Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
I, Dr. Linda K. Watts, am a Ph.D. cultural, linguistic and psychological anthropologist who has been a professor for the University of Colorado Colorado Springs for 26 years. I am currently teaching as an adjunct for Ithaca College after my semi-retirement in 2018; I continue to teach online for the University of Colorado while focussing on writing and developing my related Life Path Mapping services. I have authored two academic books, many academic articles, and my third book, Your Life Path: Life Mapping Tools to Help You Follow Your Heart and Live Your Dream, Now, is a mainstream personal growth and development style book published by Skyhorse Publishers in March 2018.
What is/are the story(ies) behind your book(s)?
When I was contemplating taking a research sabbatical as a professor, one morning while waking from sleep I saw a sign… black bold letters on a white square in the middle of my forehead… that stated:
YOU HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY TO REALIZE YOUR DREAMS,
NOT JUST FOR GETTING BY.
I took this as a wakeup call and started asking inwardly about ‘What Is My Dream, really?’ Then a few months later as I woke I heard these words: Life Paths. I knew that would be my research topic though the concept developed over time. I developed a way to map peoples’ significant life events with Excel software, then gradually developed a full life mapping process including Life Themes, Life Chapters, and Life Story/ Life Myth notions. I also came to understand that the Life Themes people self-identify (e.g. Work, Romance, Travel, Spirituality, etcetera) can be associated with a system of twelve Archetype characters (e.g. Romance: LOVER archetype; Travel: IDEALIST archetype), based on a very well developed archetypal system developed by Dr. Charles Bebeau that lines up well with Jung’s ideas. So, people can reflect on how different facets of their overall Persona (or their Ensemble Cast of Archetype Characters related to their Life Themes) have shown up in relation to their Life Chapters, Turning Points, and the overall Ups and Downs of their most significant Shaping Events.
For several years I developed the self-discovery based life mapping tools by working intensively with individuals and also from teaching university classes that I team taught with a History professor. He taught the history of Mythology, while I taught students how to map out and reflect on the mythic warp and weave of their own Life Stories. Eventually I added a full set of flexible, creative procedures for mapping one’s Future potentials in relation to major Goals to help one manifest their own Life Dream. I have found this approach to be very helpful for people. It can be a life changing and is always a fun, illuminating process.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
My early development of these ideas came from interview studies which I wrote academic articles about (see my scholarly book: The Life Map as an Implicit Cognitive Structure Underlying Behavior, Mellen Press). After beginning to teach the process as a self-discovery, personal growth set of life mapping techniques, I took a one month writing retreat. I rented a chateau in Colorado and for one month every day I wrote chapter beginnings and planned what would eventually become Your Life Path. Also around four years before I found a publisher, I attended a writers conference in California where agents were accepting chapters and book proposals in advance, for personal author-agent conferences. I met my agent there, Linda Langton of Langton International Literary Agency. She has been amazing. She inspired me to really turn my material into a for-the-public personal development book. I used her recommended outline for my book proposal and she circulated the proposal and found a publisher. Then the copy editors for the publisher (Skyhorse Publishing) did a good job on helping do a very close edit of the book.
How do you deal with creative block?
I set up a regular place and time for writing. While writing the final manuscript for Your Life Path, for maybe two years every Friday I went to a town about thirty miles from home, sat at the same booth in a Panera restaurant, and wrote for three to five hours at a time, at least.
As well, I would say for writer’s block I give it time. If nothing is percolating, let it rest. Allow the time for inner reflection.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
The tiniest final editing errors! After many hours of editing, copy editing, and more copy editing, I still see editing flaws that drive me nuts. Oh well…
Also, since my publisher targets mainly libraries, I had to collapse my life mapping tools to chapter ending techniques for people to complete externally. I would rather my book were a trade book with full template pages for engaging with the creative activities. (I have made a free downloadable set of Tools available at my blog.)
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
My publisher asked me to choose some stock images that I liked, then theytook it from there. The actual picture I chose showed someone on a hill from far away, with his arms in the air, elated. The publisher’s artist zoomed in on this image to show the figure as a close up instead. The publishers also had ideas about what kind of image they wanted for marketing purposes, so I was not totally on my own with that.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
After several years of teaching and coaching with my Life Path Mapping process, almost everyone has had very positive responses. Only a couple in all that time were resistant to the self-reflection involved. I just let them have their own reaction and experience. I have not had reviews that I know of so haven’t yet dealt with negative reviews.
How has your creation process improved over time?
Practice, practice, practice. Just like playing an instrument, or a sport, developing your writing style and voice rewards persistence, dedication and patience. Reading sections out loud to a writerly friend has helped. And my agent asked me to write a blog, which I do now (called Better Endings for Your Life Path, betterendingsnow.com). Blog writing is a great way to develop a simple, public writing style and voice and to interact with people, especially other bloggers.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
Best: being able to share the book with people including family, friends, students who used the book as a text once it was published, and especially ‘strangers’ at book events.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
Both. I am personally satisfied if my writing is effective in reaching a reader and helping someone illuminate their own life path and life dream.
What role do emotions play in creativity?
I need to be in an energetic sort of space to write well. It cannot be drudgery. I feel a strong sense of mission and purpose with writing, a passion that carries its own emotional force.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
Regular times for writing, as mentioned earlier, helps me to focus and be present for creative writing sessions. I also rely a lot on journaling and dream journaling for deep inspiration and reflection.
What are your plans for future books?
I am writing the second book in the Life Paths series now, called Better Endings. This will help the reader reflect on Turning Points or transitions in their lives and use journaling and reflection to apply a “principle of better endings”. It starts by a playful look at films, literature and history and how you might creatively envision “better endings” for some of these stories that you might wish had better endings according to your own taste or vision, then it asks you to apply this same practice to facets of your own life events, past, present and future!
This will be followed by a third Life Paths book which helps people illuminate some of their most important Life Story events.
I also have finished a science fiction novel which I intend to develop into a trilogy.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
I was on a fencing team in college and became quite a good foil fencer. Our team and myself personally came in ninth (two touches from seventh!) out of 125 universities in my junior year at the intercollegiate nationals fencing tournament. Once a fencer, always a fencer…as I gained many life values and lessons from this sport.
I am also actually a member of the clergy in the spiritual path of Eckankar, which I have practiced for over 44 years. While I do not write about this in my public works, certainly my spiritual interest in dreams and “soul travel” informs my ideas and values.
I am also a cultural and linguistic anthropologist. The anthropological technique of life history research is at the basis of my Life Path Mapping process.
Also I really enjoy works by Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung (read THE RED BOOK!), and James Hillman (also Carol Pearson and somewhat Carolyn Myss). I think an awareness of archetypal or depth psychology is helpful to anyone. We are ensemble selves. It is important to understand our multi—faceted conscious and unconscious personae and to let them speak to the greater Self and to each other; to integrate as a unified Self so as to realize the deeper Life Dream of the Soul.