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On The Table Read, “the best book magazine in the UK“, Michael Waters talks about what inspired him to write his new book, Becoming Guise-Wise.

the best creativity magazine in the UK, the best book magazine in the UK, the best arts magazine in the UK, the best entertainment magazine in the UK, the best celebrity magazine in the UK, book marketing UK, book promotion UK, music marketing UK, music promotion UK, film marketing UK, film promotion UK, arts and entertainment magazine, online magazine uk, creativity magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed Michael Waters about his life and career, what inspired him to start writing, and the work that went into his latest release, Becoming Guise-Wise.

Tell me a bit about who you are

In pure biographical terms, I could tell you that I had a wonderful childhood in Kent, that I have two (fabulous) grown-up daughters, that I’ve held senior positions and gained reputations in the worlds of education and personal development (I wrote the world’s first general guide to personal development – The Element Dictionary of Personal Development) and that I’ve worked with many hundreds of different organizations on all kinds of projects. I could also add that I’ve trained and coached many people (some well-known) on making tough decisions; a national newspaper dubbed me “The Decision Doctor”.

At the risk of sounding ridiculously arrogant, I think the most significant thing about me is that I seem to be entrusted with some of the mega-ideas the world most needs to act on. One of these is about the need to (and how to) achieve big things quickly, a phrase which forms part of the subtitle to the book I published at the start of the first Covid lockdown: The Power of Surge. The pandemic and natural disasters amplified by climate change are exactly what I had in mind as “big things”. I’m the founder of Surge Studies (

Michael Waters on The Table Read
Michael Waters

Another mega-idea is there in my latest book, Becoming Guise-Wise. It’s all about the need for all of us to shift from a difference-first default for responding to others to a commonality-first one, so as to massively increase compassion, kindness and neighborliness, massively reduce conflict, division and polarization, and have a heap of other benefits – improved mental health among them.

manuscript editing

When did you first WANT to write a book?

I used to write small “books” when I was very young, but only for my own and my family and friends’ consumption, of course. At 23, I became the first teacher in the UK to teach A Level Communication Studies, and really wanted to write a manual for that.

When did you take a step to start writing?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write, but I started to write for publications when I was in my early 20s. I wrote articles on all kinds of matters for, among others, New Society (sadly, long extinct), the TES and various training and management magazines. I think the first serious academic article I had published was for the Journal of Garden History about The Conservatory in Victorian Literature.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

My first book was The Garden in Victorian Literature, a scholarly tome based on my PhD thesis. Writing the two-volume thesis probably took six months, but turning that into a book (mostly through contraction) probably took less than a couple of months.

How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

The timescale is complicated. I had the idea at least seven years before I completed the first version of the book, and that was largely because I researched it extensively, got involved with many kinds of relevant sectors and developed the theory myself. I decided that the first version was too big and academic, so wrote a very different kind of book for a much wider target audience. That took me around six months, but it was nearly two years from start to finish (publication).

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Becoming Guise-Wise?

I felt impelled to write it because I knew that most of our problems ultimately came down to how we respond to other individuals and groups, and that was mainly the result of first and foremost noticing difference. I was convinced that we had to start responding first and foremost to what we have in common. My particular concern was to provide what I believe is the simple but profound strategy for doing this.

Again, this is likely to make me sound as if I’m purporting to be the next messiah (which of course I’m not) but I believed Jesus’ admonition to love our enemies and our neighbours was missing something: the “how”. Writing Becoming Guise-Wise is my contribution to the how.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Becoming Guise-Wise?

There were a number of challenges. One, the one I mention above, was not to appear to be claiming to have the ear of God, though I did think that I had been entrusted with a message that had to be shared as widely as possible. Another challenge was going beyond the almost platitudinous idea that humanity is all one. Many people have said this, but my concern was showing how to put it in practice in a simple way all of us could do.

The fact that the message was essentially simple meant that I could (arguably) have packaged it in a simpler format – an article, a YouTube video or something similar. I wanted it to be a (short-ish) book, so I hope I’ve met the challenge of making a powerful case simply without unnecessary elaboration or repetition. A linked challenge was making the book sufficiently rigorous and substantial to support the case I was putting forward without reducing its accessibility. I wanted it to be a book most “ordinary” people would find very readable.

Becoming Guise-Wise by Michael Waters on The Table Read
Becoming Guise-Wise

I was also very much aware of a different challenge: deliberate, mischievous or careless reading. I was at pains to point out many times in the book that I was not disregarding the significances of differences and diversity, only that commonality should take priority. I suspect some readers – including those with vested interests – might unwittingly or even willfully misrepresent me. It’s a risk I felt I had to take. 

The #1 Writing Tool

What was your research process for Becoming Guise-Wise?

The book distils a great deal of reading, particularly books/articles on humanity, relationships, perception, identity, conscious evolution, peace, conflict, personal and trans-personal development. But a lot comes from observation and my own experiences including, as I make clear in the book, through working with organizations where I have helped to bring about profound change through the relentless focus on one thing – often one question.

How did you plan the structure of Becoming Guise-Wise?

Some structural elements emerged in the course of writing, but I started off with a broad and probably fairly rational template. I knew I would have to devote the first section to identifying the root cause of the problems that bedevil us and highlighting those problems themselves, and then move onto the solution and the benefits that would flow from it.

I knew that later chapters would have to detail the specifics of the strategy I propose, an argument for and evidence of its efficacy, and further ideas for putting it into practice. This seemed like a fairly obvious and logical sequence.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Becoming Guise-Wise need?

Not a great deal. The book was “professionally” edited (ie by the publisher) but, to be absolutely truthful, some of the editing work was sloppy and careless, and I had on a number of occasions to point out egregious editorial errors, such as missing out chunks of text.  It was frustrating and delayed publication.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?

Do some market research to ensure that what you have in mind has not been covered many times before. Or be confident that what you propose has something original about it. Of course, there are endless books about the same thing out there, and it’s a wonder that some at least get accepted, but it will serve the cause of a would-be author to have something new-ish to offer.

The other piece of advice I would give is: Don’t write it if you need it to make you a lot of money. If it does, then great. But don’t commit months of your life to a writing project that is all about revenue generation. There are easier and much less risky ways to generate income.

Finally and most obviously: steel yourself for rejection responses. I’ve been very, very fortunate; most of my books have been accepted by the first publishers I approached, but I approached those who specialized in the subject matter, which certainly helped.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

Yes. I have an e-book in the pipeline. Its working title (though likely to be its actual title) is: Should I, Shouldn’t I? The Best and Easiest Way to Make a Big Scary Decision.

I’m also two-thirds of the way from completing a book I’m calling The Delightist’s Handbook. As the title suggests, it is all about how to delight other people.

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

Yes I am. I’m proud of all the books I’ve written (and contributed to), mostly because they are there to serve the world and other people – to do good and have a positive impact. I have no interest in personal fame or glory; I try to stay below the social media parapet (as you’ll see by the limited links below).

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

LinkedIn: Michael Waters: Innovative Thinker        Twitter @SurgeDoctor (Rarely use Twitter)

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