Understanding What I Know

For the last few years I’ve worked as a writing coach. A coach, as I explain to all my prospective clients, is not an editor. I am not interested in fixing anyone’s book, but rather in helping them strengthen their writing and, most importantly, their relationship to writing, which is really a relationship to themselves. It’s interesting and challenging work for which I have absolutely no professional training other than having written for many years. This, coupled with an inherent interest in people’s lives and personal struggles, seems to be enough.

But it took me a while to understand what a writing coach was. As with the stories I tell, I was interested in the idea before I understood the reality. I’ve never let a total lack of experience stop from me doing anything. I hung a virtual shingle on my website, and eventually someone contacted me about coaching. She wanted to know what it was I did. I said, “Let’s meet and discuss it.”

This gave me some time to see whether I could come up with an answer. I couldn’t. We met anyway, and I started talking about writing and its challenges and she listened politely. “What is it you write about?” she asked, once I ran out of things to say.

“I write about writing, mostly.”

She rolled her eyes. “Boring.”

She did not end up being my first client. She was very helpful, however. First, she taught me that I needed to figure out what a writing coach was. More importantly, she taught me that writing about writing is not boring – at least not for me. The instant she said, “Boring,” I thought, “No, it’s not,” and then, as writers often do, I thought, “Why isn’t it boring?”

I always know something before I know how or why I know it. That’s why I write and why I coach and, really, why I do anything – to understand what I know. I don’t write about writing, you see; I write about life. To me, writing is just an experience I choose to have while I’m alive. It’s the being alive part that’s really interesting to me – endlessly interesting. Anytime I do something on purpose, whether it’s writing, or coaching, or cooking, I’m living on purpose, and I immediately understand something that seemed mysterious when I lived accidentally or habitually.

What a glorious understanding that is. Glorious, that is, until I forget it, and I find myself back on the hamster wheel of getting things done, and wondering what to do next and why exactly I’m on this planet. I could have sworn I just knew why I was on this planet. How frustrating to forget, how satisfying to remember, and how endlessly interesting this cycle remains.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group coaching.

 

Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence.
You can find William at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

Giving Up

If I am working with a client who has never attempted a book-length project before, one of the first challenges I must help this new writer overcome is the sudden and daunting awareness of how little she actually knows about this book she would like very much like to write through to its conclusion. The writer rarely sets out on her journey with this awareness. Instead, she is just excited by some idea that has become so bright in her imagination that she cannot seem to pull her attention from it.

And so one day she decides to sit down and actually begin writing the thing. The idea has been so bright and so interesting to her that it feels as though all she needs to do is set aside a little time everyday and the story should virtually write itself. Then she begins. Sometimes it takes no more than a couple pages for the writer to understand that this story is made of around 60,000 details called words, and that she must in fact choose each of those details, and that those details must fit together as effortlessly as the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

This is often a disorienting moment. The writer’s interest in the story was complete. What’s more, the feeling the story is trying to convey is complete as well. If the author is writing a story about the difference between feeling unlovable and finding love, then that profound difference is complete within her mind. But the story that is meant to share that feeling, which is made of tens of thousands of details, is so incomplete that the writer doubts if she ever knew anything.

I can sometimes be of help to these writers simply by reminding them what it is their job to know and what it is not their job to know. It is not our job to know the details. It is only our job to know we would like to find them. It is a sometimes subtle difference, but what we call failure is usually the mistaken belief that our inability to know all the pieces ahead of time means we are incomplete.

How tempting it is in the moment of this mistaken awareness to give up. The feeling of personal incompleteness is in direct opposition to the direction of life and is commensurately wretched in its expression. It is appropriate to want to give up something at this moment, but it’s not the story. Give up believing you can finish what is already whole, or fix what was never broken, and return to the business of finding what you are actually looking for.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group coaching.

 

Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence.
You can find William at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter