If your natural style is more seat-of-the-pants than perfectly planned, you’ll love this unapologetic take on writing from Lucy Cohen – lying on a settee, writing from the heart, ideally after a large glass of red wine.
But don’t be fooled: there’s nothing insubstantial about her take on the realities of entrepreneurship and where you need to focus for long-term success (hint: forget the first million).
A joy of a conversation, taking in business, anxiety, writing, oversharing, and powerlifting.
Lucy’s site: https://www.lucycohen.uk/
Lucy on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LucyMazuma
Alison on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bookstothesky
The 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge September 2022: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=proposal-challenge-sep-2022
WriteBrained: A 28-day exploratory writing adventure: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=writebrainedcourse
The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/
The Extraordinary Business Book Club bookshop: https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/extraordinarybusinessbooks
Alison Jones: I’m here today with Lucy Cohen, who is the co-founder of Mazuma, the UK’s first subscription based accountancy service. She spotted a gap in the market for low cost, hassle-free accountancy services and founded the company in 2006 at the age of 23. Her debut book, The Millennial Renaissance, was released in 2017 and her second book, Forget The First Million, won The Best Short Business Book category at The Business Book Awards 2022.
She’s also, brilliantly, a former British champion power lifter, and she’s a campaigner and a startup mentor with The Princes Trust. I mean, basically Lucy, I just want to talk about power lifting, but I suppose we have to about books.
Lucy Cohen: We could, we could do both. We could talk about both. Yes.
Alison Jones: Sure we could draw out some parallels there.
Welcome to the show, Lucy. It’s very, very good to have you here.
Lucy Cohen: so much for having me.
Alison Jones: And let me start with congratulations. How did it feel when they called your name out?
Lucy Cohen: I was really surprised. First of all, I was sat next to Mary Ann Sieghart who wrote The Authority Gap. I’m a big fan of hers and I was not cool. I was trying desperately to be cool and within about 90 seconds of her sitting down, I was like, oh my gosh, I’m your biggest fan. she, poor woman, was like, oh, who’s this lunatic they’ve put me next to. Yes, I’ve got to polite conversation with this fan girl. But it was fine. We’re friends now.
But yes, so for me, that was already…
Alison Jones: You’d already won.
Lucy Cohen: …I’d already won at that point, but yes, but when, I didn’t think I was going to get nervous because I’ve been to a lot of, kind of over the years with Mazuma, I’ve been to a lot kind of different business awards and stuff and you kind of your grateful, disappointed face like, oh yes, they’re a very deserved winner. You know, you do all that. And so I was kind of prepared to do that or be like, oh, well, you know, it’s been nice evening, I met some really great people. And then when they the highly commended, I’m like, well, I didn’t win highly commended. I’ve probably not won because there was some other great books in my category. was like, well, that’s okay, I got nominated and that’s brilliant. And the book sold really well. And then when they called my name out, I was just a bit blown away really. It
Alison Jones: Were you
Lucy Cohen: No, not really. No. epically uncool all the time. Just a massive nerd really.
Um, I was just, it was all a bit of a blur and I couldn’t believe it really because it’s really, I sort of do this thing where I forget that anybody reads anything I ever write. whether that’s like content I produce for the business or stuff I post up on LinkedIn or articles I’ve written for other people. I genuinely, once it’s left kind of my at my end, I’m like, done that thing. And I completely forget I don’t do this in a vacuum, that other people read my stuff. it’s really strange to me when people will come up to me and then reference something of mine that they’ve read or that they’ve really enjoyed.
I wrote a piece probably just over ago. I was very poorly last year and I wrote a piece about that for Accounting Web Online. And just kind of, not only am I epically uncool, but I’m an avid oversharer. The two probably very, very much go hand in hand. written this piece about having been ill and know, it making me realize that I kind of love what I do. And even though it’s challenging, it gives me purpose and all that stuff. And people still come up to me and say, oh, that piece you wrote really resonated with me. And I just forget that, I forget that it exists out there in the world, that these words that came out of my brain exist out there and other people read them.
So for that reason, winning award for my book, it was really surreal because it goes off into the ether and I forget that anyone else ever reads the words I’ve written. So apart from when it got launched and the publishers were like, right, great, this is the launch date. suddenly, for the first time in my life had this real sense of imposter syndrome and then people were like, oh, I’m going to pre-order it. And I’m going to order your book. I was like, okay, you can order it, but please don’t read it. Like you can order it and buy it and put it in your bookshop, please don’t read my book. I don’t want you to read the words. So yes, it was a really strange feeling.
Alison Jones: Oh, wow. I mean, there’s so much there. Okay. So the imposter syndrome thing, hilarious. I’m in the same position at the moment, just sent my manuscript in and I’m like want to tell the copyeditor just don’t read it, it’s a bit crap.
Lucy Cohen: Literally, that’s what you’re like, isn’t it? Like you spent all these hours your soul into this thing and obsessing over words, and then you think, right, great. done. You feel really good about it. And then off it goes, you’re like oh, don’t read it.
Alison Jones: No please. No, Don’t judge me. Don’t judge me. And another thing about writing, that whole kind of time travel magic of it, where, you know, the thing that was in your brain then, somebody’s reading it. And it’s almost like you’re connecting brain to brain through this kind of portal of a book, years later, centuries later, if you think about writing works, it is absolutely astonishing.
And the halflife of a book, so you know that if you’re in social media stuff, you know, you post a video, a tweet or something, you kind of do forget about it. Everybody’s forgotten about it, you know, unless you’ve gone viral for all the wrong reasons, you know. Basically it’s gone, it’s out. It was of the moment and in the moment.
A book, absolutely not. You know, it’s years of half lives. It’s really interesting when you’re writing, just keeping that in mind.
Lucy Cohen: Yes, and it’s something that I always forget. But I also forget what I’ve actually written, so I quite often go back, also quite often, that sounds terrible, but I’ll sometimes come across stuff I’ve written, especially like in the business or content I’ve done or an article I wrote maybe a couple of years ago we evolve and grow as writers and our style changes.
And, you know, I read some of the stuff I wrote kind of years ago and cringe like, oh God, that’s awful. But sometimes I go back and I read something I’ve written a couple of years ago. Like this is great. And actually…
Alison Jones: who wrote this?
Lucy Cohen: …I don’t remember writing a single word of this, but yet here it is clearly like in my Google docs.
Like, it’s weird
Alison Jones: I remember I had Seth Godin was on the podcast a couple of years back now. And I said to him a quote that he said, he said, oh, did I say that? I often have to go back and check what I said.
Lucy Cohen: I don’t know what comes out of my mouth one minute to the next. It’s as much of a surprise to me as it is to everyone else. So, yes, same with writing, I think.
Alison Jones: Brilliant. Now about the book itself. And I’ll talk about writing again properly in a minute, but it’s such an interesting way of approaching isn’t it? Because there’s so many books telling you how to make the first million and you’re like forget the first million, people, wise up. So tell us where that came from or what the impulse behind it was.
Lucy Cohen: Yes, so look, I come from a, you know, I grew up in business if you like. I started my business when I was 23 and we started at this time where it was kind of all Dragons Den and high growth awards and fast growth this and who can get to seven figures in 15 seconds and all that stuff.
I bought it and I went on that journey and after about four years, I was poor and miserable. And I was like, have I done this? And I felt like a fraud because felt like all these awards I was going to, people kind of talking about how great we were. It just felt, it didn’t feel right, because the day to day was such a struggle.
And it made me think about what that journey as a business owner looks like and look, don’t get me wrong, to accumulate. And I do say within the book, wanting to accumulate a degree of wealth yourself, pro that. Most people are going to business to lead a better life money being the thing we exchange goods and services, does make your life easier. Having an amount of money to facilitate your lifestyle definitely makes your life easier. So I’m not saying you don’t have to make any money. Look, there’s nothing wrong with having an ambition of being wealthier than you were when you started. It just can’t be the only thing you focus on because if that’s the only thing that you are chasing, you will never have enough. You will never be happy. You need to find more purpose and other ways to get fulfillment from what you do.
Also, if that’s the only thing you’re focusing on, you are missing a bunch of good stuff and a bunch of opportunity along the way. So reason I say kind of like forget the first million is like, look, you get it right. You get your processes right. You get your payment systems right. You get your sales pipeline right. That will follow. you can’t just focus on that.
It’s like being stood at the bottom of a mountain instead of thinking, need to walk up this step by step, going I’m going to leap up in one giant bound, right to the top. You can’t do it.
When you do any kind of endurance sport and running a business, it’s an endurance sport. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. When you do any sort of endurance sport, focus on the next thing you’re doing, the next half a mile, the next 10 steps. Can I get to the next point?
in fact, there’s a few kind of really great sort of survival books of people who’ve kind of like, fallen down ice wells or you know, underneath avalanche and they’re just thinking about how do I get to the next place that gets me to the next place. that’s the focus. If you keep doing that in your business, that wealth and that success will follow.
But if you start going, to go from zero to being a multimillionaire in three weeks, you are probably going to be quite disappointed and you are probably going to make the wrong decisions along the way and you’ll be miserable. So it’s kind of about that really.
Alison Jones: And you make such a good point about how, what even is a million anyway. Is turnover, in which case, if your costs are, you know, 950 million, you’re not doing so well are you, 950,000?
Lucy Cohen: Is it cash in bank? Is it…
Alison Jones: Yes, Is it liquid assets? yes.
Lucy Cohen: It’s a completely meaningless number and we’ve got this very emotional attachment to the word.
Alison Jones: Yeah.
Lucy Cohen: Um,
Alison Jones: a millionaire?
Lucy Cohen: a thing… ‘This time next year will be millionaires, Rodney.’ You know, and a million pounds now is a lot less than it was even 10 years ago, you know, it’s…
Alison Jones: It buys you a 2-bed flat in London.
Lucy Cohen: Well, exactly. Yes, a small allotment in Hampshire. So it’s a lot less money and it’s all relative. So yes, I think it’s not about not making money. It’s not about not having a successful business. It’s about this kind of concept of strong foundations, getting your ducks in a row and the rest will follow.
I kind of equate it to crash dieting. If you start off at the start of a whatever journey, fitness journey or whatever you want to call it with well, I haven’t reached the goal immediately, so therefore it’s not worth it. It’s the same in business like I said, it is a marathon, not a sprint.
And it’s just focusing on what the next day and celebrating goals, you know, I quite often joke that I wish I had last year’s problems because you know, every problem you have feels awful at the time. Then as you kind of grow up in business and you develop, the problems you face become more sophisticated and I’m like, I wish I’d last year’s problem.
They were a breeze compared to this year’s problem. And then next year I’ll be saying the same thing, so…
Alison Jones: And that’s the important piece, isn’t it? Is that actually, because I now know that future me or present me has solved last year’s me’s problems, and it wasn’t that hard, I know that future me will have solved this year’s problems.
And yes there’s a resilience that kind of comes with that knowledge, isn’t there?
Lucy Cohen: Yes, I once saw a therapist and they said something very wise to me and it’s always really stuck, which is so far you’ve survived everything in your life and as an anxiety sufferer that really rings true. Like yes, so far…
Alison Jones: Mm.
Lucy Cohen: I’ve survived everything in my life, including things which really should have killed me.
So yes, it’s knowing that it is very much a journey.
Alison Jones: Yes, and you’ve mentioned how your own business experience and that kind of misery underneath the apparent success, you know, was a factor in this book. I’m guessing because you’ve worked with so many small businesses, you must have seen that repeated time and time and time again?
Lucy Cohen: Oh, it’s ubiquitous. It’s you know, it’s…
Alison Jones: …and it’s the dirty little secret, isn’t it, of entrepreneurship? It looks so glossy on Instagram.
Lucy Cohen: It is a dirty little secret. And it’s funny because people quite, you know, people will say to me like, you are so brave sharing all this stuff. I’m like, it’s not brave, everyone’s going through this. And the number of people who come to me saying, oh, I’m so glad you said that because I feel exactly the same way.
Like, you know, imposter syndrome, feeling like a fraud, all that stuff. You kind of have to deal with that on a daily basis. And also, I think protecting yourself from what it looks like other people are doing. I try to be quite honest, but even me as someone who’s quite honest, my Instagram real, or my Twitter or whatever else, is very much a highlight real because when I’m having an absolute terrible day, I don’t really feel like engaging with the world.
And sometimes I’ll go back and post something in hindsight and go actually, you know, six months ago this happened and it was awful, but I didn’t do it in the moment.
Alison Jones: Yes.
Lucy Cohen: You just don’t know what someone’s going through. So I think it’s always really important to remember that, that it’s never what it looks like on the surface. There’s always stuff going on.
Everyone’s got stuff to deal with, but not only that everyone has the same problems. So if you are worried about your cash flow, everyone else is too. If you are worried, they’re very few businesses that aren’t worried about their cash flow. It’s part of business. If you are worried about how are you going to deal with the cost living crisis with your staff and putting their salaries up and inflation. Everyone else is too. If you are worried about upskilling teams or hiring good staff, everyone else is too. What you are going through, it feels so personal and sometimes when lots of things go wrong in a row, it can feel like it’s like a personal attack on you by the universe. It’s not, everyone’s doing it. no one’s saying it.
Like, we’ve had some real challenges the last, obviously couple of years with COVID and everything else and yes, it has just felt like a and then, and then it’s the next thing and the next thing and I’m like, I’m tired of living through remarkable events now, I’d really like 10 years of really boring. If we could do that,
Alison Jones: Ohh. yes, yes, wouldn’t it wonderful.
Lucy Cohen: I’d love a few boring years. That’d be great. Love that.
Alison Jones: Yes I hear you. I hear you. What also really struck me about the book as well? Is it does feel like a cri du coeur. It does feel like a very generous act. A lot of people look at writing a business book as a sort of business card, you know, as a way of promoting their business.
And yours doesn’t feel like that, it just feels like people, you need to know this.
Lucy Cohen: I said avid oversharer, that’s kind of just all it is really. And I think it kind of, a lot of people said, like why did you write it? And I’m the same with my kind of first kind of foray into writing. I’ve always written, I suppose I’ve always written things that I wish I’d been able to read when I was me five years ago.
I wish that I wasn’t just reading business books about if you apply this strategy, you don’t double your profits in 15 minutes, then there’s something wrong with you and all this stuff. I wish that I hadn’t read all that stuff. And I wish that someone had been really honest with me about what this journey is and what it continues to be.
I can only write from my heart, that’s the only place I can write. And it means that my editors hate me because I’m constantly, all my manuscripts are covered in reference question mark reference question mark, reference question mark. And I’m like, I’m sure it exists.
Alison Jones: I heard it once.
Lucy Cohen: Like yes, I’ve heard it somewhere that’s enough.
Very much the red top style of referencing my work, ‘a source said’. But obviously you have to reference this stuff, but it’s yes, I can only write from my heart and you know, if people resonate with it and people like it, which they seem to then that’s great.
If not, then it’s a very drawn out and stressful form of therapy. I suppose.
Alison Jones: But if they don’t like it, it is at least short. And I wanted to talk to you about that. Was that a decision, was that a conscious decision or did you just come to that’s the end of it. That’s enough.
Lucy Cohen: I mean I have the attention span of a gnat so a little bit of that in there, but I think that, look, most business books you read, you come out of it and you probably remember three or four things from it. Like there’s probably maximum, maybe one or two things have massively resonated with you and a couple of sentences that have stuck in your brain and you leave that book going, that was a great book, I remember that thing from it. And that’s probably all you remember from it. Unless you are someone who kind of reads books over and over and over again, and sort of studies them. You are not out there quoting paragraphs of Keats or something when it comes to business, whatever the equivalent is, you’re just not. You read it, it’s quick, you take something from it and you move on.
I did deliberately want to do something short because first of all, it’s less work for me. But secondly, that’s the way I digest things and love a quick, sometimes you need a quick, short, sharp, boom, this is what we’re going to do and that’s enough to get something out of it.
I do, lots of people ask me like, do I do business coaching or whatever else? I’m like, no, I don’t. I’ve got no interest in putting together a 6-month, 18 step program where I’m going to take you through all these things. But what I do do is one hour, short sharp sessions as a one off, which is probably just enough to get you over that little hump you’re feeling and then you can move on and go on to something else.
And that’s kind of how I felt the book was. I felt that it was something to, kind of a set of ideas, based off my experiences, something that people will hopefully read and go, oh, yes me too.
Yes and actually, okay, yes, I’m going to try that and then go away and that’s it. I just wanted it to be short, actionable and concise really.
The complete opposite of the way I talk, which is just rambling.
Alison Jones: You said it before about writing being part therapy, which I thought was really interesting and I totally get. What does writing look like? You know when you have that kind of itch to write, do you just sort of, you know, sit and put the words on the page and flow or do you sort of plan it all out with post-it notes?
You know, where do you start and how does it work?
Lucy Cohen: Oh, there’s no planning. There’s no planning.
So when I, so I do get flow and I can find flow, which is good. I can’t write sat at a desk. I don’t know what it is. I’ve got a really nice little desk set up and I can’t, with you know fancy monitors, I can’t write at a desk. I have to write sort of in the least ergonomic position possible where I’m kind of like lying half prone on a sofa, kind of propping my laptop up on my chest. Like a small T-Rex.
Alison Jones: It had to be short.
Lucy Cohen: Yes, I’d give myself a horrible backache. And that’s how I write. I don’t know whether it’s when I tend to find that I flow best, I tend to just go and I just let it all happen.
And sometimes it’s absolute junk and I am one of these people who believe in getting into a habit. So when I wrote the book, it was habit. I made myself get up every day and even if I didn’t feel like it, I just wrote for an hour, first thing in the morning, before my brain could get distracted by the business and other stuff like that.
So I did kind of do that golden hour in the morning. And that was really valuable because sometimes I wrote and it was absolute junk and I was like, well, never mind. I’m going to delete, literally just delete it and move on.
Alison Jones: Yes.
Lucy Cohen: Got into that habit. So like anything, like I’m unsurprisingly absolutely rubbish at meditation.
But people tell me you can practice it and get better at it. And I feel like writing is that for me,
Alison Jones: Yes.
Lucy Cohen: You can practice it, get better and I can get in that sort of flow state a little bit better, but no, I tend not to plan. I tend to find that I’ll kind of splurge all the words out and then I leave it and go away and then come back and read it again maybe a couple of days later. At that point then you start doing the stuff and going, oh, I’ve said that twice, or actually no, that works better that way around or actually I really should put something in here. I suppose that’s the more structured element to it, but that initial kind of creative output is very much a…
…it usually starts as a little like niggle of an idea in my head. And then I can’t let it go. And I start thinking about, start thinking about fun words. And I was just talking to someone earlier today about words I hate and my current hit list. There’s an advert on TV at the moment for Pukka.
I hate that word. I hate it so much. P U K K A, it’s ugly, it sounds horrible. It’s driving my husband mad. Because every time it comes on, I’m like, oh, I hate that word. Or it like makes me cringe. But I start thinking, I know when I’m onto a little idea with writing, because I start thinking about words I like and words I’ve heard and how they sound and work in sentences. And then I know, okay, I’m ready.
And then at some point, never when I plan it really, at some point I’ll think I’ll just write a couple of sentences and before I know it, three hours has disappeared and my back hurts and I’m dehydrated and need to stand up.
Alison Jones: That’s hilarious.
What you’re describing is how you make the invisible visible, isn’t it? It’s how the inkling becomes words on a page. I mean you’re doing the classic Hemingway, write drunk, edit sober.
Lucy Cohen: That’s exactly it. All my best ideas happen after a large glass of red wine. not…
Alison Jones: …it feels that way.
Lucy Cohen: …there’s truth in that. I definitely think they’re better at the time than maybe they are two days later.
Alison Jones: Now I want to know about the power lifting thing though. Tell me how power lifting relates to one or both of running a business or writing a book?
Lucy Cohen: Oh, good question. So I started power lifting late really considering the age of lifters now, but I was in my late twenties and I was wanting to do something with my body that wasn’t about what it looked like. I wanted do something…
Alison Jones: Yes.
Lucy Cohen: …useful. I started seeing a PT and he was like, you are freakishly strong.
Alison Jones: Why thank you.
Lucy Cohen: …should. I was like thanks, I think. You should enter a competition. So I did, I won it and then met other power lifters and kind of got into it. So I ended up, not one to ever do anything by halves, I ended up representing Wales then I ended up representing Britain.
So I was actually I have actually been to World Championships and European Championships and stuff like that as part of the GB team. I think that it, in terms of how it relates to business and specifically the book actually, it’s that thing of when I started power lifting, I was not as strong as I was at my peak, you know, I didn’t start off being able to squat 180 kilos.
I started off being able to squat 50 kilos, and then the next goal was, oh, maybe I could do 80 and then maybe I could do a hundred. And then the more advanced you get in it, the smaller those gains are. Because you’ve got your kind of newbie gains and then you have to chip away and chip away and chip away.
I had a really good coach say that every competition you should try and just add two and a half kilos to each of your lifts. He’s like because in a year, four competitions a year you might do, that’s 10 kilos on each year that’s however many kilos on your total. Instead of going I want to go from a 400 kilo total to a 600 kilo total, you just chip away.
And suddenly five years later, you look back and you’re like, oh, that time, that seemed like a like an amazing total and now I’m disappointed with this total…
Alison Jones: hmm.
Lucy Cohen: …and that’s like running a business. Is that you never really look back. You are always looking forward. You don’t tend to look back at where you’ve come from, and it’s a real lesson in chipping away at that. I’ve mentioned a couple times and I talk about it in the book that I was really ill and had arterial blood clots, which have quite severely damaged my right leg. And I couldn’t train, couldn’t lift for a long time. And earlier this year, very humbling, got myself back into the gym and had to learn to lift all over again.
So started off and I couldn’t squat 40 kilos which and a few weeks back, I posted something on social media where I’d got myself back up to be able to squat a hundred kilos again. And that a hundred is nowhere near what my top was before. But given the context that triple figure thing was a huge deal.
Alison Jones: Yes.
Lucy Cohen: …that’s like business, it’s about the context and the progress.
You know, a lot of businesses have really struggled the last couple of years because of COVID, we haven’t grown as much as we wanted and we’ve not done this and we haven’t done that. And I really wanted to be here now. And it doesn’t help that kind of culturally in the UK, at least, everyone seems to completely forgotten about COVID.
We are forgetting that kind of over two year period where everything was up in the air and thrown off center and we didn’t know how to progress and didn’t know what the future looked like. Everyone’s forgotten about that. And we need to remember that in context, we all basically, I’m refusing to add two years to my age now.
I’m just minusing two my age now because I don’t think it’s fair.
Alison Jones: Doesn’t count.
Lucy Cohen: I didn’t, like I stayed in the house for two years. I don’t think it’s fair that I have to count an extra two years on my age. I’m going back.
Alison Jones: I I, love love that.
Lucy Cohen: I’m just going to, just let’s take a pause.
Alison Jones: Let’s just everybody agree that those two years just didn’t count.
Lucy Cohen: Just wind ’em off. Just…
Alison Jones: …yes, yes, If we all agree it, I’m sure, I think that’s a really great, we could maybe just make it a kind of, you know, global constitutional point.
Lucy Cohen: Yes, Motion passed. That’s me…
Alison Jones: Yes.
Lucy Cohen: I second that, and that’s in business, you know? Yes, alright, you might not be as far along as you want to be, or maybe a little bit behind where you were at the start of 2019, but look at what happened and you are still here and you are resilient and then carry on.
So yes, it’s kind of, there’s some really good parallels there and about dedication and perseverance and overcoming obstacles and all that good stuff as well. Plus it’s a lot of fun and I really enjoy being strong because it surprises a lot of people. And it’s genuinely quite useful in your daily life. Being able to, you know, hoik stuff about the house without any help, it’s just really handy being strong.
Alison Jones: Yes, I just had to carry the dog back home. She’s 20 kilograms and I was feeling it by the end.
Lucy Cohen: Not an insubstantial weight that to carry over a long time. That’s a whole sack of cement.
Alison Jones: Yes.
Lucy Cohen: There we are.
Alison Jones: And cement doesn’t wriggle.
Lucy Cohen: Doesn’t wriggle and have a cone of shame in your face. So, you know, if anything, you’ve done a stellar job there.
Alison Jones: It felt good. Yes.
I always ask people for their best tip for new writers and this just feels a little bit greedy now, because you’ve given us really loads, but if there’s somebody who’s just, I mean, I’m guessing the tip probably isn’t, you know, lying in a really ergonomically unsatisfactory position and write.
And have a glass of wine. Maybe that is it.
But what would you sort of say to people if they’re thinking I do want to write a book, but I don’t know where to start?
Lucy Cohen: Just don’t overthink it. Just do it.
Like that kind of paralysis by analysis that I think a lot of writers get. Look, I’m a big believer in it’s better that it’s done than it’s perfect. My book is not perfect. I’m sure if I read it back again, there’s no better way to find things you don’t like in your book than have it published, to have people buy it and then go, actually, I didn’t like that bit.
There’s no better way of finding a typo either which no one spotted in the whole editing process.
Alison Jones: This has gone past three editors. How is this possible?
Lucy Cohen: Publish it, let people buy it and then let someone on Amazon tell you that they found a typo. that’s…
Alison Jones: Yes.
Lucy Cohen: …the best way of doing it. Just get on with it, you know, and it doesn’t matter if your first attempts are absolute rubbish, because the process of doing it, you’ve learned something in and you do develop as a writer. It’s a skill, it’s a practice, just like you might be able to ride a bike, but could you ride a bike well? There’s riding a bike and then there’s Tour de France. It’s the same activity. But, you know, it’s the same motions, but very different things. And writing’s like that, you know, play with words, play with your style. You know, have a bit of fun with it.
I quite like an informal writing style, but it’s not for everyone. Some people naturally write very formally. Well, if that’s your natural style of how you write then go with it. I write kind of how I talk, like way too many words in a sentence and a lot of regret.
But just have fun with it and just don’t overthink it. And it doesn’t matter if no one else ever reads those words, for now, get on with it and do something and create something because it is actually, the going back to the bike thing, you can’t learn to ride a bike by reading a book about it. Like you just have to do it.
And I think it is the same in writing. So yes, just get on with it really.
Alison Jones: And to pursue that analogy, you can’t steer until you’re moving.
Lucy Cohen: Yes, absolutely. Yes. Spot on. You’ve just got to… and you will surprise yourself that kind of eventually, you’re kind of, kind of state of flow. I didn’t realize I was doing it probably until years later and like I said reading stuff, I was like I don’t remember writing that. And then I realised…
Alison Jones: Yes.
Lucy Cohen: …that’s when I’m doing my best stuff.
Because I’m in a really kind of flow state. And if you can find a way to get yourself in there, then it all becomes a lot easier. It just kind of works.
Alison Jones: Well, of course getting your bum on the seat in golden hour or whenever it is, but in a disciplined way, it doesn’t just happen, until you’re actually there with a pen on the paper.
Lucy Cohen: Yes.
Alison Jones: Good.
Lucy Cohen: It doesn’t, yes.
Alison Jones: I always ask people to recommend a book as well, and you’re not allowed to recommend Forget The First Million, so I’ll do it for you. It’s really, really good. Read it.
But what book would you recommend that people listening to this podcast should read? What’s been particularly meaningful to you?
Lucy Cohen: Oh, now this is a bit of a weird one and I’ve been recommending this book for a little while, but they’ve now made a TV series of it, so it feels like it’s cheapened it a little bit for me.
But if you are a businessy person or even just kind of enjoy kind of investigative journalist style reading Bad Blood, the Theranos story is a fantastic read. That book is so well written. That’s a really good read.
The other two, which if like me, you are a feminist, then you should definitely read Mary Ann Sieghart because her book, The Authority Gap is amazing
Alison Jones: She is a friend of yours, isn’t she? Yes.
Lucy Cohen: She is now, she doesn’t know it yet, but and Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez if you want to just get really angry about everything.
Alison Jones: Yes, I was furious, I still am really, for weeks and months after reading that.
Lucy Cohen: I’ve read it a couple of times and it just makes me livid. But yes, but actually like the investigative journalist style one, Bad Blood, it’s called.
Alison Jones: Somebody else has recommended that and I still haven’t read it. Okay, I’m told now.
Lucy Cohen: It’s very gripping. I was surprised how into it I was, because I thought that’s quite an interesting founder story. But actually he writes incredibly well. So yes, it’s a very good book.
Alison Jones: Brilliant. Thank you. And Lucy, if people want to find out more about you, more about Mazuma, more about your books, where do they go?
Lucy Cohen: So I’m pretty prevalent on the socials. So LinkedIn I’m Lucy Cohen and then Twitter et cetera. I’m @lucymazuma, you can find me there. You can get in contact with me via my website which is, I think, I think this is right. lucycohen.uk. I hope that’s right.
Alison Jones: I’ll double check.
Lucy Cohen: I’m pretty certain that’s right. Or the Mazuma website, which is mazumamoney.co.uk you can probably find contact details for me there, but I’m pretty much on social media 24/7 because I’m a millennial and my phone’s glued to my hand.
Alison Jones: Marvelous. Good. It’s amazing you find time to write.
Great, it’s been such joy talking to you. Thank you. And thanks for for sharing the business stuff, the power lifting stuff, the personal stuff. We really appreciate it.
Lucy Cohen: Oh, you’re so welcome. Thanks so much for having me.