The Most Important Writing Advice Is Never About Writing

Soon, though sadly not yet, I’ll be able to tell you how very much I enjoyed my interview for Kayleigh Dobbs, recent debut author and delightful mastermind behind the Happy Goat Horror website and podcast, who I spoke to yesterday afternoon (No spoilers for today, except that it will be out in three weeks’ time). 

Kayleigh was mainly asking about my writing, but she also shared with her listeners how far-reaching her writing and confidence coaching experience with me had been. She said, among many lovely other things, the ‘advice I gave her’ was helping every day. 

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‘Did I definitely give you any advice?’ I asked.

She realised, of course, that I hadn’t. 

Coaching asks questions, clarifies authentic, individual answers, and strategises for success based on what success means and looks like for the individual client. So, mainly what I had done was clarify: what Kayleigh wanted in writing, what she wanted in life. It’s powerful questions that stay with a client, along with the curiosity (which is what true confidence feels like) to hold and ask themselves about their circumstances, and objectives, every day. 

While I do step into the shoes of writing mentor at Roehampton University, Riverside Studios and in mutually agreed, clearly defined areas with private coaching clients, I am a coach first. Coaching, unlike mentoring, is not telling you how to use the equipment (although its results may well do). It is designed to be what one of my favourite authors on the subject calls a ‘thinking partnership’ (Nancy Kline, Time to Think), one in service of and focused on the client. It discovers, in a space of curiosity, what’s behind your choices, so you can make them based on what you truly want. 

Advice, when it does come in the coaching relationship, comes from the one person who knows the client best (and whose voice emerges in the dedicated, confidential and safe time and space, honestly, curiously, and without judgement): not the coach, but the self.

The best writing advice – like the best life advice – isn’t advice.

Last Christmas I talked (and mimed) about this on Instagram and TikTok with the video series The Best Writing Advice is Never About Writing. The best advice, which we can be there for other writers with, is all about how we treat ourselves. That’s what ticks beneath our writing – and, especially, beneath our lack of writing. It’s so easy to think we can give the car petrol as a reward for the journey. You’d never do that to your real car. Yet we can be so good at treating our own bodies and minds exactly that way. It doesn’t make us bad people. Usually it means we’re trying very hard to be good. 

Above all in coaching, what I hope my LAMDA students (six to eighteen years old) and my writing, speaking, life and confidence clients (eighteen to eighties and nineties) have in common as a result of their time with me is, like Kayleigh, that they’re noticing rather than judging their writing, thoughts, feelings and behaviour; treating today as the first draft it is, reading it back honestly to themselves and creating choices for the next version with deepened understanding of what they fear and strengthened focus on what they want. 

This is my Creative I-Dare-You to myself this week and anyone who wants to join me:

I dare us to spot the permission we are looking for in others to take time to write, or to do whatever other acts of self-investment fuel the car – and give ourselves that permission. And see (as we already know we will) we’re a better partner, parent, friend, colleague, writer and speaker for taking the time to refuel.

Read about coaching here or join me at the Writers’ Gym this week:

Monday 13 May, 11am-1pm: The Writing Room. FREE for everyone on my mailing list. Time and space to think and write with likeminded people. No expectations, no readings, just an open chat box and unmuting for ten minutes’ chat at the end.

Tue 14 May, 12.30-2pm: Writing the Self Find the story at the heart of the experience and the skills to share it with the audience you want. 30% off for members. Free for Writers’ Gym founder members and VIP members: type your discount code where indicated.

Wednesday 15 May, 12-1pm: InkCouragement Webinar Bring your writing and confidence questions for anonymous, supportive and practical tailored personal training. Free for Writers’ Gym members: type your discount code where indicated.

Thursday 16 May, 7pm-9pm: Your Creative Writing Toolkit at Riverside StudiosJoin me in person at Riverside Studios. Book with discount code CREATIVE20 so they know you’re a member or friend of the Writers’ Gym!

Friday 17 May, 11am-1pm: Writing Room EXTRA Members only: please check your Voxer messages for the link.

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