FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CREATIVITY COACHING
1. Be honest – just how woo woo are you?
Ah, a splendid question to ask when you are trying to guage whether a coach is a right fit for you! It’s hard to quantify woo woo-ness, but here’s what I can say that might help:
On the one hand, I have deep respect and love for the mysteries of creativity. In my own life as an artist, I tend to experience creative practice as a form of communion where I enjoy deep connection to myself, the world, and something greater than all of it (The collective unconsicous? God? Goddess? Source? I don’t personally feel a need to name it – I just know the difference when I feel connected to it or separated from it.)
I also have great appreciation for the voice in my head that tells me what color to reach for or that insists on putting a rooster where no rooster would ‘logically’ go. I also get a thrill from the inexplicable synchronicities that occur when I’m on the right track in my life – the people I run into, the books that cross my path, the ephemera that seems to “magically” appear on my work table when I need it, etc.
As a coach, however, I am pretty pragmatic. I’m far more interested in helping people create the conditions that support their joyful and effective creative work than in espousing any particular theory of where creativity comes from or how it works – whether that theory is mystical or scientific.
For example, I watch with both fascination and suspicion the ongoing scientific efforts to locate creativity centers in the brain. Our brains are awesome and the research is interesting, but I frankly don’t meet a lot of everyday smart, creative, multi-talented people who are super- frustrated by not being able to picture the precise neurons that are firing when they have a good idea – they tend to be exponentially more frustrated by not having cultivated a life that holds open the time and energy to translate that good idea into something real.
I see life and creativity as cyclical and as guided by deep internal forces. I don’t spend a lot of time parsing whether those deep inner urges are conscious, pre-conscious, sub-conscious, measurable on an MRI or implanted by faeries, muses, or aliens. Human experiece tells us that creativity exists, that art-making is a physical, biological urge similar to other basic drives and that art in all forms saves us, elevates us, and has the power to make life worth living.
So, at the end of the day, what matters to me is whether you have a positive relationship with the creative urges that have chosen you to move through, and whether you are feeling good about your ability to translate those urges into results that make you proud and satisfied. To me, that isn’t woo woo at all. But then I did spend 8 years living in Southern California, so perhaps my woo woo-ometer is a bit skewed.
2. What do you see as the biggest challenges that creative people face?
First, let me say what I think the biggest challenge ISN’T. Some creativity coaches, I've noticed, focus 90% of their attention on the inspiration phase of the creating process. They are specialists in helping people “jump start your creativity” or "generate 100 new ideas," etc. Which is fantastic if a surfeit of creative ideas is your actual challenge. But I bet it isn't.
My experience is that “lack of inspiration” is kind of a fantasy problem – one that is really fun to solve, but is actually slightly beside the point for the creatives I know. Yes, of course, sources of fresh ideas and new perspectives are critically important for any creator – of course they are. But the folks I work with tend to have no shortage of ideas, projects, and inspirations. In fact, they have closets full of projects and buckets full of ideas for what they’d do if they could ever finish those.
In my experience, the challenges that creative people actually grapple with include...
- Designing a life that meets our financial needs AND supports our creative processes.
- Lining up the time and energy for focused creative work
- Discerning whether our dreams of ditching our careers and pursuing a more creative life are just escape fantasies or something more
- Prioritizing among an array of project possibilities
- Staging elaborate and exhausting inner battles with our grandiose or too-small ambitions, our fears and our inertia
- Making, then breaking, elaborate work schedules that leave us feeling exhausted and untrustworthy,
- Managing the energy storms that can accompany the high points in our creative cycles
- Losing confidence with our projects and ourselves
- Getting hung up on perfectionist fantasies
- Forgetting we have permission to play
- Playing it small
- Feeling inadequate to the creative challenges we set for ourselves
- Confusing the hell out of ourselves by procrastinating on projects we swear we are committed to completing
- Getting close to finishing something really cool, then walking away and leaving it hanging at the brink
- Freaking out when it comes time to share our work with the world
- Freaking out when we think about maybe never sharing our work with the world
How’s that for starters?
3. How is Coaching Different from Therapy?
One of the most typical distinctions that people point to when answering this question is to assert that therapists work with “unwell” people towards emotional healing, while coaches work with basically “well” people towards higher levels of functioning and achievement of goals. Along with this comes an associated idea that therapists tend to work more with material from a person’s past and attempt to get at root causes of troubling issues, while coaches tend to work with material from the client’s present moment and support movement into the client’s desired future.
In my opinion, neither of these notions hold up very well under close scrutiny, as there are therapists who absolutely work with their clients to understand and remove obstacles to accomplishing their life goals, and there are some coaches who work at the level of emotional healing, and sometimes work with material from a client’s past as a way of gaining insight into fears and other blocks that may stand in the way of moving forward.
As a creativity coach, I can specifically say that I, unlike therapists from some schools of thought, tend to inquire into a client’s experience of depression with the knowledge that a powerful source of depressive throughts and feelings in creative people is the experience of being separated from a flow of meaningful creative work. NOT creating is a powerful depressant. It follows that I will tend to see efforts by a client to cultivate a regular creative practice or to follow through on creative projects that hold personal meaning as a key step toward feeling less depressed.
As a creativity coach, I also understand that there are forms of anxiety that are absolutely part and parcel of the creative process. I view this “creative anxiety” as part of the material that all creatives must learn to manage as part of their creative life, and not as evidence of disorder or illness.
As a coach, I am not trained to diagnose or treat mental illness, emotional disorders, or substance abuse. As a professional coach, my responsibility is to communicate to you when I feel that issues you are reporting or experiencing are outside my competency, and refer you to therapy.
4. Do you ever meet in person with clients?
No. I coach exclusively by phone or web, with email support between sessions. If you have a preference for face-to-face interaction, I'm happy to meet via Skype. If you are most comfortable communicating by email only, that’s fine, too. My first coaching clients were all email-only and we accomplished a lot! These remote modalities allow me to work with clients across geographic distances and at most-convenient times. Using these communication modes also allows me to live and work on my beloved Whidbey Island – an important part of the life design that works best for me.