Finding Community with Sarah Allen

Thanks to Sarah for being our guest blogger this week. Sarah’s a close friend of PlanBig and this post is like a warm hug. We love that Sarah’s taken the time out to write about how she joined PlanBig and what she found in our community. (Julia)

Online communities like PlanBig.com.au, on which I was an Advisory Board member between 2010 - 2012, can play a huge role in facilitating real-world outcomes for your dream project or new business idea. 

The year was 2009. I was heavily pregnant, Gorgeous was finishing his first action thriller, we were living in Kurrajong with a couple of darstardly scapegoats, and I had good memories of many a full night’s sleep.

Once said thriller was complete, having seen our fair share of ‘it’s not quite what we’re looking for’ demoralising letters from the big Aussie publishers, it was hard to know where to turn. So I did what I do, and turned to the great, all-knowing Interweb.

I’d already spent the year revitalising my love for all things marketing through connecting with the latest developments on what real-time conversations meant for brands and organisations, so I figured: if there’s some new stuff happening in publishing, surely I can learn about it on Twitter and in the blogosphere?

Too right.

Soon I was neck-deep in the publishing revolution, seeing how digital technologies like eBooks and print-on-demand had democratised the act of publishing stories. Then, I found something new that put my newfound knowledge into action.

I found PlanBig, and connected into an online community of doers, helpers and – importantly – dreamers.

This place with its entrepreneurs and writers and designers, people who look after the small stuff and those who are big thinkers and the ones that dare to put their crazy idea out there – it made me realise something important about this book that Gorgeous wrote.

(Of course, book has a real name, and so does Gorgeous, but that’s another story).

Here was the light bulb moment: it was time to give the book publishing biz a red hot go ourselves, and not wait for someone to anoint us the chosen ones.

We threw caution to the wind and invested in the project – self publishing the first book before being picked up by Momentum Books, re-releasing the first and launching the second, hitting the best-seller list on iTunes, getting the third and fourth underway, building a strong team, brokering a burgeoning film deal, and many more exciting things that mean we are close to making writing and publishing books the thing that sustains us, not just the thing we do in every spare moment.

The fuel to sustain all this energy stems from Gorgeous’s immense talent for creating classic but contemporary thriller stories with heart-stoppingly good action scenes borne of his life experiences.

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But it’s no good writing a book if it doesn’t get into the hands of readers. And PlanBig was my Dutch courage, the gut-warming tequila shot I took any time I was unsure or a bit scared or down on the craziness of it all.

PlanBig’s simple action steps for setting up a plan showed me that you do, indeed, just have to start somewhere. The goals I had to fill in were a stark reminder that we needed to think big, but also find something measurable that we could achieve. One of my tricks was to start with a goal (our first was to reach 100,000 readers) and edit it as the days wore on, and our end vision became clearer.

I realised that by telling a compelling story, people wanted to come along for the ride and to help in extraordinary ways. They shared excerpts in forums, had conversations online, spread the word, became passionate advocates for Gorgeous’s thriller writing, chose a cover design they loved, came to the launch, purchased and reviewed the books. In short: they moved mountains.

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When things didn’t go as we planned – as it never does – PlanBig’s other planners were an example of how to adapt and keep going. 365 Cups showed skill in promoting their efforts and documenting their rise. Open Shed showed how they would change up their lifestyle and house-sit around Australia to support their dream. Soften the Fck Up held a launch event that moved everyone to tears. Scores of instances where small, savvy operators made an impact and achieved their goals with grit and determination and a bucketload of creativity.

Contributing to other plans with advice, time and support was personally and professionally enriching. The social entrepreneur and local community scene was especially vibrant, so it was amazing to link in with those sorts, but the business operators who were bootstrapping their way to success were just as inspiring. Ultimately the people we met, online and at events, are now friends – all of us getting our ideas to shine like crazy diamonds.

Since our plan became a success, we’ve relaunched the books, had another baby, and with time at a premium, my PlanBig presence has gone quiet. I miss PlanBig, the same way I missed Twitter when my account got hacked and I no longer had my own voice to tweet with. It’s like missing a part of myself that has gone underground, but we’ve had to focus on getting these damn books into the marketplace.

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I hope to get back when there is more time to meander amongst the plans, meet the people, have those old connections revitalised and new connections created.

PlanBig enriches lives. Yours and those of people you may not have met yet, all connected by an invisible string, the feeling that we are about community, no matter where it is, and we like the things both big and small to have meaning. And for me, that will always feel a little bit like coming home.

As well as serving on the PlanBig Community Advisory Board, Sarah had a number of plans on the site between 2009 and 2012, including one for launching her former Paratrooping husband’s first action thriller, Defender, to the widest possible appreciative audience. See intrepidallen.com for the buzz on the latest thrillers. Sarah blogs at sarahallenconsulting.com.au