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Ep 1: How to Write the Book Living Inside You with Rea Frey



Bestselling Author, Writing Coach, and co-founder of Writeway, Rea Frey talks with Elizabeth about the connection between listening to your Soul's guidance and writing the book that's living inside you.


Transcript


Elizabeth: Welcome everybody to the Ascend and Transcend podcast. I am so excited for today's guest. She is one of my closest friends and favorite people in the whole wide world. Her name is Rea Frey. She is an award-winning, best-selling author for suspense novels, and also for nonfiction publications as well. She's been featured in too many magazines and publications really to list. She's an incredibly amazing writing coach. She was the inspiration and the motivation to help me go forward and start blogging and then also write, I think it's like four, different proposals for nonfiction books. She's a warrior.


She's been with me in the trenches, and I don't know what I would do without her. And I thought she would be an incredible guest for us today because she's one of those people that's a Renaissance woman. She just knows about everything. I feel like if you have a question, whether it's on vegan nutrition, you go to Rea.


If you have a question about the publishing industry, you go to Rea.


If you have a question on spirituality, you go to Rea.


On being an incredibly intentional parent, you go to Rea. I thought we'd have her on today and talk about some breakthrough moments that she's had within her life and her career and how spirituality has played a role in her incredible success. Welcome, Rea. Thank you for being here.


Rea Frey: What a welcome. Thank you for having me. This is so fun to be on your podcast.


Elizabeth: Yeah, I could go on forever. So first off, I like to ask guests: Can you pinpoint a time in your life where you felt like you had an awakening or a spiritual breakthrough? I know that you've always been a pretty woke person inside. I feel like you're very aligned with your soul, but do you ever feel like you were kind of disconnected and then had a moment where you were really forced to come back together?


Rea Frey: A hundred percent. For me, 2020 was my awakening. I actually had a specific moment where I threw my back out very early on in the pandemic, and I literally had to be still with myself. And as you said, I've dabbled in all these different things. And I am very spiritual and kind of tried to really align my life where all aspects of taking care of myself, taking care of my family, everything is given somewhat equal attention to.


But in some ways, I think spirituality for me had become a bit of a checklist. It's like, "Okay, get my little meditation, and check. Do this, check." And it wasn't until the outside world and the hustle and noise went away until I literally could not even sit up without pain. I had been, up until that point in time, just beating my body to a pulp, still moving in ways that were really deteriorating my muscles.


Elizabeth: What were some of the things that you were doing that you feel were deteriorating?


Rea Frey: I come from a long line of beating the shit out of my body, I was a gymnast for 13 years. I was a competitive boxer for five years. I was a personal trainer for 15 years. I was in CrossFit forever and got pretty hardcore in the CrossFit world. And now I look back and I'm just like, "What was I doing?" But I've always– I’ve been lifting weights since I was 13 years old, so I was really like, "Go, go, go, go, go." And on that day, I was in the middle of a workout and my back just went out. I'd had some issues before, but I could feel it in the days and weeks prior kind of constricting.


So when I was literally still for days and days and days, I kind of had that reckoning with myself.


If I do not get a handle on the stress in my life, the stress of my body, the stress of my brand new business that I've just started at the top of 2020, if I don't get a handle on parenting stress, and just all the mental noise and excess, then I'm never going to arrive where I want to.


I completely did a 180 in my life. I did things that I'd always talked about doing where I started doing, yoga and Pilates, really tuning in to my body and figuring out how I wanted to move effectively. I finally integrated a daily meditation practice in a way that didn't feel like a checklist, but it felt very in tune with my needs for the day. I got back into journaling.


The breathing practice for me, incorporating daily breathing, and I'm talking 30 minutes to an hour of breathing every day has been the biggest awakening of my entire life actually. I'm just like, just stress, stress, stress. Go, go, go.


Elizabeth: Shallow breather.


Rea Frey: Yeah, very shallow. I think I've been mouth breathing as so many of us do and just hunching over and not having access to my diaphragm. I really took it upon myself in 2020 to move my body in different ways, to think in different ways, to eat in different ways, to really finally start releasing some of the same thought patterns that I had and just approach it in a different way.


Elizabeth: And do you feel like when you got back in tune—rather you were forced to—do you feel like manifestation started to come through or insights or did you feel almost the opposite?


Sometimes when people initially have their breakthrough, they experience that dark night of the soul. And I think that people go through multiple dark nights of the soul or hero’s journeys in their lives if they're doing it right. And so it's interesting that you say you were forced to stop but did you feel immediate relief or was there some resistance and discomfort before there was an uptick?


Rea Frey: I felt like I was met with resistance completely because releasing control—control is the name of my game—and having to relinquish control about the way that I wanted to move and the way that I was used to working and how I related my success as a human with being productive, and being active, and achieving, and accomplishing.


And actually, I am a manifester. In my human energy design type, I'm a literal manifester. I think I've always done a great job at that, but 2020 was the first year where I was starting a new business, some exciting things were happening, but nothing truly big happened for me in 2020 in terms of like– I had a book come out in August and it just kind of came and went. There were no big surprises or anything. There wasn't anything just huge. I think I had gotten so used to, since becoming an author, like hitting lists and buzzworthy this and that, and that it was so great to relate to myself and my work without those big, shiny goals to reach for.


So this was the first year of my life where I actually released resistance and just allowed things to unfold without forcing them in any direction, and it has been my biggest lesson. I mean, when people talk about 2020, yes, there were so many hard, devastating times, but without that year, I think I would've been stuck in the same patterns. So it was quite literally the most transformative time of my entire life, and I'm really trying to carry that in as some things normalize and we're kind of itching to get back to somewhat hustle culture. I've decided I don't want to return to that. I will not say yes to things I don't want anymore, and that means also in my business and just the way that I'm living my life, and it feels really good to be very intentional about it.


Elizabeth: And just knowing you on a deeply personal level to kind of witness this has been really interesting as well. I'm sure everybody had that COVID wake-up moment in 2020, where we couldn't distract ourselves at least to the speed and intensity that we were the year prior, so your body had to physically give out for you to stop.


But I've always known you as somebody, I know you don't like this label, as a machine, but I think a lot of women probably take pride in that, because they see their ability to do as creating some inherent worth versus focusing on being instead of doing, and then your worth coming from your... You're just being.


Rea Frey: No, but why is that lazy?


Elizabeth: And I told you about it and I was like-


Rea Frey: But why is that lazy? It's lazy because society deems if you're not working, hustling, making money, doing all that shit every second of every day, then yeah, you're lazy. And when you told me that, you sat around and watched Girls, I was like, "Yeah, that's amazing."


Elizabeth: Six seasons.


Rea Frey: That's what we need to do sometimes, I do that at the end of the night. So after a day of crazy client calls, I want to veg out and watch Netflix and drink a glass of wine. And I still find myself buffering sometimes because I want to just zone out because I haven't done enough soul work that day. But one thing that's become non-negotiable for me and a lot of women... I am the breadwinner in my family. I am an author. I run a business. I homeschool my child. My husband's amazing, but I like making money and I'm very proud of that.


But one thing that's become non-negotiable for me is that the first two hours of my day are mine. That time is for breathing. It's for meditation. It's for movement. It's for my infrared sauna and my ice bath. It's for my journaling. It's for coffee time with my husband. And I don't even look at my phone if I don't have to for the first two hours. That is the first two hours of every single day, and it has utterly changed my life.


Elizabeth: Well, and that's new because that was not always the case. Oh, so that is a 2020 new routine then?


Rea Frey: Yep. 2020, 2021. I mean because I always used to get up and I'd go to the gym. I'd drive to the gym, work out, come back. It was just something to check off my list. Now in the morning, I figure out what breathing I need today.

  • Do I need to get into my parasympathetic nervous system?

  • Do I need to ramp up into my sympathetic nervous system?

  • How do I want to move my body today?

  • Do I want to do Pilates?

  • Do I want to do yoga?

  • Do I want to lift?

  • Do I want to go on a hike?

  • What do I want to journal about today?

  • What kind of meditation do I want today?


I'm really touching base with myself. And a lot of people would be like, "Well, I don't have fucking time to do that first thing in the morning." And I would agree with a lot of people, but because so many of us have been at home, it's been the perfect time to implement that as a daily practice because I'm not rushing right out the door. I don't like that. I don't like rushing in the mornings ever, so it's been a really mindful practice.


Elizabeth: Well, it's so intentional. I feel like instead of producing, which was always the highest priority and I think a lot of women feel that way. It's, "What can I produce today?" And then when it shifts from that to becoming intentional, that's a breakthrough, but not everybody feels that way. Not everybody feels like that's an option right now, but I think it's just you have to prioritize it.


Rea Frey: Well, and I think it can be as easy as... because some days, I feel like, "Am I doing this intentionally or is this becoming the checklist? Is this becoming the new normal?" So sometimes stepping outside barefoot on my acre lot and putting my feet in the grass, grounding, listening to the birds, tipping my face up to the sun and just taking a deep breath is enough, or jumping on the trampoline first thing in the morning, which I do a lot as well just to get limp moving, bouncing, is such a great little hack that you can do, and just really figuring out what I need.


Today, I didn't have a day of meetings, but I had to meet a friend and answer emails. And when I got back, I was like, "God, I am really run down." So I made a cup of tea, I silenced my phone, and I crawled in bed for 10 minutes and just sat there and tried to really get in touch with myself. I think it's just tapping in and becoming aware of things like, "Hey, I need a minute. I need 10 minutes. I need 15 minutes that aren't being filled by scrolling through Instagram on my phone and filling my head with more noise that I don't need."


Elizabeth: Well, that's another thing that I feel like you've been outspoken about in the best possible way is these ideas of digital detoxes and I think that it's very different, and I want to talk about Writeway, your business here in a little bit. But to go from a place of consuming to creating, right? So if we're really utilizing social media, it could be this wonderful, often free platform to really get your company out there or entertain entrepreneurial dreams that you have, but it's that switch from just consumption to producing actual really good content.


Tell me a little bit about moments where you felt like the amount of invested time in social media was definitely starting to siphon away from your energy and then, I know that you've read some great books on it too, some things that you did to help kind of pull back and regain control over your phone.


Rea Frey: Yeah. So I'll preface this by saying I was actually very late to the social media game. I was born in the wrong era. I want to hand write letters and send them to people. I am so old school. I like talking on the phone, I hate texting, I do not like spending time on social media, so I will start there. I am very atypical in that way. So I joined Facebook very, very, very late. And then when I was going to become a published author, I had heard about Instagram and knew from the research that I was doing that that was the place to be, and this was at the end of 2016, top of 2017, which isn't that long ago. But I decided to intentionally build a platform around being an author.


I didn't yet have a business. I wanted to kind of look inside my writing journey but also posting pretty pictures of books and typewriters. And I actually found that when I posted content that I liked… I've never been a consumer of social media. I'm not someone who scrolls. If I don't see your post when I'm on there and it just doesn't happen to be there, then I'm not going to find it. I've always been like that though. I've never watched the news. I just find out about things through word of mouth and have never been much... I don't read blogs. It's very strange, but it's just the way my brain kind of works and it's too much. When I get on there, I'm like, "Oh God, this is too much."


But that became such a tool for me to connect with my readers and to connect with my other potential fellow authors, and it was a very good tool for getting awareness out about who I was as a brand new author. Now in 2017, 2018, I feel like the algorithm was very different. I used to get so much engagement, so many real, authentic engagements. And then over the years as it's become more saturated and I got busier and busier doing a book a year, going on these 50 city book tours, doing all this stuff, I would take massive time off, gaps, two weeks off, three weeks off. And I noticed when I would get back on, I would be punished for that. No one's seeing my posts. So it became less useful for me.


When I started a business, I actually started it with the intention of, I'm not going to use social media for my business. I am not going to do any of the things people tell you to do. This is a word-of-mouth referral-only business, which has worked really well for us so far. We drive people to our site in our newsletter. And I know we're missing a lot of potential, but it's important to me. If it is 15 minutes that I have in my day or six hours as most of us are on our phones for about that long, if it's any chunk of time where I could be advancing my business, or I could maybe be having a moment with my daughter, husband, or myself, I am a hundred-fucking-percent always going to choose the latter. Nothing is that important to me that I am not going to pay attention to my real life, and I think that's what 2020 taught me is like, "God, where do I want to put my attention?" And it's not in my digital community anymore. It's in my real community.


That's something I feel like I've been missing is real, amazing people doing amazing things right here, and that's what I'm craving, like actual experiences and the one on ones, and deepening those relationships. I'm not saying the digital community isn't awesome because it is and I'm not like, "Who am I?" I know there are all these huge brands and influencers, but that's not the kind of business I want to have. What you have to do to stay there, I'm not interested in that, and I think it's actually okay to say that. I'm a truth-teller with being a published author. I think more authors out there need to be like, "Yeah, this is great, but it also really sucks." It's wonderful being an author, but it's also really hard. And I think it's okay to just say-


Elizabeth: Stop feeding the beast.


Rea Frey: Yeah, absolutely.


Elizabeth: Right. I mean, because that's what it is. As soon as you do something, then you have to like... You're only as good as whatever, the last time you're on it or whatever. So let's tell people a little bit about Writeway. I'm going to tell them a little bit about our story. So Rea manifested in my life probably about a year after I had walked away from my traditional sales career.


I was really actually pretty lost when I was put in touch with Rea, but I knew that I wanted to write a book because it scared the shit out of me the most. And I just remember my husband saying one day, "You should write a book." And I was like, "Oh." I wanted to do it but it made me so nauseous to even think about it and then it was like, "Damn it." And I know you've had those moments too where-


Rea Frey: Oh, yeah.


Elizabeth: But I don't want to do that. And so I started writing and I fumbled around and then through another person, Rea and I were connected. And it was like having this wonderful lighthouse and I was drowning in the ocean, and there was this beacon of somebody who had been there, done that, and could tell me all of the time sucks that I no longer needed to focus on, and really help me streamline this process. And it has been a journey over four years together and multiple proposals and fine-tuning this and that, but nobody knows it better than Rea, especially if you're a nonfiction author.


Maybe you feel like, through meditation or something, you're feeling this nudge. Maybe you have something to share, there's something inside you. Rea knows both sides of it, the traditional, big publishers, and now she's also become this expert in this other self-publishing lane, and then also a bit of a hybrid. So Rea, why don't you share with us a little bit about Writeway and a little bit about what you do. And if somebody feels like they have a book living inside them, what are the first steps they could take?


Rea Frey: Absolutely. So I should preface this by saying 80%, this is an actual stat, 80% of all people, all people, want to write a book, but there are only 40,000 published authors in the U.S. alone, which is a giant disconnect. So what I realized is, yeah, so many people want to write a book, but so many people don't know how to turn that into a product that sells. And I don't mean selling to traditional publishers. I mean, just selling, making money as a writer. So at Writeway, our whole mission is to have aspiring writers become published authors but to become published, you have to first pick your publication path.


So we really work with them on, "What is your big why? Why are you doing this in the first place? What is your big goal?" We really distill down what each path means, what it takes to get there because that's often the biggest misunderstood piece. They're like, "I don't know what a literary agent is. I don't know how to read a contract. I don't know how I get paid." And so we really figure out what that author wants and needs for their career. There are no wrong or right answers. I feel like most people come to us, they want to be traditionally published, they want to get paid for their work, and that's where we often start. But there are a lot of factors that go into that, timing is one. It often takes 12 to 24 months to see your book in print. Once you land a publishing deal, which, as you know, can be a year's long process in some cases.


Elizabeth: Finding the right agent can be a year. Writing a proposal can be a year. I mean, if you're not in it for the long haul, if you're going that route, then figure something else out right away.


Rea Frey: Yes, exactly. It is a long game, I like to say that. We do have a fiction side of things and we offer everything from full stop editing to query letter writing, to pitching you to agents and publishers, to ghostwriting, so all of your needs there. But for the nonfiction track, if you want to write a nonfiction book, you do start with a nonfiction book proposal. That's what most people come to me specifically for. I co-create this book proposal with my client, we edit it, we proof it, we design it, we curate a list of tailored agents that we know and trust that we could match that author with, and then we actually pitch on their behalf. So we're kind of with the writer until they get a yes.


I always say, yes, getting a literary agent is harder than getting the book deal. There's so much that goes into it, so we really like to make sure that the author is matching themselves appropriately with an agent and not just saying “yes!” because someone is interested. I mean, I always say my biggest goal is to empower the writer to make informed decisions about their careers, but to first understand that career because there's so much about this publishing industry that's hush, hush. It's why on our weekly podcast, we work to demystify the publishing industry and we talk about so much stuff that people don't want to talk about, like money, like everything that goes on behind closed doors.


It's been the most empowering job to do, honestly, because getting to see these writers who come to us with a concept, and then they walk away with a book deal. And some of them have become bestselling authors or some of them have gone off to self-publish, but they have the knowledge to figure out what they're doing and to feel really good about that. So that's our ultimate goal at the end of the day.


Elizabeth: Transparency here, and props to Rea, she introduced me and matched me up with my current literary agent, as well as introduced me to somebody else who offered to rep. That was on the short list, so I have no doubt that if those wouldn't have worked out, there would've been more to come. But I think another big piece that you helped me understand too was this whole idea of an author platform. And I didn't really understand that in the beginning because I have clients that have books within them too, and they think, like I did, "Well, I'm just going to write a really knockout proposal and have a really unique idea, and that's going to be enough."


In the beginning, even you were like, "We got to get your author platform up." Right? So I would love for you to talk a little bit about that because that is something you can start working on now. But I also think you really need a shepherd or a guide to kind of help you understand what that looks like because one without the other is going to create a lot of lag time and a lot of frustration and self-doubt.


Rea Frey: Yeah. Here's a news flash about the author platform, you're going to have to work on it, regardless, forever, and some people were like, "Ugh." I mean, it's very frustrating to me, we get so many amazing projects that cross our desks, and the author's platform, "platform", is non-existent. That doesn't mean you'll never traditionally publish a book. The misunderstood thing about an author platform is everyone thinks it is your social media following, which is only one tiny little portion of the author platform. An author platform is really about where you have an engaged community of people who will basically buy what it is that you're selling. So if you love to do podcasts and you're really entrenched in that space, or if you have a very robust newsletter, or you give, back in the day when we could actually go do, talks and give conferences, if that lights you up and you've done a lot of that in the past, then that is where you can kind of cultivate your community.


Now in our proposals, one of my favorite pieces of it is our marketing strategy where we take an author six months before their book launches all the way up to six months after their book launches. It's a whole year of strategies of how you can sell your book and essentially yourself before, during, and after your book sells. For a lot of people, they're like, "Oh, I haven't been anywhere. I'm nowhere. I don't have a platform." When we start researching and diving into what you could do and figuring out where you do want to spend your time and intention, you'd be shocked at how robust of an author platform you can actually build by just creating the roadmap. I think a lot of people get overwhelmed because they're like, "I don't know, do I have to get on and do all the social media?" Or, "I don't like podcasts or I don't like this." We really work with our clients to figure out, "What do you like to do? Let's pick one to three things, and then we will ditch the rest."


And unfortunately yes, in the traditional world, they're really looking for people who... I mean, nowadays, I hate to say it, but if we're talking about social media, a hundred thousand followers is the baseline now. But we have projects that sell all the time with people who have thousands or 8,000.


I always say it's better to have an engaged community of a thousand than 25,000 bought subscribers or bought followers or whatever. I always give a good hack to think on a local level. I think all of us are really after all this national exposure and being in Forbes or being featured here, and sometimes you get lost in that shuffle. But if you really focus on your local community, landing a feature about yourself in the local paper, I swear to God, can sell more books or get you more recognition than sometimes being in the really big publications. And so it's really about curating a platform that feels good to you, that is you're going to build upon brick by brick.


It's so funny because I wanted to return to nonfiction and I have a decent author platform, but I'm way down here. I'd have to do so much to even get a legitimate book deal. And I have four non-fiction books that are traditionally published, but the bar has been raised so high, it can feel really discouraging. So we try to think outside the box in ways that we can build author platforms, in ways that actually will translate to sales and not just translate to numbers.


We talked to so many editors and agents who have signed huge people with huge followings and their books tank, or they sign someone with no author platform really and their books do really well. So at the end of the day, you are going to have to sell your book regardless. There is no publicist, no in-house sales and marketing team, no guru that's going to care about your book more than you, so it's really getting comfortable with being a salesperson and building community around your product.


Elizabeth: Yeah. I think, just to kind of wrap it up, from my personal journey as well and you seeing it reflected in so many of your clients that you've helped, you really have to be dedicated. This isn't something, I mean, for the faint of heart. I mean, it's much easier to start a podcast or start a blog or whatever. If you want to get a book published in the traditional sense, which maybe isn't necessarily right for you, you really have to hunker down and be prepared for the waves of resistance that will come at you.


The tactical stuff that you provided was great, but on the days when I wanted to give up, the days that I still want to give up on the dream, you just refuse to let me, and so that's where this wonderful coaching aspect comes in. It's the guidance, but I feel like it's also the emotional support that you really need anytime you're going to scale a mountain and trying to get published, especially as a nonfiction author, as any author. It's a fucking mountain, so you better be prepared.


Rea Frey: The secret I would say to everyone is to get so comfortable with rejection. I mean, rejection more than... I mean, I guess being a musician or maybe an artist you bump up against rejection as much as you do. But I always say, "Every “no” is closer to a “yes”." I know that's cliche, but all it takes is one champion to believe in your work after your agent. So your champion, your agent, and then the champion for the publisher.


There are so many amazing opportunities, but you have to get comfortable with your book being rejected and not taking that as a personal rejection as like, "Oh, I might as well just give up. This is never going to happen." You have to constantly check in with that big why and why you're doing it in the first place, and that's why we spend so much time on that in the beginning because it's going to have to be your guiding light through this crazy, tumultuous, uncertain industry that is the publishing world.


Elizabeth: You don't have to go it alone, people.


Rea Frey: No, you're not.


Elizabeth: I mean, I really don't think you should even attempt...


Rea Frey: Do not do this alone.


Elizabeth: I wouldn't.


Rea Frey: You can't do it in a vacuum. I mean, I did it for five books all by myself and the sales reflect that. I just kept trying things and made mistakes and just learn basically what not to do, and I want to really try to prevent a lot of those growing pains for potential people.


Elizabeth: Everybody can find you at writewayco.com. And listen to the Writeway podcast. Rea has had some incredible guests on there that really break down this whole publishing industry, which is really a behemoth. I think of the 80% of people who feel like they have a book living in them, you really need to get some expert insights. That's what I love about your podcast and the amazing guests that come in with full transparency and tell you, "This is a waste of money. This isn't. This is the kind of agent you want. This isn't." We didn't have time to cover it today, but all of these wonderful hybrid and self-publishing grabs is probably the future.


Rea Frey: Oh, totally. We're seeing more and more of our clients. That's the way we're going, so we help them with that as well. We help navigate that path, so I think it is going to totally be the wave of the future, for sure.


Elizabeth: On an endnote, don't lose hope. I tell everybody who feels like they have a book, start writing things down now. Even if it's waking up in the morning and it's in your journal or on your laptop, jot things down ideas, insights that come to you, and don't give up on it because we don't want to be on our deathbed thinking, "Damn, I wish I would've written that book." Just do it, but get somebody to help you.


Rea's somebody that I love and trust, so I can't vouch for her enough.


 

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