TIH 433: Daniel Willcocks on Activated Authors, Healthy Writing Life, and Stopping Ghostwriting

TIH 433 Daniel Willcocks on Activated Authors, Healthy Writing Life, and Stopping Ghostwriting

In this podcast Daniel Willcocks talks about Activated Authors, maintaining a healthy writing life, stopping ghostwriting, and much more. 

About Daniel Willcocks

Daniel Willcocks is an international bestselling author and award-winning podcaster of dark fiction. He is an author coach, founder and CEO of Activated Authors; one fifth of digital story studio, Hawk & Cleaver; co-founder of fiction podcast, The Other Stories; CEO of horror imprint, Devil’s Rock Publishing; host of the Activated Authors podcast; and the co-host of the Next Level Authors podcast.

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Michael David Wilson 0:28

Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson, and every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella. We chat we're masters of horror, about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now, today's guest is Daniel Willcocks is an author, book coach podcaster and a speaker amongst many other things. You might know him as one of the cofounders of Hawk and Cleaver, responsible for the podcasts, the other stories. You might also know him from his fiction, including books such as when winter comes, or perhaps you know him from his podcast activated authors, or his nonfiction book, collaboration for authors, but however you know him or even if you don't know him, I think you're gonna have a good time with this one. Talk about lots of interesting things in terms of the writing life and podcasting. We also talk about the best Secret Santa gift and you'll ever receive, so stay tuned for that one. And we talk about why he stopped ghost writing and some of the new opportunities on the horizon for him to before any of that, a little bit of an advert break.

Bob Pastorella 2:02

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Michael David Wilson 3:16

Okay, well without sad it's time for Daniel Willcocks on This Is Horror. Dan, welcome to this is horror.

Daniel Willcocks 3:31

Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here. Yeah, excited

Michael David Wilson 3:34

to have you here. This is the first time that you get in the fold. This is horror treatment. But you were on briefly before for the little cameo for the award show when Hawking Cleaver, one fiction podcast of the year.

Unknown Speaker 3:50

Yeah, it wasn't a bad way to be introduced to the show. Like it's a little bit weird being on this side of the seat, though, because I'm normally used to interviewing other people.

Michael David Wilson 3:59

Yeah. Oh, that's right. I mean, you have hosted a number of different podcasts now. And I mean, you've currently got activated authors going?

Daniel Willcocks 4:10

Yes. Yeah, it's my so I was really, I had no idea about podcasts, really. I kind of knew that they were there. And then it was around 2015 When I started writing my first books and you know, first met the Hawking cleaver guys that is really kind of Luke that pushed me into the podcast arena. And, you know, obviously the other stories, as you mentioned, is doing remarkably well. And in terms of sort of fiction horror space. But then I've kind of found a bit of a love along the way as well for the just the kind of like nonfiction and just the interview format. And me and Luke ran a podcast called destroy studio from 20 I think was 2016 through to the end of 2017. I ran the great writer share podcast, which you both featured on at different times I'm together throughout that was 2019 through to the beginning of 2021 And yeah, activated authors is now sort of my latest project. It's my latest baby, it's it's bringing on authors to talk about all things, author life, it's about productivity mindset, just kind of like, the healthier side of trying to live the author life. So you know, we talk business, we talk craft, we talk marketing, but the focus for me really is, you know, when you're kind of sat in a room by yourself, what are the different pillars that you need to look at in order to make yourself a healthy productive writer and you know, actually get the words on the page. So, it's a lot of fun, it's a lot of fun, I do enjoy getting people on and just picking apart their brains and chatting. And I think that's one of and I'm sure you guys will agree, that's one of the benefits of this kind of podcast that you really get to ask the questions that help you and that you kind of need answers to at the time.

Michael David Wilson 5:42

No, absolutely. And I mean, as you mention, the pillars for a healthy author and a healthy writing life. What do you think the four pillars are?

Daniel Willcocks 5:53

What's I think there's more than for to be honest. So I'm kind of I'm in the middle at the minute of kind of formalizing my thinking on this, and I'm writing a book based on productivity that sort of centers around a lot of the pillars, but I mean, I think so I also I coach authors, as well as sort of writing my own books. And in working with other authors, what I tend to generally find is people approach me and say, Oh, I'm struggling to get the words down. I just want to write more, there's this, this this. And when you get into conversation with people and kind of break down, how to try and accomplish that, what you often find is, they're already working to max capacity, but they just want more words. And so I started to explore things like, you know, how well are you sleeping in terms of getting energy in terms of how is your focus during the day, you know, looking at nutrition, looking at physical health, looking at, you know, your mindset and you mentality, you have to look at the people that you surround yourself with the community is a massive part of how energized you are, and how sort of supported you are as you go through, especially the toughest parts of being an author. And it's all these kind of extraneous parts that people don't really connect together, that I found is really, it really doesn't make a difference to while making a productive author, because now been in conversations again, where where people have said, I'm really, really struggling with this, and then you dig deep into it, and you just find find out that they've had a loss in the family or, or, you know, things aren't going well, with a partner or, you know, things are so stressful at work, that they're kind of desperately trying to grab every last bit of control from their writing that they can. But that's not necessarily conducive to being in the optimal state to actually sit down and create.

Michael David Wilson 7:29

Yeah, and as you mention sleep. I mean, I'm wondering, how much do you prioritize your own sleep, cuz I know that I mean, not only are you incredibly productive, but like me, and I'm not necessarily saying people should do this, you do have a tendency to work very bloody hard, and then have had moments where you've burned out. So I, I find like, it's a constant battle, in terms of sleep, because you obviously need an amount to kind of optimize and to thrive. But, you know, you do want to sometimes get up a little bit early to get even more words down. So it's, it's almost trying to find that minimum effective dose where effective should be the key word, but sometimes it tends to be minimum wage isn't so healthy.

Daniel Willcocks 8:23

Yeah, I mean, as you say, it's it's been a journey for myself and different parts of my life, I've I've definitely been in different cycles, if you go back to, when I was working full time, in sort of more of a corporate role. Sort of pre 2019, I definitely burned the candles at both ends. And I probably didn't get as much sleep as I should have. And I was up early in the mornings, and I was writing. And although I was productive, then I kind of look back on that period as failing was the wrong word. But it was very, it wasn't sort of, I could have done things better to look after myself, because I did push myself into, as you say, like, quite extreme bouts of burnout. And I think that's why I've been fascinated a lot over the last few years with burnout, with energy with productivity with all this other stuff. Because as you say, like you want to get more done. And you know, sometimes that does come at the cost of sleep depending on where you're at in your life and what you're working on. And I think that one of the myths that I'm trying to dispel is that there is a perfect formula for everyone. And that you can get into the perfect sleep routine, you can do the right amount of exercise the right amount of sort of daylight exposure, the right amount of you know, eating perfect calories, all this kind of stuff. And I think there's a real belief in some people that you can do that every single day of your life without fail. So I think I'm, I'm a perfect example of how there isn't there isn't that sort of consistent, perfect, you know, godlike routine that you can latch on to and just do everyday like I am. One of the benefits about podcasting and especially talking to other people and tracking your own journey quite publicly is that, I sometimes go back and listen to what the things that were saying back in 2016 1718, etc. And what I've discovered about myself is that there's definitely a seasonality and an almost concertina effect with my productivity. So, I will find that, I will add things, I will keep doing things, I will tweak things, I will add things onto my plate and to my plate until I've kind of, you know, you know, if you think like a sponge, soaking up water until I've kind of saturated myself, and I get to a point where I go, right, I need to breathe, and I compress it all down, cut off the things that I don't want to do anymore. And I go back into this kind of cycle. And there is sort of core things that I try to do as often as possible. So you know, I'm not perfect with sleep, but I definitely try and go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time, every morning, when I wake up in the morning, I will, the first thing I do is just drink a pint of water just straight down. Because most of the time that tired feeling that kind of pounding head sometimes comes from just dehydration. Yeah, at the same sort of solid breakfast every morning, which is sort of, and this is after working with my sister who's now a nutritionist, and sort of slow carbs, and a mix of berries and things. So I can kind of get the right start to my day. But like, you know, depending on on what the day is, depending on going like what's going on, I do also cut myself that slack to go that, you know, I'm not going to be perfect every day. But I can at least try to be conscious of the things that I need to do to make myself as good as I can be when I can.

Michael David Wilson 11:28

Yeah, and I think as you say there's seasonality. And I think that even happens with the diet as well, you know, and I mean, you mentioned your slow carb diet. And I think when I first became a father and was looking after my daughter pretty much full time, perhaps because of the energy it was taking and the sleep that was certainly not happening, I had to kind of bump up my carb intake in the morning, whereas traditionally, and what I'm on at the moment is more like a low carb diet. And I mean, so I start with some eggs, some sardines, some spinach, little bit of natto and some seaweed. So like, it's my kind of high macronutrient low carb start to the day. Yeah, that is working for me at this point in my life. So I think, yeah, like, it's very dangerous to be prescriptive, and indeed false to say this is what will work for you all we can say and as we have a want to say on this as horror is, this is what works for me, or this is what works for some people, your mileage may vary. And not only may vary, it may vary based upon the experience you're having in your life at that moment.

Daniel Willcocks 13:00

Yeah, I mean, I'm constantly wolf until pretty recently, actually, because seasonality is just a thing that I've come across in the last couple of months. But there was definitely a big part of my mind that was constantly going, how do I, because there was a point in I think it was around 2017 2018, where I was working, you know, 5060 hours in my job I, at the time, my boy was about four, and I was doing a lot of the fatherly duties there I was padding in the writing I was podcasting. There wasn't there really wasn't sort of a spare second in the day. And that kind of, I guess you could argue is it was productivity. Like at this point, I'm kind of looking more at that being toxic productivity, but that kind of output wasn't healthy. But there was that even now there's sort of this idolization from myself of Yeah, but you did so much back then why can't you do that now. And I think it's not that I can't do that. Now, I think it's because I've learned enough lessons to go or to understand my body more and to know when mentally I need a rest. And when physically I need a rest because you can't go fat out at 100 miles an hour, all the time. And all of these sort of coaches and people that advertise this, you know, triple your productivity in three weeks and stuff like I think that's all, it's a good start to look at what works for you. But I also think there's a lot of dangerous narrative out there at the minute about what productivity should be and about sort of a glorification of the hustle culture and because, as you kind of mentioned, but like I've had quite a few bouts of burnout and particularly 2019 I think was sort of my most severe bout that I've had to the point that I've gone okay, this isn't this isn't working anymore, and I need to find a better way to do more, but by doing less.

Michael David Wilson 14:44

Yeah, well, I mean, that's the thing. If you've got more energy, then whilst you might be working for less time, you're actually going to be working to a higher standard. So you less really can be more

Daniel Willcocks 15:00

Yeah. And there's been there's so many books out on the subject of sort of, I think it's Deep Work by Cal Newport. Oh, yes. Yeah, there's the one thing which is on my side table I can't quite see. But that's a another good. Yeah, it's not the author on the spine. That's like, the one thing that has all this stuff about, you know, there's a, I think it's a myth to think that people can multitask. I think it's a myth to think that people can multitask big tasks at once. Yeah, and that's what, that's what a lot of us do. And that's definitely what I've been victim of is, you know, I work on a book, the same point that I'm working on a podcast at the same point, I'm ghostwriting for a client at the same time that I'm coaching authors, at the same time, I'm trying to create something else for the future. And you know, those are five things in themselves are quite hefty tasks. And so I've really kind of tried to become better at going, Okay, what's the one thing I can focus on? And then once that's ticked off, move on to the next thing, and kind of prioritize the things that I do much more.

Michael David Wilson 15:58

Yeah, and I mean, you can apply that to pretty much anything, you can say, this is the one thing I'm working on. Today, it doesn't mean you necessarily have to complete it. Because for example, you know, if I'm writing a novel, and I'm like, right, that is the one thing, I'm not gonna do anything until I have done that. Well, I don't know, my day job might be a little bit upset about that. It's like, Well, I'm sorry. Yeah. Yeah. But then the book, by the way, that's by Gary W. Keller and Jay Pappas. And yeah, I, there's no way to even kind of segue back to where we traditionally start. So I'm just like, stating it in the least smooth transition ever. But I'm not even surprised that the conversation has gone like this, because any conversations you and I have are fair, you know, it can go anywhere. But I want to know, what were some of the early life lessons that you learned growing up?

Daniel Willcocks 17:07

Oh, man. So you know, there are a few that kind of pop into mind. So I often tell people that my childhood was relatively simple. Because it was I mean, I am the middle child, with an older brother and younger sister. My parents are still married and together, and we had a very sort of, well provided life not sort of anything too fancy, but you know, enough to be happy and not to kind of be concerned or worried, which is, you know, a thing that I definitely don't take for granted. And I think, so I'll go, I'll go through a couple of these problems in my head. So number one is your identity can be whatever you want it to be. And at any point in your life, you can change who you are. Because I went into it was secondary school. So for people in the US that I know what a great that would be, but about 1112 years old. And I was, I wouldn't say I was the shyest child, but I was definitely more of a quiet kid. And I think it's mostly because I had a very

what's the word imposing older brother. And I remember going to school and meeting one of my friends, a guy called Lewis and I was very sort of quiet, I'd read I'd sit and I'd read the room and see what other people are doing. And then Lewis comes in sort of this boundless energy, like, very much like a retriever of some kind, right? And sort of bouncing in and he's happy and he's like, loving life. And, you know, I grew up very much with a brother who, and I will add, before I say anything negative about him and my brother get on swimmingly right now, the childhood not so much. But he he was very much of the opinion that things like the arts and stuff are more effeminate attributes, to say it kindly. And so, incomes Louis sort of bound for for their energy, he sings, he dances, he does, you know, drama, theater, and I just remember looking him and just being like, I want his happiness, because he just seemed so excited about everything. And so, I changed, I mimicked, I copied until, you know, I found my own definition of myself, but with much more of that sort of confidence, much more of that, that energy that that enjoyment for the small things that I didn't have before. And it's been kind of a trend through my life that I've moved around a lot from. So when I went to school was down sort of in Essex, near London. And then I went to college and Peterborough and my parents moved, and that was sort of about about two hours away from from where we used to live. So I went to college, knowing no one and just being in this entirely different environment. And then when I went to university that was two hours away from college and I knew no one there really so I've kind of had lots of opportunities to redefine myself. and reshape myself. And I've kind of learned that, you know, if you want to be something you can kind of forcefully put your mind into a state in which you can be that and you can play that role until it becomes true. And there's a lot to be said, sort of for the science behind that and sort of neural connections and how they sort of shape as you grow up in your life. But I've very much grown up, I guess, sort of already having what is more commonly known as the growth mindset of this ability to change and to adapt to tasks and to take on challenges where I can like I never, I never really shied away from the harder things when we went to when I went to college for six days, and like I say, it was a totally new area, I didn't know anyone there, and my mom gave me the choice between going to a local sick form or going to a college. And, you know, the main difference between the two being that the sixth form would have been from a lot of people who had, so a lot of people would have known each other because a lot of the year elevens would sort of ascend into sick form, and they'd be these sort of cliques and groups. And college, my thinking was, well, you know, it's a totally different environment for everyone. So, I chose college because I wanted to challenge myself and put myself in a position where I had to meet friends, I had to try new things and that kind of stuff. And yeah, I learned a lot from all of those experiences. The other two that are kind of very key that popped in my head. So number one is I remember, I remember specifically what it was I was upset about. But I remember being about 13, or 14, and being upset about something from school. And my my dad, who, you know, he always worked a lot, he was always working night shifts, and then like, we kind of see him a couple hours in the evening, but it wasn't ever present except at the weekends. And, you know, we'd go out and hang up, it was never, like, we didn't really often have sort of these one to one moments. I remember he came into my bedroom and sort of sat at the end of my bed and asked what was wrong? And I told him, and he said to me, like, well, is this is this something that you can fix? And I was like, What do you mean, anyway? And was it something that you know, if you if you could, are there any choices you can make? That would change the situation you're in? And there wasn't? So I said, No. And he went on, okay, so why don't you focus on the things that you can change, because the things that you can't are going to happen anyway. So you might as well you know, put your energy into things that you can do that are going to affect some kind of positive outcome. So just remember, I don't know why that just sticks with me. But again, that's been a real lesson, going forward in my life that, you know, life will do things for you, not everything's going to work out the way that you want it. But how you choose to respond in those moments and the stuff that you can control. It just makes all the difference to you know, how you go forward and how you change. And I will say like I speak now from a very sort of positive place in my life, but it hasn't, it definitely hasn't always been that way. And there have been a lot of challenges. And then I guess the third, the third one that really sort of, I didn't realize how much it defines my life until I kind of stopped doing it. But when I was, again at around 1415, I started getting involved in parkour and freerunning. And I, it was, it was just fun to start with, like it was, you know, people see the memes and videos of people jumping off curbs, I mean, like, and just like you're doing all these shitty, like silly movements. But that's, that's really what it was. But it was one thing that, you know, I did with a group of friends. And I just wanted to keep getting better. And I remember very, very vividly, there was a jump near where I used to live called the talus gap. And it was basically the third floor of a car park, there was a little wall. And then looking over this wall there sort of about a 2030 foot drop, and then a lower wall on the other side of sort of rooftop. I remember walking past that when I was just starting out. And my friend said to me, oh, you know, like, people have jumped out. It's called the telescope. Because in graffiti on the side of the world, someone had written Tallis. So obviously, someone had been out there. It was like, someone's dumped that and they went, now that's bullshit. Like, that's impossible. I remember looking at it's gapping down, it's massive, like no one can do that. And then I didn't think anything more of it. And then about maybe, I think it was a year later, after sort of training, doing parkour just like again, having fun that me and my friend one night, same friend walked past that gap. And I remember looking over and going, like is that is it shrunk? Because it seems so much more achievable. And, you know, there's a lot to say for practice and learning your limits and kind of like the journey of getting to know what is truly attainable and seeing it in the right way. But I in that moment, just stood up on the lake and jumped it. And like it was it was one of those moments where I just went Oh, wow. Like how you see stuff really is affected by the work that you put in and it was a real physical example of, again, like how the mind can change and kind of ever ever since and I ended up doing parkour until I was 22. And I used to coach it. I used to teach it and that was kind of like a big part of my My life throughout my teens. And just I think most of my lessons on mindset on progression have come from parkour because, you know, you don't start by just climbing up a building and jumping, you start by looking at lower level things and being like, Oh, can I jump across this part of the path? Can I like go from Israel to Israel? And it's, it's these tiny little movements that that stack up until you have the confidence to look at something else that's big and go? Well, that's easy, because I've done this like 300 times and ground level. And yeah, it's I guess every lesson basically has been some sort of challenge and progression in quite a positive way.

Michael David Wilson 25:41

I'm so glad that the talus gap lesson was such a positive one, because when you started speaking about it, I know this is gonna have some messed up. At the end, I did not go in in that direction.

Daniel Willcocks 25:57

If people are interested, I've got like a very grainy old video on my Facebook page of that gap of that time.

Michael David Wilson 26:03

All right, I know you were gonna say if they are interested, you do have some messed up videos of gaps that you didn't jump successfully. Oh, 100%

Daniel Willcocks 26:14

It definitely exists out there somewhere like I've definitely had sprained ankles and bits and pieces. It's not been it's not been a flawless journey. You have to you have to take some wounds. Yeah. Yeah.

Bob Pastorella 26:23

See, my mind directly goes to those videos used to fine on what's the name of that site? E bombs. Yes. Kids, you know, skateboard and you know, and new to me, what are called famous, famous last lines, like, I think my jaw is broke. My arm shouldn't been that way. Yeah. You're like, Oh, my God, this is this is real. Yeah, yeah. Three, immediately where I went when he was talking about this. It's like he broke a bone, guaranteed.

Daniel Willcocks 26:52

I mean, I did in the end, I am. days I broke, I broke my wrist and I broke my nose.

Bob Pastorella 27:00

Not them. Yeah,

Daniel Willcocks 27:01

you live in lead?

Michael David Wilson 27:04

Yeah, yeah, writing that second lesson. You know, can you fix it, if not, no matter focus on the things you can change. I mean, that's such a fundamental lesson and something to apply into all to all problems, that all things really, and I mean, it's something that I frequently return to, it's very stoic, it's something I'm certainly having to implement, at the moment with the things that are going on in my life, but it's so true. It's like if you have a problem, do all the things you can to try and change it to try and fix it to make a difference. But once you have exhausted those options, you've done it. Now you're free to focus on something else, because you can't do any more. And there is a limit that has been reached.

Daniel Willcocks 28:03

Yeah, there's because I've recently read Will Smith's book well, and there was a part of that that sort of really resonated as similar to what you're saying in that. But he was saying there are two there are two types of failure. So number one is he uses the example of if he was to go into the ring with Muhammad Ali. And you know, if you if you half assed your training, and you're not like, in any way near fire shape, and you go into the ring, and you get beaten out, that's like, that's a regrettable failure. That's, that's something that is shameful, because it's something that maybe shameful is the wrong word. But like, there's definitely more disappointment and more blame on you for that failure. Whereas if you go into the rain, having trained, the hardest you possibly can, and like you say, exhausted every single option and done everything you can, you're probably going to lose because it's Muhammad Ali, but at the end of the day, that's a much more doable failure because you you know, you did everything you could and there's some kind of peace in that.

Michael David Wilson 28:57

Yeah, and I think actually, there's another lesson there which is like you know, persevere and keep going like even if it looks like you're going to fail see it out and you know, find out whether whether you do or don't fail because otherwise you might have regrets and it's better to have tried and failed and not trying to Oh which is I'm saying that I realized wow, that's a really weird take on loved and lost quote. But it is true you know, fail get give it a go and you know, it doesn't matter you've at least got an answer and you know that you gave it your all.

Daniel Willcocks 29:41

Yeah, yeah, Knights. I think it's something that a lot of people struggle with. It's it's that kind of like, you really want to give something a go but just everything tells you you're gonna fail. But that is I think that's just something that us as humans have in our mind a lot. It's just something like we have these warnings that To try and protect us from try to protect us from hurting ourselves be that physically or emotionally. And like you say, at the end of the day, if you don't give it your all, if you don't at least try then, like, what's the point in sort of taking any kind of step towards it at all. And I know I've, I've kind of always accepted that true happiness is on the other side of fear. Yeah, so anything that scares me anything that I feel a deep, like, gut level, resistance to, but I'm also excited by it a little way. It's, it's, it's the thing that I grab on, like, when I did, when I managed to make the jump from sort of working full time for other people into when a full time author, that was one of the most terrifying things in my life, because I didn't take the advice of having savings, and then take the advice of, you know, putting myself in a situation in which I wasn't going to be set up. For me, that was a choice between being unhappy in the old job. Versus like, kind of I was somewhat confident that I had things in place to keep going forward. But it was it was a leap. And it was terrifying. But it was something that has worked out and continues to work out so far to this day.

Michael David Wilson 31:14

Yeah. And there's so many people who make these excuses. And they'll say, I'm never gonna write a novel, I'm never gonna have a New York Times bestseller. I'm never gonna make a you know, whatever that means. And I think well, yeah, you're right. You're not with that attitude. You won't. So yeah,

Daniel Willcocks 31:33

I think my greatest fear, and it's something, I come back to a lot, my my deepest, greatest fear is, you know, assuming that I live the average of 80 years for for a male in the Western world, I'm going to be lying on my deathbed. And there's going to be days that I can look back on and go like, why didn't you just try a bit harder, because, you know, time moves TimeSlips, things move forward, like we know this, for sure. So why not, just try and give each day the best that you can. And that's not saying that like, again, coming back to sort of that toxic productivity, that doesn't mean that every day has to be immaculate, and you have to output 100%. But like, I just tried to be a little bit better than I was yesterday. And if I slip, I give myself some kindness and kind of explore why that happened to try and work out how I can heal myself and go forward. And then again, wake up the next day and try to be a little bit better.

Michael David Wilson 32:23

Yeah, and I mean, in terms of living to eight years old, it's I don't want to be average, let's shoot for 100, who wants to be the average, but I mean, but saying that, you know, never take anyone anything or any day for granted. I think there is some truth in living each day as if it may well be your last because one day it will be

Daniel Willcocks 32:50

like we know for sure, like we've had everyone, every point has friends and family that have slipped away. And it's never been? Well, in some ways, it has been expected, but it's never on like the exact day and time that you think it's going to be. And, yeah, I I have a lot of sort of deep thoughts that I'm still trying to work out with a lot of this stuff and to come to peace with that myself. But just like the idea that, you know, the idea that someone can be here, and then they can't and like I've definitely in the past, I find it really bizarre to think how intensely I love the person. And then to look at where I'm at now and how little I think of them. And that's not because, you know, there's not like it's not because of animosity or anything else, but it's just you know, life moves on. Yeah, I don't know if this is cheery and inspiring, or this is depressing.

Michael David Wilson 33:38

I think it probably depends on people's personal circumstances. I mean, for me, it's very raw, and it's very real. But you know, there's some true finesse some light in it. Sometimes these true realizations are painful, but in navigating through the pain, you can find the positive.

Daniel Willcocks 34:02

Yeah. Yeah, 100% I think? I don't know. Like, it comes back to the premise of there's the odds of us being here right now. And having this conversation, the odds of us being born in the world that we were born in, in having the opportunities that we've had in you know, being able to write and create and that being okay to lino nearly. And obviously, this is sort of not absolutely everyone, but mostly be able to guarantee like shelter and food and warmth and might not be attacked by bears and then ripped to pieces when you're six years old. Like it's, the chances of us being here are so slim that it is sometimes hard to you know, not be grateful about the fact that you do get to wake up and enjoy life and be here and be present. It's like, when you stop and think about it like this, this world is fucking amazing. And yeah, it's, it's sometimes it's easy to lose sight of that when you get lost in the day to day of, you know what life can be, but He's trying to take those moments every now and then just to stop and to pause. You know it, it kind of re energizes you.

Michael David Wilson 35:07

Yeah. And despite all the shit and the pain and the trouble going on in the world at the moment, we're literally living in the best time there has ever been, even though it can be difficult, you know, to remember that. But, I mean, it's absolutely true. I think it was Steven Pinker, who wrote a book essentially about that.

Daniel Willcocks 35:32

What was that book called? Oh, my God, that's my list.

Michael David Wilson 35:34

The book is called enlightenment. Now the case for reason, science, humanism and progress.

Bob Pastorella 35:41

So that book sounds like the opposite of Carl Sagan. It's the demon haunted world. So, which I think that's like, required reading anyway. But it just, it makes you kind of sad, you know, to see that this book was written, probably conceived in the 60s and written in the 70s. And you're like, it's, it's like, it's really happening right now.

Daniel Willcocks 36:05

Yeah, just next to each other on the bookshelf.

Michael David Wilson 36:08

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but

Bob Pastorella 36:10

like polar opposites. But I totally get what you're saying about, you know, being being productive and stuff like that, and it's coming from someone who's about to be 55 years old, I still think that there's a lot of things that you can, you know, and even as the older person you can change in your life to to, to, to make the quality of your life better. The only thing that I'll add to that is you gotta have some downtime, you gotta have some playtime, or you're gonna get burned out time. I mean, it's just, it's reality. And some play time can last as long as you need it to, and don't feel pressured to do anything. Otherwise.

Daniel Willcocks 37:00

I love that. And it's also again, comes back to that, that seasonality. Like, depending where you're at in your life, and how busy you all depends on how much downtime I am, when I was in my old day job, I suffered really badly from just working January through to December. And then when Christmas came around, and we were lucky enough in my old job to actually have those two weeks off. I three years in a row, just because of how hard I work the rest of the year, the actual two weeks that I take off, I was just ill the entire time. I was just rundown ulcers, like just in bed, most of it just tired. So you know, is that is that restful? No, there's not a way that I really want to live.

Michael David Wilson 37:36

Yeah, that happened to me, when I was slight burning out, it would mean that any time that I slowed down or took a break, I got ill, because my body was like, Oh, so now we can rest. Now we can repair.

Daniel Willcocks 37:53

Yeah, yeah, and we normalize a lot of stuff as well, I came across this concept of cumulative normalcy, which really, really plays with my mind even to now because like, it wasn't until I'd heard of it, I realized this was what I was doing. But you have a baseline for what is, you know, sort of average productivity for yourself. And then you know, you, you add a few things extra, and you test a few things, you become 5%, more productive. And then that becomes your norm. And suddenly, that baseline shifts from being low to being where that 5% is, and you're back on zero again, and then you add 5%, and then that normalizes to zero. And before you know it, you're doubling the amount of stuff you used to do, but because you're used to it, and because human minds and human bodies are built in a way to adapt to change, and to just deliver on sort of habit and the regular things that we do, you before you know it, your productivity is up 200% From where you were a year, two years, three years ago. But you don't see that in your head anymore, because you just think that's the norm. So then you try and achieve more productive sort of states and ways of being and it's just kind of like an endless cycle. So I I've definitely spent the last two three years trying to peel back and unpick again, because my head's going Yeah, but you used to do this and I'm like, Yeah, but it also used to burn out so so hard. So where is that sort of middle grounds that is sustainable?

Michael David Wilson 39:14

Yeah, I think can sometimes find that it's in, its like, useful for me to get a little bit obsessive and put a lot of work into something in the early days of it and then slow down. I mean, I don't know if that's necessarily something can recommend in for other people, but I think any time there's been a new thing, like whether it be podcasting, publishing, writing, where I feel that I need to prove that that is a thing that I am or can do, then I kind of get a little bit obsessive, I spend hours, days, weeks, months, potentially years on it, but then when I feel okay that is part of my He identity, I give myself permission to, you know, slow down a little bit. So I mean, I, if I'm not writing, let's say a certain amount every day, then I'm not gonna beat myself up about it. I mean, at the moment I am writing every day, but I don't need to, if that makes sense. So yeah, if I don't if I miss a day, then I'm not gonna then go, am I a writer? It's like, No, that is ingrained in me now, that is definitely, you know, a part of who I am. But just stripes. Yeah, the star. And you know, before the girl in the video, even though it was a bit of a question mark over it. But yeah, that has been earned. I'd say. The podcasting has been a long time ago now as like, nearly 10 years and getting on for 500 episodes, I think, how am I a podcaster? It's like, what are you listening to? It's a podcast? Yes, I am.

Daniel Willcocks 41:06

Yeah, well, like you say, like, there's definitely periods in which hunger and passion and just like deep drive pushes you forward? And I don't, I don't think that's necessarily unhealthy. I think that's like, again, sort of looking at seasonality. That's part of that cycle of the process. I think it's good that you know, when you're hungry, you're passionate, you do dive into these kinds of things. And as you say, you you take your time to earn those stripes into feed, what it is, there's, there's almost like a honeymoon period that comes with starting new projects. And I definitely think people should capitalize on that, because that fades. Like when I went full time back in 2019. I think the first four or five months were probably the biggest in terms of output from my writing that I've had and that I will probably ever have. Just because of the excitement and the drive, and it's all new. And as you say, you're kind of earning those stripes, and you're just riding the wave of, of what it is. But it doesn't last forever. And then when that does start coming down. How do you how do you create it? So it's sustainable and healthy for you?

Michael David Wilson 42:11

Yeah, well, Tolkien of beginnings, I believe that the best secret santa you ever got was Everything's Eventual by Stephen King, and it was that that launched your interest in writing. So talk us through it.

Daniel Willcocks 42:28

How's that for a bit of research? Yeah, it was. So I, I was beginning to get I've always had a bit of an interest in creative writing, I was never someone who thought, Oh, I'm going to be an author when I when I grew up. But yeah, I was, oh, how old was I 23 or 24 is not long, not not, not long until my son was due to be born. And a friend of mine who I used to work with was an avid reader. And I was a bit of a bit of a reader at the time as well. And she was such a reader that she made me want to be more of a reader. And we had secret santa at the job. And like you say she she gifted me this book, everything's eventual by Stephen King, which, for people who haven't read it, it's one of those short story collections. And I remember reading that and I was just blown away by the first story, particularly in the book, but I've also not really been exposed to short stories. And I remember just reading through and looking at all these different pieces that unwelded he'd created in such sort of short page counts. I'm thinking this is absolutely beautiful. Like, I didn't realize how diverse a story you could make from short stories, and also how rich you could make those worlds and how easily I fell into it. And I remember I read a bunch of those, and then just kind of went, you know what, why not, why not try and write a story. And I bought writing magazine. And they had a few competitions and stuff in there. And I ended up writing a story that was kind of based around my my grandfather used to be in the fire brigade, unfortunately had to leave because he had vertigo. And I ended up sort of writing what I believed that experience might be in sort of 1000 word, word count. And it wasn't like it wasn't great. It was the first piece of writing it was. And it was littered with with just problems. But I remember showing it to my mum, because it's my mom's father and handing it over and as that party that's like, Oh, she's gonna love this, like, this is such a good piece of writing and it's about like her dad and our is gonna like I'm gonna get such a response and she kind of looked at it and went, Oh, all right. Okay, cool. And I don't know, I think I think partly because my life was so hectic. I started moving to writing as a way of control a thing that was for me that I kind of Yeah, when so much of your life is out of your hands, what are the things that you can do? Again, that kind of like, what can you control. And I ended up just carrying on I wrote a few more sort of dodgy short stories, I joined a local writing group, which was mostly full of sort of 50 year old ex teachers who are writing poetry. But you know, it was a good seed to start building the habit and to create and to surround myself with the people who would then go on to kind of inspire the launchpad that kept me going. And then when my son was born, I happens to be his, his mums, maternity cover, as well as running my own job. And I was editing, I ran my own editing and proofreading business for a year and a half, two years. And it was in so that the work that I did for the maternity cover was basically sort of one on one music teaching in schools. But you had about a 40% attendance rate of kids that actually showed up to do the lessons, which was a whole issue. But in those downtimes, in which I had sort of half hour to myself to sat in a room with nothing else to do, I just thought you know what I'm going to, I'm going to try and create something. And I ended up taking that time over maybe five or six months, and ended up writing the first draft of what became sins of smoke, which was my first sort of released novella. And because I was already in the editing and proofreading business, I was kind of fascinated by the publishing process. And I stumbled across Amazon's KDP, which is the publishing platform. And I put the book up as ebook, I wanted to see if I could turn it into an actual physical book that I could buy on Amazon, just literally to, like, I had no intention, zero intention of growing it of, you know, seeking readers of anything else. It was just, I wanted to hold a book of mine in my hand, so I could pat myself on the back and say, you know, well done, done. And, yeah, I ended up releasing that book on Amazon, around sort of October 2015. And sort of by Halloween 2015, it was up in the top of the free charts of the store. And kind of everything spiraled from then but yeah, it all just started from a gift of short stories.

Michael David Wilson 47:13

Yeah, it's remarkable, really how, you know, that book was so impactful at that moment. But I mean, as we've kind of alluded to, previously, in the conversation, sometimes, you know, you will get what you need, or what you want, at the exact moment that you need it in your life.

Daniel Willcocks 47:36

Yeah, that's, that's certainly been the case with, you know, quite a few different points in my life, even most recently. So I'm now in a position in which I, so I go straight for clients. But that does take up a big chunk of my bandwidth. And I have decided to stop that, even though I'm not sort of financially in a place where that is sensible. And just in making that decision, some of the things that come to light in the last week or so have really been opportune to kind of give me the nudge to say, Yes, this is the right thing to do. So, sometimes you have to just stop and listen. And sometimes as well, you don't the the help that you get isn't necessarily the help you are seeking.

Michael David Wilson 48:15

Yeah, yeah. Well, what are some of the things that happened this week that have reaffirmed your decision or led to the decision.

Daniel Willcocks 48:24

So I run an author community called activated authors, which is kind of where I do a lot of my author coaching. So people jump in, kind of like, it's like what I call almost like a gym membership for authors. And I run sort of workshops I've got online Sprint's that we do all that kind of thing. And just in declaring that I'm not gonna be ghost writing anymore, just the amount of people that have kind of like shared messages of support, but also just, I've had a couple of coaching opportunities that have sprung up that I wouldn't have probably been able to take in before just conversations with people and being quite elusive on this because they're very unfounded yet and me and the person we're speaking to need to do some more research before we potentially commit to a thing but you know, there, there are opportunities and things that that spring up that you just kind of go ha actually yes, I could consider this because this could be the thing that I need to support what it is I'm cutting off and being quite heavy around this, but at the minute I'm still I'm still working on a lot of things. Another sort of very tangible example is I so when I went full time in 2019, I was ghostwriting quite a lot. That was a big chunk of my income, but I was also producing my own fiction still. And working on my first couple of nonfiction books. And then there was no world just before Israel that October, September, October of 2020. Now actually, back before that, if we told us chronologically, so it was March of February 2020, that me and an author friend of Hi, I'm Sasha Black, who I do the next level authors podcast with, just started talking and became fast friends. And we ended up starting the next level with this podcast. And she's very much an advocate for people writing nonfiction for a variety of reasons. And I had a few things that I could put into a nonfiction book that I want to do. And so you know, that opportunity fell in my lap of working with her of speaking with her and running this podcast. And she's been definitely sort of invaluable in educating me in the coaching of nonfiction space. And that was something that just came out of the blue and just in a conversation, we neither of us had a plan to start a podcast. And then three weeks later, it was on the air. And then coincidentally, march 2020, when the Coronavirus hits the world and everything out. I was, well, I was living in a house by myself. So for most of COVID, I was sort of isolated and by myself, but you know, the fact that we had this podcast was a weekly check in in which I had someone else to speak to. And, again, me, it's actually became very, very quick friends and that kind of timeliness of okay, at a point in which I could have been incredibly isolated. I had someone there to speak to and to laugh with. And also, because we were in very, very similar stages of our journey, we both kind of went full time at the same time. Her focus was, at the time, much more nonfiction, whereas mine was more infection. And so we kind of taught each other a lot along the way. And then that led into I ran in November and NaNoWriMo bootcamp in which I just it was it was just off the cuff, I was just okay, let's see if I can get a group of authors together, see if I can coach them to writing the 50,000 words that the challenge needs to have written in 30 days. And I think we had 17 People join us on that first cohort. And the the international average for passing NaNoWriMo is something 18%. And we managed to hit sort of a 78% on that first month. So just again, like an opportunity that I wasn't looking at heading that direction, but that the podcast, and then that boot camp was definitely the genesis for what has become sort of the nonfiction author coaching side of stuff that I do now. Yeah. And I love and you know, I would say that, like, I wish there was something about moving a little bit away from fiction, because I still write fiction. And I still, you know, I get involved in the other stories podcast, I've still got my own fiction projects on the go. And I'm in a few collaborations and things but like, I was scared to grow the nonfiction side, because I had this real internal want. I don't know why. But there's one that like, I would make all of my living from just my fiction. And I know people that are doing that. And, you know, I could do that I 100 I believe that, you know, we're lucky enough to live in a time in our lives where you can self publish, you can create an audience, and you can build a full sustainable business from your writing. If you put in the work, and there are past and there are people teaching that. But when I started turning more into nonfiction, there was

I was trying to battle with my own internal failure. And it's not a failure, like I know that but at the time, it felt like, Okay, I'm giving up on this. But then, at the end of the day, I was looking around, and well, what am I, what am I holding on to it for because, you know, I really, really enjoy helping authors. And I really, really enjoy, you know, speaking to people about writing about creativity about like arts and passion. And that's a side of me that, again, when I went back and listened to some of the earlier podcasts that I was on from sort of 2016 Even back then I was saying, like, I'd love to get into a position in which I could give back and help authors. And for some reason, I was really resisting that and then I swung it back round and kind of just naturally things have come into my lap and progressed in a way that that is now I can now do both. And, again, there are opportunities that most of them I never have envisioned two or three months before they started, but they happened and I took them and I ran with them and you know now we hear

Michael David Wilson 54:15

thank you so much for listening to This Is Horror with Daniel Willcocks. Join us again next time for the second and final part of the conversation. But if you want to get that ahead of the crowd, if you want to get every episode ahead of the crowd, then become an Patron on patreon.com forward slash, this is horror. Not only do you get early bird access to each and every episode, but you can submit questions to upcoming guests you can listen to the patrons only exclusive podcasts such as the q&a sessions and story on box the horror podcast on the craft of writing. You can also become a member of the writers for Run over on Discord. So if that sounds like a good one for you, or if you just want to support this as Hora it's patreon.com forward slash dances Hara. Okay before I wrap up a little bit of an advert break.

Bob Pastorella 55:18

From the hosts of this is horror podcast comes a dark thriller of obsession, paranoia and voyeurism. After relocating to a small coastal town, Brian discovers a hole that gazes into his neighbor's bedroom. Every night she dances and he peeps, same song same time sing wild and mesmerizing dance. But soon Brian suspects he's not the only one watching. She's not the only one being watched. They're watching is The Wicker Man meets body double with a splash of Suspiria they're watching by Michael David Wilson and Bob Pastorella is available from thisishorror.co.uk, Amazon and wherever good books are sold. From tenebrous press comes one hand to hold one hand to carve a novella of weird body hard by M Shah, two halves of a human cadaver awaken in the morgue with no memory of their life as a single body and with very different notions of what they want now, their schism would lead each on a frightening path when forward to a new life when back to the strange origins. Hugo award winning editor and Vandermeer calls one hand to hold one hand to carve a haunting story from an exceptional new voice. Preorder at WWW dot tenebrous pres.com Now tenebrous press the home of new weird horror.

Michael David Wilson 56:31

As always, I would like to end with a quote. This is from Plato. books give us a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything. I'll see you in the next episode for the second and final part with Daniel Willcocks. But until then, take care of yourselves. Be good to one another. Read horror. Keep on writing. And have a great, great day!

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