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An Interview with John Drury, Author of Awaken Your Soul


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November 2006, by Alyce Barry

John DruryAwaken Your Soul: A Journey of Discovery is a remarkable four-color book containing the digital art and personal reflections of Shadow Work Coach John Drury. Published in April 2006, the book won the 2006 President's Book Award and an award in the Best Books 2006 National Book Awards. John spoke with me by phone from his home in Fort Lauderdale.

 

AB: How did you come to do this book?

John: I had been separated from my wife Debbie for about two years. I found I was caught up in distractions, so I decided to turn off the TV, turn off access to all the media, cancel the magazine and newspaper subscriptions.

I was reading one of Sark's wonderful books. Her work contains a lot of watercolors; they're very colorful, very lively and expressive. She does her illustrations very simply, and I just loved them. So I went to a local art store and bought a watercolor set and started doing watercolors. But the most I could do were simple hearts and crosses. I found that I'm not a good painter. There was more in my head that I wanted to create, and I knew it would take a long time to manifest in painting. So I bought an Apple computer and had a guy teach me how to use PhotoShop. I scanned in the artwork and started creating digital art.

AB: The art in this book is amazing, John. I don't know what I'm looking at, exactly, or the right terms to use.

John: What you see in the book is a combination of stock photos and paintings. I bought photographs, I shot photographs. I put it all together in computer-generated artwork.

AB: At what point did you start to see it as a book?

John:
At first it was more like therapy for myself, a way to get in and think about and work on the things I had going on in my life. I started sharing that with my friend Jim Warner, and he said, You've got to figure out how to get this out to people. Why don't you put together a book?

I was the last person to think I would ever produce something like this. I go into Barnes & Noble, and there are 10,000 books in the place. Who am I to go produce another one?

AB: How long ago was that?

John:
About two years ago. I had never done a piece of art in my life until 2000, when I got the computer. I had never done anything creative in that way. But after talking to Jim, I said to myself, If I gave myself permission to create, why can't I give myself permission to create a book? To not worry about what others might think? To just go do it?

So I started putting the artwork together, over a two-year period. I did not go into it with the intention of publishing a book. A book was what came out of it. It evolved over time.

I self-published it last April. I'm using it mostly in retreats. You can buy it on Amazon.com. I haven't done a lot of aggressive publicity at this point because I want to see how it's received and what people think of it and how best to position it.

AB: Did you contemplate going the traditional publishing route? Or did you know all along that you would self-publish it?

John: When I investigated the publishing route, I found it's a very timely and risky process. The risk is that you may never get it published. You give away the rights to the book. It takes two years to get it out. The publisher does very little promotion for it. And the chances of success are very minimal.

So I decided to do it on my own and see how the process works. I figured that if I built the kind of receptivity to it that I would like to see, then I could go to a publisher and say, I've already done this, here's the base I've built, here's the reception, here's the best way to market it, here's the target audience for it. I'd have much more information about the process from the self-publishing route than if I went the traditional publishing route. That's why I decided to self-publish.

AB: As I've discovered myself, the state of publishing right now is pretty troubling. An awful lot of excellent manuscripts out there go begging for the attention they deserve, which is a shame.

John: Publishers want to know, from someone like me, what my existing base is, how many speeches I'm doing a year, how many retreats, how many people I have on my email database. They want to know if I have a natural distribution channel through which I can automatically sell 2,000 to 5,000 books. Then they'll put it into an environment in which my channel will have access to it.

It takes a while to build that kind of channel. This has been my first full year of getting into the retreats/speeches/seminars part of the business. It's going to take another year to build a solid base. Without that, it's that much more difficult. If you're just an author, the book has to be something spectacular if people are going to be receptive to it, or you have to have a very focused channel where there is an unmet need. It's challenging.

AB: What was the process like for you emotionally?

John:
At every step of the process, there has been a healing or an awakening. The healing for me is getting access to something that I have repressed or denied. The process has awakened my creativity. I don't think it was denied early on; I just never tapped into it.

I'll give you an example. I initially thought that when I put the book out to my target audience, which is the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO) network, the guys I work with would look at it and say, I don't want any of this touchy-feely stuff! What are you doing bringing this stuff here? I thought senior executives would look at this and reject it.

I've found just the opposite. Most of them, when they get it in their hands and have a chance to look at it, give me amazing feedback. That was an awakening for me.

Every aspect of this — from creating the art, to putting it together, to getting the book published, to meeting the people I've met, to the things I've learned, through this moment — has been a continual healing and awakening. It's been amazing.

AB: How has it gone financially?

John: The book has not yet made money. If I had looked at publishing it as creating a business, I'm not sure it would be there today.

AB: Do you have a sense of why that is?

John: For me, the book was more about expression than it was about money. If I'd published it simply to make money, it would still be in the process of being created.

When I decided to make it a book, I said to myself, This is a way for me to share what I've learned in a way that's going to help and heal others. If I go at it that way first and let the money follow, then I can manifest it.

If I had made the decision from a business standpoint, if I had put the numbers on paper, I wouldn't have done it. I would have added up what it took to make a 144-page, four-color book, and I would have come to the bottom line and said, This is a dumb idea.

The business side of it didn't make sense. But from the healing side, it made a ton of sense.

AB: There's one drawing I want to ask you about, on page 98. It's a blue, red and yellow cross, with the words, "Pain and suffering have awakened my spirit." I think this is my favorite piece of art in the book.

John: I painted that, with watercolors, and then scanned it into the computer and did some additional work on it. I liked the colors and the symbolism of the cross.



I brought this book with me to the Divine Lover Training, and afterward, it was interesting, I saw the pages in a very different way. The words on that page, about pain and suffering, are very much at the heart of the Training. Before, I had looked at pain and suffering as something I never wanted again. And after the Training, the meaning changed to, Let me welcome the pain and suffering I must go through to get where I want to go. The Training helped me look at pain and suffering from an expanded view that I hadn't had before. As I told Cliff, the Training expanded my interpretation of the artwork. I hadn't even seen the other meanings there. This was one of the key pages that I spent time on.

AB: I'm curious about how the cross was painted. Its edge appears to have more depth to it than paper has.

John:
The cross was painted on watercolor paper. In the computer, I created the edges and the shadows that give the perception of depth. It's an embossing process.

AB: The edge is really effective. I have almost a body reaction to the cross, to the appearance that it was painted on stone or metal. I think this book would make an excellent gift for any man who's on a journey. A gift to keep in mind for Father's Day.

John:
Thank you.

 

John Drury is a coach living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. You can purchase Awaken Your Soul at Amazon.com or read more about it at John's website for the book, FullyAlive360.com.

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