Friday, January 16, 2009

Put Me In, Coach!

ROBERTA: Today Jungle Red Writers is delighted to welcome special guest Jill Crossland who comes to us from Alberta, Canada. Jill is a life and business coach with a particular interest in the issues of women over forty. (She is also a fellow Australian shepherd lover!) We thought Jill would have interesting insights and suggestions for writers in this publishing climate--and nonwriters too! Welcome Jill!

Before we launch into questions, please tell us a little about life coaching--what you actually do, how you're trained, and what kinds of folks seek your help.

JILL: Thank you, Roberta for inviting me to be a part of your blog. By the way I love the name.

To answer your question, coaching is about helping people with a situation that is taking place in the here and now. Coaches help their clients to be motivated, think through strategies and find solutions. The women that come to me are usually looking for guidance as they move to the next level in their life or business. My decision to become a Life Coach evolved from my own midlife transition. I trained through Coachville and am a member of the IAC (International association of Coaches). A coach also brings her résumé to the table. I have a well rounded professional and volunteer history behind me.

ROBERTA: As I'm sure you're well aware, getting and staying published in this market is difficult and stressful. How might you approach helping a writer who is feeling overwhelmed and discouraged?

JILL: First, make sure that your work space is conducive to the creative process. If your desk is cluttered with household bills and a couple of rejection letters this is going to compound those negative feelings. Your office should be all about you and the book, nothing else. Then create a team, if a weekly house cleaner or baby sitter gives you the time that you need to write then they are worth the money. Stay away from the naysayers; make sure that all the people that you connect with are supportive. You may love your best friend but if she is saying “maybe you should go back to work” keep your distance until your confidence is back. Also seek out other writers, as they understand what you are going through.

ROBERTA: Let's talk a little about writers block and procrastination. How might you go about helping a writer who's stuck?

JILL: I think that there is a tendency to retreat when one is stuck, when in fact taking a break from the typewriter or laptop and going out into the world is probably the better direction. Stimulate ‘those little grey cells’ by sitting in a busy cafe, doing something else creative, take a drive or go see a movie. If you do prefer to stay in your office, find a way to re-connect with the subject matter or characters – perhaps by re-reading your original outline. Remember where you where when the first seed of the book started to grow, how you felt and more importantly why you wanted to write this particular book. Then don’t censure yourself; just let words pour out unedited or perhaps stimulate your thought process by using a different writing method such as pen and pad or tape recorder.

Procrastination often stems from fear and that fear is rooted in the big picture of the end product. “What if I cannot find a publisher” or “Maybe no one will read my book”. Realistically those issues will be dealt with at the right time. For now stay in the present; set daily goals to help overcome those thoughts. Go into your office with a specific intention; “Today I want to have Harry tell Veronica the truth about………….” or “I will finish working on the research I need for chapter 10”. These things are doable and will keep the work flowing.

For self-motivation it is important to create a realistic schedule with your needs written in. Even if some days are exceptionally busy, giving yourself one hour to write is better than nothing.

ROBERTA: I noticed that you called your midlife a transition not a crisis; could you talk a little about the special challenges and opportunities that women in midlife face?

JILL: I think that the word crisis has such a negative connotation and while midlife can be a difficult time, women inevitably come through it stronger and more defined. We not only overcome the physical changes but mental and even spiritual ones. For many women one of the biggest challenges is the loss or redefining of their roles and subsequently getting to know ourselves again. Luckily though as this is not our mother’s midlife; there are many opportunities to transcend ourselves through travel, starting a business or following a passion, such as writing!

ROBERTA: What would you say to a new writer?

JILL: Dream big but think realistically; it is normal and healthy to visualize your name & book title on a best seller list but keep your feet on the ground.

When one has created something there is always an emotional attachment and I think new writers need to remember that there is going to be a practical business side to getting published. They will have to make some tough decisions. Be pro-active from day one. Start by asking yourself “Who is my reader?” Think about reaching them through the virtual world. Create a blog or website to give you and your book a presence, look for virtual book clubs, submitted excerpts to relevant online publications, meet groups through Skype and tele-conferencing, there are limitless ways to gain publicity. Lastly don’t overlook where you live for networking opportunities. It is not the same as being signed by Random House but it is a start.

Roberta: Thanks for stopping in to JRW, Jill. I'm going to start today on that "stay in the present" thing!


  1. Welcome to JR, Jill,

    What a great topic, for everyone, but especially writers. Feeling very much a writer-in-transition, I am listening attentively to all your advice -- especially the part about not procrastinating. One thing, I might add though. The downside of Internet networking to writers is that it is a terrific procrastination tool!

  2. Hey Jill!

    Thanks so much for coming to coach us. And help us learn to be our own coaches.

    I've had the same job (and love it) for the past 30 years.. and now am exploring what life may be like in a completely different world. What is the same is that there's a lot of competition..and I'm way too competitive. (Or I guess I should say: I've very competitive.)
    Any pathways to undo that? A bit at least?
    Welcome welcome

  3. Thank you for the welcome.

    You are right Jan you have to be very careful when it comes to internet networking. It is important that there is a well laid out plan in place for internet marketing. A hit or miss approach will only lead to frustration and time wasted.

  4. Hi Jill,
    All great advice, and deceptively simple as the best advice usually is. After all, even Roger Federer has a coach, right?

    I'm working on my third book now - no idea how Sue Grafton has written 20 in the same series..
    Any tips for keeping the experience - not just in writing, but anything - fresh?

    Roberta - I love the musical reference..are you ready to play centerfield?

  5. Hank, I just took a look at your blog. Your career is very impressive. I don't know you but it seems that part of what got you to where you are today is that very competitiveness.

    Unless you are feeling frustrated, I would say come to peace with it. It is a key part of who you are and one of the great things about getting older is embracing all of our characteristics whether others may view than as a flaw or not.

  6. Rosemary -

    I am going to answer your question as a reader and a coach. I think that the core of the freshness is in the life that you are leading.

    Pieces of your lifestyle, travels and philanthropic work would make Paula very interesting.

    Sometimes what we are searching for is closer than we think.

  7. Jill. Thank you. Letting go and accepting is a good thing. Love it. So I'll just relax and embrace my competitivess. And laugh at myself a bit more.

    And I'm really the BEST at doing that. Better than anyone. ;-)

    Thank you!

  8. Your coaching is so kind Jill--that's very refreshing!

    Hank, you are good at laughing--that's a wonderful trait for those of us who are very intense.

    And yes Ro, Centerfield would be great!

  9. I wanted to thank you all for having me here today & a special thank-you to Roberta for inviting me. .

    As Rosemary commented many of the answers were simple and logical. When you work with a coach that is often the first step; to peel way the emotions, doubts and complexities so that the client can examine the issue clearly. It is from that point that change can occur

    My other life secrets are; have a sense of humour, balance both your feminine and masculine side, create your own support team, take care of yourself and listen to your instincts.

    Now I need to find some extra time so that I can read some of the books that you all have written!

  10. Jill! Email me your address (go to the website and click on contact)..I would love to send you my books! What a terrific and valuable gift
    you have given us with this blog..thank you!

  11. Thank you for confirming my suspicions - that I needed to let the naysayers slip into -- or past -- the periphery of my life. Some I have known for a very long time, and they wonder why I don't remain in touch like I did. But their energy is wrong for me now.

  12. Hi Jill (if you're still listening) -

    One of my resolutions (and I suspect others') for getting more writing done is limiting my internet time, so I didn't catch this until Saturday.

    I definitely have a problem with my work space, currently infected with college booklists to order online and notes from my newspaper job. I now have a laptop at my disposal, since the kids who used it now have the ones they needed for college. I'm considering working out of the house, away from the phone, etc., at a library or bookstore.

    My bigger problem is coping with the scope of the project. An article or short story is so "doable" compared to a novel. I have a rough frist draft, but a lot of research and rethinking to do to bring it up to publishable quality. And there's always another short story deadline coming up to use as an excuse not to work on the novel. I'll try the daily goal method. Any other suggestions to overcome the intimidation factor?

    I'd appreciate any suggestions from Jill or the JRW community.


  13. I'm still listening, Mo. I like this blog so the ladies may have a hard time getting rid of me. You asked a number of questions so I am going to do this list style.

    1. The most important thing about being organized is finding what works for you. There is no harm in hiring a professional organizer or reading a book by Julie Morgenstern but don't follow the advice to the letter, shape it to fit your personality and habits.

    2. Workspace: Take away all the inactive family/personal stuff and just box it for now. Find another area of the house for the active family paperwork. Put your past work projects into a file cabinet in your office

    3. Buy files for your active professional work. Colour code ie green files for articles, blue for short stories, red for the novel, you could even get another colour for the research but you get the idea. If you want to be really organized buy three different in-boxes for each of your work projects.

    4. Sometimes excuses or reasons why we don't do something become the comfortable place to be. Each day take at least 30 minutes to do something towards your novel, then increase the time as the feeling of being overwhelmed lessens.

    5. There is nothing wrong with working out of the house but you still need to have a functioning work space to come back to.
    Also, think about this if you are willing to let the answering machine take messages while you are out of the house, why not let it serve the same function when you are home writing?

    Final suggestion: I’m sure that your kids put some miles on that laptop. Take it to a geeky IT person, have him clean out what you don’t need & set you up with a browser, email and programs that will have you functioning efficiently.

  14. I think one of the best pieces of advice I ever heard was, "Even if you only write a page a day, at the end of the year you'll have a book." Facing a blank page is so daunting, especially when you have to come up with 399 more! So I love that advice about dealing with each task at hand, it's so true, and really the only way to progress without driving yourself mad!

  15. Thanks for the great way of looking at midlife, as a transition rather than a crisis!

    But, I will say, it's a good thing we don't live together! My best working atmosphere is what I call barely controlled chaos. I thrive in that atmosphere and can't abide clear, sterile (to me) spaces! To each her own. Thanks for the post.

    -Kaye George

  16. Hey Michelle, Hey Kaye, great to see you here! And it's so interesting to see how we're all trying to work out how to get done what we want to accomplish and what we need to accomplish. I talk about one page a day all the time in a wonderful way to put you in control.

    And Kaye, I'm a charter member of the piles of files club. But recently, I've sort of..moved away from it. I didn't work on changing. It just happened.

    And yeah, I think we're going to have to adopt Jill and bring her back all the time. Thanks so much for all your valuable advice and insight!

    Tomorrow..the one bright spot in the publishing downturn??

  17. Thanks, Jill! And thanks JRW for inviting her as your guest. I'll post a progress note later. - Mo

  18. Wow, Jill, what great advice!

    Staying in the present. Self acceptance. Mid-life transition. The items we all seem to need to be reminded of on a daily basis.. nay hourly basis.

    I figure it's all part of our (my) humanness and the issues we (I) need to confront.

    Well, late to the party again - but then I go back to item 2, self acceptance and voila... all is well.

    Hank - if competitiveness propels you - I say long live competitiveness... true story. I am ALWAYS motivated by the combination of your drive and your ability to laugh!!!

    Jan - I figure the internet is like alcohol. A drink or two is not a bad thing. I bottle is a bit much.

    Roberta - yeah, some coaches think they need to be drill sergeants!! To me the most powerful coaching - accepts the person where they are. As a coach you are a mirror, so it becomes important to be accepting. What I know for sure is that I need to accept myself where I am at.. zits and all. From that vantage point I can make choices - if my coach points out the zits and accepts them, that's really not an issue... it raises my self awareness and then I can make choices around the issues. How valuable is that?

    Ro - Totally agree - good advice is deceptively simple. Reminds me of a saying I had on my desk when I worked at Ford ... "God made the simple things to confound the wise".

    Hi Michelle - I have started "The Tunnels" you sent!! Pretty scary, though. Not exactly bedtime reading for me. By the way loved "Iron Man". It was way better than I expected.

    Mid-Life Transition. Yes. Reminds me of that definition for the difference between a recession and a depression. When YOU are out of work it is a depression. In a similar way - when it's your life - it can feel like a crisis. However, again I go back to item 2 - self acceptance. It's really okay to move on. It's really okay to be someone you have not known yourself to be... hey man... it's called living. Baseball players choke up on the bat.. we can all be affected by it... it's what we do with it that makes the difference... and brings us to the next level.

    And, Jill, thinks so much for the advice - my novel is exactly about mid-life transitions and in the case of my central character, being fettered by money. Bummer, all the money in the world and guess what? She's still not okay... what's a transitionee to do???

    Great blog as always JRW and thanks so much Jill for dropping by!!! I am remotivated myself to stay on the track I set for 2009, by employing your coach comments!!!