Story Gatherings | Nashville, Tennessee

If You Think You Want To…Start

Written by Lauren Park

If You Think You Want To…Start

It’s a week and a half before Story 2016 and we caught Annie F. Downs 4.5 years into the middle of her story as a bestselling author & speaker. Out of the noise in her own life (and a little jack hammering outside) she shares a few of her secrets to success- from washing her hair every day and wearing socks to bed; to surrounding herself with people who set her on fire and remembering to rest.

As with any great story, we started at the very beginning- her inspiration for becoming a writer & how she chose Nashville:

I grew up loving books. One of my grandparents owned a bookstore and the other was a librarian. I started journaling and writing small projects but did not know how to become a writer. I started attending conferences and was set on fire. I tell other writers to attend conferences. If they feel something, they need to keep going.

[Nashville] is a great place to not have a real job. Going to a coffee shop, people are working and you do not even know it.

We couldn’t agree more about the culture of Nashville’s creators. In a town full of people dreaming, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out what processes work to be successful. There is no step-by-step recipe to finding a rhythm that works, but we think Annie had some good pointers:

You have to balance work and rest. I play the long game. My company does not work on Wednesdays. We want to grow slowly. If I have sold a ton of books but my employees are unhealthy, then I have failed. I want the people I work for to be cared for in their bodies, souls, and spirits.

A reoccurring theme in our interview with Annie is her thoughtfulness on every aspect of her life. You can see it in the way she spends the morning processing her heart and the conversations she has shared with friends lately. You can see it in her post-it note outlines, and the month she spends organizing a 50,000 word book. Mostly, you can see it in the way she is building her company, or her “empire” as she has lovingly calls it:

I want people to feel that a faith-based company can be strong. I want to build an empire. I can see in my head what it looks like for this to have a lot of people and a lot of moving pieces doing a lot of good.

While we had a lot of questions for Annie, many of our interview’s greatest moments came in the brave questions she asks herself. Questions we can all relate to like, “Why do I quit when things get hard?” and “Why isn’t perseverance part of my life?”

As I started writing, more pain came out then I expected. In that process, I found that I run from pain. I had to quit quitting to become a different person. Those realizations came out in “Looking for Lovely.” When I stopped quitting, people noticed. I got complements all the time on my face and that I was glowing. Nothing about my face changed. People saw my perseverance coming out of me. One thing that helped me is that I called my new year’s resolution an “experiment.” People love experiments because we want to know how the results. This helped me keep my new year’s resolution instead of quitting.

Though we only spent an hour with Annie, we were absolutely inspired by the way she intentionally uses words, in her work, and in her life. She also covers inviting people in to the process, sharpening her writing skills with other projects, and a few must-reads for aspiring writers.

If we took only one page from this wordsmith’s playbook, it would be a very fitting challenge for the Story tribe:

“…change [your] vernacular to match the life [you] want to have.”

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Lauren Park