Wild-Mind Marketing

by Nancy Humphreys on August 7, 2013

Natalie Goldberg popularized wild-mind writing when she published two books: Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (1986, second ed., 2005), and Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life (1990).

Wild-mind writing traces its heritage back to beat-generation writer, Jack Kerouac, who over three weeks in 1951, typed, single-spaced with no paragraph indents, the entire first draft of his classic book, On The Road on tracing paper in a continuous 120-foot long scroll. Wild-mind writing consists of putting a pen on paper for a pre-set amount of time and not stopping ever – no matter what!

Whatever comes into your head during a wild-mind writing exercise can and should be written down until you reach the time limit you initially set for the exercise. Later, you will read aloud what you wrote to other people who agree to simply listen and tell you what words phrases stick in their minds. As your audience gives you feedback, underline works or phrases they recall. That’s all there is to wild-mind writing.

Wild-mind writing goes beyond merely telling a story. It disconnects your writing from your logical, critical mind. In so doing it enables you to create memorable phrases, such as those you’ve admired by great writers of fiction and prose that you’ve read.

Goldberg also popularized another way of getting started writing with your right-brain. This was to write by first making a list of things that come to mind about a topic you or your writing group choose. Writing from your wild-mind produces a fruitful word and phrase list that you and others can use to inspire further wild-mind writing.

By starting with making a list you can inspire a story about yourself and create a personal brand by which others can recognize who you are and what you do.

Turn your wild-mind list into a story

Here’s how you do that. Make a list of words and phrases that apply to your self. Once you have generated your wild-mind list, see if there are words or phrases you can turn into a story to identify or “brand” your unique self.

Robert Middleton, a marketing expert, believes that telling others brief stories about yourself is a core skill in marketing. Robert built his client list by using a PDF workbook that showed self-employed people how to use storytelling on their web sites in order to attract the kind(s) of clients they wanted to work with. Currently Robert’s free interactive workbook and his newsletter delve into the essentials of marketing for “independent professionals”. His new workbook focuses in depth on how to develop and communicate your marketing message in “conversations” with potential customers.

Sam Horn is a PR expert who is fond of talking about how to create a brand for yourself by storytelling. Her intrigueagency.com site promises you’ll know how to intrigue someone in what you’re interested in within 60 seconds. Horn offers a free newsletter, free webinars, and gifts to start you learning how. You can use Sam Horn’s storytelling skills during networking events, not only as a speaker but when introducing yourself and answering the perennial question “What do you do?”

Patti DeNucci, a former client and networking consultant, also has a free newsletter. In it she uses storytelling about herself to illustrate many of the excellent points she makes in her book, The Intentional Networker. DeNucci is a great model for how to use storytelling to brand oneself.

Turn your personal story into a personal brand

To brand yourself, write down lists of things about yourself and what you do. Use these lists to start writing brief stories about yourself. Your personal stories should show (rather than tell) others what you’ve done in your work. This gives potential clients confidence in what you could do for them. And it can induce some prospective buyers to ask you more questions about your book and/or services which you can answer with additional stories.

Keep writing and making lists until you have several brief stories you could see yourself telling someone else at a networking event. Next, get feedback from those you trust. Read your stories out loud to these friends. (Make sure your friends understand you do not want critiques of your work – either good or bad  – you only want to know what words and phrases they recall.) After they share with you their remembered words and phrases, refine your stories if you need to. Then go out and network!

Using list-making to create lively stories will help you create a personal brand that, through the recall of friends who give feedback on your stories, is actually proven to be memorable – and without spending a dime to do that.

Now, how do you market your particular services and/or your book?

Turn wild-mind writing into a marketing tool

To start marketing your book or services, do several short wild-mind exercises about your book and/or your business. Use list-making to get started if that helps you. Write about both strengths and weaknesses. Let your mind go and don’t judge what comes out.

Read aloud what you wrote to your team of readers. After you get their feedback, make a short-list of the most memorable words and phrases they’ve recalled. If you’re just starting out in your work, see if there’s one word or phrase in particular that you can use to create a name, a URL, or a catchy slogan for your business. If you’re writing a book, look for words or phrases to use in your title, subtitle, and/or table of contents.

Next, take your short-list of phrases and create specific marketing stories from them. Try using some of your best words, phrases, and stories in your marketing materials and on your site. See which words, phrases, and stories get the biggest response from others. (Hint: you can do that by creating two “sales” pages on your blog or web site and see which gets the biggest response).

For example, here’s a marketing story that Annie Lamont uses to sell her book Bird-By-Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life on Amazon:

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my  brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird.”

A few last words about wild-mind marketing

Keep an eye out for what other people say in response your marketing materials and networking with them. Notice phrases from others that seem memorable to you. Use them in your marketing and networking stories as well as for testimonials on your blog or web site.

Tip for Indexers: List-making after doing a wild-mind writing exercise is a great way to organize your thoughts. If you’re an indexer, consider using your indexing software to keep track of the special words and phrases you uncover while practicing wild-mind writing, list-making, and storytelling for use in marketing your indexing services.


Marketing Your Book to Libraries Marketing Your Books to Libraries: An Insider's Guide for Authors by former librarian Nancy K. Humphreys includes: 
  • How to tell what kind of library to target
  • Types of librarians and books they order
  • Strategies to get past the "gatekeepers" who influence librarians
  • Right ways to approach librarians most likely to order your book

Learn more »

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: