Coping with (creative) loss

Coping with (creative) loss
Coping with (creative) loss

Jul 21 2022 | 00:27:19

Episode July 21, 2022 00:27:19

Hosted By

Stuart Barefoot

Show Notes

Matt interviews Dr. Sherry Walling about her new book, Touching Two Worlds: A Gudie for Finding Hope in the Landscape of Loss.

Dr. Sherry Walling is a clinical psychologist, speaker, podcaster, best-selling author, yoga teacher, and mental health advocate. Their discussion crosses into many different areas of creativity, life, entrepreneurship, and podcasting. 

The last few years have been tough on everyone -- this is an episode you don't want to miss! 



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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Launching something new into the world can make you feel really vulnerable. The stuff I put out 10 years ago was cringeworthy, and I'm almost certain that when I reflect on this podcast 10 years from now, I'll be picking it apart too. Today's guest is Sherry walling. I Speaker 1 00:00:16 Became a clinical psychologist because I was really interested in stress response and how people cope with really hard things like trauma. Specifically, I worked in a group that was looking at PTSD in recent, really returned combat veterans. Speaker 0 00:00:31 And we're going to be talking about her new book, touching two worlds, a guide for finding hope in the landscape of loss, which you can [email protected]. Speaker 1 00:00:41 It's so much of my heart and soul. Speaking of like being in the game, <laugh>, I'm really proud of it. It's well written and it's beautiful. And everyone that I know at some point is gonna go through deep loss, right? Some you're gonna lose your parents, like things are gonna happen in your life. And this is what I have to offer. Speaker 0 00:01:03 I've known Sherry for a while. And her work on her podcast is end founder and the work she's done with her husband, Rob, but do psychologists have a suit of armor that protects them from being vulnerable, could publishing a book so personal, be scary for Sherry. And how does she deal with it? If she's scared, can you imagine how I feel putting something out into the world? Maybe even you, well, the answer might surprise you, but you know what, won't surprise you consistent recurring subscription income from your members only or premium podcast content Casto is leading the way for audio creators, just like you to sell memberships, audio books, or even private podcast for your employees with an easy payment connection through Stripe, earning a living through podcasting is Speaker 1 00:02:01 There are a handful of us there we are few, but we are mighty. I began my career actually in the VA system. So for people who are based in the us, that's the veterans hospital. And I was helping people come back for more. Uh, specifically I worked in a group that was looking at PTSD in recent, really returned combat veterans. And I just found it to be such interesting, meaningful work. So I was doing that and really working with kind of high intensity people who had high intensity things happening in the context of their work. But I was also married to a tech entrepreneur. So I had all these startup folks in my living room, like in the week on the weekends. And I heard a lot of the same challenges, surprisingly, maybe not the combat trauma, of course, but certainly the way that the intensity of the work affected relationships, the way that people couldn't sleep at night, um, the way that it felt really hard to separate one's individual self from one's work one's business. So I've just became really interested in kind of the psychology that goes into pouring yourself into a business. And I made the transition about seven years ago to really focus my whole career on the mental health needs of entrepreneurs. Speaker 0 00:03:17 Is this NAS, there's this whole thing of, how do I start a successful podcast? How do I, how do I become like this well known podcaster? And for a lot of people, what they don't want to hear is you kind of have to put on your business hat, you have to put on your entrepreneur hat to do that kind of thing. I want to get to that in a moment, but as, uh, I've been an entrepreneur for well over 20 years, I guess at this point, uh, and I talked to a lot about other entrepreneurs on some other podcasts. It is a lonely job if you're just starting out, right? If it's just you, you got this idea, you're trying to get it out into the world. You're trying to get people to, you know, love what it is that you're putting out to the world. And it's very hard for you to detach yourself. So you're like, I want people to love me and my product <laugh> are there ways for people to cope with being like the solo podcast or the solo creator founder? Speaker 1 00:04:05 I just wanna echo that the loneliness is real right. You are carrying forward this idea into the world and you are the representation of the idea. You are the ambassador and it's, it's a slog, um, to start anything new. I do think that there are, there are there's community to be found, right? I think that the way that we talk about the things that we're creating to our friends and family, even, maybe they're not in our field at all, you know, they're not in the business world or whatever your subject matter is, maybe they're not related, but they can at least maybe understand what it means to really wanna accomplish something. So I think sometimes the way that we engage are the people that are right around us. If we can do that in a thoughtful way and help them know what we're doing and what kind of support we need, uh, I think that can be super helpful. Also, obviously it's so valuable to be in communities of people who are doing the same kind of thing. So to connect with some other new podcasters, some other new entrepreneurs who are having the same pains and learning some of the same lessons and to really invest in helping each other. Speaker 0 00:05:16 This last two to three years has been pretty challenging to say the least it's a super roller coaster ride. It was like, what is happening to the world? And then the stock market was booming and everyone's like, Hey, it's fine, man. Like, <laugh>, well, there's nothing wrong here. And then now we're like, Hey, there's a war and a recession instantly. The world is, has been changing left and right for folks, your new book is about what I will say is coping with loss and loss in, in many different degrees, right? Maybe loss of business, loss of a loved one loss of an idea, loss of inspiration. Is there anything here that you can share that you learned that were, is gonna be really impactful for anyone who has had loss or is dealing with it from these last two, three crazy years? Speaker 1 00:06:02 We all are in some level of grief from all of the things that you've mentioned, right? We've all lost plans, we've all lost. Um, things that we'd hoped would happen. And many of us have lost actual humans. Some of us have lost a lot of money. Some of us have lost businesses. So loss and, and grief is the emotional reaction to loss. And I wrote this book because I experienced a series of personal losses, the loss of my dad and my brother in quick succession to each other. And so I found myself sort of catapult it into the depths of loss and grief. And we're like, well, I I'm here now. I might as well write about it. <laugh> and one of the things that I learned that I think is really helpful to creative people is that although grief is a lot of sadness and stillness and quiet, it, it can also be fuel. Speaker 1 00:06:53 I think grief can really show us the things that are most important to us and the problems that we most care about solving. So even when life feels pretty desperate, and you're just really aware of the significance of loss around you, I found it really helpful to kind of look around and identify what hurts most and identify where I can pour energy toward that problem. I think actually grief and loss spurs, a lot of creativity and a lot of new businesses and new ideas can be born from that pain when we, when we let ourselves into it. Speaker 0 00:07:30 And I don't wanna distill this down to something of like a fictional superhero, but do you think that this is a psychologist's superpower to be able to realize the moment they're in and maybe like yourself to realize like what they're living through right now and be able to illustrate that quite literally in a book or a talk or a podcast, is that something that you've seen as a superpower maybe to yourself and, and for others in the field? Speaker 1 00:07:59 I think my work as a psychologist has been helpful in teaching me about self-re and the ability to kind of turn inward and take inventory, which I think is a superpower and skill that is hopefully available to all of us. It's not just for psychologists, but my work has required me to do that. So when I'm in an intense conversation with someone who's really upset, I have to have the internal resource to sort of pause, turn inward, organize myself, and be present to what's happening. Self-reflection is a superpower. The ability to really dial in and understand what's happening internally. That I think, again, all creatives and entrepreneurs have a lot to gain from honing that skill. Speaker 0 00:08:46 This is something that affects people at varying inflection points. It could be, oh, my podcast only get a hundred downloads. Or my business only made $10,000 this month, or I didn't get the million followers that I wanted on Instagram. And it's these moments that can really drag somebody down whenever I'm trying to create something new, I have to put myself into the mode. This is just a game. I'm playing a game, I'm on the field. I know that shit's gonna happen, that I can't control. And it's gonna make me better, faster, whatever, in the context of whatever it is that I'm putting out there. And that's my way of just blocking out and not getting stuck on that, that one thing that can like really drag somebody down. Are there, Speaker 1 00:09:32 Are there as you separating yourself from your business too, right? Right. Yeah. If, if you're, it's a game, it's a thing you do. It's a, you know, thing you play in, at some point, the game is over and you walk off the field, you take off the uniform, you take a shower. You like, you transition back to the other part of your life, which I think is a really helpful practice. Speaker 0 00:09:52 Being an entrepreneur, running a business or running a podcast and creating something like the podcast is not you, the business is not, you just like so many things. Like the biggest thing for me when I was running businesses is when I would lose employees, they'd leave and be like, I thought you wanted to change the world with me. <laugh> like, Speaker 1 00:10:09 I thought, I thought we were in this together. Speaker 0 00:10:11 Yeah. Like I thought we were in this together, man. And the same thing with like a podcast or you're creating art, you're putting your art out there. And you're like, I thought everyone loved this. And then as time goes on, people just like, they switch to something else and you have to detach yourself from it. I've been calling myself an artist, laughable, hilarious, foolish. <laugh> right. Like I call myself an artist for putting out audio. But it's my way of coping with thinking of myself as a real artist, when the real artist hates her work and she spends years painting on this canvas and then she just burns it down and says, I'm just gonna restart. And like, that's in my mind, that's what a real artist does. So I'm like, that's the way I'm gonna do it too, man. Like, I'm just gonna throw this away. If it's terrible, I don't even care. Like you y'all gonna like it or not. Right. And I just like walk away from it. So that's like the mode I put myself, Speaker 1 00:10:59 You can't take it too seriously. Right. Which is, which is, it's an oxymoron, right? Because you pour so much of yourself into it. You spend hours working on that canvas or hours, creating a podcast hours, doing something. And it matters to you in the moment. And then you have to be willing to walk away. If you have to, Speaker 0 00:11:17 As we turn to evaluating the process for developing Sherry's book, I want you to replace book with podcast. Then I'll challenge you. If you're willing to think of your podcast or your audio as art, how does this art make you feel to create it, to publish it, to have it shared or to have it criticized? Speaker 1 00:11:37 So I started writing, I wrote the first essay about a week after my dad was diagnosed with cancer, which was in 2017. So that's pre pandemic. And I started writing really as my own journal, gotta be honest. Like I didn't have intention of writing a book. There wasn't some grand business scheme for how this book fits into my platform or any of that. I just couldn't believe what was happening really to my life, to be honest. And to these people that I loved. And so writing was the thing that kind of anchored me to what was happening. And so I wrote a long, you know, for a period of time. And then I, I just would find myself sending little paragraphs or little snippets to friends or to clients or to people who were going through similar kinds of chaos and losses, watching people that they loved really get sick and struggle. Speaker 1 00:12:26 And, um, I had enough kind of feedback from the world that said, this might be helpful. So I decided to try to write it as a book. I got an agent which is really, really hard to do and sent, you know, hundreds of emails before finally I met someone who knew someone who had also lost a brother to suicide, which is part of what I write about in the book. And so she connected with my book, got an agent, you know, it just the process of writing a book through the traditional publishing route is absolutely a game of who, you know, and it's absolutely a game of tolerating, a lot of rejection and a lot of waiting. So my book was finished really before the pandemic began. And then it just took years to kind of get it to a place where it was ready to be out in the world. Speaker 0 00:13:14 We talked about in the pre-interview your first book, keeping your shit together. There was a strategy there, right? I mean, is it fair to say, like you had like a strategy or approaching it probably market research. And that was very different than this, which was maybe creatively inspired is not the right word emotionally. How would you describe how, how this spurred this book? Speaker 1 00:13:35 It was just the book that I could not write if that makes sense. <laugh> right. My first book flew or flowed out of my podcast. It flowed out of the, the thought leadership plan that I was following to try to establish myself as one of the experts on entrepreneurial mental health. Like it just made sense. And my next book is gonna be about the psychology of exits. And that makes sense. It follows this trajectory. This book is because my life was disrupted by loss. And so I didn't, I, I needed to kind of respond to that. And I, I know a lot of creatives, you know, sometimes we just have to do the thing that's happening and maybe it doesn't flow neatly from a business plan, but we're responding to the situation, the conditions, the, the ways that our life is being impacted by what's happening around us. And, and so there's often no choice, but to use our art, our pen, our voice, to respond to those things. Speaker 0 00:14:31 Are you able to look at this part of your body of work as your best piece of work and how do you measure something like this that had such an emotion that was born from such an emotional seed in your body? Because in my eyes getting it out, the door was crossing the finish line for it would be for me. But what about Speaker 1 00:14:54 For you? I am really proud of this book. It's so much of my heart and soul. Speaking of like being in the game, <laugh>, um, I'm really proud of it. It's well written and it's beautiful. And everyone that I know at some point is gonna go through deep loss, right? Some you're gonna lose your parents, like things are gonna happen in your life. And this is what I have to offer. And so it feels good to have pulled together. All of these things that I experience that we were super painful, but to put them together in a way that I, I do think is gonna be helpful. Like I can imagine giving this book to anyone that I love and saying, Hey, I'm sorry. Your life is really shitty right now. See if there's anything in here that will be helpful. So that feels successful. Speaker 1 00:15:46 What's about to happen is that this book is about to launch and it will hit the world and maybe no one will care and maybe people will care and have things to say that I hate. And maybe people will care and have things to say that I love, but it's about to no longer be mine. It's about to belong to the community, which is, um, a super scary part of any creator's journey. You make it, you like it. It's beautiful. You packed it up all pretty the way you want it to be. And then you release it into to the wolves and see what they have to say. I think it should be scary. I think anything that matters is scary and anything that's hard is scary. Um, my first book was scary when I wrote it. I'm not scared of it now because I know what happened. I know the end of the story. Right? I know people are like, oh, this is helpful. You're smart. Good, good on you. You know, like, so that's not scary now <laugh> but um, any new project is scary and that's what makes it sort of exhilarating. And I think if it wasn't scary, it would be, would be sort of nonchalant. We'd be writing books left and right. Speaker 0 00:16:58 One technical thing that you said is you went and you found an agent for this book. What's the difference here? Why go get an agent for this book versus self-publishing would, might be the right phrase where maybe you're just pushing it out through your own, like social media channels, et cetera. Speaker 1 00:17:12 Yeah. So I published the two books very differently. The first book I self-published. And I did that because I'd already been working in the entrepreneurial space for several years. I already had a podcast. I had a lot of connections and I felt like I had pretty good access to that audience. I either knew the people I needed. I knew the people I needed to know to get the book launched and birthed into the world in a way that it would get in front of the eyes that I wanted to see it. Uh, this book, the new book touching two worlds is for a general audience. It's not necessarily for entrepreneurs or creatives, although I think there's a lot to be gained for that community, but it's, it's kind of for humans at large. And I didn't feel that I had the reach or the connections into the sort of general population that I would need in order to get the book where I wanted it to be. Speaker 1 00:18:07 It's also a, it's sort of a giftable book. Like it's a book that I really wanted to be beautifully packaged that I imagined being in bookstores when I self-published my book, it's it basically lives on Amazon, which is totally fine for what it is. But I think this book again, just had a different feel. So I wanted to try to go the, the traditional publication route. It's absolutely not the only way to do it. Um, I think both have their merits and it depends on the work that you're trying to do and who you're trying to reach. Speaker 0 00:18:39 Let's just talk about promotional side of it. What other avenues of promotion do you take or is it all like, Hey, I have this agent, he or she is gonna go out and go, she's gonna do the whole thing. What does it look like for you? Speaker 1 00:18:51 So public sh through a traditional publisher, as a new author is, um, is a little like being a freshman in high school. Like there's just a lot of like awkwardness and like unknowns. Um, also you have to kind of prove to the publisher that you're really worthy of their resources, to be honest. So I'm, I'm a freshman. Like I, they're gonna judge me based on how this book does, but unfortunately not necessarily throw the full range of resources behind it. So a lot of the promotion for this book is still on me to hustle. Um, so that means lots of podcasts, lots of reaching out to friends and family and everyone. I know, um, lots of pounding the pavement, just like any other entrepreneurial endeavor, a few things that I've done for promotion that have been really different or interesting. Um, one is I created a, a whole circus show around the subject of the book and invited everyone that I know. Speaker 1 00:19:54 And it was, you know, it's an interesting idea to make a circus about grief. It was a project that we did in partnership with Dami, which is the national Alliance for mental illness. So that received a lot of press or some press, because it was an interesting idea. And everybody who bought a ticket to the show also bought a book. So sold some books in the context of also hosting this show, but it is still up to me to really push this work forward. And I think that's always true. Nobody can do it for you. Nobody knows the people, nobody can make people care about your project. Like you can. So even though it's nice to have an advance, like a chunk of money to play with, that's one of the benefits of, of working with a traditional publisher. And it's nice to have the prestige of a well known publishing house. You know, I can say, Hey, my book was published with sounds true. And people who know and care know that that's a big deal, so that's helpful, but it's still on me. It's still on me to get it out there. Speaker 0 00:20:55 Can you expand on the circus stuff? I know you do stuff in the air on that thing and you spin around that's as far as I know. Speaker 1 00:21:04 Yeah. So I, I trained to be a yoga teacher. I've integrated yoga into psychology, uh, for many, many years. Um, but I moved from California to Minneapolis. I needed an indoor activity. I found myself accidentally in an aerial yoga class, which is where there's fabric suspended from the ceiling, which helps you stretch deeper, be upside down, all kinds of things. And I learned that where I now live in Minneapolis, there's a really rich, deep community of circus artists because there's a circus training school here. And a lot of kids go to camp there. And so sometimes they grow up and they wanna continue doing circus. So I got sort of interested in this right around the time that my dad and that my brother were dying. So I really needed some kind of activity that helped me to take my mind off of that stuff. Speaker 1 00:21:56 Um, those painful experiences and circus is perfect, cuz it's really an interesting combination. It's it's like sort of gymnastics, there's a lot of, uh, physicality to it. It's very demanding on your body. It's very athletic, but it's also really express. It's really beautiful. You can tell stories through the medium sort of like modern dance. And so I'd really just did a deep dive, really starting at like age 40. So most people aren't in their forties when they start circus, but you know, I really love it. Um, and it's become a really important part of my work and understanding of how to cope with loss is by having something that you love and by getting in your body and being part of movement. So it felt really natural to me to launch this book with a circus show because it's been so much part of my experience. Speaker 0 00:22:49 How long does it take to <laugh> build up the confidence and or the muscle strength to climb to the ceiling, climb to the highest part or however you do it because I'm sure in the early days, like you said, when I launched this book with a, like a real PR firm, I'm sort of like a freshman in this space, uh, how long does it take to, to like learn and get good at, at circus and not be scared out of your mind to be <laugh> from the ceiling. Speaker 1 00:23:18 So I started doing flying tripe about a year and a half ago and it's scary all the time. I'm always scared. I'm never not scared. <laugh> the fun is greater than the fear we like to say, but it is really scary. Um, what's interesting about circus is that there's a lot of strategic laziness. It's actually taught me a lot about business because you think that you're climbing to the ceiling on a fabric or on a rope just using your arm strength, but you're not, you're locking your feet in and it's actually not very difficult once you know how to do it. So it's all about strategically conserving energy for the things where you really have to hold your body strength. Uh, but a lot of circus arts is about, uh, cheating. Well, it's about selectively using the technique to make it look cool. Speaker 0 00:24:13 One more strategic, uh, question on the book launch. Are you going to dedicate audio or a podcast to it at all for the, for the marketing efforts? Or how does that, how does that, how does audio play out in promotion? Speaker 1 00:24:27 Um, I did record the audio book, which is, which was really fun and rewarding. Um, I did it in a formal studio again, as opposed to my first book where I did it at home by myself, with my Mike and my equipment. Uh, but being in the studio was quite interesting because the, the sound editor was his job is to make sure that I read the book accurately, but it's, it's my book. And I was sort of reading it in my voice and I would change words around and add little anecdotes and I was just making him crazy cuz he is like, look, you have to just read the book, stop going off script. Uh, anyway, he was very good. It was very good experience, but I had, Speaker 0 00:25:05 How long did something like that take, Speaker 1 00:25:07 It took about 15 hours slow at first and then I kind of got a groove. Yeah. And I've been talking about some of these experiences as well as the book on my own podcast as they've been happening. So my podcast focuses on entrepreneurship and mental health is called Zen founder. But again, because of the demands of what I was responding to in the midst of these losses, I've been talking about it here and there over the course of the years. So people who've been listening for a long time are kind of up to date on the story. And on the book process, Speaker 0 00:25:50 The book launches July 26th, right around the time that this episode's published a actually might be the same week. In fact, where can folks go to get the book? Speaker 1 00:26:02 Yeah, it is available at all. Major retailers, Amazon Barnes and noble, your independent bookstore up the street. Any of those places should have it. Um, the audio book of course is widely available as well. And if you wanna know more about the book or the story behind the book, or see some pictures from the circus, you can go to touching two Speaker 0 00:26:24 Hey there, listener it's Matt, before you go, I want to offer you the aspiring podcaster two special items. Number one, if you haven't started a podcast yet, or you want to find a better podcast hosting company, start here at casts. Use our coupon code audience 20 that's audience two zero. When you sign up for a [email protected], start a podcast like the one you just heard or about gluten-free muffins, whatever it is will help you get your podcast out into the world. Number two, did you know that our academy is free enrolled today for [email protected] get access to our courses, videos and templates all for free. Thanks for listening to the audience podcast today. We hope we're helping you become a better podcaster. All that's left for you to do is share this episode on social media buy for now.

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