Tampa Bay Books interview with author, Dr. Noelle Sterne, author of 'Trust Your Life'.
Please share about your career background.
My dreamed-of career has been writing for as long as I can remember. At the same time, I became an academic—hardly a breath between getting the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees, and then teaching on the college level. To have more writing time and because I kept nodding out at the English Department committee meetings, I became gracefully fired. Then I established a dissertation typing business near Columbia University, my alma mater. Because I had trouble controlling my brain, I soon started commenting on clients’ dissertation productions. They began to ask me questions and for advice as well.
Eventually, the typing blossomed (or deteriorated, depending on your point of view) into dissertation coaching and consulting. I have been engaged in this work for over 28 years, now with doctoral candidates nationwide and worldwide. It is very satisfying to see clients master scholarship, advance in their professions, and grow in their personal sense of self-worth and self-respect.
When did you begin your writing journey?
In the likely apocryphal story my mother loved to repeat, I stood up in the crib at 4 months old crying not “Momma, Momma” but “Book-a! Book-a!” I don’t remember this.
Other than this, like so many other writers, I started early. I still have, from my productions at about age 10, crumbling black three-ringed notebooks filled with lined pages of painstaking handwritten poems and stories. These notebooks proliferated, graduated to file folders, and now to magically stored computer files with gigantic gigabyte capacity. I have been writing ever since.
What inspired you to write this book?
Two things. First was the clients in my coaching and editing practice assisting adults who return to universities for dreamed-of graduate degrees. No matter how impressive their accomplishments and titles, they often moaned that they’d made mistakes in life choices (“I waited too long to enroll in graduate school!”) and feared they’d never finish (“I’ve lost my brain-power!”). They lamented about lost time, feared they would never finish, and voiced destructive perspectives that impeded their progress. The academic could hardly be separated from the personal and emotional. I wanted to help them more see the “progression” of their lives and how none of their experiences was wasted (this is a major premise of Trust Your Life).
The second source of inspiration was my quest of my own dream. Like clients, I was battling the same doubts and fears about deserving to reach my dream—writing my own work. Writing about achieving one’s dream was what I needed to learn too.
Please share about your book.
The title capsulates what so many of us feel about our lives. I persisted in not forgiving myself for past decisions—such as earning my own doctorate instead of plunging into creative writing. The title reflects the connection between trusting one’s choices, wherever they have led, and not judging them as misguided, wrong, or blatantly stupid.
The second part of the title also tells readers that it’s acceptable—no, necessary—to honor our inner guidance and secret dreams. And I am pleased that both titles are imperatives or, if you will, affirmations.
What are some takeaways you would like your reader to get from reading your book?
In addition to the title-mantra, I discuss three specific principles for readers to take away to bolster and shore them up in going after their own dreams:
a. There are no mistakes. Even if it does not feel like it, your life experiences prepared you perfectly for where you are now. Nothing was wasted.
b. You can reframe your past. Instead of branding your past experiences as negative or wasted, you can view them as inevitable steps toward the future you want to create.
c. The outer reflects the inner. Your experiences result from your thoughts and feelings. You can name, visualize, expect, and experience your God-planted greatest desires.
With this foundation, and many explanations, anecdotes, steps, and examples, I show readers how to go about reaching their Dreams.
How did you decide to publish this book? Why?
The book started as two spiritual essays on trusting one’s life (ReligionAndSpirituality.com, Unity Magazine). As I reassessed my own life, I recognized I had condemned myself for going after the doctorate and other life choices. On reflection, though, I realized that the “line” from the trials of the doctorate to helping others with their dissertations to my own writing was perfect. I had (and continue to have) the strong desire to share such realizations with others.
Because of this message to readers and myself, I wanted this to be my first published book. For several years I sent out queries and proposals, receiving some compliments but no bites. As I grew in my academic coaching practice, in writing, and in spiritual development, I began to publish more writing craft and spiritual articles and develop a platform. With this “ammunition” and refinement of the proposal, Trust Your Life was accepted by Unity Books.
What is the best advice you have received about writing?
The advice is a composite of many other writers’ wisdom as well as my own discoveries. Write because you need to and cannot imagine life without it. Write because you must. Write for yourself. Write what is in your heart, and later think about markets.
The more you delve and explore your own heart, the more you will touch others.
What is your advice to beginning writers?
Keep the above words in mind. But start small—with an essay, a story. If your dream is a novel, start with a paragraph on the plot and how the main character(s) learned and grew. Then, start with a single chapter, and it doesn’t have to be the first.
Above all, as I’m sure you’ve often heard, write regularly. If it is not daily, decide on another regular schedule. Make it as regular as any other daily habit you do for physical health. Writing is for your mental, emotional, spiritual, and creative health.
What was your biggest challenge in writing this book?
Completing it. I’d written almost exclusively essays and stories. It was my first long work (I have another nonfiction manuscript in an old file but never finished it). I was scared. But I followed the advice of devoting regular time to it. And I had the incredible revelation that a book is only a series of essays. So I divided it into these “essays” and took one at a time to completion.
What has been your greatest reward in writing this book?
It has been very rewarding to read the praise for the book, to receive invitations to speak, and to publish excerpts. But my greatest reward has been seeing people’s responses to the ancient New-Age teachings of the book as these teachings become more accepted in the mainstream.
Most writers are readers. What books are on your "to-read" list?
I don’t read for fun or escape (that’s reserved for TV mysteries) but for nourishment and knowledge. The books I read and are stacked up to read are (a) spiritual self help (two by Abraham-Hicks), (b) writing craft (The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron—for the third time), and (c) scholarly (can’t shake my training)—I am fascinated by early Christianity (The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels, The Ministry and Message of Paul by Richard Longenecker).
What are you working on now?
Reminding myself of all the positive buttresses that helped me complete Trust Your Life, I am now working on a book more directly based on my academic coaching practice. This book helps doctoral students complete their dissertations, the last and possibly most agonizing hurdle of an advanced degree. However, this is not a usual handbook—plenty of those are in print. My book addresses students’ largely overlooked but equally important nonacademic difficulties and is possibly the first to do so in depth. The title: Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping With the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles.
I am working on a sequel to Trust Your Life: Competition Therapy: Conquer Your Envy of Others Who Are Where You Think You Should Be. Spiritually based, this book attacks the notion that if you’ve got it, I can’t get it.
Other works are perpetually in progress and stages of publication, including articles on spiritual and writing craft topics, personal essays, and several novels in various stages of sprouting.
Where can readers find out more about you and your book?
Readers are invited to visit my website, http://www.trustyourlifenow.com, on which they can read an excerpt from the book and other works. Trust Your Life in paperback and ebook is available on Amazon and other sites.
My webinar presentation on the book can be accessed on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95EeqllONIQ&feature=youtu.be
A chapter titled “Send Love Ahead” will be published in the forthcoming book (August 2014) Transform Your Life! http://transformation-publishing.com/ book/transform-your-life/
Anything you would like to add?
Yes. Thank you, Teresa, for this opportunity to share my work and outlook with your readers. To continue to spread the message of Trust Your Life, I want readers to know they are in control of their lives and have the power to build their lives as they wish.