People hire a coach for myriad reasons. Most of the clients I’ve worked with showed up at the initial session expecting me to have all the answers. They might be stunned to realize how much they have taught me.
I’ve written about the definition of coaching and how I misunderstood it. More recently, I shared the methodology used in the certification course I’m taking.
But let’s revisit the things we learned from a coach in our childhood.
My basketball coach had skills. He knew tons of drills. It was his job to keep a play book and know the rule book. He passed along the things we needed to know.
But being a writing coach is less like that and more like being a trusted friend.
So what have my clients taught this coach?
To Listen Deeply
With some clients, this took patience. They came to the session with questions of their own, and no one likes having their question answered with a question. Am I right?
Even though coaching is NOT therapy, it’s imperative that a coach listens as thoroughly as a counselor. What am I listening for? To hear the truth a client might not realize for themselves.
In most sessions, I reflect back what a client says more often than I offer original thoughts.
To Ask More Questions
Some people don’t want to ask questions because it feels impertinent. Or maybe they’re afraid it makes them look like they’re not that smart.
For a coach, questions help us learn more about the client. They help us dig a bit deeper to what might be causing a block or hindering forward progress. In fact, if I don’t ask more questions, it will be harder for my client to have a breakthrough.
When someone asks a question, we look for an answer. Sometimes, we say the first thing that pops in our heads. Most of the time, I’ll have a follow up for that easy answer. “What else?”
Because until we dig deeper into what makes us tick, we’ll never find out how to navigate the hazardous mine field of creativity.
How Much I Don’t Know
It’s not like I didn’t already know I didn’t have all the answers. Sometimes, I don’t even know what questions to ask to help someone find the right answer.
But I believe my client has the answers they need. No one knows their story better than they do. Another writer’s process might work as a starting place, but the longer I write, the more my process evolves. The same is true for every client I work with.
Yes, I have experience being published and independently publishing books. That doesn’t mean I even know all there is to be known about those paths.
Thanks for humbling me. I think I needed it.
How Much I Do Know
And then I say something like that.
Believe me, what I don’t know outweighs what I do at a ratio of four or five-to-one.
Still, I’ve walked this publishing path since 2014 and I’ve been writing for decades longer than that.
Experience taught me plenty. Some of those lessons can be translated and adapted by my clients. But I need to ask, “Would you like me to share what works for me?”
Because I have worked with a few clients who didn’t need any of my insight. All they needed was for me to ask about theirs.
To Think Deeply
This could be where the sneakers slip on ice. As writers, we often think deeply about our characters, our audience, our market, our plot, and lots of other writing-related issues.
Sometimes, we don’t think deeply about what really matters: our why. And if our current project satisfies the parameters created by our reason for writing.
When I ask clients about their why, I’m forced to revisit my reason for writing. As I listen to their problems and pain points, I have to decide what questions will probe in the right area to illuminate the tree across their path.
Most people don’t want to access the abyss of their mind and soul, but if we’re going to write compelling stories that connect with readers, writers can’t be afraid to take the plunge.
Like the list we’re encouraged to make as we count our blessings, the issues troubling us could go on for many pages. Hopefully, you get the point I’m trying to make.
A coach might have skills and drills, but they still have plenty to learn. Especially in the world of writing.
What is something you learned from a surprising source recently?