FARGO — Several years ago, Lisa Gulland-Nelson set out to draft a fiction novel during an eight-week intensive writing course. Yet, what poured out of her was something entirely different.
Instead, Gulland-Nelson penned a nonfiction empowerment book called "You Have Permission" aimed at inspiring people to give themselves the opportunity, and most importantly, the permission to live what's in their heart.
"In my book, I use the metaphor of a secret garden. The idea is that we have these dreams inside of us and over time, we may have pushed them aside to tend to the dreams of others," Gulland-Nelson said. "Now, it’s time to go back into our garden and pull back the weeds to get to our true heart’s desire. Through the book, I talk about the ways we push our dreams aside and ways to get back to them."
The book itself is a dream for Gulland-Nelson, even if the end result is different than the book she originally thought she'd publish.
"In a way, it feels like I've been working on this book my whole life," she said. "I always meant to publish the work, but it took me a few years of editing and working with mentors to really feel like I could practice what I was preaching. The culmination of my work is exciting, fun, humbling and terrifying."
Gulland-Nelson has been honing her writing and marketing skills full time as the chief communication officer for the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation. She's also a wife and mom of two, so she carved time out of her evenings and weekends to finish her book and also practice what she was preaching, so to speak.
"I have a wonderful husband who is very supportive and that helps immensely," she explained. "t’s definitely taking some juggling but life does when you have kids. This project inspires me and when you are doing inspired work, it fuels you more than it tires you. It’s been fun, challenging at times, but fun."
Gulland-Nelson acknowledged how crucial her family's support has been, and she delights in her son's excitement about her accomplishment. "(He) thinks we’re going to buy a private island," she said. "He knows how to dream."
And that's a good thing. Gulland-Nelson hopes dreaming is exactly what her book inspires other women to do and pursue by taking even the smallest steps.
"We can light up this world with the fire of our passions," she said. "I believe that is how we 'save the world'. We are worth it, aren’t we?"
The process of writing and publishing a book is daunting, but Gulland-Nelson is happy to have put the work into the project and watch as it is released into the world.
"This has been my heart’s desire. And it’s been scary, but it’s worth it," she said. "There’s a song with the lyrics 'these words are my diary screaming out loud, and you’ll use them however you want to. . .' That’s how I feel about this sometimes and that’s okay."
She's facing those fears with the realization that so many women hold themselves back from pursuing a dream because they worry others can't handle the full version. And she wants other women to realize they don't need to do that.
"Let’s live in the present moment and allow our inspirations to drive us to the biggest versions of ourselves," she said. "What have we got to lose? Or maybe the question should be . . . what have we got to gain?"