By Rochelle Melander October 2019 Dream Keepers Press
Rochelle Melander wears many caps. She is a writing coach with experience in support of individual, spiritual, and professional development. She has multiple books to her credit, including Write-A-Thon. She brings a wealth of life and professional experience to this new project, a book that is both playful and play-full, jam-packed with solid guidance, plenty of smiles, and nods if recognition for anyone interested in making the most of their creative potential. The QUEST she set for herself in this book was to offer both new and familiar tools in a way that is not just useful, but FUN!
And she succeeded.
Melander mentions early in the introduction that much of her language will refer to writers and writing challenges, but her advice will transfer readily to those interested in launching a business, engaging in visual or other arts, or contemplating any complex creative task.
Although I absorbed most of her advice from the perspective of a writer, it felt obvious to me that the strategies she offers are, indeed, suitable across the board. I pictured friends and family who are crafters, antique car rebuilders, home-based caterers, all of whom are talented and productive. Those creators often also grump and grumble about getting behind schedule, juggling so much that important balls are dropped, or otherwise feel less than successful in their chosen creative pursuits than they believe they could be.
Melander’s title reflects the language of digital game play, while the subtitle makes clear exactly who the “players” are and what the book will offer. The premise of her approach is twofold: first, there is NO WAY that any piece(s) of advice will suit every creator, every time, in every way; and, second, in order to succeed, creators would benefit from being able to access and use the best advice at the right time and place.
Those points may appear to be in conflict with each other, and perhaps with the very idea of a book labeling itself as a “guide”. And yet Melander has found a clever way to make a very powerful point (and tool) to integrate those two truths. She has written this as a gaming insider guide, beginning with the advice to take a big picture overview before beginning. By doing so, readers will see a comprehensive table of contents, a useful and precisely worded index, a useful “power up” resource, and will quickly identify the way each two-to-three page “chapter” is organized.
Beginning with the table of contents, Melander has identified five areas of struggle for creatives: visioning and planning an ideal creative life; discovering and implementing your own best practices; mastering your mindset; ditching distractions; and overcoming obstacles.
If you’ve done any reading or attended workshops, webinars, or conferences, you will recognize these topics as frequent (and well-attended) program targets.
What Melander has done, playfully and effectively, is to treat the many elements within each broad topic as gaming tips. Each coaching tip is simply labeled, often as a skill or strategy, followed by a BRIEF focusing introduction. Next she frames the skill as a QUEST, indicating the tools, shortcuts, locations, and steps to achieve and measure the activity or approach. She then provides GAME PLAY TIPS, noting pitfalls to avoid and shortcuts that may help, as well as ideas about modifying tasks to make the QUEST more achievable in your own circumstances. Finally, She defines FOR THE WIN, indicating ways to measure success and recognize how achieving the quest will move you toward your much larger goals.
This simple framing of information that so often feels overwhelming, confusing, unrealistic, redundant, or otherwise undoable puts the game control into the hands of the player- allowing full control to attempt, to skip over, to return to, or to ignore as best suits that player at that time, in that project. This consistent framing also turns a massive and valuable trove of information into “modules” that need not all be read or processed or used sequentially or according to some master plan.
Because I was reading this material to review, I did “play through” from start to finish. Along the way I quickly noticed Melander stating clear permission to dip in and out, to utilize the chapter titles, index, and other well organized tools to troubleshoot current issues in creativity or productivity. For novices or someone with lifelong experience, there is value in both approaches. Speaking for myself, I found my head nodding in recognition of many QUESTS and GAME PLAY TIPS, I discovered new approaches, and noted many areas of my own life for which the QUESTS were well established but not currently in use. Others, though, made me eager to give them a try and felt ideally suited to an ongoing or back-burner project.
Melander’s clever and original approach makes the overwhelming challenge of independent creativity and productivity feel not just doable, but FUN! As an admitted quote-collector, I was in awe of the many and varied sources on which the author drew to launch a QUEST, illustrate a point, inspire, amuse, and empathize throughout these many topics. These words of wisdom are not randomly inserted nor quoted as directives or authorities. Rather, each quote feels like a collaboration with a fellow human, one who also struggles, ponders, succeeds, and fails. By underscoring the range and universality of the obstacles and efforts that characterize complex lives, these quotes made what can be a very isolated pursuit feel shared. Characteristic of the effective structure of every part of this book, there is a comprehensive listing of each quote’s source in the back matter.
From concept to implementation to actual book, Melander has created a one-of-a-kind resource that I highly recommend. I read this via advance PDF, but intend to purchase a paper copy as soon as it is available. Using my own best strategies, I’ll insert sticky note tabs and jot quick reminders, making it as useful and dependable as a favorite cookbook. And, just as with my favorite cookbooks, there are some QUESTS/recipes I will follow exactly, some I will modify to suit my taste and interests, and some that will simply remind me of my own helpful strategies from the past.
Despite being someone with NO experience with or interest in digital game play, I found the premise, format, and task-labeling to be effective and appealing. I have no doubt that would not be the case were it not for Melander’s powerful organization, exhaustive expertise, and writing quality that shine through and elevate this work. I appreciate learning new approaches and strategies, but I feel I was learning even more by the example of her writing: attention to detail, voice, and awareness of audience. It’s easy to recommend this book highly for everyone to read and use. My advice is not to shelve it after finishing, but to keep it handy for ready access throughout a lifetime of projects.
Despite her very busy life, Rochelle agreed to answer a few questions about this latest project and other pursuits. I’ll share her responses in the next post in a few days. If you don’t want to miss it, use the easy “subscribe” option in the sidebar>>>. You’ll enjoy sampling her voice and insights in the remarks shared here.
Rochelle Melander is a certified professional coach, experienced book strategist, and the author of eleven books, including, Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity. She provides solutions for people who feel stuck, overwhelmed or confused by the writing and publishing process. She is the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop that supports children and teens in finding their voice and sharing their stories. Visit her online at http://www.writenowcoach.com.