Drinking our own champagne

07 Jul 2015

How We Avoided Our Own Traps While Writing ‘The Coach’s Casebook'  

About a year ago we set about writing a book together about the most common traits which we encounter when working with our coaching clients. We believe that all of these traits have the potential to be beneficial but also have the potential to limit and trap our clients.

Perhaps we should have foreseen this but, as the writing process was coming to an end, we looked back and finally noticed that, over our time writing together, we had faced all of the twelve traits that we had written about!

Back in February 2014, Geoff approached Kim with a number of ideas, one of which being the idea of writing a book together. Kim had been procrastinating about writing a book for years , and one of the reasons for her procrastination was that she didn’t consider herself to be an author - her own version of Impostor Syndrome. This meeting, and the fact that Geoff had previously managed to write and self-publish a successful book, provided the spark and confidence for Kim to finally set the wheels in motion. In deliberate homage to those years of procrastination, and the fact that we love irony, procrastination was the very first chapter we wrote!

Kim admits that she was initially driven by fear as she was tired of being the only speaker at events who didn’t have a book. We quickly created a ‘towards’ motivator by making a mock back cover for the book which gave us something positive and motivating to aim for. Interestingly though our motivational drivers seemed to change throughout the project as, when things got on top of us, the prospect of not finishing became our primary motivator. In retrospect we wish we had started the process of creating the front cover earlier as this would have re-energised our ‘towards’ motivator.

One of the key lessons Geoff learned with his first book was that it is much easier to write the wrong thing quickly than attempt to write the perfect thing straight away. Even though this was difficult for two people with streaks of perfectionism, it was a deliberate strategy that we adopted and the book has gone through a highly evolutionary process since its inception. We were so pleased with ourselves that we had avoided that trap that we almost failed to spot its re-emergence towards the end of the project when we were 99% done. We spent almost as long getting from 99% to 100% as we did getting from 0-99! And still there’s probably a typo or a mis-placed comma somewhere (just don’t tell Kim if you find it!). Part of this last-minute perfectionism was a reaction to our late performance anxiety, worrying about what the public would think about what we had done and what effect that might have on us. Thankfully, our cross-section of reviewers has given us a very good idea of the likely reaction (or so we hope!)

While we are talking about proof-reading, we both admit to having our heads somewhat in the sand about the effort required to get something from “written” to “publishable”, something that we both intuitively knew but failed to accept. This was our moment of Ostrich Syndrome!

In any new working relationship there is often a period of “finding your feet” and ours was no exception. Both of us are fiercely independent people with a strong people pleasing trait and so took a little time to get used to challenging each other while simultaneously worrying about upsetting each other. These traits also became apparent during the review process when we found ourselves anxiously awaiting what the reviewers would say about the next chapter, hoping that we would have pleased them, while also protective of what we had written and sometimes being too keen to incorporate their feedback.

One trait that we didn’t expect to have to deal with much was cynicism. We are both optimistic people with faith in human nature but when we came up with the idea of including interviews with successful people in the book the cynical reaction we got stunned us. Many people told us “that won’t happen”, “nobody will do that, and certainly not for free!” but we were subsequently overwhelmed by the generous responses we received from interviewees.

We have even experienced a number of losses during this project. We both had to let go of ideas, paragraphs of text, how we wanted the book to be structured and we even changed the title a number of times. Now we have come to the end of the process we are already finding ourselves coping with loss, having enjoyed our writing sessions and seeing the book evolve, grow and come to life. But the sense of fulfilment that it has given us is helping us greatly.

You may notice that we only have one trait left. This is a little embarrassing but it could be said that, at times, we were guilty of going to excess. Geoff would regularly stay up late rather than leave things until the morning and our tradition of drinking champagne during every writing session raised an eyebrow or two amongst our friends and families!

We have thoroughly enjoyed the journey of writing this book. The fact that we experienced all of the traits that we have written about has only served to reinforce our view that they are all useful unless taken to the extreme. For the most part, we believe we held our traits in balance and they didn’t trap us, but if you read the book then you can be the judge of that!

 Written by Kim Morgan & Geoff Watts