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Take Five: Dan Blank and Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience

We’re honored to have long-time WU contributor Dan Blank join us today to discuss his new book, Be [1]

the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience [1].  Please join us in offering our congratulations to Dan on the book’s March 7th release. Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for us today, Dan!

Many people feel the drive to do creative work, but get overwhelmed by the process of connecting with an audience. They follow “best practices” in marketing that never seem to pan out, don’t produce results, and make them feel lost and oftentimes, frustrated. Be the Gateway offers a powerful way to have an impact.

If you want to share your voice and inspire people with your writing, art, craft, or creative idea, you have to be the gateway for them. Instead of throwing “products” out into the marketplace, you open them up to a new way of looking at the world, of knowing themselves, and connecting with others. You unlock new experiences for them — not just through what you create, but through the unique way in which you share it with the world.

Too often we think about the creative process as being separate from the marketing process. Instead, view them as the same. Replace the inclination to “promote” with the desire to share and engage. How and why you create is a story — and is the best asset you can use to truly engage people. Be the Gateway shows you how to use that gift with joy and confidence.

For more information about this book and services Dan Blank offers to authors, please visit here [2].

Q1: What’s the premise of your new book?

Too many authors end up frustrated with the practice of sharing their writing, launching their books, and developing an audience. Be the Gateway reframes this as focusing on practical ways to achieve these things in a manner that feels meaningful and fulfilling, instead of overwhelming.

The difference? You can take clear actions day by day, week by week, to reach the people who care about your writing. Be the Gateway outlines a step-by-step plan to craft your gateway, open it up to others, and help lead others through.

Q2: How is Be the Gateway unique in today’s market, and why this book now?

Be the Gateway reframes common measures for success, often which are hollow. Authors get distracted by objects, tokens, and metrics that serve as a stand-in for what they want for their books. These comprise of awards, bestseller lists, reviews, and social media stats.

While these things are useful milestones, they pale in comparison to the power that one’s writing can have on someone’s life, and how the impact of that is radically more meaningful than any of these stand-ins. The book empowers authors to seek ways that readers can engage with them every week, not just around a book launch, a “do or die” scenario where authors feel they have a single Olympic-like moment to either hit it big, or go home with their tail between their legs. Be the Gateway is the antidote to every frustrated author who is drowning amidst an unending list of things they “have to do,” but never seem to work.

Q3: Can you share an excerpt with our readers today?

How do you measure the success of your creative work? Often when we think of what we hope to achieve, we look for shorthand to represent this:

I want to offer you the solution I share with creative professionals I work with every day. It’s a simple phrase:

Be the gateway.

Instead of framing the value of your work by how it performs in the market, you define it by how other people experience the world through your creative work—the stories and experiences you share, and the topics you talk about. This simple idea radically shifts the value of what you create. Instead of selling a product in a marketplace, you become the gateway for how your work can shape the world for others, and inspire them.

Regardless of your creative medium, you are a storyteller, right? Then use that gift. I don’t mean that just for oral or written storytellers — artists, musicians, crafters, filmmakers, and photographers all tell stories with their work.

Reframe success so it isn’t about seeking validation from massive audiences, but rather how you reach one person. The people I see who succeed focus on one-on-one engagement success by focusing on the human side of that which engages people, what it means to have your work truly shape the lives of others, and what it means to feel fulfilled as a creator.

The concept applies to all types of creative work. The novelist who comes to embody a message such as the humor in tragedy, and doesn’t just tell her story, but helps reshapes how someone thinks, and therefore, lives. The artist whose philosophy doesn’t just serve as the foundation for painting, but for seeing the world in a new way. The musician who inspires with a song, but also champions causes that her fans believe in. A filmmaker whose process of craft becomes a blueprint for how his fans can approach their own creative vision. Regardless of the medium or craft, the effect of these people goes beyond the work itself—they somehow help others make sense out of life.

When you frame your focus as a gateway instead of an object, token, or metric, it helps you identify what you want to do. You get to focus on an experience to create, not just a milestone you dream of. The difference? You can take action to connect with people who love your work via your gateway right now. You can take clear actions day by day, week by week, to reach the people who care about your work. When you create as a gateway, success immediately becomes more accessible.

Being a gateway is a higher calling than an object, token, or metric. It’s also more fun.

Q4: What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any?

The biggest challenge I wrestled with was one of expectations. I chose to self-publish this book, despite not only having a profound respect for traditional publishing, but also having deep contacts with agents and publishers. If I had wanted to traditionally publish it, that path was accessible to me.

So when I choose to self-publish, I could feel that pressure to get it right. For the ideas to truly be helpful beyond what I could share in a blog post. For the writing to measure up. For the book design and layout to not feel cheap and amateurish. To market the book in a way that resonates with the message within it: to be caring, personal, and connect in a way where it resonates.

Yet, still be driven. Driven in knowing I have something to say, and of saying it. Of not avoiding controversial subjects in the book itself. Of not holding the book back to seek safety in simply waiting for an agent and publisher to validate me. To not offload the decisions about the cover and design of the book to others, as a way of giving up control of my own creative vision.

Q5: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?

When I received the first proof of the print version back, I showed it to my 6 year old son Owen. He looked through it and was clearly impressed that his dad had written a book. But when he saw his name in print in the Acknowledgments, he was in complete awe. He didn’t realize that this power was possible — that his own name could be printed in a book.

In that moment, he realized that he too has this capacity — to share his ideas and see his name in print.

This moment with Owen wasn’t just about me being a proud father. His reaction resonated with the drive that has fueled every author I have ever worked with, and even my own pride in reaching this milestone.

You have a story, and it is within your power to share it, and ensure it touches the lives of others.

A new approach to thinking about engaging with and evolving our readership- sounds exciting, no? Be sure to pick up your copy of Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience [1]today.


About [3]

Writer Unboxed began as a collaboration between Therese Walsh [4] and Kathleen Bolton [5] in 2006. Since then the site has grown to include ~50 regular contributors--including bestselling authors and industry leaders--and frequent guests. In 2014, the first Writer Unboxed UnConference (part UNtraditional conference, part intensive craft event, part networking affair) [6] was held in Salem, MA. Learn more about our 2019 event, ESCAPE TO WuNDERLAND, on Eventbrite. [7] In 2016, the Writer Unboxed team published a book with Writer's Digest. AUTHOR IN PROGRESS: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published [8] has been well-received by readers who seek help in overcoming the hurdles faced at every step of the novel-writing process--from setting goals, researching, and drafting to giving and receiving critiques, polishing prose, and seeking publication. James Scott Bell has said of the guide, "Nourishment for the writer's soul and motivation for the writer's heart." You can follow Writer Unboxed on Twitter [9], and join our thriving Facebook community [10].