The Power of Writing Intentions – A Mother’s Day Story

For a very long time, I missed sharing Mother’s Day with my Mom. We lived far from each other. For 32 years, from the time I was 21 until the time I was 53 years old, I lived about 1000 miles from my Mom.

At one point I thought I would move closer to my parents, when I moved back to Illinois in 1990 working for IBM in Chicago, but my Mom got a tremendous job opportunity to work at the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and she took it.

Later my parents moved to Florida and San Antonio in their retirement. These were good moves for them and nice vacation spots for me.

We would also travel together from time to time.

Mom on our trip to Paris in 2014.

Through all the years, my Mom and I talked on the phone once a week about our lives and our future.

Sometimes, I would notice how hard it was to be so far from my Mom.

I didn’t have the luxury of living near my parents when my kids were young, and I was a single parent. That was a tough time, but I had meaningful conversations with my Mom every week and visits at Christmas time and beautiful trips to natural parks with my sons.

Walking among the Redwoods in 2009

As my Mom grew older, she began to have conversations with me about her death, and how I probably wouldn’t be able to be with her when she died. She likes to think through everything.

It seemed to bother her that I wouldn’t be there. Yet, we both accepted the idea that I wouldn’t be with her at the end of her life.

Gradually, my Mom began to call me on a daily basis after my father died in 2008. I started to worry about her. I knew something was changing, and I wanted to help, but I felt that I couldn’t do anything.

It was about this time, that I added an intention to my yearly intention last.

Every year since 1995, I have created a list of intentions/vision statements that had no date attached to them.

For example, after I divorced, I would write: I have a peaceful, supportive relationship with my ex-husband. Many intentions seemed to work.

The intention that I added for mother was a rather outlandish one:

My Mom lives with me in California and we love cooking meals together and looking out at the Redwoods.

Every year, I imagined living in a beautiful home and cooking with her in a magnificent new kitchen. I wrote these knowing that my Mom loved living in San Antonio and never wanted to move to California. Probably the most outlandish part is that I don’t love to cook. I guess, I just liked the idea of a beautiful kitchen.

I am not quite sure why I wrote this intention for several years, but I kept writing it every year.

Our lives changed drastically in March of 2015. My Mom had a heart attack and stroke, when she was 85.

My brother and his family were on vacation out of the country when this happened, and I flew down to be with her in San Antonio. Through a series of unusual events it became clear that my Mom wouldn’t be able to thrive in San Antonio anymore. I asked her to come and live with me, and after some careful consideration, she chose to move back to Illinois.

It felt strange to have this particular intention come true.

My Mom still doesn’t want to live in California, but we have visited there since she moved in with me. One of my friends told me our house looks like a California chalet, so maybe this is as close to California as we will get. We don’t have a magnificent new kitchen, but we have a warm and friendly house.

Mom with us on a family vacation to Cape Cod in August 2018

The last four years have been some of the best years of my life. I never realized how much I missed having someone who loved me unconditionally with me every day.

Being a caregiver isn’t always easy, but our shared life is good. There are times when my Mom drives me crazy, but I am very lucky that we are two peas in a pod in so many ways. My Mom keeps active and optimistic, which is wonderful, and makes everything easier for me.

I believe more than ever in the power of writing intentions. Intentions are some of the most powerful writing we can do. They are like prayers in writing. You can’t force them to happen. Sometimes, it’s when you least expect an intention to be possible, that it becomes a reality.

So, go ahead and write intentions that seem unlikely to come true.

When you remain unattached to how the intention will be fulfilled, you never know how or when life will bring those intentions into being.

My Mom and oldest son earlier in April 2019

Do You Think Your Life Story Matters?

Too many of us think that the destiny we have created through luck, accident and choice, is not a story worthy of being celebrated and written for someone else to read.

Yet, when you think about the people in your life who are no longer alive to share their story with you, don’t you wish that they had taken the time to share more about their feelings, thoughts and perspectives?

This year, I would like to suggest that you take the time to write your destiny, maybe a little book at a time.

Make it easier for your significant others, children, family and friends by contemplating your life in a bigger way than you maybe have ever allowed yourself to do before.

You may have read about Swedish death cleaning, where men and women in Sweden during their middle age clean out their homes so that they don’t leave junk behind for their family to have to handle when they die.  

A Celebrate Your Life project is another idea to consider as you grow older.  Have you shared your wisdom, your perspective, and your love with the people that matter most to you?  There are many people who would love to know more about your challenges, your joys, triumphs and what you learned from failure.

My suggestion is that you write a short 40 to 50 page “book” with photos, drawings, sayings, and the story of your life highlighted in an easy to read format.

I’ll be sharing more about an easy way to do this in January.  

As we close out another year, a tumultuous for many of us, give yourself some time to think about your life story.  If you had to summarize your life experience in a few pages, what are your big themes?  Who are the people that made your life worth living?  

When you think about it, your life has been incredible, and maybe it’s time to write your destiny for others to appreciate.

As a Writing Coach, How Do You Find Your First Clients?

What do you do when your coaching practice is a blank slate?

In the last year, I received several inquiries about how to get started generating income as a writing coach.  Today, I’m sharing a rather long response, with the sincere hope that it will help those of you who might like to become a writing coach, but wonder how to get started.

First, for truth in answering, I’m not a great person to teach marketing of one’s skills and talents.  So much of my work as a writing coach comes from word of mouth, serendipity, happy past clients, and requests to help on certain projects.  My experience is rather haphazard, in terms of a career trajectory.

This is why I am recommending a few marketing coaches, who by the way, are not paying me a dime to recommend them.  When I use affiliate links, I let you know.  The people I recommend in this article are coaches I’ve worked with directly.  I have used their materials, and they offer approaches to marketing that are genuinely innovative, inspirational and helpful.

The following ideas are suggestions based on my experience and observation of other writing coaches.  Hope these nine ideas expand your ideas of what is possible for you:

  1.  In the beginning, be willing to do different kinds of writing coaching to see where your skills might be most needed.  For instance, you may think you are a great editor, and should focus on that one skill, when maybe many of your clients actually need an accountability coach, which from my experience is what a lot of writers need (and that includes professional and experienced writers).
  2. Work with hubs where your clients hang out.  (See Tad Hargrave – Marketing for Hippies for a great resource for marketing of all sorts!  I had worked with hubs prior to reading Tad’s work, but never realized that’s what I was doing.)

Examples of hubs for writing coaches could be:

  • Professional writer’s societies
  • Writing conferences
  • Online writing groups
  • Libraries
  • Local Coffee Shops
  • Spas and resorts
  • Local business organizations
  • Any places where your clients may show up

When I suggest that you work with hubs, I mean begin by donating your time and talents, to become known as a resource to the hub, and then offer your services.

As a recent personal example, I serve on a Sustainability Board for my city, and ended pulling together and writing a significant portion of the update of our sustainability plan in 2016. This was entirely pro-bono work, but I knew it would not only keep my writing skills fresh and increase my connections to my local community,  it was something that deeply mattered to me.  This project also was part of my ongoing attention to expanding my own writing portfolio.  The people on the team know of some of my skills by seeing what I offered.  This isn’t a perfect writing coaching example, but gives you one idea of how to work with a hub, in this case, a local government board.

3.  If your financial situation allows, pick and choose the types of clients and projects that you will accept.  Sometimes, you need to accept any work you can get. At this point, I prefer to work with men and women who care about the sustainability of our planet, small business owners, healers, artists, teachers, earthkeepers, overall folks with a good heart.  Tad Hargrave would call this defining a niche.

4.  Keep improving your writing and coaching skills.  This may mean working with other writing coaches to see where your writing could improve.  We all have our own approach to improving our writing, but generally we need editors to help us refine our work.  Learning to be your own editor is very important, and helps you work as a coach.  Since part of being a writing coach is helping your clients improve their writing, it’s important you know how that is done.

5.  Understand your client’s pain.  Much of marketing tells us to focus on our client’s problems and challenges.  My experience as a writer and a writing coach tells me that writers encounter these problems regularly, meaning there are continuous opportunities for coaching writers through:

  • Loneliness
  • Resistance
  • Fear of Failure
  • Fear of Success
  • Fear of Being Seen
  • Learning How to Proceed When You’re Stuck
  • Inexperience
  • Lack of Marketing Skills
  • Challenges with Grammar, Sentence Structure, etc
  • Difficulty in Finding Your Voice

These are just a few common challenges. As a writing coach, you can help with all these areas or focus on one or more of them.  You might ask yourself, how have you overcome these problems?  See if you can discern a process that might be useful to teach others as a writing coach.

6.  A few words about credentials.  Some writing coaches have degrees from fantastic universities, numerous coaching certificates, best-selling non-fiction books or novels.  Almost all writing coaches have experience creating finished projects such as books, user guides, e-books, grant writing, marketing materials, novels, short stories,  or poetry.

As a writing coach, one of your goals should be to understand how different kinds of writers finish writing projects. Your credentials and portfolio matter, but showing how you can help writers finish their projects through your blogs, magazine articles and videos might help you more.

My advice is don’t go and get a credential just to become a writing coach. If you want a MFA for credibility or your own personal growth, that’s fine, but that alone is not necessarily going to get you clients.  Your ability to help other writers with their problems and finding their bliss is a better focus  If you’re set on getting accredited in some way, consider coaching while you’re working on building your credentials.

7.  Understand your client’s bliss.  Many of my clients work with me because I understand what brings them joy.  In my experience, many writers write for the joy of:

  • Creativity
  • Expressing Their Voice
  • Learning About Themselves From Writing Their Story
  • Completing Long-cherished Dreams
  • Sharing Their Wisdom
  • Developing a Sense of Competency
  • Expanding A Sense of Connection to a Community of Readers

Remember that one of your overall goals as a writing coach is to help your client experience the joy of writing.  If you can help people find the joy in writing, clients will want to work with you again and again.

8.  Marketing our skills is often a challenge for many of us, and I don’t claim to be an expert in this area, though I have helped scores of businesses to write marketing materials.  Maybe you have found this to be true — it’s often easier to help someone else market their products and services than yourself.

A marketer who has helped me to open to the joy of marketing is Mark Silver of Heart of Business.  His is a spiritual approach to growing your business that I deeply admire and recommend.

9.  My last tip is observe and learn from the work of writing coaches that you admire.  I find many different writing coaches to be helpful.  See what you like about their programs, processes or systems for working with clients.  You may find that the writing coaches you encounter are missing something that would make them an even better coach. Become the kind of coach that you wish existed!

For the last year, I have been focusing on several writing projects and building up a program I call The Listeners Path.  This work is still very much in the beginning stages, but is the culmination of the wisdom I’ve gained in my many years of experience in writing, sustainability advocacy, coaching and project development.  I am very excited to be developing this next phase of my career.

One of the programs I offer through the Listeners Path is called a Season of Living Well, which is a monthly program that I customize for the particular group of people working with me during that season.  Since I’m doing some writing coaching this season, there is going to be more focus in this Season of Living Well on completing writing projects, and writing as a restorative practice from March 20 through June 21 2017.

In general, the Season of Living Well process begins with a quick project questionnaire. You then work with me to create daily and/or weekly targets as part of seasonal project goal, receive a weekly check-in letter and a monthly video from me on energies of transformation, as well as a monthly group teleconference.  You don’t have to be doing a writing project.  Almost any project, can be advanced significantly in 3 months.  If this sounds interesting, check the Season of Living Well program out here.

If you would like to learn more about my work, and receive ideas on how to live well in our deeply connected world, I would love to have you join my free Listeners Path newsletter here.  The newsletter is the primary place,  where I will be sharing writing, coaching and lifestyle tips during 2017.

I hope today’s post offers some helpful ideas for those of you who have an interest in becoming a writing coach.  There are many great writing coaches out there.  You could become one too!

The Problem with Writing as a Means to an End

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Is it time to spice up your writing practice?

A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them.

William Stafford

Writing can help you as a source of income.

Writing can help plant seeds of intention that eventually blossom into a new lifestyle.

Writing can help solve long-standing problems in your life, your community, and in our world.

The problem with achieving writing goals is that it’s satisfying for a while, but not too long, based on my experience, and several authors I know.

We get our first article published, or make our first check as a professional writer, and after a time, the enchantment of reaching an external goal wears off.

But hopefully, the enchantment of writing as a practice starts to take hold.

After writing most days for over 20 years, I have found that the biggest value of writing comes when I view it as a practice.

Every writer is different, we all have our own practice of writing.

Some writers have a natural ability and drive to see writing as a practice.  They neither glorify or diminish their writing.

You have probably heard about writers like the poet William Stafford (1914-1993) quoted at the beginning of this post, a former poet laureate of the United States who consistently awoke in the wee hours each morning and wrote a poem every day for as long as he lived, which resulted in a prodigious output of over 20,000 poems and 60 books.  Or the business writer who happily writes copy or product guides and user manuals for her whole career.

For me creating a practice was more of an accident, than intentional.  I started to notice that I didn’t need to meet any goal to keep writing.  I found that daily writing protected my sanity on those days when life crushed my spirit.

Over the years, I observed that different writers practice writing in whatever way that suits their soul’s calling and development, and that trying to copy someone else’s practice didn’t work.

Whether you write for someone else, for your own business, for yourself  or as a creative artist, nothing is more helpful for your development than taking the time to periodically review the state of your writing practice.

If you want writing to be your destiny, you have to practice.

Today’s contemplation:  What is the state of your writing practice now?

One of the great joys with my business, has been helping writers to expand their writing practice as a coach.  If you’re interested in learning more about how to develop your writing practice in a way that suits your life and goals, click here.

 

How do We Keep Improving our Writing Practice?

Writing Your Destiny picI spent over a decade of my life as a professional business writer. Add to that my years as a Sustainability Director at a non-profit in Chicago, which required that I do a lot of grant writing and create many types of marketing collateral,  I did a lot of writing.  Even during my years as a product engineer, writing was a big part of what I did to make money.  And during all these years, I appreciated editors.

I never had much problem in receiving criticism on ways my business writing could be improved.  It wasn’t difficult to keep a distance from my writing.

Creative writing is different for me, but probably shouldn’t be so much.

Many years ago, I took a few classes where my creative writing was critiqued in workshops, and I mostly hated the process.  I can’t really imagine getting a MFA where my creative writing would be workshopped and made to fit some mold.

Yet, I have to admit that I will need an editor for my novels.

I have been refining and editing drafts of my novels for years.

This year, I will finish the first novel, because my attitude about writing the novel is beginning to feel like it did when I was writing professionally for someone else.

I have stopped thinking of my creative writing as needing to be perfect or precious.  I want it to be beautiful, which I believe is a different focus.

Thought for today:  How do you view your writing as less precious, so that it can be edited and refined to be the best it could be?

Your Writing Practice in 2016

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Life was not always a trip to the beach in 2015, but we did visit several of them last summer!

If there’s one thing that was reinforced in 2015 for me, it is that life is very short, and frankly that writing is NOT everything.

Love is more important than writing. Friendship is more important than writing. World peace is more important than writing.

However, in my opinion, writing is one of the best practices for bringing enchantment into our  life and the lives of others in a lasting way.

We can share beautiful ideas that live long after we’re gone.

People who we will never meet, can read our creations for long after we’ve left this plane of existence.

Some people literally save lives with their writing.  Human and earth creatures.

So, we want to make sure that what we write has a positive impact.

Except sometimes we don’t write what we should.

In my case, I have written some things that I regret.  Scathing letters to people who annoyed me.  Articles that were perhaps too cliché or trite.  Or marketing brochures that were not all that clever. My writing skills need a lot of improvement in order to be able to write the novels I want to finish this year.

This year, I want to focus on improving my writing, mostly my creative writing.  I’m hoping some of you will come with me on this adventure during 2016.

Today’s question to ponder:

What part of your writing practice do you want to improve this year, if any?

What does slowing down to accomplish more mean to you?

Most of us have heard at one time or another in our lives, that we need to slow down to accomplish more.  This is common Be Here Now, zen advice, to slow down and focus on one thing at a time.  It’s great advice!

But . . .

I would like to suggest that slow and steady is always a good practice, but it means different things at different times in our creative cycles.

Those of you who love writing, have undoubtedly found times that your pace of writing varies.  Often, day to day, we find ourselves moving with a different rhythm.

But when we’re looking at using writing as a tool for creating a better destiny, it helps if we give ourselves permission to have different rates of slow and steady focus, which means that we need to take some time to understand our own rhythms, and the transforming outer cycles that are working on us.

You might want to check out my post on Creative Cycles and Your Energy, which discusses what slow and steady progress means at different times in our creative cycles.  When it comes to creating our destiny, we have to know that it’s normal and human to require different approaches to slowing down at different times in our lives.

This week, I’d love to hear from you.

This week’s contemplation: 

When has slowing down helped you to create more goodness in your life?