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  • Writer's pictureShane Almgren

Carol Kline: #1 New York Times Best Selling Author

Updated: Apr 29

Carol Kline has been an author, editor, and ghostwriter for more than 20 years. During that time, she’s co-authored a dozen books with some of the world’s top transformational leaders — including Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame, and also Marci Shimoff, Lisa Nichols, and Gay Hendricks. Five of those books went on to become New York Times bestsellers. Carol has sold more than 5 million books and her work has been translated into 30 languages.




Carol Kline Best Selling Author

Episode Highlights

It's not every day that you get to sit down with a #1 New York Times bestselling author. Talking to Carol Klein — co-author of a half dozen Chicken Soup for the Soul books — was like stepping into a masterclass on writing, storytelling, creativity, and life. From her childhood days, where books were her refuge, to becoming a successful entrepreneur and self-help author, she takes us through her remarkable journey. Her insights on the transformational power of reading and storytelling, and the way movies enable us to experience different perspectives, are truly thought-provoking.


Carol owns the art of turning complex concepts into simple and elegant understandings. They are not just accessible but also deeply engaging. She shares her recipe to write captivating stories, the importance of finding your unique voice, and how practice and learning from others can elevate your writing style. Her experience with Chicken Soup stories, which made her realize her innate talent for the craft, is an inspiring tale of self-discovery.


We also dive into the topic of mental health, as Carol introduces us to EHT, a natural supplement for cognitive health. The conversation takes a poignant turn as she emphasizes the power of self-kindness and shares her definition of success. Technology, she believes, can be a strong ally in the creative process, as she talks about the use of dual screens. Be prepared to be enlightened, entertained, and inspired as we explore the world of one of the most prolific authors of our time!

In this episode, we cover a lot of ground including:

  • How daily meditation contributed to the writing process

  • How she got mixed up with Jack Canfield in the first place

  • The value of self-esteem and standing up for yourself

  • The challenge of getting the left brain and right brain to work together, and how much practice goes into becoming a great writer

  • How to craft a compelling, emotional and visceral story

  • The importance of not editing while getting all your ideas out

  • Carol’s “magic brain supplement” for creative types, and SO much more!


Listen


Read the Complete Transcript

Shane Hello, everyone! Welcome to the official Live2cre8 podcast, coming to you from Nashville, Tennessee. I am your host, Shane Almgren, and I am joined today from California by #1 New York Times bestselling author Carol Kline. Carol has been an author, editor, and ghostwriter for more than 20 years. She has co-authored numerous bestsellers, such as Happy for No Reason and five books in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Her books have sold over 5 million copies and have been translated into 30 languages. Carol, thank you so much for joining me today. It is an honor to have you on the show. Carol Kline Thank you. Shane So I'm very curious. You—and when I say prolific—you've written or published how many books now? Carol Kline I have written and published 13 books, and I wrote 6 of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books in the series and then another—a few other collections of stories and then three self-help books plus one that's still coming out. It just came out like a few days ago, and it was, again—the stories that I've written. The books that I've written have been varied in that they sort of led one to the other in my career. You never know what's going to happen. You start one thing, and you never know when you're going to come out the other side. So I started reading as a child and then even studied writing, and then it led me to a career of writing stories and ghostwriting and then actually becoming a self-help author. Shane So we skipped from childhood reading to self-help author. I think there were probably some stepping stones in there. Carol Kline There were. There were definitely some stepping stones. Well, I was that kid. I mean, I was a voracious reader. I read everything. I read when I was a child. I was that kid that had the wagon, and I took it to the library, and I filled it with books, and then I dragged it home, and I laid on the couch, and I read all the time. I loved reading. I loved escaping. I loved character development. I loved what happened next. Fiction—and I wasn't a big non-fiction reader, which is kind of funny. And then I studied literature in college, and of course, that's such a practical thing to study. Shane Did you know, when you went for literature, what you were going to do? Carol Kline Not at all. It was what I was interested in, and what I was interested in in terms of literature was I loved contextual criticism. I loved to find out what this story meant when the book was written. When we did history and historical literature, we read literature from different eras and different parts of the world, and I loved understanding what birthed this. What was the reason this book was written, and what was the effect of it? I liked it as sort of a—as almost a sociological piece. So I loved the whole written communication world, and I thought it was amazing. There’s a Carl Sagan quote that I really love about how reading allows us to enter somebody else's consciousness, anywhere in time and anywhere in space. It’s just the amazing thing about being human—about somebody else's experience of being human. We're all sort of stuck in our own heads, our own experience of the world, and you get to step out of that and understand somebody else's. And I think movies do that, too, even more viscerally, but I love books. What I realized was that I didn't think I could write anything. I never thought I even would try. I just loved the experience of studying somebody else's ideas, and descriptions, and worldview. So, you know, fast forward. I go to college. I get a degree. It doesn't prepare me for anything real world. So I was always very entrepreneurial. I've been an entrepreneur my whole life. I'm sort of unemployable. I don't like having to show up at a certain time. I mean, I'll work as hard as anybody, but I like to do it on my own terms. So it prepared me for a quick-witted, jack-of-all-trades, Renaissance woman kind of life. And I did all kinds of fun stuff. The closest I came to writing was I—one of my careers was I bought and sold Amish quilts and dolls. So I traveled around the U.S. and Canada. I went to Amish communities, and I would try to find antique quilts that they weren’t using anymore. It was fabulous because they wanted the new easier-to-take care of ones, and these quilts were like works of art. I just fell into another world. It was like going back in time, and I wanted to write about it. I remember trying to write and thinking, “I just can’t capture this experience,” and kind of giving up. I think I probably have the start of that story somewhere. And then somebody, of course—you know, anytime you have an idea—that was sort of the time when Sue Bender—I think her name was—wrote a book about praying life or simple life or something, and it was her experience with the Amish. So I figured, “Okay, somebody’s written that book already. I’ll just forget about that.” So I just didn’t write at all. I read. I read. I read. I read. I listened to book on tape. And then, Marci Shimoff, who is a good friend of mine and also my co-author on many of my books—this was before our books—she invited me to meet Jack Canfield. We went and took a course with Jack Canfield in 1990. I had just become a new stepmother, and I was afraid I was going to ruin my stepkids, so I wanted to learn about self-esteem. So I went about—it was a 10-day course in California. I was living in Iowa at the time. I fell in love with Jack’s work, and it was so remarkable. I came back just really transformed and really jacked up and excited about the potential that you could help children not—and self-esteem has a really bad rap. People get mad because it’s sort of too much about ego and making kids feel good about themselves. This is more about respecting themselves and respecting others. And treating themselves with inner-coach rather than inner-critic. It’s not about every child getting a trophy for showing up. It’s a misinterpretation. So, anyway, I was very excited about Jack’s work. So I went back year after year—’90, ’91, ’92. I took a course, and then I was on his facilitating staff. And then he came out with Chicken Soup for Soul, and I remember all of us going, “Wow, that’s a really weird title.” We kind of rolled our eyes privately, but we said, “Sure. That sounds great.” We were all excited for him, and Marci Shimoff—my co-author, my friend—was one of the first people to come up with the idea for those niche books—you know, Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul. So I ended up doing research for her because I loved—that was the thing I thought I wanted to be was a research librarian because I love—I’m a detective as well for my love of books and reading. Anyway. Shane Are you Nancy Drew with books? Carol Kline I’m Nancy Drew. Exactly. Yes. I love sleuthing. I love research. I love finding out things. So she asked me to research stories for Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul, finding inspirational stories. And then I ended up interviewing those people, and I found I had talent for writing in other people’s voices. I could write a story. What was really strange—I’m a meditator. I’ve been a meditator since I was 15 years old. I meditate twice a day on average. I would sit to meditate, and the first line of each of these stories that I was researching would come to me. It was just really cool. It was really moving and very exciting. I felt like a funnel for creativity, and I’d write it down. And then the story would sort of flow from there. I remember I didn’t know how to write at first, and I was floundering a bit. But when someone could—I could interview them and just sort of follow the thread, and I would flesh out the details that I thought would really make the story sing and make the story land because I knew what landed as a reader. I knew what details really spoke to me as a reader, so I looked for those same details in my interviews to include in my stories. It was a great experience. So there I was writing stories for Marci, and Marci was out there creating Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul. And I realized, “You know what? I want to be a co-author.” I don’t want to just be someone writing the stories. I want to be someone who directs the stories, and who’s looking for the right story, and then putting the book together. I really wanted to be more involved, so I became involved with Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul. I was lucky enough to become a co-author on that book, and that’s a fun story, probably not about creativity but about standing up for yourself and negotiating. Shane Well, tell us that. We want to be empowered as well. Carol Kline Well, it was an interesting story in that, you know—actually, anybody who’s listening to this who is a writer, or a musician, or anything that’s creative—you usually don’t have good business sense. I’ve seen that a lot. You don’t—most of them don’t stand up for themselves. They aren’t good at sales or marketing. They aren’t good about the business side of being an artist, being a creative person. It’s tragic because they don’t make enough money to be able to allow them to give their gifts of creativity. They have to do it sort of on the side after they’ve worked all day and given their best time and energy to something else. So this could be helpful. It was basically about—I was introduced to the co-author of Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul. He had already had a contract with Jack and Mark. I told them I had this thought that I really wanted to be a co-author, but that’s a big deal. That was a royalty position. It wasn’t just an hourly wage. It wasn’t a writer for hire, which is what I had been doing before that, where you just got paid by the story, or by the word, or by the—you know, you weren’t really an owner. You know? You weren’t getting a profit share. So this man had sent me a box of stories that he had collected, and they were—as an animal lover—I was a pet parent. I’d never done any animal rescue work, but I love my pets—my dogs. Reading these stories was so—I just got chills, and I wanted to stand up and cheer. I got tears and a lump in my throat. It was all these very visceral responses to these stories, and I knew—after having helped Marci with her books—that these were absolutely killer stories. So, when the man called the co-author, I told him I had good news and bad news. The good news was the stories were amazing, and it was going to be an amazing book. The bad news was I didn’t really want to do it unless I was a co-author. And he said, “No. That’s not the position I called to talk to you about,” and I said, “I understand, and I understand if you don’t want to do it.” I needed the money. I really needed the hourly wage, but I said to myself, “You know, if I take that hourly wage, nothing will ever change in my life.” So I was willing to walk away. I said to him, “You know, I really understand. I’m not going to do it. You need me. I know how to write these stories. I’ve written them. I can write this book for you, but I have to be a co-author and not an editor.” He was like, “Forget it.” But when I said I was going to do it any other way and I told him what I could bring to the project, we ended up negotiating. It changed my life. I became a Chicken Soup for the Soul co-author. It was one of the most wonderful experiences. I just got to curate. That’s what you do as a Chicken Soup for the Soul co-author. You’re curating the book. You’re picking the pieces that fit together to create an experience for the reader. Shane This is a great time to interject. I’d like you to answer this. I’m curious how a co-authorship actually works, like what the workflow is. When we co-write songs, the four of us, or two of us, or however many, go sit in a circle in a room, and everyone kind of spits out lyrics and everyone pencils them in. On a book, what does that workflow look like? Carol Kline It's very different in every book. It's different for what type of books you're doing. I don't think too many people co-author fiction, and I'm not really a fiction writer, so I'm going to excuse myself from that discussion. But, you know, when you're—I mean, Chicken Soup for the Soul books—it was a very specific collaboration, and depending on—I've done six of them, and it was different for every book, depending on what the other co-authors brought. Jack and Mark, basically, were the overseers of everything, and when we were finished, we had to, you know—the stories had to run by them, and they helped put the book in order. For the niche books, they were the ones that started the whole series with their Chicken Soup for the Soul and then 2nd Helping and, you know, 3rd Bowl or whatever, and they were basically motivational speaker stories. And then, when they branched out to these sort of niche books, where—what stories would feed a woman's soul? What story would feed a pet lover's soul? What story would spark, you know, rekindle the spirit and open the heart of a woman versus a golfer? Versus a gardener, you know? So, each book I did—I did four animal books, one mother's soul book, and one [inaudible] soul book. And in each of those, my co-author duties were different. In each of them, my co-author duty was different, and I find that it's really a matter of whose strengths you're going to—you want to take everybody's strengths and play to them. So, with Chicken Soup for the Soul books, when I was working with Marty Becker, who is one of the, you know, world's experts on the human-animal bond, and he travels, and he's a great writer himself, but he was really—his role in the book was to, you know, solicit stories for the syndicated column that he had. He spoke at every animal school and any veterinary school in the world. He was traveling like 200 days a year, and so he would leave a flyer on each chair saying, “We’re looking for stories that will, you know, open the hearts and rekindle the spirits of pet lovers around the world.” So he was, you know, opening the floodgates. And then we had to read them, and I would—there were obvious “no” stories, but the “maybes” and the “yesses” I would read, and I'd look for the spark. I'd look for some potential there, and either I would—very few stories came ready-to-go. There would be editing involved, or I would actually call and interview the person and rewrite the story for them as a ghostwriter. So I had all the writing duties in that, and then he would also—he wrote his own stories, and he would review stories. He would edit stories, but I was the first-draft writer. I was the person that took it from, you know, zero to rough draft, first draft, and then we would collaborate after that. So it's different. And then, in some of the books, like Happy for No Reason and Love for No Reason, I like to say that Marci and I—Marci Shimoff and I—were like we both had keys to a safe-deposit box. We couldn't do it without each other. We brainstormed, and then I would write. I was the first-draft writer pretty much, and that's what writers do, you know? Marci's skill—she's an amazing communicator, and she's an amazing editor, and she writes beautifully. But, you know, her gift isn't in writing first drafts. That is a synthesis, and I actually thought if I ever went back to writing what I did before, if I had a website, it would say “Carol Kline—word handler, sentence tamer, concept wrangler” because that's what I felt I did. I was just like, you know—I was wrestling with—I like to tell people this when they're trying to write that you live in a right-brained world, and your gestalt is non-verbal, you know, your experience of life. And to try and put that into—create into language—can be daunting, and it requires practice. You actually need to lay down a cable between your left brain and your right brain, and your right brain processes the heart experience—as I said, your gestalt, your sort of non-verbal experience. So that requires practice. And the other thing that people have to know is you have to just be aware of that and not be too hard on yourself when you can't capture a feeling or an insight that's so subtle in words because you're drawing it up from a very deep, silent well inside, and it doesn't have words often. It’s not verbal until you try and communicate to someone else. It just lives in you. And so, oftentimes, people get very discouraged because they can't write as well as they can experience. I love Ira Glass' most fabulous quote in This American Life, and he talks about how, if you just write on writing or on—he says, “Beginners is—what gets us into our art is our taste. We know what we admire, and we love good music, art, writing, you know, fill in the blank. But when we try and start doing it, our taste outstrips our skills. We don't have—in the beginning—the talent or the skill to write up to what we know is good, to our standard, and so many people quit because they think they aren't good enough. But he says, “I wish someone had told me.” It can take a few years to hone your craft, and you have to just write badly until you write well and not worry about it. So that was that learning curve of—and it can be a lifelong learning curve. I think, if you really focus on it in a concerted way, on a daily way, that writing—I did it for years, like 10 years. I wrote almost 10 hours a day, you know, on average 10 to 15 hours a day. Shane That was going to be one of my questions. Carol Kline Yeah, I wrote. I mean, I definitely went over the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell talks about—easily. And it became very—I mean, I really laid down that cable, and I tell you, it goes away if you don't do it. It's muscle memory. Eventually, I think if I wanted to write again at that level, I could do it again. But it does take a toll on your body because when you're sitting that still and being so cerebral, I don't recommend it. [Laughs]. It's not a healthy thing, but it's an exciting thing to live this sort of—I feel like a blue flame inside my head. It was just so engrossing and so exciting to synthesize my experience and express it so that other people could experience the same thing. Or I could take abstract concepts, and my favorite thing is to take sort of more esoteric things and make them so common and easy to understand. So there's a Yiddish word called “Heimish,” and it means down home or something that everybody understands. So it was my goal to take complicated things and make them elegant and simple, and I love Einstein's quote. It says, “If you can't explain something simply, you don't understand it well enough.” Shane And he was an intelligent guy. Carol Kline I would say so, and being intelligent, it really takes a genius to make something simple. Shane So I'm curious for you, because a lot of people that end up writers know they want to be a writer. They go to school for journalism or whatever. You went for literature not knowing that you wanted to write, and then you end up with other published authors, and you're the go-to, the first-draft writer, because you're the best word wrangler here. Do you remember the first thing that you wrote where you realized, “Oh, hey, I might actually be really good at this.” Carol Kline Well, it was these stories I wrote for Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul. One of my absolute favorite stories—but the thing was, when you write stories—somebody else's story—I didn't think I was a good writer. I thought I was a good channeler. I was a good ghostwriter. I was a good—I mean, because I didn't have to come up with the plots. I didn't have to come up with—I was really good at listening to someone's story and taking down the parts that moved it along and honing in and amplifying the pieces that moved you emotionally. So the story had to move along in terms of pacing, but there was also—I was really good at just doing this. Chicken Soup stories—they can be very formulaic, and people can think of them as cheesy if you're a literary person like I was, but they're absolutely kind of a beautiful way to learn how to write a story that actually shows and doesn't tell. That's not heady. That actually has visceral—I could tell a story worked in Chicken Soup when it either made me cry, laugh, get goose bumps, or just feel exalted. And those were a sort of lifting of the heart, and those are visceral experiences. And that's just—you know, you're just reading, and somehow, it's creating an experience in you. And I really learned—I think the best way to learn how to write is to write Chicken Soup stories well because they can be horrible. They can be so heady to someone talking and not really showing the—if you have to—what's the word? If you had to make a film of one of these stories, the better ones will have action. The worst ones will be a talking head, just sort of, “And then I felt. And then I saw.” But the real good stories will be—you know, they'll just move along with—they’re grounded in physical reality. There's something that's going to be happening on the screen. You would see something happening. And the worst ones are like, “I realized, or I—you know, then I knew,” and it's just so internal. It’s not easy to translate that to somebody else's experience. If you can give them the same experience you had that catalyzed your realization or catalyzed your emotion, then you've been successful as a writer. So when I started writing Chicken Soup for the Soul stories in Marci's book, this was in 1994 or 5 or 3 or something. It was—no, it was ‘95, 5 or 4. I would read them, and I would get moved by them, and it felt like, “Wow,” you know? And I'd send them to Marci, and she'd be like, “These are amazing.” So that's when I thought, “Okay, I can definitely ghostwrite.” I can definitely take someone's story—because the difference between—you know, if you look at security cameras, that's not very compelling. It's not like going to a movie. So real life, or real-time life, isn't necessarily compelling. You have to curate—again, that word. You have to curate what's compelling and sort of condense time and condense action to what really is going to tell the story you want to tell. Shane That's a perfect tie-in. I'd seen an advertisement for a speech, or a talk, or a keynote that you were giving. It was quite a while back, and there were three key points that you were going to be examining. The first was putting your deepest wisdom into words. The second was engaging your readers on your very first page. And the third one was what you just said—making your stories clear and compelling. Can you talk about each of those points a little bit more? Carol Kline Yes. I think I've already talked a little bit about bringing—sort of translating—the wisdom onto the page. That requires practice, and I like to recommend that people start doing a laying-down-cable exercise daily. And laying-down-cable exercises—I used to say the “f” in effable is effing hard to write about. Ineffable things are things that are not easily put into words, and you have to learn just by practice. And just sit down in the morning. Ask yourself a question before you go to bed at night. That's a really great way if you can write in the morning. Or ask yourself a question in the morning, and then let it process during the day, and when you come home from work or before you go to bed, sometime, just go to your computer or go longhand and just keep writing. Keep your hand moving. Keep your fingers going across the keys. What I would do is I'd ask myself a question at night, and sometimes the questions were, you know, really, “What is happiness?” when I was writing Happy for No Reason, or “What is grace?” I would just ask these questions like, “What does love mean to people?” or “What would it be like to live with an open heart?” I would just ask these abstract questions of myself, and I'd go to sleep and let my subconscious work on it. And then I would wake up in the morning and literally just jump out of bed and run to my computer because I could feel that something had processed, and I would just start by putting my hands on the keys, X's and O's, and just nonsense. And all of a sudden, words would start coming, and I would harvest. Most of it was jibberish and not good, but there would be gems in there. Something from very deep inside of me would come to the surface, and who knows where that came from? You take in so much more information than you process. Our minds take in thousands and thousands and thousands, and our senses take in just a mind-boggling amount of information, and yet we only really process—what we can handle is a fraction of that. So there is stuff that gets sort of brought into you that you don't process consciously, and it's just there. And so, sometimes, when you ask yourself that question and just let it go, something very deep and very profound can come up because it's not going through the filter of what you think you know or what you agree with. It's not coming from that place of intellect, which says, “Yes and no. Yes and no.” It's coming from some deeper place. So I would harvest maybe four sentences from a morning writing session of 15 minutes or half an hour, and then I would get up and walk my dogs and meditate and drink water and whatever, and then I’d go back to writing again. But writing again the second time was not like that. That was when I had outlines, and I wasn't writing from inspiration. I was writing because I had to get a book done. So this was our chance. I really recommend that if people want to learn to connect their nonverbal wisdom to the written word, they start practicing that, and it will be horrible. It'll sound trite. It will be blah, blah, blah. But be patient with it and learn to create that conduit for it. And if you want it, and you want it badly enough, it will happen because that's the nature of the human brain. It's very elastic. It will do what you want it to do eventually if you keep giving it the same instruction over and over. And then that does lead into the second point that we were talking about: how to engage the reader immediately. And that is with story because we are—our limbic brain is just wired to want to know. It's the emotional brain. It wants to know what happens and how do people feel, and stories engage people. When you open a book and there's a story in the first page, if someone's writing a book, or a story, or a speech, the very last thing you want to do is engage someone's intellect right away because an intellect will be—yes, no, I know this. And you don't get anywhere with that. People—if they don't agree with you, they'll just turn away. But if you start with a story, people always want to know what happens, and it engages them on a level that is much more compelling and much more open. They'll read a page or two in case you find out what happened, and then you've got them if you have a compelling enough story that whets their appetite for more of what you're going to say. And stories are the primal communication way that you can get something across to someone—that illustrates—and stories can be foreground or background. Your point can be foreground, and the story can be illustrating it. Or your story can just be the whole thing, and the moral is just implicit. The point you want to get across, a takeaway, is implicit because anybody going through that will come away with a different experience. You're having them experience what your takeaway is. I hope that's helpful. Shane Yeah, that was awesome. Let me ask you this: I had a college lit professor who, on the first day of class, his first rule of writing was he told everybody, “If you ever write something and immediately think to yourself, ‘Wow, that is brilliant,’ crumple it up in a ball and throw it away.” Carol Kline Oh, no. He's in the “murder your little darlings” school of thought. Shane Murder your little darlings. Yeah. So what did he mean by that, and is there any validity in that advice? Carol Kline I don't agree. I think what you need to do—and this is the biggest enemy of writing talent and writing careers is the critical voice inside your head. I interviewed Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame before she was famous. We interviewed her for our first book, Happy for No Reason, and her book hadn't gone big then. And she said something that really, really changed my writing life. She said, “When I write, I'm Liz the writer, and Liz the editor doesn't appear until much later.” If you try and edit, if you think, “Oh, this is good, or this is bad,” you're sunk. You just write. You just get what's inside outside as best you can, and you get your ideas down on paper. And you know, Anne Lamott said—she said—I don't know if I—can I curse on this show? Shane Absolutely. The more creative the swearing, the better. Carol Kline Shitty first drafts. I mean, you’ve got to write badly, and then your editor comes back later because if you edit as you're writing, you're in a different part of the brain. You just won't get the depth of what you have inside because you're just—you're worried about it. You have to just slap the clay down and then take the time to scrape away what doesn't work. Get it all out. I mean, mentally, just do a mind dump. Do a heart dump. Put it all down. You know, there is a caveat that if you're writing a book, then you need to have some outline so that it's no—you have some skeleton to hang the flesh on. But you start—when you know what you're going to write about—and you just let it all come out. So I don't agree that if you think it's good, you get rid of it. But the “murder your little darlings” has to do with: Don't be attached to scaffolding. Sometimes, what you write is just the scaffolding for the building, and you get attached to it. You need an editor. You don't ever decide what's good or bad about your own writing because you're way too close to it. Every writer, if you have any money that you need to spend on your writing, should get an editor—someone fresh—to look at your work. And make sure it's an editor who’s in your genre. So, if you're writing creative nonfiction, don't get a journalist because they're exactly opposite. Creative nonfiction is basically writing nonfiction in a fictional style, and it has all the elements of fiction. Journalism is the exact opposite. It's totally objective. There's no subjectivity. It's a fact, you know, what, where, when, why, how? You don't want to have someone who is a journalist edit your nonfiction—you know, literary nonfiction, or creative nonfiction, or narrative nonfiction. You don't want to have a fiction writer—well, you could have a fiction writer do your editing, but you don't want to have a nonfiction writer do your fiction book. You really need to make sure. But having somebody else's eyes—because your whole story, your whole experience, is enmeshed. You make the jumps because it's all there for you. You understand the backstory. It's like it's unconscious. It’s there. But somebody who comes to your story fresh, they say, “Well, you made a mistake here. I mean, I don't get it. How does this connect to this?” You supplied the connection because it's your experience, so you need to have somebody else's eyes on it. So, to answer your question, “murder little darlings.” You might need to—you need to be open so that your darlings are scaffolding and that the editor—and editing is very subjective. Writing is very subjective. You know? If you really feel strongly about it, then you need to have more than one editor tell you it's bad. [Laughs]. But, you know, you’ve just got to—you’ve got to “murder your little darlings.” Sometimes, they sound good to you. I've had people come up to me and tell me their titles, and I look at them, and I tilt my head, and I go, “Huh?” And to them, it makes total sense, but that title is so above gradient. It's the word I use. It's like it's so above where your audience is. You need to build a ramp, and so your title is the most important thing in your book because, if people don't get your title, they're not going to pick up that book. If people open your book and the first page is boring, they're going to put it down. If your title and your subtitle—your title of your book, if you're a writer—I don’t know if I'm talking to writers or just creative people, so I don't know—but writers, your title has to be—just grab somebody's attention, and the subtitle is going to convince them to buy it. What's the benefit for them? You know? Why should they read this book? What are they going to get from it? So often people don't get that, and I always tell my writers—I have coaching clients. I did. I’m on a sabbatical now, but I had coaching clients. I would say to them, my writing clients, “You need to imagine that someone's walking down a path, and your book title is a door. There are all these doorways, and they can go into any of these doorways. And if your doorway doesn't attract them, then you're lost. You have 30 seconds, maybe even less. They're going to read your title, and they're going to go, ‘Huh, interesting or not interesting,’ and then that's it.” You can spend years—your whole lifetime—writing a book, but if you have a bad title, and a bad cover, and a bad subtitle, and a bad first page, it's all for naught. Shane What's more challenging, writing your own ideas or editing someone else's? Carol Kline Oh, writing your own ideas. Editing is the easiest thing in the world because somebody else has done the heavy lifting. You're just polishing. I used to edit. Editing is very fun. If you're a woodworker, when you're sanding something and you run your hand over it, you’re just making pass after pass with a sander to see how smooth you can get it. How the wood can catch the light, and there can be different ripples in it. So when I'm writing, that's where it's just, you know, wrangling, and taming, and handling it. It's, you know, drawing up from this deep, nonverbal place to put it into language. But then, once it's on the page, you get to go on and say, “Well, you know, I think this needs to be like this.” Editing is a joy. It's really fun. It's where you get to sort of play and be very creative, but people don't understand that you don't do those simultaneously. Shane I like your analogy about the woodworker and smoothing it, and I imagine that some of the editing process is taking chunks out or using heavy-grade sandpaper. What kind of response do you get from writers when you tell them that they need some serious revision work? Are their feelings hurt, or is there a pushback? Is there an argument? Carol Kline Oh, you know, it depends. It depends on the person. If someone doesn't want to be edited, I usually don't work with them, just because they aren't someone who really, you know, wants to write for someone else. And I know there's, like, six reasons people write, and one reason is just catharsis. You know, they just want to get it off their heart. They just want to get it on paper, or they want to write for their family, or they just—you know, they want to tell their story, and they don't care if people get it or not. The editor is the bridge between you and your reader, and so if someone—I always try and be very delicate, you know. I don't say, “This is terrible.” I'll say, “You know what? This doesn't land the way I think you want it to. You know? I don't think this is going to connect with the reader, and they're not going to get what you want.” I'll edit it. You use Track Changes, so they can see what you've taken out. Do you know that Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word? Shane Yep. Carol Kline When you use that, people can see, and I usually have them read the version that doesn't have the changes so they can just feel how it feels. Because when I do my final pass on a book—when I'm editing—I read the whole thing out loud. I read the whole thing out loud to somebody, and you can feel the places that are still rough, that don't flow, that seem stilted. And one of my biggest processes when I was writing stories was I walked every day. I walked my dog with a girlfriend, and I would interview someone, and I would be working with their story, and I would tell her the story, and that would really help me understand. The spoken story would help me really understand what was interesting about the story and what parts I kind of went through really fast because they weren't as interesting. And so it helped me gauge which parts, you know, were really important to include and which parts I needed to maybe include just for clarity but not elaborate on. And so telling people the story rather than just writing it will help you really see what sings in the story, and also reading out loud once you're editing it will help you. It's amazing how powerful that is. Shane We always hear about finding your voice as an author. Does that go back to what you said about just the repetition until you get good at writing, or is finding your voice—can you explain to everyone what that means and what the best way to go about finding it is? Carol Kline That's an interesting question. I think finding one's voice means making a really perfect conduit between what's inside and bringing it outside without losing anything. And, you know, when you—partly what your voice will be—you'll get a clue to your voice by what you enjoy in other people's writing. My favorite writers are women, and they write from a very sort of emotional place. I enjoy stories where I really—they're very conversational, where I get to hear what someone's thinking, so your voice will often be very similar to the books that you like to read if you're a reader. I don't understand how a writer cannot be a reader. Shane They say that's the best way to learn spelling. Carol Kline Yeah. So finding your voice to me is the repetition of really learning how to access your deepest insights, your deepest experiences, that are more multi-dimensional. That sounds so abstract. Let me think how I would say that. You know, we could talk—I remember when I was a little girl, my dad and I drove into New York City. I grew up in Long Island, and we drove into New York City, into the West Village, to see my uncle, who lived in the West Village. It was in the ‘60s. I'm old, and the song on the radio was from Hair—the musical Hair. I think it was “Good Morning Starshine” or whatever that was. And this was this amazing experience in my brain, in my experience, in my, you know, heart that I had had with my dad. My dad died very young, so it's even more powerful for me. And there's so many layers to that story that I—if I was really a good writer, which I think everybody can always get better, you know? I think I got to a journeyman sort of level. But great writers—they may be born, but I think you can become a very good writer. I don't know if you can become a great writer if you don't have a certain sensitivity. But there's a—you know, there was the sound, and there was the—you know, seeing the back on my dad's neck and looking at the cars going by and being in the West Village with all those weird people who were wearing, you know, psychedelic clothing. There are so many different pieces, and to weave all of that—and then, you know, what is your voice about? Is your voice about talking about the action? Is it a thriller? Is it a chick flick? Movies are a really good way for you to understand how books unfold in a certain way and sort of the different feelings that you get. You know, some writers are really about the action and having a great story, and some are more internal. You know, they're about the growth a person goes through, and I tend to be the kind of person that loves the growth stories. I like a good plot. But, you know, more often, I like stories of human growth and personal development, and someone becoming more loving and kind, and kind to themselves and others, and losing some of the pain and nastiness we have towards ourselves and others. So, you know, I guess to your question—I don't know if I answered it. Your voice is really—there's a voice in your head that's a true voice. There's a voice in your head that’s critical, and there's a voice in your head that’s fearful. But there's a voice in your head that kind of narrates your life for you, and if you can—and it may not even be in words. It's just sort of a thread that runs through all of your experiences, and it's the quality of your heart. It's the quality of your—I'm getting kind of abstract here, so sorry. But if you can get that into words, that's your voice, and that could take years. But it starts—it's there in feed form. It's there, and you'll be most satisfied with your writing. So your voice is just becoming the best conduit of what's deep inside of you and bringing it out. I think it's very subjective. You may never be satisfied that you've gotten that. I saw Ella Gilbert [sp] speak, and she said, “You know, sometimes you just have to send—it's the imperfect twin. The writing is the imperfect twin of what you have inside. But sometimes, you have to just send it off.” You just have to get it—you know, your parenting is done. You have to send it out into the world, and that's all there is to it. You're midwifing. You’ve birthed it. It's never going to be the exact of what you had inside, but you just have to send it out to do his work and to do, you know, what you meant it to do in the world. Shane You said that some of your favorite things to read were the transformational stuff. A lot of the books that you've co-authored were with transformational thought leaders or motivational speakers. Were you drawn to them because you already liked that stuff, or was it working with them and discovering the material that they were putting out? Carol Kline Chicken or the egg. I do not know. That's a good question. I mean, when I went to see Jack Canfield—I mean, I was always a meditator, and I always thought that life wasn't just about, you know, material existence. I mean, even as a little child, I remember looking in the mirror and going, “Wow, people think this body is who I am. Isn't that so strange?” And I always knew I was riding in a car, but I wasn't the car. I was the driver, but that people identified with who I was by this body. And it was a very strange and abstract thought to have as a six-year-old, but I remember having it. So I was always a little weird that way. You know, I wasn't someone who was going to, like, you know, want to go to business school and, you know, make the best widget. I always wanted to change the world in some way and make a difference. I was raised by parents who believed in the Hebrew concept of tikkun olam—to fix the world—and I was raised with a big social conscience. I didn't know what form that was going to take, and what it ended up being was I really wanted to inspire and empower people to become happier in their lives and more loving to the world around them. So it started by reading Jack Canfield, and I realized there was just so much—the windows were so dirty in my mind. So much of what I had to give was blocked by self-doubt and self-criticism, and I loved so much of Jack's work. That sort of turned me on to that whole personal development thing, beyond just being a meditator, but actually, you know, culturing the ability to be effective, and be kind to yourself and others, and believe in yourself. And, you know, that stuff is not taught in school. I just think we should teach the stuff in schools. And so I got really excited about that. And then it just led to Chicken Soup Stories. It led to my favorite book I ever wrote. I'll tell you, it’s called—well, my second favorite—You've Got to Read This Book!: 55 People Tell the Story of the Book That Changed Their Life, and I got to interview people—many, many people—we ended up selecting 55 of their stories—who had done amazing things in the world. What was the book that had actually changed them and that inspired them? And, you know, being a book person and also being someone who cares about the world and growth, this was right up my alley. So that book—I highly recommend it. It's by Jack Canfield and Gay Hendricks, and I was the “with author” on that one, which meant that I did a lot of the sort of heavy lifting with the writing. We all worked on the book together, and it was a great, great experience. And then my second favorite book—my second two—are Happy for No Reason and Love for No Reason because they changed me fundamentally as a person. When you write a self-help book, you have to own that material so that you can say it well enough. It's like Einstein said, “You have to understand so many different things and say it in a way that anybody can understand,” and, I believe, conversationally. So I learned, you know, how to become happy from the inside out and how to love people—to live with an open heart. Not just to love, you know, specific people, but come to life with, you know, love coming from the inside out, as being a fountainhead of love and good feeling—and kindness. Those are all just what life's about, and so I was really lucky. I was drawn to that, and I was lucky to work with those people and get the benefit. I remember that I read a book by Gay Hendricks. He hasn't published this book, so I'm not going to say what it was yet. I remember thinking, “Gosh, this is amazing because you can really change people's lives.” You can change their—you make distinctions that they never saw before, and it changes the way they go forward. So I hope that answers your question. Shane It does, and we're on a wavelength here, Carol, because you're doing a phenomenal job of preempting my questions. My next two are: Which book of yours did you enjoy writing the most, and why? And then it was: What are some examples of personal growth or lessons that you learned from your co-authors material just in the process of writing with them? Carol Kline Well, good. I got those done. Shane Yeah, you got those done. All right, personal question. There's a bunch of tales of modern authors who insist on writing on old-fashioned typewriters because the clickity-clack is hypnotic for them, and it puts them in the right frame of mind that a computer just can't do. Did you have any writing quirks like that? Carol Kline No, I hated computers at first. I mean, I remember—I would just cry because I couldn't make them work, and things would disappear, and I couldn't save. But I actually really enjoy “cut and paste” and “saving as” because I can pick something and just leave it over there and then save it as a new version and try experiments and know that, if it doesn't work, I still have the old version. So I am a huge fan of writing technology because it has made—and I can cut and paste, and I can—I have two screens. That's one thing I absolutely have to have: two screens. I write with two screens, especially editing with two screens. So if I have any kind of technological quirk, it’s that I could not write with one screen. I have two, and I have research up. I never write with music. I absolutely hate it. I have total silence when I write. I don't like to get distracted. I need to focus so intensely because, again, it's a white-hot flame, you know, that you are sort of melting everything and then pouring it out into a mold that you want it to be a certain shape. Shane What is your personal strategy for dealing with writer's block? Carol Kline Just do what I said about—just start, keep your hands moving, and have a question. And the introduction to Happy for No Reason was really hard for me. It was just that there was so much I wanted to say. The problem is you want to say it all at once. A book is a delivery system. You know you can't just download. You have to do it sequentially. If I could just take my information and just put it into your head like a CD and then just have it be downloaded, it would be great. But there has to be a first chapter and a second chapter, and they all have to build on each other. So that introduction was so hard, but I started just going to bed with what I call—and doing morning thoughts. Just do morning thoughts. Just start writing something. Just keep writing, and something will happen. And writer's block is usually because you are editing. So just write the worst thing you can possibly write. Don't even worry about whether it's good or not, just write badly. Shane It was a dark and stormy night. Carol Kline Yes, it was a dark and stormy night. It doesn't matter because, if you are constantly editing while you're writing, that is the number one cause. I love Chris Baty, who is the founder of NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month. It's November each year. He says, “Cultivate exuberant imperfection.” Shane I love that phrase—exuberant imperfection. Carol Kline Yep, it's fantastic. You’ve got to be exuberant. Just, you know, get it out, shake it off, just write, and go back later and decide what's good and what's worth keeping, and then have fun with it. If you're tortured, then you're definitely in your intellect, because intellect is good, bad, good, bad, good, bad. It’s binary, whereas your heart is going to just want to sing. It’s just going to want to laugh. It’s just going to want to talk, and you go back later. Now you don't want to be all heart-based because you have to go back and say, “Okay, why would someone want to read this, and you know, does this really work?” But you don't want to do those simultaneously. Again, the biggest key in writing is not to edit while you write. Shane I love what you said a few minutes ago about utilizing the two screens for your workflow, and I was wondering if there's any other ways that you’ve sort of harnessed the power of technology or if there's any other tips, or tools, or tricks of the trade—things you utilize to make your creative process flow easier. Carol Kline I do. I do think that there's a few things. You know, you are a human body, and a human animal, and a human spirit. I'm quoting from one of my favorite self-help authors, Alison Armstrong. If you don't know who she is, you can look her up at understandmen.com. She talks about human animal, and human animal is the basis of human spirit. I really know that if I didn't drink enough water, if I didn't eat properly—you know, most people, if you're going to write, you have to have a substratum of a functioning brain. You have to have a functioning body. Some really cool thing that I found recently is that there's a supplement that I really like for coherence and for focus, because what happens is we lose focus. They found that, basically, humans have a second less attention span than goldfish at this point. Goldfish have nine seconds, and humans have eight seconds, and that has shrunk consistently since the 1950s or 1960s. Our attention span has gotten less and less and less and less, and that's very hard when you're writing because writing or creativity requires you to be present, and to hold space, and to not get distracted, and to be bored—to be in a place where you're not filling yourself up with passive entertainment. So that requires a functioning, clear brain so that you're firing on all cylinders. So I found this product that I really like. It's called EHT, and it's a natural supplement. What I found about it is that it really helps with the creative process because it actually helps your synapses stay intact. And synapses are those places that you're—you know, when I'm word handling, and sentence taming, and concept wrangling, and when I'm flowing, you know, when I'm taking that—you know, those synapses are what are going to take the inner and lay down cable. That cable needs to be intact, from the nonverbal to the verbal. So I am a big fan of this supplement. There's nothing else like it. It was discovered at Princeton University, and a bioscience company's been researching it for a long time. It’s a fantastic discovery. I recommend it highly. If you're a musician, if you're anybody, but if you're a creative person especially, I think your brain is a substratum, your brain and heart connection. Shane Yeah, I had a friend that was taking it and recommended it, and I started taking it, and I believe it was like within a week or two was when we cooked up the idea for this whole Live2cre8 platform that we're doing. Carol Kline Cool. Well, I absolutely, absolutely think that, you know, one of the big future emphases on health is going to be brain health because we're living so long, but we don't want to live that long if we don't have the cognition, the cognitive health, and the focus, and the quality of life. And so I'm excited because not only does it seem to help, it took longer for it to work for me, you know, in terms of I noticed things within, you know, two weeks, three weeks, but I've been taking it over a year now, and I really love it. Shane Well, we'll have to make that available to our listeners if they're interested in focus and expanding their creativity. Carol Kline Cool. Yeah, they should definitely check it out. Shane All right. Final list of questions here. Carol Kline Okay, let's do it. Shane And for this first one, I know that you're on a sabbatical for writing, so take this as the writer. If your job as a writer only paid the bills and not a penny more, would you have still continued to do it? Carol Kline Yes, but not at the level I was doing it. It was too many hours a day. Yes, I would always write because writing is a way for me to communicate with the world, to actually communicate with myself, to clarify my own thinking. Shane What talent or skill do you not have that you wish you did? Carol Kline I wish I could juggle. Shane Fill in the blank. I am a success if I _____. Carol Kline Grow. Shane And I'm a failure if I _____. Carol Kline Quit. Shane What's the single best piece of advice you followed to get where you are today? Carol Kline To go through being bad until I was good. To persist. To be determined and kind to myself. You definitely have to just go through the learning curve and be patient, because if you quit too soon, you're depriving yourself and the world of your gift. Shane What was the best piece of well-intentioned advice someone gave you that you're glad you ignored to get where you are today? Carol Kline Follow your bliss, and I guess what I mean by that—and I think you do need to follow your bliss in a general way, but perfecting a craft is not bliss. It can be difficult, and people stop. They think that if it’s not blissful, they should stop because it means it's not right for them. It's the most ridiculous misunderstanding in the world. True bliss comes from—it’s short-term satisfaction versus long-term gain. It does feel good to quit when you're going through a hard patch. So when people say, “Follow your bliss,” I'm like, “Yeah, in the long term, but in the short term you need to do what it takes.” Shane What character trait do you like best about yourself? Carol Kline My curiosity and friendliness. Shane And what character trait do you like least about yourself? Carol Kline My feelings of getting overwhelmed when it gets hard. When the going gets hard, I get kind of whiny and want to quit. Shane Fill in the blank. I believe every child should have the opportunity to _____. Carol Kline Be loved. Shane If you could suggest one piece of self-improvement that everyone on earth would adopt, what would it be? Carol Kline Be kind to yourself and others. Shane If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Carol Kline I want to fly. Shane Fly absolutely. If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be? Carol Kline Man, that question. I never know what to say to that question. Hold on a sec. I never know. Shane If you get it wrong, you're going to fall in the dunk tank. Carol Kline I know the problem is—it’s just that I don't know. I guess I would really like to have dinner with Albert Einstein. Shane That would be, I think, high on a lot of people's lists. Carol Kline Yeah, I think it would be really interesting to find out what it was like to think on such a different level, and yet he was very balanced. Shane A hospitable nearby planet has been discovered, and you've been recruited to help colonize it. All your needs are going to be taken care of, and you can take any three personal or luxury items with you that you wish. What are they? Carol Kline My blender. Does that count, or has that already gotten there? Shane Oh, no, that counts. Carol Kline My blender. My dog. My husband. Shane All right, the dog, husband, and the blender, and I'm going to tell the husband that the blender got listed first in that list. Carol Kline Well, I was thinking of items. And then I thought, “Well, I can't go anywhere without these people.” Shane All right, last one: You've just won a lifetime achievement award, and we want to hear your acceptance speech. That's all the “thank yous” to the people that helped you get to where you are. There's no time limit, so you can get to all of them that you need, and if there's any personal cause that you want to champion, this is your soapbox, so let her rip. Carol Kline Oh, my goodness. How many days do you have? I would have to thank so many people. I mean, truly. I want to thank my parents for instilling the gift of creativity and making me feel like I was loved and cared about and that what I did was important. I want to thank my mentors and the people who gave—Jack Canfield, and Marci Shimoff, and Gay Hendricks—all the people I've worked with for allowing me to work with them, and take their knowledge, and supplement it with my gift, and create something that could help anybody in the world live better lives and be happier. I want to thank my meditation teachers and the people who've given me the ability to live a life that's not superficial but has such depth. My personal cause is I really want people to live and let live. This planet is—we're all on this one planet. I'm going to start a foundation called All Life Matters—ALM—and I want to give alms for Om because every single bit—everybody is as important as everybody else, and the animals on this planet deserve our respect. The plants on this planet deserve our respect. There has to be a place where we can live and let live, and that comes from a sort of internal recognition of the humanity, and the being, and the spirit in every single thing that we find ourselves with. You can feel that kinship. I am so impassioned about helping people be kind to themselves because the first step in acknowledging the spirit inside yourself is that you could see it around you and start seeing—they say that meditation is seeing the spirit inside you gets first respect and is beautiful everywhere else. And kindness to yourself and others is—if everyone was kind to themselves and others, the world would be a very different place. Shane How long do you meditate for each day? You said you do it twice a day. Carol Kline Well, I started 20 minutes twice a day when I was 15, and now I have a longer meditation program. I meditate for about an hour in the morning and about 25 minutes in the afternoon. I get up early. I get up early so I can meditate before I turn on my phone or start reacting to the demands of the day, and it's the most beautiful, quiet time. I just have this great period of time where I can just be very silent and anchor to something that's not changing, that's not chaotic, that's not reactive. Shane Conscientious prioritization of your day. Carol Kline Yeah. Well, I don't think in that time. I go beyond thought. Then I come out of that dripping wet with all that sort of great being, and then I start conscientiously organizing my day, and then I open the floodgates to emails, texts, and the computer, because if you start your day responding, you'll spend the whole day putting out fires and never get done what you want to get done ever. Shane Well, I think that was some amazingly incredible, insightful advice and teachings, and thank you so much for taking the time to share that with us. Carol Kline Well, that was my pleasure. Shane And I know you’ve got a ton to do, so I will let you get to it. Thank you so much for joining us, and I will talk to you soon. Carol Kline Yeah, I'm coming to Nashville in October, so I hope to see you then. Shane Cool, that would be great. Carol Kline All right, take care. Shane All right, bye-bye. Thank you. Carol Kline Bye-bye. Shane Once again, that was #1 New York Times bestselling author Carol Kline. I'd like to thank everyone for joining me today. You are listening to the Live2Cre8 podcast, and this is Shane Almgren reminding you to dream big, be inspired, and live creatively.







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