Yes, I’m your coach.
No, I won’t comment on your creative work.
This is hard to understand, because I am not only your coach, I’m your creativity coach. There are several reasons, so let’s get the one you most suspect out of the way:
1. It doesn’t matter what I think. What if I tell you your creative project is horrible and I don’t like it? Will it destroy you? Why? Because one person doesn’t like it? What if I say it’s wonderful? Will my opinion validate you? What if I tell you it’s wonderful and then it doesn’t sell? Does that make me wrong? Does it make you wrong? Will you quit doing your creative work? That’s the worst choice. So my opinion doesn’t matter. Not about the meaning-making of your work.
2. You are paying me to coach you. Critiquing is a different service. Most clients think that once they’ve hired me as a coach, I can provide many services–adviser, researcher, conscience, authority-figure-to-fight-with, editor, marketer, problem-solver, and idea-provider. I can, but I probably won’t. As your coach, my major service is to keep you in action in service to your own creativity. To give you a clear place to take a stand. To let you discover who you are and what your purpose in life is. I don’t give advice. It’s a bad idea. It gives you the idea that I’m responsible for your decisions, when I am not. You came to me because you were stuck in one place. Discovering your next move is your work, and I support you in that. I will toss out ideas for you to consider, but they aren’t advice. They are generally perspectives you can’t imagine yourself, but you will.
Yes, I provide marketing communication, editing, writing, problem-solving and idea-providing to businesses. And I charge them for it. All those services are separate, and my non-coaching clients pay for them.
3. I’m a coach, who understands the slippery work of creativity. I know about the danger of discouragement and the spike of “making it” and the long stretch of creative fear in the middle. I’m not an art/music/film/fashion expert. If fashion listened to me, there would be no 5-inch spike heels, none of those silly platform stilettos without heels, and none of those ankle boots that make women look as if they had ahoof instead of a foot. There are many things that work well, and become hugely popular, even if I don’t understand them or think they would be financially successful.
4. Writing is not about getting published. This is the hardest to understand. I am a writer. And writing is not about getting published. Writing is about writing. A born writer won’t quit, even if I tell them their story stinks. That’s how I know they are writers. Writers want to say something, even if no one listens. Being a writer is a struggle, and that’s the part I’m supporting and making accountable. The rest is details.
5. Because you need to build confidence, not gather encouragement. That’s the heart of the reason. You hired a coach to be able to create a change, work through change, live with change. Or learn why you can’t and live with that. There is a difference between what makes meaning and what will sell, and both have merits. That’s your work. I can’t do it for you. All the stories, the examples, the agreement in the world won’t amount to anything if you don’t do the work. Ah, and that’s the horrible truth. . .I won’t do your work. I can’t do your work. Doing your work is how creative people succeed and live their lives. It’s all about you. And I know that.
—Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach who helps people through change, re-invention and transition. Her book Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art has made it to the #1 slot on amazon.com’s Mixed Media division and #3 in Creativity.