I’m delighted to introduce to you a fellow author, Judith Couchman, who shares her experience in mentoring other authors. Mentoring takes place in every area of our lives when one person who is a little ahead of the other in some life experience is willing to share and encourage someone else going through something similar: Sharing Life’s Experiences and God’s Faithfulness.
If ever I felt stupid initiating a phone call, this was it. As I listened to my cell phone ringing into cyberspace, each pulse mocked me with a repeated warning: You can’t do this. You can’t do this. You can’t do this. I readily agreed with each ring’s caution: it mimicked the fear pounding in my chest. But before I could hang up, Erica answered.
If ever a woman contrasted with me, Erica was the one. Married with two young grade schoolers, she managed her husband’s left-brain medical practice and helped lead the women’s ministry at a church. A lifetime single and ardent writer, I joked that God created me so right-brained, I probably perpetually leaned to the right without recognizing it. I lived as a precarious Pisa Tower in bodily form. I also back pedaled from group attachments and their draining effect on my time and energy. But more and more, I thought about Erica. So much so, I wondered if God was calling.
After some questioning and procrastination, I couldn’t deny the Spirit’s persistent nudging. I finally originated the fatal phone call, the ringing that changed my life.
I’d met Erica at a small writer’s retreat, so we chatted with a vague familiarity. Then I posed the persistent question in my head: “Do you need a writing mentor?”
Without hesitation, she answered yes before I could apologize for asking and hang up.
And that was that. I instantly morphed into a writing coach.
From Dread to Delight
If ever a resistant mentor existed, it was me. Consumed by my own publishing and speaking life, I didn’t gravitate toward guiding writers in close-up relationships. I eschewed the recurring time commitment, the detailed assessments, and the embedded fears accompanying new writers. At the same time, I’d taught at many writers’ events—from expansive conferences to intimate retreats—and doubted the results. How many participants actually returned home and wrote? In my experience, not many.
As the Holy Spirit pressed me about Erica, I wondered if personal mentoring would yield more effective outcomes. In other words, would one-to-one mentoring produce people who actually wrote? Would they actively pursue God’s call to write and publish?
Answering these questions meant following the gentle compulsion to call Erica.
Not much time passed before my dread transformed into delight. Through the recommendations of people I trust, I began coaching a handful of writers. Like Erica, new clients fascinated, taught, befriended, and stretched me beyond expectation. And yes, the chance someone will write and publish dramatically increases when a seasoned writer draws in close. This cheers me. This feels like making a difference for God’s kingdom. Like preparing the next generation to impact the world, too.
The Deeper Questions
As I’ve coached writers, mostly those getting started and some changing direction, it’s grown into satisfying, sacred work. However, the scope doesn’t encompass just my clients. It’s also included God challenging and changing me. Usually, He asks me poignant questions. For example:
- I grew so busy pursuing my own call, I ignored the necessity of bringing along those behind me. This proved a serious oversight because Scripture called me to mentor, both expressly and by example. Instead, I acted selfish and protective. I didn’t give to others. Would I stop this self-centeredness? Early in the coaching process, I confessed this sin to the Lord and repented.
- With so many changes in the Christian publishing industry, I’m unsure about my future as a published author and speaker. Despite my uncertainties, God challenges me to feed into the writing and speaking ministries of others. Is it possible my outreach could extinguish while theirs flames? Am I willing to still invest in them?
- Can I not feel competitive or jealous of writers twenty or more years younger than me? Can I coach them with an open, encouraging spirit? Can I applaud if they exceed my accomplishments?
- Can I mentor through difficult personal times in my life? Can I focus on clients and not myself, not expecting anything from them during these troubles?
Answering these questions constitutes an ongoing journey. But as I gradually say yes to each one, shedding self-concerns, I gain freedom, joy, and wonder. I celebrate my clients and their progress. I feel closer to God’s heart. Honestly, sometimes I hardly recognize my coaching self. Except I still don’t like making phone calls.
Judith Couchman is an author, speaker, and writing coach with more than forty traditionally published books, Bible studies, and compilations. She’s also contributed to Bible projects. Learn more about Judith and her work at www.judithcouchman.com. Or contact her at email@example.com.