I shared last week that I’ve recently started with working with a writing coach, and that I’ve found it incredibly beneficial. Over the next few weeks, I will bring you interviews from a number of different writing coaches. My goal: to help you, dear readers, understand what a writing coach does. And who knows? Maybe you’ll decide it’s time to give yourself the gift of coaching, too!
I first met Kendra at a writing workshop hosted by the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Kendra led a room of 20-some writers in a series of writing/visualization exercises unlike any others I’d experienced, and I left that day with pages of free-writing and brainstorms that helped me polish my work-in-progress. Is that what she does in her coaching practice, I wondered? It depends. Read on to learn more…
First of all, I want to start out by saying that I don’t represent all life coaches or all writing coaches, and that other coaches might answer these questions in totally different ways. But I’m happy to give you my perspective.
There are a number of different reasons that writers seek me out as a coach. What they all have in common, though, is that they’ve reached a point—with their work and/or with life in general—where they feel they’ve taken themselves as far as they can go, and they need a little push. Often, these writers are looking for something that only another person can give them, such as accountability, a forum to talk openly about their work, or a confidante who understands the ups and downs of the writing life. When a writer feels ready to buckle down in whatever way he or she most needs—to get tougher about self-imposed deadlines, to unpack the issues around a block, to set goals are and start working toward them—it may be a good time to start working with a coach.
What sort of goals or skills do you work on with a client? What lies outside the client/coach relationship? (For example, writing craft, providing critiques, organization, motivation, goals, psychology)
Since each client is different, I work with each one in very different ways. I always tell my clients, I’m here to be a resource for you, so use me in whatever way you’ll find most helpful. Many clients have begun working with me purely as a resource for their writing—looking for craft guidance, deadlines, and goals—only to wind up using our sessions to talk about everything from relationships to health issues. That’s why I describe myself as a “life coach for writers” rather than a “writing coach”—I’m a coach for the lives of writers, whatever those lives may contain. When you’re a writer, everything in your life is connected to writing in one way or another, so it’s all of a piece.
Tell me about the mechanics of a coaching relationship: how often you meet, the format, etc.
My clients and I meet over Skype, which I love because it’s very convenient and we can see each other. I was trained to coach over the phone, but I’d much rather see my clients’ lovely faces! The sessions are usually an hour and they take place on a regular basis. The format of the session depends on the client—some writers come with very specific agendas for our time, in some cases even e-mailing me our agenda ahead of time, while others prefer to let the session unspool more organically. I encourage my clients to create the structure and use the time in the way they feel will be most helpful to them.
How can a writer get the most out of a coaching relationship?
My goal is to empower my clients to really use me as a resource. I’m there to offer whatever they need, whether it’s tough love, empathy, or something else—but they need to take the first step by letting me know what they need. I try to foster open communication and create an environment where they’ll feel comfortable telling me things like “I need you to really crack down on me this week” or “I need you to be gentle and flexible with me right now.”
Do you have a particular area of expertise, or something you bring to the client/coach relationship that other writing coaches might not?
As an editor who’s been working in publishing for ten years, I bring everything I’ve learned from the authors I edit and the mentors and colleagues who’ve taught me so much about working with writers. One of the reasons I became a life coach for writers was that I had gone through a lot of struggles with my own writing. Coaching other writers through their own ups and downs has been inspiring and cathartic for me, as well as an opportunity to share what I’ve gleaned from my own experiences.
Helping writers become empowered and connect with their work and themselves is the driving force behind almost everything I do in life—my day job, my coaching, the volunteer work I do, and even many of my friendships. It’s my passion and I feel so lucky to not only have my dream job, but to have two dream jobs!
Kendra Levin was inspired to become a life coach by her experiences as a publishing professional and an award-winning playwright. A graduate of the Leadership that Works program in Coaching for Transformation, Kendra has been a certified life coach for writers and other creative practitioners since 2008. She has worked with a wide range of one-on-one clients both domestically and internationally, and has taught classes, run workshops, facilitated retreats, and spoken at conferences all over the country. Please visit kendracoaching.com to find out more.