How To Write an Allegory With Jordan Gross

Jordan Gross - Writing an allegory

Would you like to write an allegory?

An allegory is basically a story that reveals a hidden meaning or moral. One great example is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

An allegory isn’t necessarily as long as a novel, but it should leave the reader with an understanding of a key concept or idea. An allegory is a little like self-help, except in the vein of a story.

Jordan Gross is author of the allegory The Journey to Cloud Nine and a TEDx speaker. He’s also a prolific non-fiction Medium writer. In this interview, Gross explains:

  • The problems with traditional self-help books today
  • Why he veered away from this genre
  • How to write an allegory
  • What it took to land a TEDx speaking gig
  • How he’s selling copies of his new book through public speaking  

And lots more.

I start by asking Jordan why he decided to write the allegory The Journey to Cloud Nine in the first place


Bryan Collins: So if you could start Jordan, by telling me why you decided to write The Journey to Cloud Nine in the first place.

Jordan Gross: Yeah, absolutely Bryan. So I need to backtrack a little bit. So this is my second book, The Journey to Cloud Nine. And my first book was a self published book called Getting Comfy: Your Morning Guide to Daily Happiness. And it was what I did the month after I quit my corporate job. So I was still looking for jobs casually, kind of taking a little bit of a break. And I said I've got all this content based off of personal development, books that I've read, and podcasts that I've listened to and now why don't I put this content into a book format. So that's what I did. And I thought I was this 23 year old kid who quit corporate America.

Jordan Gross: I went to fancy universities. And here I was with this morning routine concept. I thought I was going to be a New York Times bestseller right off the bat. But obviously I learned very quickly that that's very challenging to do. So when I self published the book, something that happened was that my friends weren't reading it. They were just supporting me, but they weren't reading the book because they told me that they didn't want to learn about my morning routine. They didn't want to read self-help because they didn't want to be told what to do. Right? And I think that's why a lot of self-help doesn't necessarily work as effectively as it should because people want their own insights.

Jordan Gross: People want to make their own realizations about their own lives. They want to be their own person. Right. So when I came up with the concept for living life on cloud nine and The Journey to Cloud Nine book, I did a ton of research for about six months to nine months. Interviewing people all over the world about the key ingredients of living life on cloud nine. How you have a cloud nine moment, day, week, life, whatever it is.

Jordan Gross: And I got all these insights and I found some key themes and patterns and I did research about euphoria and ecstasy. And I said, "Okay, I have two potential avenues to go down now." I can either do the same type of self-help book that my friends won't read and just share these insights and create like an acronym like I did with the first book or just share different interviews like I did with the first book. Or I can do something a little bit different, right?

Jordan Gross: And I can basically trick my buddies into reading my book by sharing my findings in this entertaining fictional story. And that's what I did with The Journey to Cloud Nine. I basically created this character who is not living a cloud-nine life. And then I juxtapose all the decisions he's made in his life that were not so cloud-nine with what his life could have looked like had he chosen the cloud-nine lifestyle through everything that I learned, right? So I'm by no means telling the reader, here's what you have to do. I'm showing them by using emotion, by using characters, by using the plot, exactly what your life could or could not look like as you go about the book and go about your own life.

Bryan Collins: What struck me about the book is it reminded me of Paulo Coelho in that it feels like an allegory.

Jordan Gross: Yeah, I'm so glad you said that. It puts a big smile on my face. My favorite review that I've received so far is that it's a millennial version of the Alchemist. So it is... I'm not going to run... I'm 25, so I'm going to write based off of what I know and to my own peers. But yeah, that's one of my favorite books of all time is the Alchemist. And I like to write what I consume. So I was reading a ton of self-help up until about a year ago and I got bored of it. Honestly, I was like there's contradictory advice and all the information's getting overwhelming. So why don't I try to just read a fun story. And I picked up the Alchemist and I said, this is how we sustain our long-term personal development by getting our own insights from these kinds of stories. So I said, "Well, why don't I give myself a try at writing a story just like this?"

Bryan Collins: And did it take long to write because that's quite a challenging... Or quite a challenge you set out on to create an allegory.

Jordan Gross: Yeah. Exactly. This is the craziest part of this entire experience. November, 2018, I had the idea to write about cloud nine and I was done with the first draft by January 1st of 2019. So it took about five weeks to put it all together and I kid you not, you know the state of flow, right? Being in flow.

Bryan Collins: Yeah.

Jordan Gross: I didn't think it existed because I'd never been in it, but when I was writing The Journey to Cloud Nine I could sit at my table for 11 hours straight and forget to go to the bathroom. And I drink a lot of water. So I go to the bathroom a lot. And it was just crazy. The words just kind of poured out of me. I would reread the next day, what I wrote the day prior and said, "Who's that guy writing that stuff?" Because it was just such a surreal type of writing experience.

Bryan Collins: And I know you said you were working for 11 hours, but on a typical day, what did it look like? You would get up at what time? And you would write for how long?

Jordan Gross: Yeah, yeah, so a typical day writing for me, for The Journey to Cloud Nine is actually waiting until the end of my day in order to get started with the writing because I liked to take the experiences from my day and see if I could weave any of the stories or the people or the scenes that I saw in my everyday life into the actual allegory. Right. So I would go through a whole day of writing on Medium and LinkedIn and all that and coaching and speaking whatever else I do, and then around 6:00 PM, I would go to the Starbucks near my house. I would sip on a tea and one day I would do a bunch of research based off of the chapter that I wanted to write.

Jordan Gross: And then the day after, I would write a full chapter and then the day after that I would