10 Keys for Writing Books That Can Change the World

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sharp pencils2Now is the most exciting time to be alive and the best time ever to be writing books that can change the world. And the San Francisco Bay Area is the best place to be a writer. And now we need all of the vision, guidance, and understanding writers can give us.

Government, business, non-profit and religious institutions can’t help bring about the changes people and the planet need with growing urgency. This creates the greatest opportunity writers have ever had, no just to make a living, but to make a difference. The right book will change the world. A book that changes the United States will change the world, because America is leading the world into the future. Such a book is more likely to originate in the Bay Area than anywhere else.

The natural beauty of the Bay Area; the wealth and diversity of its people, places, activities, and institutions, and its openness to new ideas and peoples, make it a magnet for creative souls. More than one hundred and fifty years ago, the intrepid poured through the Golden Gate searching for gold. Today they come to mine the vein of their own potential, seeking a creative, compassionate way of life in harmony with themselves and the world around them.

Many here originally found the tools for this quest in The Whole Earth Catalog. First written and published in the Bay Area, it was a visionary manifesto based on the awareness of nature’s limitations – and ours. The catalog called upon the traditional virtues that had made American great: spirit, strength, self-reliance, sacrifice, compassion, energy, ingenuity, pragmatism, and courage. However, the philosophical underpinning for the exercise of these virtues is Eastern. It is the unifying belief that we are one with the universe.

Life should be the celebration of a vision. The beats, the hippies, and the sixties counterculture were harbingers of a new vision. And the vision of The Whole Earth Catalog was do-it-yourself reliance, small-scale living, the unity of nature, and our responsibility for Spaceship Earth. This lifestyle replaces:

  • the artificial with the natural
  • consumption with simplicity
  • possessions with experience
  • economic growth with personal growth
  • the desire for more with the need for enough

The Catalog and the Bay Area spawned thousands of offspring: books on crafts, wholesome foods, health, exercise, psychology, alternative religions and lifestyles, feminism, and ecology. The assumptions these offspring questioned and the problems they confronted remain complex, inter-related and enormous. Today, the need for books – fiction as well as non-fiction – to stimulate awareness and dialogue, propose solutions and inspire change, is the greatest and best challenge a writer could want.

For writers, published and unpublished, the gauntlet is down. Your ability and imagination have never been more needed to:

  • Help us to realize our gifts and motivate us to use them.
  • Tell us how much time and effort we each owe to our individual countries and how to make a meaningful contribution to them.
  • Create in us a sense of the unity of the concentric, occasionally contradictory realities which revolve around us like planets around the sun – oneself as an individual, a member of a family, a citizen of a town, country, and universe.
  • Show us how to sustain the creative tension between beauty and pain.
  • Teach us an abiding compassion and responsibility for all living things, as well as for the right and the need for them to exist.
  • Provide us with works of art that uplift our spirits and make us believe in ourselves.

Most importantly, take heart in the knowledge that no other medium of communication is as intimate, enduring, effective, authoritative, profound, or powerful as a book.

10 Keys for Writing Books That Can Change the World 

Technology is forcing writers to reinvent themselves. They need a new model for writing books that will make a difference. The goal of “The Ten Keys for Writing Books That Can Change the World” is to provide the model.

Passion—your love for creating and communicating about your work. Using your passion to serve others is the ultimate key to success and happiness.

Purpose—personal, literary, publishing, and community goals that inspire you to achieve them

Products—fidelity to the holy trinity of content: reading, writing, and sharing

People—crowdsourcing your success with win-win relationships with engaged, committed, growing communities of people and collaborators you serve who want to help you, because they know, like, and trust you

Platform—your continuing visibility with your communities and potential buyers, online and off, on your subject or the kind of book you write   

Pre-promotion—test-marketing your work in as many ways as you can. People, platform, 

and pre-promotion are the holy trinity of communication.

Promotion—serving your communities by communicating the value of your work 


  • having a positive perspective about writing, publishing, and your field
  • reinventing yourself as a contentpreneur running a business that creates and re-purposes a steady stream of scalable content in as many ways as possible
  • using creativity and technology to help you
  • being a life-long learner

People, Planet, and Profit—making the effects of your efforts on the holy trinity of sustainability the criteria for determining what you do

Perseverance—which requires courage, a plan, patience, discipline, faith in yourself, learning from your mistakes, simplifying your life, a long-term perspective, the commitment to do whatever it takes to achieve your goals, and celebrating your victories.

These keys balance yin and yang—creating content and communicating about it. Integrating them will create a literary ecosystem that will flourish as long as you sustain it with service. You can adapt the keys to other endeavors and your personal life.


Michael LarsenMichael Larsen is an author, nonfiction consultant, and a partner in Michael Larsen-Elizabeth Pomada Literary Agents. Michael and Elizabeth are co-directors of the San Francisco Writing for Change Conference and the San Francisco Writers Conference. Michael and Elizabeth founded the San Francisco Writers Conference, held every February, and the San Francisco Writing for Change Conference, to be held this October. Register now to receive discounts on both conferences.

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  1. I love this post so much we are stealing it as notes for next week’s Newbie Writers podcast. We’re looking forward to talking with you next Friday afternoon!

  2. Thanks, Catharine. I’m looking forward to it!

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