Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Writer's Block

Given the number of blogs proliferating around the world every day, it's hard to imagine that anyone ever has Writer's Block. But as I've seen how often it afflicts even the professional writers among my life coaching clients, I decided to put together a little list of the tools that have helped me make my deadlines (most of the time) with a minimal amount of aggravation. Here it is:

Writer’s Block
You don’t have to be a novelist, a screenwriter or a playwright to run into the brick wall known as Writer’s Block. It can suddenly materialize as you’re trying to finish a term paper. Or put together a corporate report. Or write a speech, or a song -- a book report or a letter home.

And that’s not all. Think about the added calories that surface when Writer’s Block takes the form of going to the refrigerator, or raiding the pantry? Or the talking-heads, cable-news addiction that distracts you from the keyboard.

So what’s a person to do? Here are five basic techniques to help punch some holes in that Writer’s Block brick wall. Used on a regular basis, they can even chip away at the foundation that makes it possible for the wall to exist:

1. “Never look at a blank page.” Hemingway said it, and he was right. That was in the days of manual typewriters, of course, so the phrase, contemporized, should read, “Never look at a blank page, or a blank screen.” Put something on the paper -- or the screen. Anything.

2. Edit, rewrite, revise. In the recording business, they say, “We’ll fix it in the mix” – the post production process that makes everyone sing in tune and all the musicians sound perfect. Writers have the similar technological blessing of word processors. With word processing, it’s a snap to change a word, move a phrase, run a spell check, consult a thesaurus. All of which means that, as noted above, anything you write, however inadequate it may seem, can be gradually developed into something far more acceptable. (That’s not just a contemporary technological approach. Beethoven rewrote one of his string quartet themes 19 times before he found what he was looking for.)

3. Avoid ramping up. The difficulty of getting started, day after day, can be the very thing that keeps you away from the keyboard. The solution: know what’s coming next. In other words, when you finish for the day, don’t stop at the end of a chapter, or a verse or a section. Stop in the middle. Then, when you come back the next day, you’ll be up to speed from the very first moment.

4. Get feedback. Writing for your eyes alone is little more than literary masturbation. Eventually, we’re all writing with the goal of having some sort of impact on someone else. So why not start early, getting reaction along the way from someone you trust – a spouse, a partner, a lover, a friend, even a writing group.

5. Write. It’s as basic as that. Writers write. (And composers compose, dancers dance, painters paint, etc.) In other words, regularity is the key, even if your writing consists of a single project. If you set aside a certain amount of time every day – and make it as sacred and unchangeable as brushing your teeth – the results will astonish you.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Life Coaching < > Personal Therapy

Life coaches are frequently asked about the differences between their profession and the practice of psychotherapy. And the answers are probably as numerous and diverse as the individuals who are replying. A few years ago, Coachville, Inc. -- the largest organization of coaches in the world -- formed a study group of coach therapists to describe distinctions in technique and philosophy between the two fields.

I don't agree with all the conclusions reached by the study group, but a few of the comparisons hit home. Consider these:

Life Coaching: Personal evolution. Therapy: Personal strengthening

Life Coaching: What's next? What now? Therapy: Why me? Why this?

Life Coaching: Life dynamics Therapy: Cognitive/behavior patterns

Life Coaching: Choose goals and actions Therapy: Issue resolution

Life Coaching: Co-creation Therapy: Therapist-Patient

Life Coaching: Self discovery Therapy: Pathology

The study makes numerous other comparisons, but they all tend to support similarly different templates -- Life Coaching as a dynamic, forward looking partnership, Therapy as an analytic, inner seeking, past oriented relationship between therapist and patient.

As a trained clinical psychologist, I'll be among the first to acknowledge the importance of both disciplines, and the unique roles played by each. There are many people who can achieve productive results in either Life Coaching or Therapy, or by a combination of both. For myself, I can't imagine functioning effectively as a Life Coach without the therapeutic perspective I bring to my clients. But I'm also glad to have the action-oriented, pro-active tools of coaching available for use at all times.