I’ve recently started with working with a writing coach
And I’ve found it so beneficial, I wanted to share the love.
If you’re like me, you may not know exactly what a writing coach does, how you would work with one, or how to tell if a coach is good fit. Join us Fridays for a series of interviews with writing coaches and their clients. Learn about the wide range of coaching styles, coaching goals, what a writing coach can do for your writing career—and what they can’t do. Who knows? Maybe you’ll decide it’s time to give yourself the gift of coaching, too!
For today’s guest, please offer a warm welcome to Sue Mitchell, whose website offers a wealth of creative information and inspiration. Read on to learn about her unique approach to coaching, creativity, and life!
How can a writer decide if working with a coach would benefit them?
Writing is usually a solitary activity, and that can sometimes result in a writer going around in circles in their head and not moving forward with their work. They may feel overwhelmed, procrastinate or worry that their work isn’t good enough. When writers feel this way, a coach can help them become more productive and rediscover their love of writing.
What sort of goals or skills do you work on with a client?
I help clients with goals like finding time to write, developing a regular writing practice, managing their inner critic, generating ideas or coping with the overwhelm of a large project or too many ideas.
What lies outside the client/coach relationship? (For ex., writing craft, critiques, organization, motivation, goals, psychology)
I do not critique my client’s work. Instead, I provide a safe place to question, experiment and make mistakes. I also do not provide instruction at this time. I am developing an online class on memoir writing, but I see that as a different role for me than coaching.
My style of coaching, which follows the Kaizen-Muse model, is a way of assisting the client to discover what works for them, elevating the importance of their creative work in their lives, and keeping them moving forward in the creative process, which can be a confusing, nonlinear path. I do offer information and suggestions on the creative process that are tailored specifically to writers, but the focus is not on improving the writer’s craft.
Tell me about the mechanics of a coaching relationship: how often you meet, the format, etc.
If I will be working with a client on an ongoing basis, I like to start off with four weekly sessions on the phone so we can become very familiar with each other and to provide very consistent support as new patterns of thought and action are established. We also communicate via email between sessions as much as needed. After the first month, clients may be ready to move on to less frequent meetings, often every other week.
I also offer what I call a “Project Tune-Up.” This is a quick jumpstart for someone who is stalled on the side of the road with their writing, so to speak. We do some fun assessments and then meet once on the phone for about an hour. We develop a plan for moving them forward and then follow up via email for the next four weeks to monitor and tweak as needed.
How can a writer get the most out of a coaching relationship?
The best approach is to view the relationship as a partnership. I don’t “fix” people or tell them what to do. What I do is help them realize their own resourcefulness, provide new perspectives and tools, and support them in designing actions that feel doable and fun. To get the most out of the coaching relationship, a writer should go into it knowing that only they can do the work, and they must be patient and open to experimentation.
Do you have a particular area of expertise, or something you bring to the client/coach relationship that other writing coaches might not?
My style of coaching is very different from most. I was trained in the Kaizen-Muse model by Jill Badonsky, author of The Awe-Manac and The Nine Modern Day Muses (and a Bodyguard) and Robert Maurer, author of One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way.
The Kaizen-Muse model is all about small steps, compassion, sensitivity and working with the nonlinear and often rebellious nature of the creative process. The focus is less on the goals and accountability many coaching models emphasize and more on using joy, playfulness and compassion to motivate and work through blocks.
For many creative people, this approach results in more productivity than purely accountability-oriented approaches because it doesn’t trigger resistance and rebellion. In Kaizen-Muse, we focus on showing up and enjoying the process, which increases motivation and prevents self-sabotage.
Sue Mitchell is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach who helps writers and others involved in the creative process overcome procrastination, perfectionism, overwhelm and self-doubt so they can be more productive and enjoy their creative work. Visit her at www.YourMuseIsCalling.com to subscribe to Creative Juice, a series of fun, five-minute creativity prompts or download her Creative Block-Buster Checklist.
Don’t forget to check out previous interviews:
- The Writing Coach: Is One Right for You?
- Charlotte Rains Dixon, Writing Coach
- Kendra Levin, Writing Coach
- Cynthia Morris, Writing and Creativity Coach
Sue, I’m fascinated to learn about the Kaizen-Muse method (so much that I just ordered Maurer’s book!). I’d love to hear more about the difference between Kaisen-Muse coaching an other types of life coaching. Please chime in with questions, friends!
Sue Mitchell says
Cheryl, thanks for having me.
One of the things that really distinguishes Kaizen-Muse coaching from standard life coaching is the Kaizen-Muse Ten Tools. These are simple and practical techniques that really help a writer know what to do when they face a creative obstacle. Once you know the tools, you’ll always have strategies to turn to in your times of need. Many of them you may already know, but giving them a name helps you remember to use them!
Kaizen-Muse also uses humor, imagination and playfulness as central strategies. I dabbled in life coaching prior to discovering Kaizen-Muse, and while some life coaches may use these techniques, with a Kaizen-Muse coach, it’s a given that we’re going to make the process enjoyable for your childlike spirit (the one who rebels and resists).
Cheryl Reif says
Hi Sue, thanks so much for all your great answers! I love the idea of learning specific “tools” to aid in the creative process–like virtual swords we can wield against creativity-bashing monsters :). I feel like other types of coaches teach their clients tools to use, but (at least in my limited experience) possibly without the structure of naming them.
Hmm, and the title of your current blog post sounds intriguing, too. I often think of my life as one of juggling, usually with about five too many balls for me to keep them all in the air!
Sue Mitchell says
I didn’t mean to imply that other coaches don’t teach tools. Of course they do. I just meant that Kaizen-Muse offers a specific set of tools that distinguishes it from other coaching styles.
I do also think the naming helps. One of the tools is Reminders. So often we have successfully slain a certain monster in the past but don’t think to do what worked the next time it happens, so we create things that help us remember what we already know. Having names for the tools is a form of reminder, really.
Carole Jane Treggett says
So happy to see this interview showcasing the multi-faceted and talented Sue Mitchell, and her unique and effective work approach with clients who are struggling with getting their writing or creative projects done.
I worked with Sue for a little over a year up to a month or so ago, and let me tell you, it has truly been a life-changing experience for me! Previously I had quite the default negative mindset, trying to motivate myself by ‘forcing’creative productivity with little success or joy,like most creatives who are hard on themselves, swimming in constant creative chaos and getting nowhere fast.
Sue doesn’t offer gung-ho or popular platitudes, but instead listens and observes quite deeply, and has an innate sense of asking the right kind of questions her clients really need to hear while at the same time offering concrete, practical suggestions to try from her extensive educational qualifications and vocational background.
I’ve learned the merit of taking smaller, more consistent steps towards my creative goals with Sue(small steps is a Kaizen principle) and developing the habit of reframing the onslaught of negative inner-talk in order to try and focus on what works and even give myself credit for all the hard work I have done. This is far more effective than constantly focusing on all the ways I’ve screwed up and all the things I should have done, what’s left to be done etc.
Whoa, apologies if this ended up sounding like an infomercial 😀
Sue Mitchell says
Wow, Carole! You may have missed your calling as an infomercial writer, LOL. Thanks for sharing your successes here. As you well know, I love working with you too.
Cheryl Reif says
Hi Carole, nice to meet you! And I’m delighted to hear from coaching clients as well as from coaches. I think it gives people a chance to wrap their heads around how (and whether) working with a coach could benefit them. Thanks so much for sharing your experience!
Charlotte Rains Dixon says
How cool to find this interview with Sue, whose blog I love and visit regularly. I also love reading other coach’s philosophies on their creativity and coaching. Thanks for doing this series, Cheryl!
Sue Mitchell says
Honored to be included in a series with you, Charlotte!
I agree with how interesting it is to read about other coach’s approaches. For one thing, it really points out that there are many options available, depending on what a particular writer needs. It has also helped me to understand what differentiates my work from others, which will help me when I’m helping someone decide if my style is right for them. I would not hesitate to refer a potential client to one of the other coaches highlighted in this series if I felt they would better meet their needs, and now I have more insight into who might be a good fit.
Looking forward to more of these interviews, Cheryl!
Sue, it’s great to read this interview. You and your style of coaching have been of great benefit to me.
I especially like how simple Kaizen Muse style is and how simple you make things. Humor and playfulness matter too. I LOVE that there are no goals, task lists, and no overwhelming solutions, no frills, no glittery verbiage and no one-size fits all.
You have the ability to see the little things and make simple NO pressure suggestions which are usually offering a new way of thinking about the situation. Amazing how much more I am creating now!
Each time we’ve discussed something, you have let me know that you really listened to me, that you understand where I am. I love how flexible you are with my journey and make so much space for me to shift.
If I could compare my experience with connect-the-dots, what you have done is brought the vague dots into view and shown me that I have the pencil. Once that happens I can draw the line and create. I hope that made sense.
I do have a question for you. Today, I am upbeat and energetic. I’d like to focus this energy and accomplish some things that I really want to do. Yet focus eludes me. (I’ve taken several breaks while composing this comment for instance). Some days this is fine, but today I find it maddening. Think I’ll go outside and be in nature a bit and see if that helps. Do you have any other suggestions?
I always feel highly regarded, respected, highly valued after talking with you. It is quite a boost to my creativity. Thank you.
Sue Mitchell says
Terri, I love the idea of bringing vague dots into view and showing you that you have the pencil. That’s what I strive for, so I’m delighted you feel that way.
As far as focus, I’ve had a lot of those days when I keep getting up! When the energy in our bodies doesn’t match the “frequency” required by the task, we lose focus. Anything that brings your energy level to a place that better matches the energy required by the task will help.
Going for a walk outside is a great way to gently turn down excess energy while perking up your creativity. You know that’s one of my favorites! Did that help? If not, try asking yourself what has worked in the past. Maybe that multisensory focusing ritual you invented during our parallel work session?
Smiling because I had already remembered and asked myself “What worked in the past?” good question you taught us a while back. It works well mostly, somehow though not today. I didn’t have enough focus to answer it.
Being outside helped to ground. Thanks for reminding me of the multisensory focusing I did and how that worked. Energy in body not matching frequency of task describes it exactly. Yes, it always helps to hear your suggestions.
You are superb and very real, Sue! I look forward to working with you more.
Patrick Ross says
Kudos for profiling a truly dynamic creative, who I can only imagine is a stellar coach. I free-ride on her blog constantly; in fact, I have a link to one of her posts in this week’s Creativity Tweets of the Week!
Sue Mitchell says
Thanks, Patrick! Your Creativity Tweets of the Week were how I first found myself on Cheryl’s blog.
Miranda Spencer says
I’m really glad you too hooked up, Cheryl and Sue! I struggle so much with writing and it never occurred to me to try a less formally structured, nonpunitive approach, LOL! I love what you said about matching your energy “frequency” to the work at hand…something I’ve known intuitively but hadn’t put into words.
I read something the other day about how you have to let the creative process simmer and work its magic; you can’t just force something out because “1 pm is my daily time to write.” If you do that, the advice said, you’re only “polishing a turd!” That cracked me up but I’ve always felt that any creative task, even journalistic writing, is nonlinear by nature and takes its sweet time. So if I have a deadline, I start writing as early in the research process as possible, so all the percolation can start and by the time I need to have a polished non-turd, alot of the work has been done by my brain working “in the background,” if that makes any sense.
Sue Mitchell says
Miranda, that totally makes sense. A lot of the time when people think they’re procrastinating, they’re really incubating. I actually use the same strategy you do when writing on a deadline. I write a draft as far ahead of time as I can and then put it in the oven to bake.
On the other hand, having a regular writing time can also work well because often the epiphanies come when we’re in the process. After a bit of incubation, I’m likely to come up with something pretty good if I sit down to write, even if I didn’t consciously have it all figured out when I started. For me, it’s important not to wait until I have it all worked out in my head because it’s almost like the ideas can’t flow until they have a place to go. Your mileage may vary, of course.