Kendra Levin is my guest today on The Blabbermouth Blog. She is a senior editor at Viking Books at Penguin Random House, a certified life coach, an author, and a teacher. Kendra helps writers and other creative artists meet their goals and connect more deeply with their work and themselves. Kendra’s new book, The Hero Is You, goes on sale November 1st.
5 Tips for Being Your Own Life Coach for Writers
I’ve worked in the publishing industry since 2002 and in that time, I’ve had the pleasure and honor of working with dozens of authors and writers from seasoned bestsellers and award-winners to first-timers. But when I added “certified life coach” to the “special skills” section of my resume ten years ago, I had no idea I’d end up using coaching so much in my work as an editor at Penguin. I’ve discovered that just about every person who picks up the pen—whether professional or aspiring—could probably benefit from a little life coaching.
Here are five ways to be your own life coach.
LISTEN TO YOURSELF.
The most fundamental act a life coach performs is being a good listener. When I listen to a client, I’m not just listening for what the person is saying on the surface level; I’m listening for the deeper agenda, what’s under the surface of the words. Listen to yourself. What are the deeper themes you might not realize you’re trying to explore in your work? What is your piece trying to be?
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK YOURSELF TOUGH QUESTIONS.
As a coach, it’s my job to ask clients questions that will help them investigate themselves, not necessarily make them feel happy and comfortable in the moment. So rather than asking yourself a judging question (like “What the hell am I doing with this chapter?”) try to come from a place of natural curiosity (“Wow, I wonder what’s going to happen in this chapter! How will I resolve these plot dilemmas? I’m so curious to find out what the solution will be!”).
GIVE YOURSELF SPACE.
Hold silence for yourself as a writer: when there is a question you don’t have an immediate answer to in your writing, don’t push yourself to immediately resolve it. Instead of rushing to tie up every loose end right away, hold the silence and see what bubbles up gradually.
BE WILLING TO THROW YOURSELF A CURVEBALL.
If you find yourself feeling stuck, be willing to consider a massive change to your work or a hyper-ambitious challenge to your process. Even if you decide against it, you may renegotiate—“I won’t try to finish the manuscript this month, but I will set a more aggressive goal about finishing it in the next three months”—and in doing so, find a way to refresh your thinking about the issue.
Remember to treat yourself the way a good life coach treats a client: with compassion, respect, and boundless faith in your potential. Judging yourself helps nobody, and nor does punishing or browbeating yourself if you don’t meet your exact goals. You are not perfect and nobody expects you to be. You are a beautiful work in progress, and you are making progress all the time.