Starting With WHY Applies to Fiction Writing

One of my favorite books is Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why.” If you haven’t read the book, this TEDTalk is an abbreviated version, but I highly recommend the book as well.  Here’s the video:

Simon talks about how the way to succeed in business is by focusing on your “WHY.”  Your core message, meaning, and purpose.  As humans, we are drawn to others who are deeply grounded in their purpose.

How does this relate to fiction writing?

Think about some of the classics works of literature. Lord of the Rings, Narnia. There are so many I won’t even begin to name them all.

The common thread amongst all of our favorite books was that they had a WHY.

Lord of the Rings wasn’t just about destroying a ring.  It was about how everyone has the battle of both good and evil inside.

Narnia wasn’t just about defeating the witch.  It was about trusting and having faith that good will overcome evil, and how individuals can come together and become stronger.

Struggling With Details

The "why" of your novel is  important.
The “why” of your novel is important.

As a fiction writer, I tend to trip over minutia.  Re-reading my work I see all the holes in the plot, chapters that don’t flow with the story, characters that seem weak.

For the past six months, I have stepped back from the sci-fi novel I’d been tackling, and upon re-opening the file and thinking about how I could improve, one overall message stood out:

My story has no deeper meaning or purpose behind it.

The reason I was stuck was because there was no core purpose.  My plot was falling apart, the characters were shallow, and the places had no depth.

Stepping back and having that objective view, I can now use Sinek’s “Start with Why” graph, and build my outline starting with the deeper, core message.



If you are stuck, I hope this inspires you to look at your creative work with from a new perspective.

Happy writing! 



The Rainy Day Mindset Shift

Cold, wet, mud puddles, slate’y skies.  Rainy days used to be a mood killer, it was the perfect ingredients for Lil Miss Crabby.


Family and friends can attest to the fact that I am not a fun person to be around on a rainy day. Snappy, and downright moody in the worst of ways.

rainy day, mindset, mindset shift
This is the view from my front porch.


But today, waking up to the rain. I felt something different.  You see, as a writer–and we can be an odd lot–I had ideas swirling around for my novel that I hadn’t cracked open for almost 6 months.


The rain wasn’t an issue, and in fact, I’m welcoming the clouds, chill, and dreary forecast.  This just makes dystopic fiction writing all the more juicy.


So, most of the morning I’ve been so immersed in writing, that I haven’t had time to dwell in my typically piss poor rainy day mood.  Much to the delight of those around me. :p

It's not about weather, it's about your mind.
It’s not about weather, it’s about your mind.


While I still struggle with being cheery on the very British-like days North Carolina throws at us, I’m trying to find peace with the fact that I will never have the power to change the weather.  Or the day of the week (yes, I’m talking about you Monday haters – I got your number).


If you allow your mood to be determined by forces outside your control, you’ll be miserable.  Don’t worry, I’ve been that person for far too long.  It’s part of the human experience to let emotion control us, to be dragged into petty dramas, mood swings, and irritability.


But it’s also part of the human experience to try and transcend the feeling of being pulled by emotion.


It’s a journey.  All part of this “figuring myself out” deal that we get with our lives.

Let’s go! 



Outside Validation is a Short Term Strategy

Even the most successful people have moments of doubt, or times when they don’t feel worthy.  While I’ve learned to not get into this space as much, feeling the need for outside validation is something I’ve struggled with. The need for approval, praise, or some sign that I’m enough.  This is something I’ve also noticed many others struggle with.

Allowing other people to validate who we are or what we do is not a bad thing. What’s bad is when we use that as a crutch and continually victimize ourselves by repeating the same old story.

Being a homeschooled child, I was protected from a lot of the school yard antics a majority of children go through.  This is one of the places where children grow up learning to fear showing their true selves. For a short time, I did go to a private school.  That was my first real exposure to “outside” people influencing who I was.

First hand, I saw what bullies were like, and was swept into the clique-ish behaviors of “fitting in” so I would feel accepted, and “dissing the dorks.” While, at the time, I wasn’t aware of being affected by the opinions of people I only knew on a superficial level, it was enough exposure to leave me feeling the need to hide who I was for fear of rejection.

So, I sympathize with people who have gone through years of that nonsense and experience self-doubt and the sense of needing others to give them the “Okay.” Even if that wasn’t your childhood experience, I still understand you.

Change your story, mindset, devani anjali alderson, validation, self confidance, how to have confidance

While I still catch myself behaving in ways to “feel accepted,” I’ve gotten better at shaking off that need, and am constantly striving to improve.  Through parental guidance, self-development education, and self-reflection I’ve learned a thing or two about how to overcome the need of outside validation.

Stand Up Straight.  I can typically tell if someone has been in the military because of the way they stand tall and walk into a place. They appear fully comfortable with themselves.  Besides the fact that their healthy and muscular physique practically shouts “military training,” they always look confident, whether they feel that way inside or not. Looking the part goes a long way toward in being that way.

Seek Out Confident People.  Whether you read self-development books or find someone in your network, connect with someone who is confident. Observe how they behave. If it’s a public figure then YouTube them and watch how they talk, the language they use, and how they carry themselves. Good examples of public figures who I think embody confidence and self-worthiness are: Darren Hardy, founder of Success Magazine; Tony Robbins author of “Awaken the Giant Within” and well known public speaker;  Marie Forleo, founder of B-School and blogger at where she helps people “create a business and life they love.”  I highly recommend tuning in to these three entrepreneurs, as they have valuable tips about mindset, self-awareness, and self-development.

Write Your Ideal Self.  The power of words has moved and changed people for centuries. If you need an example, look at the Bible.  Write down the person you WANT to be. Create a bullet list, a paragraph, whichever, just put words on paper and create the ideal you.  If you aren’t sure how to start writing that, here are a few questions to ponder:

  • How would I like to be remembered?
  • What impression would I like to give to my kids? (if you have kids.)
  • What could I gain from changing my negative thoughts?

Change Your Mind.  Something my mom said the other day stuck with me.  “A stranger has no idea about you. They don’t know your history, they don’t know about your lack of confidence, or that you feel worthless. When you meet a stranger, there is nothing stopping you from appearing like the person you would like to be. Nothing at all stopping you from being real.”  That really impacted me in a positive way.  Truth is, nobody can get in your head and hear all the negativity swirling around.  All they see is the outside reflection of who you’ve decide to be.  So choose to be different. And remember that so many others are going through the exact same thing.  You don’t have to. Decide to open up.  Doing so creates a space where others can relax and feel safe.

We’re all guilty of enjoying everyone’s praise, it feels great to hear how awesome we are.  There is nothing wrong with that, unless you depend on it.  If you don’t feel great on the inside, if you use your negative self-talk as victimization for validation, you’ll end up miserable.
Outside validation isn’t wrong, but relying solely on that will never make you a happy person.  It all starts with feel confident no matter what others think.

Do you constantly seek validation from everyone around you? What ways are you working with being more confident in yourself?  Let me know in the comments!


Overcoming Writers Block

(Image: Michael Chen)


“I’m too tired for this.”


The thought plays like a broken record in my head as I stare at an empty Word document. For the millionth time in the past week, I’ve tried to work on re-writes for my novel.  Nothing comes.


Are my characters giving me the silent treatment? Maybe they’re on vacation.  Or, what if they’ve abandoned me to go whisper in someone else’s ear?  Maybe that other person tells their story better?


That would be infuriating.  Like getting dumped.  By my whole cast.   Ouch.


A lot of people, especially artists, talk about tapping into “The Flow” when working.  It’s a little like when a runner experiences a “runners high.”


Sometimes, I really feel connected with this flow.


Then, there are times I get depressed or concerned… Times when what writers call “Writers Block,” occurs.


A nasty, creeping, infestation of nothingness.  My brain literally feels empty of anything important.  Those are the times I remember all the chores that should be done, but aren’t.  And, believe me, it’s pretty tempting to go do them.  Instead I sit there. Picking my nails. Waiting for some profound thought to float by.


I hate to admit how often this happens to me.  It’s hard to wonder if something is wrong up there.  Do other writers experience this?  Or is this a unique malady that’s decided to infect me?


Truth is, I’ve never been the kind of artist that just flowed a steady stream of amazing words.   Even now, it feels weird and choppy the way the thoughts are coming out… Like the way I think.


Not fluid.


The other day, as I was pondering this unfortunate predicament, I realized something.


Think about the Runners High.


There is the struggle in the beginning.  Then moment where you wonder whether you should just cut your looses and go home, but once you push through that… The adrenaline courses through you.


Almost as if you had a reserve tank of energy inside that was waiting for the right moment to be unlocked.


It’s the same for a writer.


In the beginning, there is the blank page.  Then, the first word.  And once you get going, it’s hard to stop.   A seed of creativity starts growing inside and once you’re done a tree has started to sprout on the page.


As it gets bigger, you start trimming up some of the branches, shaping it to the way you want it to look.


That’s when you know you’ve unlocked Writers High.  It’s The Flow that you’ve created all on your own.


The Flow comes from inside you.  Waiting for you to unlock.  So stop waiting, stop delaying, and start creating.  


Creating your flow isn’t easy.  It’s messy, there are depressing moments, times you want to give up, call it quits, move on, close the case.  But that won’t do.


Those characters will come back, they won’t be able to stop tormenting you until that story is completed.  They will not leave you.  You just have to keep the relationship going.


~Devani Anjali Alderson
Writer, Photographer, Marketer, Globe Trotter.

Kill The Muse — It’s On You

A muse.  The romantic notion that a divine being outside yourself inspires your work.  As if something from outside is influencing what you do. Controlling what you’re compelled to create.  Why do so many people feel the need to constantly give credit to an outside source?

Do you not feel worthy enough to come up with incredible work? Is it that you feel it would be egotistical to take the credit? Or maybe it’s an unconscious action?

Well, maybe it’s time to fully own the fact that you are worthy.  You are worthy of sharing your ideas and claiming it as your own.

© Devani Anjali Photograhy
© Devani Anjali Photograhy

You know how when you ask friends for advice and one of them will say something like: “Go with your gut?” (Or intuition). Well, it’s time to acknowledge that inner idea. It came from YOU.  There’s no need to constantly thank and give tribute to the muse.  It’s like someone who constantly talks about how humble they are.  Total mood killer.

I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!  Does any of this resonate with you… Or have I totally missed the mark?

~Devani Anjali Alderson
Writer, Social Media Maven, Photographer, Globe Trotter.

Defining Yourself

We often attend business meetings where corporate goals are discussed.  But how often do you do that for yourself? Are your personal goals defined? And what about family goals? Or the goals you have with your significant other?

I just read this article on from Brian Rumao, Chief of Staff to the CEO at LinkedIn, talking about how you can use the “Corporate” format of a company definition, and use it in your personal life.

Defining who you are, is the most important thing you could ever gift yourself.

Image: Devani Anjali Alderson
Image: Devani Anjali Alderson


Take a minute and pretend your life is a business, YOU are the CEO, and your currency is Happiness, Joy, and Love.

What actions will make you happy?

Who loves you enough to be okay with who you decide to be, and will help you uphold that promise to yourself?

What goals and ambitions will bring the most joy into your life?

Have a ‘board meeting’ with yourself, your family, and/or your significant other.  Being on the same page with yourself, and those around you, helps define who you are, stay true to what you need and want, and it gives a direction to your life.

Clarity is something that is missing for a lot of people. It’s hard to stay on track with your goals when they’re not defined and prominently relevant in each day.  I know because I’ve done it.  And without having my family there to remind be who I am, and what I’m really about, who knows where I’d be right now.

We were given this life to create something beautiful and amazing…a space for us and our loved ones to enjoy. So, get clear with yourself and a significant other or two, stop piddling around, and make that happen.

Please share some of your goals in the comments below! Look forward to your sharing.
~Devani Anjali Alderson
Writer, Social Media Maven, Photographer, Globe Trotter.

Is Mediocrity Our Standard?

“How are you?”

Why is such a textbook question, our most common conversation opener? Neither party seems to care about the response anymore.

But it’s no surprise that this stale question is followed by an equally flat response: “Fine.”

I despise that stagnate four letter word.  The implications of being “fine,” entail a lack of life.  Don’t get me wrong though, I’m guilty as charged.

The nuances of life, rocky roads, smooth coast to a finish line, and the various achievements, suggest that you are much more then “fine.”

When death calls, and you’re about to step into an unknown level of existence, do you really want the legacy you leave behind to be, “fine?”

What a stodgy word to sum up one’s life.

Religion aside, there is some higher power out there that gifted us our life.  Call it God, or whatever name you go by, he gave us the ability to think, breath, communicate in multiple ways, and feelings so that we can have multi-demential experiences.


Beauty, glory, victory, love, anger, depression, rage, hurt, bruised, sadness, longing, aching, achievement, bone tiredness, numbness.  Everything we do creates an emotion.

Next time someone asks you, “How are you?” think about all the unique ways you could reply. And answer that could actually leave an impression.  Something that helps someone else connect and glimpse vulnerability.

As the asker, maybe consider only asking this question only if you are ready to uphold the responsibility of hearing the answer.

To respond with “fine,” is like tossing out a gift.  If you take your feelings for granted, then someday you might wake up and actually feel nothing.

You’re NOT fine. You are so much more then that. To feel something, is better then not feeling at all.  Own it, own yourself.

Please let me know how you really feel about this in the comments below! 🙂

Writer, Social Media Maven, Globe Trotter, Photographer.

Platform Persona

*I just tried Dippin Dots recently. They’re epic! 🙂

There was a very interesting conversation in a writers group I’m in.  One of my friends, Stephanie, asked us how we behave on each of the different social media accounts.

This got me to thinkin.  I know, shocker.

A lot of people don’t think about their appearance on each platform. They talk about what they’ll post, and the ratio of promoting vs. value adding.  But, I don’t often hear talk about what perception they want to convey to the world.

So, I thought it would be helpful to share the social platforms I use, how I use them, and the way I want people to perceive the content.

*NOTE: What people think about what you post will vary, but if you know your audience, then you can strategically share content and be able to judge the reaction.  But humans are humans, and ya never know.  It makes it exciting. 🙂

Twitter: This is one of my favorite platforms because the idea that you can quickly write some one-liner and send that thought out to the world, is so incredible.  Awe inspiring, really. But that could just be my geeky’ness coming through.

The WHY: I LOVE learning about what people on the geeky, business, and artist world are up to. And sharing it with others.  Things like that interest me, and it helps the various people get the word out, then blasts it out to others who care about those topics.  Win-win-win, in my book.

The PERCEPTION: I want to be seen as a content curator. I don’t use Twitter to self promote that much, tho I will drop a blog post now and then.

Instagram: My second favorite platform.  Photography is one of my top five passions.  There is something about capturing a single moment of life and sharing it with others, that uplifts me.

The WHY:  I love to capture beauty.  In a world where we’re all caught up in our phones, books, emails, and god knows what else, scrolling through instagram and seeing something that makes someone say: “Wow!” or that just gets others to smile, really brightens my day.  I also like sharing little ‘peeks’ into my life. Like, my recent Dippin Dots obsession, and how my dog did, really, just eat a Brussel Sprout. I know, GROSS.

The PERCEPTION: I want people to feel closer to me.  We all crave human connection, some more then others. I am one of those “More the other” people. And while nothing will EVER beat face-to-face, a photo just seems like a good compromise. I want people to see I’m a real person, even if they only converse with me at a virtual level.

Facebook: A lot of people have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  To that, I would say: Stop complainin’ it’s a free platform, and you know you’re addicted anyway.  If you hate it so much, get off.  Now back to my point, I use Facebook as place to connect at a deeper level with people.

The WHY: I feel like this is a good dialog platform. A place to start discussions and talk about issues that are close to our hearts, as well as share news and images with folks.  I use it to share my thoughts, and news about my life.

The PERCEPTION:  I like to be utterly random on Facebook. The stuff I post sometimes makes absolutely no sense, yet it still have a purpose.  It makes people pause and think: “Hey, that’s a new way to think about it.” or “I never looked at this issue this way.”  Sometimes I personally don’t even agree with some of the topics I post, but I use it as a platform that allows people to debate objectively and share there thoughts on things that matter.  And I’ll also sharing tips, resources, and photos about what’s going on.  But I really like using it to gauge people’s thoughts on life in general and the topics we all wonder about but are scared to bring up sometimes.

These are the three sites I use the most.  The other social media platforms I’m on I don’t really use enough to have a large presence on.  I’m a firm believer that you should stick to the few platforms you like the BEST then you can always try out others once you’ve established yourself.

Would love to hear the platforms you use in the comments 🙂

Writer, Globe Trotter, Social Media Maven, Photographer

Stop Dreaming


… WHAT?! Okay, you really have gone crazy, Devani.

I can see where you would question my sanity when reading that title. You’re in good company, I question my sanity daily.

So often a lot of people, myself included, say things like: “I want to create a business for…” or “I envision my life looking like…” or “My life would be perfect if…”

This is awesome. I LOVE hearing people dreaming big ideas. But where does the dream turn to reality? That’s what I’m more interested in.

Out of all the books I’ve read, and several conferences attended, I keep hearing a similar message: “Don’t just dream, make a plan of action.”

Dreaming is wonderfully eye-opening, and stimulates your mind, but the magic happens when the image in your head, turns into a physical creation.  There is a rush of power and joy when you bring an idea to life.

When scrolling through social media platforms, I used to love seeing those inspiring images with the quotes that said things along the lines of ‘dreaming bigger’ and ‘being creative.’

Now, I cringe every time I see those. Not because I think it’s a ‘bad message’ but because it’s misleading.

Dreaming doesn’t get you anywhere, and those images rarely say anything about the hard work that goes behind making your visions REAL.  There are some that say things along the lines of: “Work hard to make the life you want” — But more often then not, these viral memes tell the easy story.

Most creative people know that the vision itself, is easy to come up with, and it can get so grand in your head where you have all the resources.  It’s the actual ‘bringing to life’ that is hard.

Mom’s know what it’s like best of all. Labor pains.  When you’re giving birth to another human. That whole process is not a walk in the park, so I’ve heard.

This is the exact some process of ‘giving birth’ to your idea. It’s NOT easy.  But the reward of the work makes it worth the energy.

So… Yes, my title was a bit misleading.  Don’t ‘stop’ dreaming, rather, bring the dream outside your head.

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Writer, Globe Trotter, Social Marketing Maven

The Art of Eating Sushi


Our local Whole Foods has a Sushi bar. It’s epic.  They have those California rolls with avocado and carrots in them. That is my favorite and it’s such a treat! I eat it on the way home so none of the other foods tempt me 😉

The other day, while eating it, I made a mistake.  I tried taking a bite out of the sushi, rather then just popping the whole thing in my mouth.  They are a bit larger then ‘bite size’ so it can be awkward to enjoy/chew when you have a golf ball size piece in your mouth.

I turned to my mom, (we were in the car – she was driving), and told her: “You can’t take a bite out of sushi! It’s impossible! You have to stuff the whole damn thing in your mouth. Gross.” in a dryly humored, but mildly frustrated tone.

She chuckled in agreement say, “Yep! You gotta commit!”  BAM!
“Hey!” I said, “It’s like goals. You can’t take a half assed bite out of a goal you want to accomplish, you got to commit.”

So, that’s why I’m writing this.

To get what you want in life accomplished, you HAVE to commit. Completely.  You can’t take a little bite then decide it’s not something you care for.  You must take the plunge.  Or you’ll leave a mess of unfinished, abandoned ideas behind you.

If you want to be happy and achieve your various aspirations in life, you must be willing to let go, commit, and take the plunge.

The path to success doesn’t include half ass’ing it.

You’ve got to commit to yourself and your goals.

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section!

Author, Social Marketing Maven, Globe Trotter, Photographer