certain things, using examples specific to my industry. Without that type of accountabiilty and coaching, I don’t think I would feel as confident about this book as I do.
How much planning do you do before beginning in earnest? Do you have to know where you’re going to end up before you start?
In some ways, I’m always planning. Part of being a good storyteller is living an exceptional life. I don’t fear making mistakes either, because that’s how I learn. I’m a student of life, so I absorb even the small things I see and hear around me. Later, that organically becomes material for my writing, whether it’s through my book, my blog, LifeCoachAsha.com, or through articles I’m penning. You don’t have a complete idea, but you should have some ideas about what you want to write about, and you should begin with who your audience is first, followed by what you want to teach, educate, or entertain them on.
If the hundreds of memes about writing are to be believed, sitting down and actually putting words on a page is perhaps the toughest part of the job. What are the distractions you battle with the most when trying to work?
For me mostly it’s being still at a consistent time of day to write. I do different types of work, and some of it demands my time and specific hours of the day on the same days of the week, every week, and as with anything, sometimes, that changes. Because I am also a therapist and coach, there might be an emergency issue that arises that I have to attend to immediately, and that can then distract me from being in one place every day to write. At other times, it may take me a while to have something intriguing to say when I write.
What’s the weirdest or craziest way you’ve found to avoid meeting a deadline?
It’s not that weird for me, but I simply will procrastinate when I’m scared to do something or bored with doing something. Thankfully, I’ve developed a habit of writing frequently and doing things in my life that keep me from getting bored too often.
Daily goals: what, for you, is an acceptable daily target, in terms of wordcount or the quality of what you complete, be it a sentence, a paragraph or a chapter?
My daily goals include reading and writing daily. I don’t necessarily have a numeric limit, since almost any day can be different for me. As long as I read an article or a book chapter, sometimes even a few pages, plus some online news and maybe write on alternating days when my schedule least permits too much more, then, I feel accomplished.
What have you found are the best ways to get this done?
Starting early in the morning is always the best time of day to do this. If I don’t begin early, then I’m working it into my evening, and at times, that is only late night reading. I can’t effectively write well late at night anymore. My best writing in the morning and the afternoon.
If writing books is not your full-time job, how does completing a project fit in with your other duties?
It becomes a must at some point. If I’ve committed to a writing project, I will sometimes have to block off a day and just write. I won’t leave the house or answer the phone until it’s complete. I’ve also learned to continue creating blocks of time on days I have less client work.
Marketing new books – print or digital: what fresh ideas do you think could be introduced to the process to make new work more accessible and appealing to both new and established readers?
Verbal transcribing is an exciting and faster way to write these days. It’s something I may try down the line. I often tell my clients who deal with rumination to brain-dump in their phones. Talking out the contents of a book is just as useful. If that was advertised more often, I think it would make the process of writing for some people less daunting. Then, you could have a transcriber translate the audio into a manuscript.
Follow Asha Tarry on Instagram: @ashatarrymental.