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A Coaching book looking for a title

I have a few different manuscripts on the go at the same time. I’ve written here about the book “The Journey to Wonder” which is half finished. This book is all about the people who have inspired my thinking and how they came to influence me. It’s a fun book to write as I write about musicians, artists, writers and many other people who have had an impact on me. It is also a great way to say thank you and acknowledge people.

That book is in the background at the moment as I press on with my other non-fiction venture, a book about coaching. I have been coaching for 12 years now, and wanted to write about the recurrent themes in my coaching practise and some of the key leadership issues that I often work with clients to resolve. I have many times opened a coaching session with a new client by telling them that every session is different, that there are no set formulae, and that the agenda is theirs and not mine.

There are plenty of tools that I use, both ones that I have learnt or read about, as well as ones that have been developed in real time in coaching sessions in response to a particular challenge. Each session has its unique characteristic.

And yet, after over 750 hours of coaching practise there are some clear themes that keep emerging. It is these themes that I will be writing about. In its first stages this book has had the utterly uninspiring working title of “Coaching Topics”. Earlier this afternoon I pulled together a list of 20 new ideas for a title. None of them leapt out at me, so the search for a great title continues.

The structure is sorted and the writing is about a tenth of the way there.

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When the phone rings it’s no fun anymore

I used to love getting phone calls. It was a regular occurrence and one filled with expectation. Whoever was calling me would have something interesting to discuss with me, after all.

Then the world changed. Like many people around me, I haven’t had a landline for nearly a decade now. There’s just the mobile phone number to contact me on.

Offices went quiet a while back. People use email to communicate because it’s less intrusive and can be dealt with at a time to suit the receiver. Now that’s fine, unless you want something and you don’t want to have to wait. That’s when a text followed up with a phone call comes in useful. But too often we hit send on the email and then forget to track back and chase things. The phone call can be really helpful at these times.

But for a while now, most of the calls I get are from people I don’t know about something I don’t want and didn’t ask them for. The blight of call centres cold calling means that I have stopped answering phone numbers that I don’t recognise. If they really want to speak to me they will leave a message. And of course, if they want to speak to me about Payment Protection or some industrial / car accident I didn’t realise that I had been involved in but where I could claim compensation – well then they don’t leave a message do they!

It used to be such fun answering the phone – but now it’s just annoying when it rings and I see that I have a call from Manchester, Nottingham, Newcastle, Leeds or even Gambia, Canada and the USA. It’s never as exciting as I think it might be. And the conversation always ends with a “sorry, but I’m not interested. Yes, I know that doesn’t make sense to you, but I really am not interested.”

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Experimental VI – a memory box

Sculpture from Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, Whistler, British Columbia

In the early 1980s I worked for a couple of years as a Community Artist. I was part of a team of artists from different disciplines. We worked with a diverse range of people from 8 to 80 years old, most of them with some sort of special need. Sometimes we worked on our own, and at other times we worked in pairs. It was great fun and hugely rewarding. I learnt so much about life and about myself. It was a great opportunity to combine work on creative projects with teaching. Thus, often we would be developing a new idea, and sharing it with a group as it emerged.

My own disciplines were photography and writing. The writing was something I had developed over the previous 10 years, from my mid teens. The photography was something I learnt as a went along. I don’t think ever really got the hang of using a dark room, but learning how to compose an image from the world around me, and to look, really look at the world around me – that was something that I developed from the skills of those who taught me.

I worked with fine artists, potters, photographers and fabric makers. One project which I still remember really well – partly because I still have my own output from it – was a project where a visual artist and I worked on a memory box idea. We constructed a small box from card, painted it and then filled it with memories. These could be things we had kept that we wanted to put inside the box, or things that we made that evoked a memory. Some of the ingredients in these boxes included mini booklets, scrolls, bits of material and tiny paintings. The box itself was about 10 centimetres across so everything had to be made in miniature. It was a great project to work on. I think the idea for it came from the artist, Lucy. She had done something similar in her degree studies I think. Each version of the basic idea was distinctly different.

From this “maker” project, I developed the idea of memories in a box, bought an old jewellery box from a second-hand shop on Lark Lane in Liverpool (the same shop where I bought a wind up gramophone to play old 78 records! That’s another story) Inside the box I kept hand written notes, cards, postcards, feathers, shells and stones. Each thing bears a memory.

I was looking at this box recently, and wondering how these ideas could be extended into a digital space. I use a lot of online spaces to store things – photos, video, words and ideas – sometimes in Facebook, sometimes Twitter, Google Plus and Evernote. Some of these memories are stored in a ┬ápublic space where others can see what I have saved. And sometimes they are private. My own space to store things in a virtual, online digital box. Combining the virtual and the real would make a really exciting concept for a memory box.


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The Will to Write

A month passes. Two weeks in Canada – Vancouver and the Rockies (the photo is of Lake Louise). Hosting a conference – “Let’s Talk Research 4: Building Community”. Developing a new team-to-team approach called “Looking for the Common Ground”. Hosting a weekend of buddhist teachings with Venerable Mary Reavey looking at “Own your own death”. Setting up a Rapid Review of a piece of our work and implementing the recommendations. So much to do, so busy…

Heaps of things that take energy and focus. As these have slid past, I have wondered whether being away from writing was one of the reasons for feeling ┬álacklustre. Sometimes I go for long spells without writing (I don’t include work papers and the like, they are written for a different purpose). It leaves me feeling dull. Writing is part of who I am. If I go for months without writing anything, I feel like an athlete does when they don’t get to train.

Finding my way back to the page is critical. And so, this week, I have some time and increasing levels of energy again to produce something new.

I’m going to continue with the latest book, “The Journey to Wonder”. I will post updates here as that starts to grow again.

Meanwhile, I’ve been watching slow and steady sales for “Values Count”, the book about values based approaches to work. I launched the kindle version during the summer. All interesting learning curves – figuring out how to turn a book for each of these platforms. Usually some aspect of nightmarish editing like page numbers or tables rears its head and becomes a huge time sink.

Another set of publications from BlueWater Books will be published within the next couple of months. Look out for updates on that before too long.

And with this final paragraph, I am back in the saddle again – blogging is always the hardest when we try to too hard to produce something amazing, which creates massive inner struggle. Often useful posts just come from the flow of thoughts and the things that are going on around us. I’m back. Thanks for reading.