Why I Do the Work I Do
And that leads to the driving question of my professional life: What is going on in there that makes it so hard for so many of us to do what we really want to do?
If you want the standard resume stuff like my degrees and training, take a look at My Background. If you want to review my publishing credits and clips, click here. If you want the personal side of why I do the work I do, read on.
I am curious about human behavior. When I was a kid, I wondered what made people do the things they do. Combine that with my early penchant for creating imaginary friends, and you have a fiction writer in the making. When it comes to making up stories, I never grew up. And I’m still asking questions. As a coach and a writer, I’m convinced the open-ended question is the most powerful collection of words possible.
I am absolutely passionate about the human brain. What’s going on in there? What are all the parts, what do they do and how do they work together? What makes one person creative with words and another person creative with movement and music? How does the brain relate to the mind and the spirit? Is our brain the primary thing that makes us who we are? (See why I got one of my two undergraduate degrees in Philosophy?)
I used to think I was the only one who met resistance when pursuing my creativity. For example, when I’m in the flow with my writing, I love to write. But more often than I’d like, resistance sets in before I get into the flow and I can find a million ways to avoid my writing. When I started reading everything I could get my hands on about writing and creativity, I discovered it’s not just me; nearly all creative people have this approach-avoidance pattern going on.
The reading I’m doing now explains the neurological sources of struggle, which I find fascinating. But frankly, sometimes knowing why I’m resistant doesn’t change that resistance one bit.
Knowledge prepares me and gives me tools, but I still have to find ways to motivate myself through the resistance. That’s why I’m good at helping others find their way through their resistance: I’ve had years of practice on myself.
The funny thing is that I learned a tremendous amount about motivation from a completely unexpected source: my dog, Blue. (If you’re wondering, our best guess on Blue’s mix is Border Collie and Labrador, maybe some Husky.)
For the fun and the physical and mental challenge for both of us, Blue and I play agility together. Blue has been in training since she was four months old. We go to class once a week and compete in trials four or five times a year.
Blue at an Agility Trial
Over the years, Blue and I have worked with some amazing trainers who all added to my understanding of my dog and myself. I never anticipated that so much of the training would be about me learning to get it right; I thought I’d be training the dog to follow instructions. Instead, Blue teaches me, and she is the most consistently observant, forgiving and loving of all my teachers. We’re a pretty good team, (though I still need training of course). Blue has earned two scrapbooks full of ribbons and over ten agility titles. (In case you haven’t noticed: I’m besotted with this dog. I can talk about dogs for hours, so I’ll stop now.)
When I talk with clients and students about how to motivate yourself to write or create, I draw on my experiences in agility to explain concepts like “rewarding approximate behavior,” “learned industriousness” and “oppositional reflex.” To reassure my clients and students that I know the differences between motivating people and motivating dogs, I include the latest cool things I’ve found in my never-ending reading in human neurology and then connect the dots between the theory and how to keep writing and creating.
Another wellspring of information is my partner, Claudia, who has a degree in Organizational Development and is Manager of Training and Development. In her professional development, Claudia gets certified in all kinds of fascinating techniques like Motivational Interviewing, Polarity Management, MBTI, corporate coaching, strategic planning, and leadership development. While she’s explaining what she’s learned and how it works in large organizations, I’m busy figuring out how it applies to creative individuals and how I can use those tools for my clients, students and myself.
Of course, my coaching clients and students are also my teachers. Their willingness to share their struggles and successes and to trust me with their process has expanded my awareness and appreciation of human creativity. It has been my pleasure and privilege to guide, encourage, challenge and support a fascinating group of creative people over the past eighteen years.
I am so lucky to be able to read, talk and write about things I’m passionate about, and to talk with, encourage and support fascinating, talented people. And, on top of that, I get to call this ‘work.’ What a great gift – what a great gig!
Writing and reading
Being with other people who are creative and want to keep learning
A Few of My Favorite Fiction Authors
Terry Pratchett (if I could only read one author for the rest of my life, it would be Terry Pratchett)
Lyda Morehouse (as Lyda and as Tate Halloway)
A Few of My Favorite Nonfiction Books and Authors
My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.
The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, M.D.
The Owner’s Manual for the Brain by Pierce J. Howard, Ph.D.
The Emotional Brain by Joseph LeDoux
Mapping the Mind by Rita Carter
The Writer’s Book of Hope and The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland
For a more detailed list of Recommended Reading, click here.
- Author of Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer’s Resistance (published by Tarcher/Penguin, August 2012)
- Teaching creativity classes for the Loft Literary Center, the University of Minnesota and other universities and colleges, adult education programs and independently since 1987
- Teaching Fellow at the Loft Literary Center and a teacher representative on the Loft's Education Committee
- Coaching over 115 clients since 1995; coaching became a primary focus in my business in 1998
- Pursuing on-going independent research in how the brain functions and how adults create and learn
- Author of Dancing in the Dragon's Den: Rekindling the Creative Fire in Your Shadow (published by Nicolas Hays, October 1999)
- Seeking agent and publisher for science fiction novels and novella, The Essential Path, Freedom Path and Place of Refuge
- Published over 100 short articles and fiction in a wide variety of publications
- Earned my M.A. in Creative and Professional Writing in 1990 from the University of Minnesota
- Coaching and teaching business writing to MBAs at the University of St. Thomas since 2004
- Speaking professionally since 2000
- Completed the Apprentice Program of National Speakers Association Minnesota
- Attended Accelerated Learning Conference in 1998
- Editor of The Phoenix for 5 years
- Committed to helping people make their creative dreams reality since 1987!
If you'd like to see my complete vitae or ask a specific question about my experience, please contact me.