As someone who works for herself and spends a lot of time alone, I need my business friendships to keep me going. I have a half-dozen friends around the world who support each other, women who are cutting their own paths through the woods and calling out to each other for help with the machete.
One of my fellow explorers is Liz Applegate, who has recently come out of hiding to stand in her full light as a marketing strategist. She’s helping me navigate strategy and planning (two foreign lands for me) while I help her with her writing.
Sometimes, however, the tables get reversed. Here’s how things went yesterday:
I get on the call with Liz to talk about the emails I’m writing. Supposed to write. Should have written by now. Or at least gotten started.
I should have written it by today, which means I should have started it early last week, but I didn’t, so I suck. Maybe I’m better off rolling myself into a ball and hibernating until the Client Fairy wakes me up in January with a full roster.
Over the course of a week, I spent about 5 minutes staring at the page before deciding I had no idea how to write emails that sound like me. And who would want to read what I have to say anyway?
So now, in this special time we’ve put aside to help each other, I’m standing here helpless. I feel like I’m back in college at a professor’s office hours; there’s a paper due and I’ve come to ask for help because I hadn’t even started yet and I don’t know what I’m going to say.
And I simultaneously feel like the professor I once was, faced with a student who shows up at my office door asking for help on a paper they haven’t even started because they didn’t know what they were going to say.
This is what it’s like to be my client.
This is what it’s like to face not only the inner critic but the outer critic, the critic who is sitting there smiling warmly, fully available as a sounding board, supportive and knowledgeable, perhaps not even aware of the role of critic that I’ve cast her in — and I’m paralyzed by imagining what she’ll say about the words I haven’t even written yet.
So what do I do now?
I do the only thing I can do: I just get started. I ask some questions to get oriented, and when I write down something Liz says, one idea and another comes to mind, and I write them down too. I keep wanting to stop myself and apologize, but the one rule I’m pretty good at following is to cut that shit out at this stage, so I do.
And I am scared. I’m scared that the things I am finally able to say aren’t going to be right, aren’t going to be effective, aren’t going to make sense to anyone outside my head. I think that nobody will get my jokes.
And then Liz laughs. And she laughs again.
And I get to the end of the page, and we go over what I’ve written. I read it out loud, making changes as I go. She reads it to me, and I make changes as I hear what needs smoothing out and clarifying.
I don’t know if I’ve ever felt quite this vulnerable — or had this much fun working on my own writing. The more I let my personality seep into my words and allow my convoluted sentence structure free reign, the better the whole thing sounds. To me. And the clearer it is that if I can’t write and sound like myself and indulge my voice and reveal what I’m insecure about, I won’t be able to help others do the same.
Liz provided an amazing and surprising service to me. She is not a writing coach — but I am! but she coached me! — yet I got my writing done with just a couple gentle, intelligent suggestions.
Now I have a fresh understanding of what it means to sit on the other side of the table. And I’m more committed than ever to helping non-writers see themselves as fully capable of written expression.
I want your ideas on the page. I want to read them and I want you to get them out of your head because the world needs what you have to say. Not everyone everywhere, and not always, but the person who most needs your thoughts is sitting by patiently, hoping to one day connect with your ideas.
And I want to be here for you when that happens.
Liz Applegate is in the process of creating a new website for Soul Centered Marketing. She is a certified life coach, a 15 year veteran of the marketing industry and an online solopreneur, as well as a mother of three “adult” children, a passionate traveler, and someone who enjoys a good glass of wine with a close friend. Even if it’s “just” online.