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JJ Barnes The Table Read

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed life coach and author Erin Thorp about her book, Inside Out Empathy. She tells me her creative process, what inspired her, and the advice she has for others.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I’m an empathic speaker, writer and coach for leaders who struggle with conflict, communication, and performance during high-stress times. I love supporting leaders in navigating difficult conversations, building powerful teams, and communicating with empathy which builds their confidence.

Erin Thorp, photo by Dana Pugh Studios

I spent 20 years in the engineering and construction industries leading teams and delivering projects. Around the 15 year mark in my career a curiosity was sparked in me and leadership became a passion.  While supporting my daughter through a learning disability diagnosis, I started writing which resulted in my first book Inside Out Empathy which explores using the superpower of empathy to build effective teams.

This book was the catalyst that ultimately resulted in the business I have today. 

I believe that there is a leader in everyone and am committed to discovering your leader within and supporting you to lead with impact—from the inside out.

When did you first WANT to write a book?

I didn’t know I wanted to write a book until it was almost all written! Honestly, I started out writing speeches and articles on things I wanted to talk about, never with the intention of writing a book.  As the stories and insights poured out of me, I shared them with close friends and was encouraged to publish it as a book.  Once that first book was published, the stories and ideas flooded in – like someone had opened a gate – and now I can’t stop writing!

When did you take a step to start writing?

I booked a call with a writing coach from a Facebook ad that came across my timeline.  Sounds a bit strange to say that now, but FB Ads really do work! I didn’t know if I needed or wanted to write a book, but I knew I wanted to share my story and speak to audiences.  I had the call, connected immediately to the writing coach and we booked a follow-up 1-day intensive session where we mapped out the book concept and captured all of my thoughts and ideas. 

A few months later my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD and learning disabilities in her 6th year of school.  It was a late diagnosis and while we were relieved to finally know what was going on and start treatment, there was a lot of remedial work to be done to get her caught up to her classmates. I ended up taking a leave of absence from my full time job, and  while she attended 4 hours of tutoring every day for 8 weeks, I sat in a coffee shop writing. 

Writers Work - Get Paid to Write

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

It took about 18 months from that 1-day intensive session to the publishing date, which surprised me!  While I love to read and consume books like most people eat chocolate, I never in a million years dreamed I would be a published author. 

What were your biggest challenges with writing Inside Out Empathy?

My biggest challenge in writing the book was getting out of my own way and actually writing.  I found that the stories and words would come bubbling up while I was walking so I started using my notes app on my phone and recorded the thoughts using the voice to text feature. Once I started using that method, getting words on paper (or into the word processor) was no longer an issue. 

What was your research process for Inside Out Empathy?

The first book was an account of my own leadership journey and so there wasn’t much research to be done.  I did have to do a deep dive into the history of my life which definitely brought up all kinds of memories – unresolved grief, opportunities for forgiveness and joy – and that process was largely healing!

Inside Out Empathy by Erin Thorp

How did you plan the structure of Inside Out Empathy ?

Friends and family told me that the first ‘final’ manuscript I had produced was good to go – as is.  I realized that I have very high standards for the work I put out into the world and decided to hire an editing team before publishing.  I’m so thankful I did as it dramatically increased the value of the book and pushed me as an author. 

I completed development editing which restructures the book and ensures that it flows from chapter to chapter, copy editing which looks at the structure of the copy and proof-reading which focuses on spelling and grammar.  I would 100% do all this level of editing with future books. 

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?

Start.  Just start writing.  I think most of us have this false belief that the final version of the book matches the first version of the book.  You need to write the sh&*y first draft.  It’s impossible to edit a blank page, so you have to get words on the page. 

Try a few different ways to write.  Some authors I know use a ghostwriter, others have a particular coffee shop at a specific time of day that works and for me, I use my voice to text app to get the words out.  There is no ‘right way to write’.  Just start!

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

Yes!  I have three books in various stages of completeness.  A non-fiction book about navigating new circumstances and two dramatic fiction novels about midlife women. 

The #1 Writing Tool

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

I’m extremely proud of myself.  It was hard to share the intimate stories from my childhood and career that have shaped the person I’ve become.  When I read a review or get a note from a reader about how the book has opened up something inside them, that’s when I know my effort was totally worth it! 

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