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 influence the world, too.
The Joyful Results
As I’ve coached writers, mostly those getting started and some changing direction, it’s grown into satisfying, sacred work. I celebrate clients and their progress. I feel closer to God’s heart. Honestly, sometimes I hardly recognize my coaching self. When I pick up the phone, I feel joy. True joy!
If you’ve written and published for several years, you can coach others, too. I believe as Christian writers, we’re not to function as loners, just satisfying our own needs to create. We belong to an eternal continuum, spreading peace, encouragement, inspiration, and saving grace to each generation. You can help prepare the next generation–for a few minutes or in an ongoing relationship–to reach their peers, to reach the world.
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. For “tentmaking income,” Judith teaches art history online for a university and two colleges. Learn more about Judith and her work at www.judithcouchman.com. Or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.