I was helping out a friend. And, if I’m being totally honest, I have to say I was intrigued. I can’t imagine being able to justify hiring a Life Coach, either to myself or Bubba. It seems like such a frivolous, privileged thing to do, and my life is pretty damn good. But the notion that someone could look at my life objectively and help me figure out where to go from here is pretty tempting. I am a person who likes a road map. Give me some expectations and I will deliver the goods. Give me some vague idea of a goal and trust me to figure out the details by myself and I’m scared. What if I don’t do it right? What if I make a mistake along the way? What if I waste precious time mucking about and learning things other people already know?
So when my yoga instructor announced that she needed to complete ten hours of Life Coaching in order to get her certification, I leaped at the chance. You know, to help her out and all….
At our first meeting she explained that she was there to help me with whatever I wanted – solidifying career objectives, clarifying personal relationships, creating emotional health, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, etc. And so I began by talking about what is nearest and dearest to my heart – writing. I talked about my need to create balance in my life so that I can have time to write consistently in the midst of parenting and managing the household. I talked about my first book project and how the research and writing lit me absolutely on fire but the agent-querying/selling/marketing portion gave me the creeps.
It took her all of five minutes to break it down. She asked some insightful questions, many of which I have answered before for prospective agents and publishers. She wanted to know why I wrote the book and what my ultimate goal was for it. I explained that I write primarily to create dialogue around difficult issues. My purpose is to offer the reader a perspective that seems unique at first but becomes universal. I want to get people thinking about their own lives and how they relate to others and prompt them to talk to others about those situations. Being able to make money is so far down the list of priorities (Bubba is cringing right now, poor guy). It makes me feel almost dirty to look at creative ways to convince people that they ought to pay me to write like this.
I know that money is how we express worth in this culture and, if I’m being pragmatic, I spend a lot of my valuable time writing and thinking about writing and engaging in dialogue with others. The thing is, doing so is part of what makes my life so full. I believe that, in this currency of worth, I deserve to be paid for my time and efforts. It is just that asking for that feels skeevy. I was the girl who felt bad hawking Girl Scout Cookies to my neighbors. I felt as though I was intruding on their lives in order to make money (even if the money didn’t necessarily go to me, personally). If they came to me and asked, I’d gladly sell them as many boxes as they wanted. But going to them always made me wonder if they truly wanted the cookies or if they felt coerced. This could be part and parcel of the fact that I have a tremendously difficult time saying no to little entrepreneurs attempting to sell me things.
In any case, Jen was able to re-frame the entire situation for me. She fully accepted my discomfort with “selling” the book to an agent or publisher. She asked how committed I was to “sharing” my work with the world and I assured her I was. I fervently believe that this subject is one that desperately needs the spotlight of dialogue in American society and would be thrilled if my book could help spark that.
“What if you changed the focus from ‘selling’ to ‘sharing’?”
It took a moment to sink in, but when it did, it was like a drop of food coloring in a glass of water. The notion spread out and filled up the space. Yeah. In effect, selling my manuscript would achieve the goal of sharing the message. If I hone in on my desire to spread the word and see selling the book as a means to that end, it suddenly feels much less smarmy. And even, dare I say it, exciting.
I’m so glad I could help her out.