The Making of Tiny Buddha

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A few years back, Lori Deschene started posting snippets of Buddhist thought on twitter under the name Tiny Buddha. And it didn’t take long for people to notice. Her following exploded.

As I write this, the TinyBuddha account on twitter is closing in on 240,000 followers and it’s adding some 230 new followers…a day!

The rapid uptake on twitter led Lori to launch a wildly popular communal blog, TinyBuddha.com, a Facebook page with 70,000 likes and now a hot-off-the-presses Tiny Buddha book.

I was fortunate enough to get a review copy and really enjoyed it. But I was also curious about the progression of the Tiny Buddha brand, what led Lori to make to leap into booklandia and what’s driving her these days.

So I did what I normally do. I asked her. And here’s what unfolded…

1. You’ve been building a tremendous community on twitter and your blog, and at a pace that pretty damn stunning. Why a book? And why now?

I knew from the beginning I would eventually write a book, and things fell into place nicely when publishers started contacting me to review some of their other titles.

I wanted to write this book specifically because it touches upon almost all of the themes that writers (and I) explore on the site.

I’ve published stories from more than 175 contributors, and I’ve read comments from thousands of people who also communicate what they’re going through and struggling with. They always come back to the same universal issues—letting go of pain, finding meaning in life, choosing happiness, creating positive change, maintaining healthy relationships, living life to the fullest, and accepting uncertainty.

I thought it would be interesting to ask questions about these topics on Twitter and then shape the book around those insights—so that’s exactly what I did.

I also shared my own experiences in grappling with these big issues. I did that because anyone could write a book about these topics theoretically. My reflections come from my experiences, so it seemed fitting to share them.

2. Why does Tiny Buddha, the brand, exist? Who is it here to serve and how?

When I started the community blog, my main intention was to write and publish stories about applying wisdom to everyday life, especially since we live in an information-overloaded world where it’s much easier to gain knowledge than it is to utilize it.

My hope was to create a space where we all feel comfortable being open about what we’ve been through and what we’re going through, what we’ve learned and what we’re learning, so we can help ourselves and each other.

Tiny Buddha exists because we all have something to teach and something to learn. It’s a place where we can know that we are not alone—and that if we’re willing to be honest, we make a tremendous difference in each other’s lives.

3. What about for you? What does it do for you?

Tiny Buddha does exactly that for me! As I explored in my book, I spent years isolating myself in shame, thinking there was something wrong with me. Now I know we all have a choice: to hide alone or heal together.

The quote that best embodies my mission with Tiny Buddha is “If you light a lamp for someone else, it will also brighten your path.” Tiny Buddha brightens mine.

4. You get incredibly revealing in the book, at times sharing stories about your life that are gut-wrenching. Yet, you don’t go to that same place on the blog or anywhere else I’ve seen online. Why? And why was it important for you to do it here?

I’ve actually touched upon many of these stories on the blog. It’s just spread in tiny pieces over two and a half years of posts!

I’ve shared my stories this way, in bits and pieces, because I’ve tried to shape Tiny Buddha around the community, so that it’s about all of our stories, not just mine. For this reason, I didn’t detail any of my personal experiences on the About page, which explains the site’s mission. However, I realized pretty early on with the blog that I wanted to be vulnerable in my writing.

Vulnerability can connect us on a powerful level, because there are so many feelings we all experience, but might be hesitant to discuss. When we don’t open up to each other, we hold the weight of these experiences alone—and there’s no reason to carry that burden when we can instead come together to help ourselves and each other.

Not everyone will relate to my specific experiences, but everyone can relate to the universal struggles—and that’s really what my book is about. We all live our lives around the same questions, and we all need to be able to identify and utilize the answers that make sense for us individually. We can do that most effectively if we’re willing to be honest with ourselves.

5. One of the unique things in the book is how you weave answers to questions shared by your twitter tribe. So, there’s a bit of a crowdsourcing/co-creation element to the book. How was this experience for you? And how do you feel about the notion of content crowdsourcing and co-creation?

It was an amazing experience, though I have to admit it had its challenges! I collected nearly 1,000 tweets—and then I had to narrow them down, categorize them in a way that made sense, and contact all of those people to verify I had their permission to publish their responses.

I love the idea of crowdsourcing in this way because I believe it gives any work a greater sense of depth. It becomes more than just one person’s stories, opinions, or research; instead, it’s shaped by a community of people with varied perspectives and sets of experiences.

That’s one of things I enjoy about running Tiny Buddha a community blog. Many of the posts explore similar topics, but different perspectives resonate with different people.

6. What’d I miss? What should people know that I didn’t ask?

You didn’t miss much! The only other thing I’d like to share is the “Life’s Hard Questions” contest, which I’m running until January 15,2012. Anyone can enter by submitting a photo of themselves displaying the hardest question in their life at lifeshardquestions.com.

The winners will be chosen at random, though there will be a special prize for the most creative. The prizes include a Canon DSLR camera, two Kindles, and 10 free copies of my book. It’s just another opportunity for people to get involved and share a little of themselves.

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[FTC Disclosure – You should always assume that pretty much every link on this blog is an affiliate link and that if you click it, find something you like and buy it, I’m gonna make some serious money. Now, understand this, I’m not talking chump change, I’m talking huge windfall in commissions, bling up the wazoo and all sorts of other free stuff. I may even be given a mansion and a yacht, though honestly I’d settle most of the time for some organic dark chocolate and clean socks. Oh, and if I mention a book or some other product, just assume I got a review copy of it gratis and that me getting it has completely biased everything I say. Because, books are like a drug to me, put one in my hand and you own my ass. Ethics be damned! K, you’ve been warned. Huggies and butterflies. ]

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7 responses

7 responses to “The Making of Tiny Buddha”

  1. Lori says:

    Thank you for featuring my interview Jonathan! You’ve been such an amazing role model, and I appreciate that I’ve had the opportunity to learn from you. =)

  2. Tim Brownson says:

    I’d just like to add, that Tiny Buddha is an exceptional book.

    I’m pretty blase about new books on self development and tend to be critical probably as a product of reading so many. But Tiny Buddha (along with Uncertainty of course!) made me realize there is still unique content out there worth checking out.

  3. Kate Howe says:

    I love Tiny Buddha, and am so glad to see a hip, confident, “younger” (old soul, young life and spirit) take on true wisdom and depth. Thank you for the willingness to be vulnerable, and I love seeing the light and community it has attracted around you.

  4. Jeff Munn says:

    Jonathan,so glad you are featuring Lori–she’s doing great stuff and I love the intersection between what you and Lori are both doing. So much fertile ground here!

    Jeff

  5. Tina says:

    Very interesting and as always enlightening. I will seek out the Tiny Buddha and enjoy the source of a new community. Thank you.

  6. Aria Nicole says:

    Hi Johnathan,

    I was just doing a random blog search and ironically I happened upon the Making of Tiny Buddha. I say ironically because Lori and I follow each other on twitter and in all honesty, there are so many people posting things all day long. Many unfortunately fall through the cracks. So, I have not kept up with Lori and her tweets. But now after reading your blog, I will certainly get caught up and follow her more closely as I am really allowing myself to follow the same path to higher consciousness. Also, I plan to send her a message letting her know how much I enjoyed her interview.

    Bless,
    Aria Nicole

  7. jared says:

    Great interview of an inspiring lady. Just finished her book myself and Lori has been very gracious to me over the years. A very genuine soul.

    “We can’t give happiness to anyone else. But by nurturing our own thoughts, and sprinkling that sense of possibility in the world around us, we just might show them how things can be.” – Lori Deschene