What Is Coaching and Why I Do It

Yoda

You will find only what you bring in.
—Yoda

I think it’s funny that when people contact me in the interest of hiring me, one of the first things they usually ask is: “What does a writing coach actually do anyway?”

What might be stranger still is that the question can only really be answered by the clients themselves.

The short answer is that I help. With what? Well, that’s where the long answer comes in. Because every writer needs help in a different way, even if they face the same obstacles as every other writer. Discovering how to help is where I call on my knowledge and skills as a coach. And that’s also where I have to rely on the writers themselves to tell me.

Because what I really do as a coach is listen.

I listen to writers in two ways. I talk to them one-on-one, whether that’s over email or over the phone, and I read their writing. I have found, unerringly, that when you give a person the space and compassion they need to express their thoughts they will sooner or later tell you what they need. Even if they don’t know that they need it.

That’s the first part of what I do. I listen with my whole heart to the writer in front of me, through their words spoken and written, and then I ask questions, explore issues and concerns with them, and try different strategies to help them grow past the obstacle blocking their way.

The second part of coaching has to do with seeing.

Coaches work in the same field as mentors and teachers. We come to the profession because we have a deep and vital interest in helping people. And this interest usually stems from a lifelong ability to see the potential of a person beyond their present state of being.

Each one of us has a few things that we’re really good at. I have always been able to look into others and see the areas in which they could excel, the natural talents waiting to be cultivated, and the dormant ideas ready to be sparked. That’s the thing I’m good at, seeing the good in others.

As a coach, I look inside people and see what makes them shine and then I reflect their own light back to them, so that they can begin to see it too. And if they don’t have any problem letting their light shine, I help them focus and enhance it so that their light serves them (and others) in the most effective way possible.

My greatest coaching idol of all time is Yoda. He shows off his brilliant coaching skills the best in The Empire Strikes Back, from which I’ve learned a lot about coaching technique. He assigns Luke Skywalker physical exercise to center his concentration and build discipline. But while Luke is busy paying attention to running around with Yoda on his back, Yoda is intuitively working to bring the very best out of Luke. He plants seeds that only Luke’s commitment to his own potential can make flower.

That’s what I try to do with every one of my clients. They might feel like I’m Yoda on their back (especially during the first week), but they come out stronger for it in the end. Also, like Yoda, I truly believe the writers I work with have a Jedi Warrior inside of them.

It’s just a matter of finding it.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to check out:

Creative Intensity Doesn’t Have to Be a Curse

Why You Deserve a Better Audience

What Every Writer Should Know

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9 Comments

  • Reply Kara 21 May, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    Love this post! Very insightful.

  • Reply Catherine North 22 May, 2014 at 1:35 am

    I can say first-hand that you’re a fantastic writing coach and inspiration, Lauren. Before I got in touch with you, I was half-considering that my book was a waste of time and I should quit. Six months later, I’m at the stage of sending queries to agents!

    (Oh, and I’ve wanted to be Luke Skywalker since I was about seven 😉

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 22 May, 2014 at 9:15 am

      Thank you so much Catherine 🙂 I had a lot of fun working with you, and I adore your book. I can’t wait to see it in print!

  • Reply Marie Ann Bailey 22 May, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    This is really interesting, Lauren, especially since you’re a writer yourself. Makes me wonder: Do you have a coach, a mentor? Listening and seeing and then guiding a person to find that good in them to shine requires both skill and talent. From reading your blog, it’s easy to see that you are abundant with skill and talent 🙂

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 23 May, 2014 at 8:25 am

      Thank you Marie 🙂 I don’t currently have a coach at the moment, but I have had a few different mentors. Also, the surprising thing that I’ve found since I started my own coaching business is that each one of my clients teaches me just as much as I teach them! It’s like we become students of each other’s experience and it’s a very cool dynamic.

  • Reply Phillip McCollum 23 May, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Lauren “Yoda” Sapala has a nice ring to it. 🙂 All of the best coaches in my life operated by the same principles you do, so I’m sure you’re very good at it!

  • Reply hilarycustancegreen 25 May, 2014 at 3:03 am

    I’ve never seen Star Wars, but this still makes plenty of sense to me. I sometimes lose track of my Jedi Warrior, but he always turns up when things look a little hopeless.

  • Reply Paul Sutton Reeves 25 May, 2014 at 3:07 am

    You’re a great person for a writer to have on side, Lauren. Positivity’s the word!

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