How I Do It: An Interview with Alexandra Franzen

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Alexandra Franzen is my hero.

Lightning-fast copywriting prodigy. Prolific creator of prose that’s featured ev-er-y-where (hello HuffPo, The Daily Love,  Mind Body Green et al). Rockin’ teacher. Booked out forever. Workshop hostess extraordinaire.

That’s what she does.

But it’s who Alex is that interests me most, and although we haven’t yet met in person – I’ve begged her to come to Australia and I think a trip to Oz just might be on the cards! – when I reflect on the way she shows up in the world, I continue to circle back to these two words: profound generosity. She’s wildly, beautifully generous. It’s her very essence. I mean, look – she oozes love. She’s also a passionate supporter of charities, an advocate of the handwritten note and freely shares the kind of wisdom that many would save for paid products.

Can we clone this woman?!

I can actually remember the day I discovered Alexandra’s (former) site Unicorns for Socialism years ago. I was at work, productivity was at an all-time high (!) and after reading the first post on the page, I promptly devoured every single article in her archives. It was like drinking a huge glass of coconut water with a tonne of ice; refreshing and oh-so-satisfying.

Since that serendipitous day, her desire to teach and leave the world a better place has lead me, like so many, back to her superbly crafted lessons on life, biz and writing time and time again, and I’m so honoured to be featuring her wise words on ‘how she does it’ here.

You’re in for a real treat.  

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Let’s kick off with a biggie. Why do you do what you do? 

Thank you for asking. It’s my favorite question. And my answer becomes increasingly clear, with each passing year. :)

I’m on a mission to un-complicate the way we communicate. 

Everything I do + create is designed to help people write what needs to be written, say what needs to be said, and express their ideas with style, simplicity + power.

Why? Because being understood is a beautiful thing. And if you run your own business, like me — it’s also a profitable thing.

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What are three of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt since becoming an entrepreneur?

As an entrepreneur …

1. You will make some of the best friends of your life. Cherish them. Work with them. Play with them. Soak in hot tubs with them. These are your people.

2. You will attract the (occasional) mean-spirited weirdo. Ignore them. These are not your people.

3. You will wonder if you’re delusional, if anybody cares about what you’re doing, and if your work really matters. The answers are noyes and very much so. Keep serving your people.

What’s been absolutely key for you in building your tribe online?

Charm. Consistent posting. True stories, told with vulnerability + humor. Teachable moments… and an overarching spirit of generosity.

Phenomenal web design doesn’t hurt, either. (Thanks, Paul!)

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I know that there’s rarely a ‘typical’ day in the life of a blogger/ entrepreneur/ lady of the interwebs, but can you talk a bit about how you approach your work? What does a day — or week — in your life usually entail?

Here’s a 24-hour slice of my life:

8am: Wake up. Immediately check phone for thrilling emails that may (or may not) have trickled in, overnight. Let the games begin!

9am: Toast has been eaten. Coffee has been consumed. Hair has been coiffed. Ready for the day’s work!

9 to 11am: Write pieces for my blog (and other sites), prance about on Twitter, answer emails-emails-emails, research guest-writing + media opportunities, blast electro-pop music + play with eye makeup and faux-eyelashes (my new obsession).

11am: Interview my client o’ the day, over Skype. (Possibly not wearing pants. Shhh.)

1pm: Amble down to the local cafe to grab some lunch. (Anything with hummus + avocado, please.)

1:30pm to 7-ish: Write like a maniac, with micro-breaks for hula-hooping. And more coffee. And chocolate.

8pm: Wrap up with today’s client. Thank you + farewell!

8:30pm: Candlelight yoga class.

9:30pm: Late dinner (usually a platter of cheese, crackers, nuts, fruit, raw veggies, and fig-related jams. Wine. More chocolate.)

10:30pm: Read, watch TV (I love TV — not ashamed to admit it!), take an evening stroll around the block, have a looooooong shower.

Midnight to 8am: Sleeeeeep.

On days where I’m not working with a particular client (or teaching a writing workshop, or some other ‘structured’ activity) my day looks quite similar … except with more frolicking with friends, and less laptop time.

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Describe your writing process. How do you do what you do? 

I get my best ideas during yoga class, leisurely walks and conversations with friends. And in the shower.

When I flounce into a particularly good idea, I often record a quick audio message on my phone, so I don’t forget the details (“Note to self: penguins.”)

Oh, and I always ask myself three questions before I start writing:

1. How do I want my reader to feel?

2. What do I want my reader to know?

3. What do I want my reader to do?

Once I’m clear on those three elements, the words flow with ease.

(And by the way: those three questions work miracles whether you’re writing an email, a text message, a blog post, a short story, or a piece of content for a client. Try ‘em + see!)

Routines and rituals for the soul: can you tell us about the little — or big — things that keep you feeling grounded, joyful, connected, inspired?

When I’m feeling frantic + frightened, writing a big stack of ‘thank you’ notes always bring me back down to earth.

It helps me to remember how many people care about me, want to help me, and have already helped me — in big ways and little ways, too.

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50ways

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I’m hanging for the release of your book “50 Ways to Say You’re Awesome,” and want to take the opportunity to pull back the curtain a little. I know creating any new offering can be thrilling and terrifying in equal measure — have any fears, obstacles or unexpected surprises showed up along the way? 

50 Ways To Say You’re Awesome is my first print book, and obviously, I want it to be loved + adored by as many people as possible.

On good days, the voices in my head say, “A collection of love notes + messages of gratitude and appreciation?! What a sweet, beautiful book to release into the world. Everyone’s going to love it. Honestly: who wouldn’t?”

But on bad days, the voices in my head say, “If this book isn’t a smashing success, you won’t just disappoint yourself — you’ll disappoint a whole team of people at your publishing house. People who believed in you. You’d better get more famous, immediately! Or something! Or else!”

I’ve learned to recognize those irrationally fearful voices, and breeeeathe them out of my body. They’re just not helpful. And I never want my writing (or creative decisions) to be governed by fear.

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Speaking of… The not-so-hot days. We all have them. How do you combat overwhelm and self-doubt?

A dear friend recommended that I start a Happy File, so now I keep a folder in my inbox called “HOW VERY KIND!”

It’s a collection of sweet, appreciative emails from friends, family, clients, colleagues … and total strangers, on the Internet. Some notes are light + silly. Others are profoundly moving. All of them make me smile.

Whenever I’m feeling dreary, I can peruse my collection of compliments.

It never fails to shift my mood — and remind me why I do what I do.

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RAPID FIRE Q’s:

I feel empowered, electric, alive, the most ME when… I’m teaching a live workshop. (It’s my inner performer, coming out to prowl! Rawr!)

I feel restricted when… I’m too busy to breathe. Or eat. Or stretch. Or call my mom.

I’m inspired by… Clean, modern architecture. Poetry by Rumi. Complex ideas, articulated in the fewest possible words. Athletes. Dancers. Actors. Anyone who’s capable of memorizing sonnets, song lyrics + speeches. RuPaul. Mr. Rogers. Oscar Wilde.

My current mantra/ affirmation is… “It can always be easier.”

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To wrap up, imagine you’re sitting in conversation with yourself in 10 years time. What are you doing? What does your life look — and feel — like?

We’re sitting in my beautiful (future) home in Los Angeles, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Gardenias are floating in a dish of water, surrounded by white votive candles. The windows are open. The air is fresh + sweet. There’s a fresh pot of coffee. We’ve got nothing to do except write, teach, rest + play.

It’s a beautiful day.

Like every day.

Full of awe.

Full of ease.

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Alex’s book ’50 Ways to Say You’re Awesome’ is out on the 1st of October and you can order your copy here

And finally… since love and generosity is her signature blend, why dontcha leave some love for Miss Franzen in the comments below!

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26 Comments to “How I Do It: An Interview with Alexandra Franzen”

  1. Rach, another brilliant post! Love me some Alex Franzen! And YES to her coming over to Aus! Now that would be FUN <3
    And Alex, thanks for the insights and the peek into your world. Big love to you both XO

  2. Wow! Thanks so much Rach and Alexandra for this post. Loved catching a glimpse into the day in the life of someone doing great things in the world and how she does it. It’s left me feeling totally inspired. Thanks lovelies <3

  3. Yay! I love Alexandra! And I agree with you, Rach, that she is a giant breath of cool, morning air. Reading her words always puts me in a good mood and makes me smile. Loving the idea of a “How Very Kind” folder – I have something similar on my gmail called “Sunny Moments” and it’s always fun to look through. Big smooch to both of you babes!! xo

  4. Lordy lord…wish I could high five you both right now. Yes-ah!

    I’m so, so grateful to you both for bring this beautiful interview to us. I’ve been absolutely addicted to Alexandra for a good while now- I always open her newsletters straightaway when they drop elegantly into my inbox.

    Right on about the fig-based jams as well, by the way!

    Thank you lovely ladies! xx

  5. What a precious interview. Thank you. I had the privilege of doing a Skype-video interview with Alex recently (I’ve never met her either). Her beautiful personality shone through. I’m so impressed by your powerful questions – they created a perfect vehicle for her beautiful personality to radiate through words. That’s quite an accomplishment. And a blessing.

  6. Alexandra, you are welcome here ANYTIME. Thank you for your thoughtful answers and your presence. The blogosphere is better with you in it. x

  7. Vari: I’ll make the t-shirts! x

    Llinos + Katie: Super smart, isn’t she? x

    Katie: Hers is one of the few I’m subscribed to that I open EVERY time, so totally hearin’ you there sista!

    Celeste: I think it’s happening. I do, I do. x

    Amy: Seconded! x

    Hayley: All credit goes to Alex for her divine answers :D

    Suzanne: How wonderful! And thank you so much.

  8. Brilliant interview, brilliant women (yes, both of you!). I’m absolutely onboard the “Bring Alex to Aus” train. Now I’m off to create my “How Very Kind” folder … how wonderful! xx

  9. Oh my goodness, this post is just BURSTING with awesomeness! I’m going to have to come back to it later to print it out and highlight the oh-so-many wonderful tips, as right now I all I want to do is get back to writing the article I was procrastinating on by reading blogs – it suddenly feels so easy! Thanks both!

  10. I loved reading every word of this interview:

    I feel inspired
    I’ve learnt lots of writing tips
    I’m going to start using my audio app to record ideas and thought processes & definitely going to set up a ‘how very kind’ folder in my inbox.

    Thank you – I’ve just woken up here in Dubai. These are the first words I’ve read. Today is going to be a great day. I feel lucky & alive. Hope you have a great day too. X

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