The Art of Not Doing

Writer Andrew Marshall offers a calm approach to productivity in all areas of life. Here, he discusses the pathway to publication and offers meditation for writers. As he explains:

The key to being happy lies deep within the mind. By learning how to master your mind, you can lead a very full life and still be at peace within yourself. 'The Great Little Book of Happiness' lays out the foundational skills; 'Awakening Heart' focuses on the importance of love in all aspects of life, and 'The Art of Not Doing' leads the way to mental clarity and inner peace.

'The Art of Not Doing' is a very soothing title – particularly for writers who may have become way-laid. But, 3 books in, how do you keep your productivity up? What keeps you going?

Part of it is a sense of responsibility; needing to share something that can benefit others. Then there’s the element of challenge – once I begin a journey, there’s no turning back.

However, although I love writing, I’m pretty slow at it. There was a manuscript with a different title before book one and that was ditched, so I won’t count that. The first took about thirty months, the second about twenty-four and the third about twenty-two.

But I think it’s important to take your time and enjoy the process. 

It’s easy to become tense, both physically and mentally, by spending too long at the keyboard, so I’d take a break from writing at least once an hour – and make myself do that, even though I’d often much rather keep going.

Can you tell us how the idea of writing your first book came about?

Having led workshops for many years on improving life and on cultivating the personal qualities that bring people happiness and peace, the inspiration came to share those ideas and skills with a wider audience. I’d already been publishing articles, so the natural development was a book – and 'The Great Little Book of Happiness' was born. 

Your work as a meditation teacher has clearly informed your writing; have the books also supported that?

Much of my teaching work on meditation is to absolute beginners, and the books, particularly the first, provide a valuable resource for them. I’ve also found that writing has strengthened my oral teaching, both in the way I deliver it and in the response from the audience. There is, of course, an added credibility to your name once you have published, too.

Is there a meditation technique you could recommend for your fellow writers?

Your creativity comes from inside, so it’s invaluable to contact your inner quietness. An easy way is to learn to be aware of your breath. Sit quietly, close they eyes and bring your awareness to just below your navel. Observe the flow of your breath, in and out. Nothing else.  It’s great to do this for five or, even better, ten minutes. Do this every day once or twice. When you are writing, or doing any other activity for that matter, pause every so often and just notice your breath – look away from the computer screen and feel your breath for three, four or five breaths. This is a beautifully simple and easy method for introducing mindfulness into your work and also reducing stress.

Speaking of stress, what do you find hardest about self-publishing?

Marketing has been the hardest thing because it is an alien environment to me – after all, I’ve been a lifelong consumer, not a seller! It’s an enjoyable challenge, though.

And most satisfying?

There have been lots of high points, including radio interviews and even one on television, but nothing seems to beat selling the very first copy of your newly published work.

Impressive stuff. Can you tell us how the interviews came about?

Our local radio station is very approachable and they liked the mix of local writer and a subject that was of wide interest – how to be happier. After publication of the first book, I emailed the presenter and received a friendly invitation to go along. When 'Awakening Heart' came out, the same thing happened, except the presenter was so interested he decided to extend the interview to over half an hour, including having listeners phoning in. The production team couldn’t have been more helpful and used parts of the interview in another programme. 

The other interviews were some distance away and came about with help from a friend who gave me the contact details of the producers. Over the following months, I received a number of calls from different BBC radio stations (including Radio 5 Live) for my comments on various news items where happiness of the individual was an important factor.

Any top book production tips?

Having invested a fair amount of money on design, typesetting and production on the first two titles, I purchased professionally designed templates for the third. They worked well and saved me a small fortune.

You published your first book in 2008. How has your approach to the publishing process changed with each book you have written? Has the process become more efficient?

Technology and media have changed hugely since the publication of the first title. For that, I used a professional printing house and book producer, who did everything including typesetting and interior design. With the second, I used the same company for printing and binding only, using a freelance professional designer and typesetter. Later, the printers offered to convert them to ebooks. In hindsight, I would have done better to leave that for a year or two because with my current knowledge, I would have done a better job. This prompted me to ‘go it alone’ on the third title – publishing as an ebook first and then as print-on-demand using CreateSpace. As mentioned before, I bought in professional templates and also used a designer for the cover.  A professional copy-editor and proofreader such as yourself, Claire, is essential.

Can you tell us anything about your upcoming projects?

This year, I’m concentrating on a new online meditation course, and on writing a series of articles on the vital role of women in the spiritual evolution of the human race.



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To keep up with Andrew’s fascinating work you can sign up for his newsletter at and read his blog at . All 3 books can be found at the publishing website  as well as through the usual sellers.