What is writing coaching: An interview with Lisa Jones

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Below, Caroline Allen, Founder of Art of Storytelling, interviews former writing client Lisa Jones (pictured above) about her book, The Art of Living Happy. Lisa has received fantastic recognition for her self-published book, including a recent interview by Fox News! Here we explore what it was like for Lisa to work with Art of Storytelling on her book for several years. In The Art of Living Happy, Lisa writes about caregiving her husband who was dying of cancer, the powerful spiritual opening that occurred at this death, and her subsequent path to become a spiritual channeler. She is becoming well-known for leading events where she channels deceased loved ones for large audiences.

AofS: When did you first have the idea that you wanted to write a book? Did you try to write it yourself before hiring a writing coach? Why did you decide to hire a coach? Please explain the process you went through in the beginning.

Lisa Jones: I can never remember a time that I didn’t want to write a book about my life. I guess it stems from my desire to be known and seen (ok, famous, I said it. I want to be famous!). As I mention in my book, I tried on numerous occasions to start writing my life’s story, but every time I’d become overwhelmed with how big it was. I have several (maybe two dozen or more) notebooks all around the house where I started my memoir, but I could never take it any further.

Another reason I wanted to write a book is that whenever I’d tell anyone about my life they would always say, “You should write a book!” I guess after hearing that a hundred or more times, I began to take the idea more seriously.

I began by signing up for writing workshops (as I’ve never considered myself to be a “writer”) to learn the basics. I found them to be helpful. However, these classes were never enough to build up any sort of momentum or motivation for me to keep going on my own.

I had never thought of hiring a writing coach. Frankly, I didn’t even know there were writing coaches. The only reason I hired a coach is because you showed up in my life at the right time! When the student is ready the teacher appears…

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AofS: What surprised you the most about the writing process as we worked through the book?

Lisa Jones: What surprised me the most was how easy it was! I’m sure that sounds shocking, because there was a lot of work involved, but having you as my coach allowed me to take it one step at a time. We made forward progress every time we met, even if it was just to discuss the next steps. It was so gratifying to actually be making progress on one of my life long dreams!

AofS: I would like to add, Lisa, that you were able to access the flow in your writing, which not everyone can do. Because you didn’t necessarily think of yourself as a writer, you aren’t bogged down with a lot of the rules that sometimes shut writers down. Also, your ability to channel was a great help. Channeling spirit guides, and channeling the “muse” for writers are both really the same thing. You were able to align with your message and flow with that with ease.

AofS: How did the coach help spark your creativity, or help generate ideas for your book?

Lisa Jones: The very first thing you asked me to do was write about a four-hour period of time. (Note to readers: At AofS, we use a special technique called the Epic Event exercise. We ask writers to pick an epic event that lasted say 4 to 6 hours, and focus on writing only that event. Generalities are what create writer’s block. With a  specific event, writers can sink their teeth into the details.)  I ended up writing nearly fifty pages of material. It just flowed, and flowed. Granted it was the four-hour period around the time my husband took his final breath, so I had a lot to say. As I wrote the time frame expanded to the twenty-four miraculous hours that surrounded his passing. What a remarkable assignment. That one assignment allowed me to really see the gems within my own story and gave me the vision and the fortitude to keep writing about other four-hour events in my life. And after writing several stories about short time frames in my life, I was able to put them all together into a really remarkable book.

AofS: Lisa, I love that! I love how a person can just focus on the event, then another event, and then another, and then string them together like lights. Magical.

AofS: How did the coach help structure the book

Lisa Jones: We found for me writing about a theme from the beginning of my life until the present moment was the best way for me to get my thoughts out on paper. We then went back and wove the different stories together. It was brilliant the way it all came together. I’m still in awe of the process!

AofS: Yes, for some writers, theme is the best focus when writing the book. For others, they must write it chronologically at first, and then go back in and weave in the magic. It depends on the writer, and we focus at AofS on figuring out what method best suits the writer.

AofS: Did you have a regular writing schedule each week? What was it? How did it help you in the process?

Lisa Jones: My deadlines were midnight on the second and fourth Monday of each month. Then we’d meet the second and fourth Thursday of each month to discuss my work and determine what the next steps would be. Usually you’d ask me to add or flesh out some of the areas I had written about. Then we’d figure out what other stories or new material I should write about. I must confess I’d usually wait until the weekend before my deadline to do my writing. I’ve been told it’s “better” to write every day, but I just couldn’t seem to work that way. I always powered through and got it done. Originally, we tried to work weekly and it was just too much. I loved the structure and the flexibility of the two-week schedule. I’d feel like I’d have a week off to not worry about writing, but when I was on, I would focus and get it done. It was a nice balance for me and my life.

AofS: When you came to a particularly difficult scene, writing for example about the caregiving around the death of your husband from cancer, how did you deal with that intense emotion? Writers often come up against the intense emotions around exploring difficult memories and shut down and stop writing. How did you avoid that? Did the coach help in any way?

Lisa Jones: I started my original writing process within months of my husband dying. I was not only processing his death, but a lot of pain and suffering I’d experience growing up; molested at age four, losing my virginity to date rape, having my skull fractured by my college boyfriend, etc… I then met the next love of my life and decided to leave the darkness of dealing with my past alone for a while. I instead reveled in my newfound happiness. After five years, and a profound spiritual awakening, I decided I had to pick up where I left off and finish my book. Even though there were some difficult scenes that I had to write, I felt the overwhelming desire to get my story out was more powerful than shutting down. I guess I’d equate it to therapy.

AofS: For legal purposes, I have to say that I’m not a therapist. LOL. But it’s like creative counseling, how to turn your pain into poetry. How to go from seeing your life as mundane, to seeing it as the epic adventure that it is. You already saw that, Lisa, but many other people do not. It’s exciting to hold up a mirror to a person’s life, and say: See, this is why you’re epic, you’re magical, the universe travels through your veins!

AofS: What was the most joyous aspect of the process of writing your book? What was the most joyous aspect of working with a writing coach?

Lisa Jones: The most joyous aspect was being able to get my story out. I tell people it took me nine years to birth this baby! Granted we did not work on it for nine straight years, but we began it and then let it sit for quite some time, while I was actually living the life I was ultimately going to write about. Then when the time was right our paths crossed again and it just flowed. It was a beautiful process.

Another joyous aspect of working with you was having someone who cared about my story as much as I did. You were not only invested in my story but also in me. As a writer, life with the computer can be pretty lonely. Our bi-monthly meetings were the highlight of the writing process for me – and especially when I got to read the green highlights! (These were the phrases you liked the best. I discovered I worked best with positive feedback.)

AofS: What was the most difficult aspect of the process of writing a book? What was the most difficult aspect of working with a writing coach?

The most difficult aspect of writing the book for me was the re-writes. I didn’t mind going back and adding more details, but near the end when we had to go back and edit, I just couldn’t do it. Thank goodness for your team of editors.

The most difficult aspect of working with a writing coach was my own self-imposed stress of not getting my writing work done in a timely manner. I’d find myself writing until the wee hours in the morning to make my deadline. However, without the deadlines, I wouldn’t now have a published book!

AofS: I think, too, Lisa, that as a coach, I have to be very careful not to impose my ideas, concepts and values onto the writer. This is their book, not mine. This is why I’m always writing my own novels. I’m a novelist first, a coach second. That way, I’m not trying to own your creative process because I have my own! Sometimes, I get so excited about a subject that I worry I’m swaying writers, and then I’ll actually say that out loud: “Don’t let me sway you. I just get so damned excited about writing.”

AofS: How did the coaching help you write your book?

Lisa Jones: As we went through the process of working together we discovered what worked best for my writing style. We determined early on, that I write best when I’m focused on one aspect of my story. When I tried to write everything chronologically, I couldn’t stay focused on the important parts and I began writing a list of events. The fact that you were able to help me find my strength in my writing helped the entire process go smoother and faster than if you’d insisted that I write in a format that maybe is better for someone else.

AofS: What advice would you give someone who wants to start a book?

Lisa Jones: Hire a writing coach ASAP! Seriously, if you want to write a book I would advise hiring a writing coach from the beginning, you’ll save time, energy and accomplish your ultimate goal of getting your book finished and published.

AofS: What advice would you give someone who wanted to work with a writing coach?

Lisa Jones: As I mentioned, I didn’t know there were writing coaches – so I don’t know how to pick one, as I feel our paths crossed at the perfect time. I guess if you do know there are options to choose from, then interview them and see who you feel you have a connection with. I’m so intuitive, as are you, I just knew I had to work with you as soon as I found out what you did. Trust, have faith and dive deep.

AofS: The coach made you keep to a regular writing schedule, with deadlines for when the writing was due. Did that help your process or hinder it?

Lisa Jones: If I didn’t have deadlines, I’d still be working on my book. They were what got me working and what got me finished. For me the schedule was paramount to the process. I guess I’m a deadline kinda gal. For me the creativity flowed or it didn’t, but at least I got something written and then we could spruce it up during the next session. I loved the deadlines (especially now that I don’t have them anymore!)

AofS: How emotional was the process of writing?

Lisa Jones: Very! I had some tough stuff to work through, but in the end it made me a better person. I think half the reason I wrote the book was to be able to come to terms with a lot of the demons within me. Again, with you as my coach, I was able to process these emotions and keep going rather than getting paralyzed by them and stopping the process. I remember there were times we’d work on other items if I just couldn’t work on a particularly hard part – but we were always moving forward, which to me was the important part.

AofS: Yes, Lisa, I find in my own writing on my own novels and working with clients that it’s more about handling the emotions than learning the craft. Sometimes you have to stop working on a particular section, leave it alone and come back to it later. You just skip it, and move ahead. Sometimes emotionally, it’s the only way.

AofS: Was the process liberating?

Lisa Jones: The process was very liberating. And terrifying! When I was finally published, there was a moment that I thought the whole world was going to come down on me, since I had revealed so much personal stuff about me and other. That never happened. And all I’ve gotten had been really positive feedback. That is liberating!

AofS: What advice would you give new writers about the length of the process of writing a book?

Lisa Jones: Writing a book is not a task, it’s an odyssey! I thought writing the book was the hard part, which it was, as it took me nearly eighteen months of focused energy to complete. When I finally finished writing, my husband and I bought a bottle of champagne and celebrated. I exclaimed, “Thanks be to God, I’m done!” Little did I know that I had just begun a whole new adventure — editing. My entire manuscript was sent to the editor, and this was after the editor had edited each chapter along the way. After two months, the final manuscript was sent to me and another bottle of champagne was purchased. “Thank God, I’m done!” Once again my celebration was premature. I then had to read every word and do a final edit, while realizing that some stories were in the wrong place, or had been “edited” more than I had wanted. This was another three-month process. Woohoo, more champagne once that was DONE! Let’s just say that the manuscript was finalized, now it was on to the publishing phase. Publishing was brutal — formatting was a bitch. Writing is one thing; publishing is another. By this point I had purchased a case of champagne, because I decided to celebrate every step of the way or I wasn’t going to survive to see my book actually on amazon.com. Don’t even get me started on the kindle formatting process – that required another case on it’s own.

AofS: What loving message would you give to new writers about getting their story about there?

Lisa Jones: I believe everyone has a beautifully important story to be shared with the world. Your story is unique, special and perfect, just like you. If you desire to write your story and have it published there is no better time than now. It’s never been easier to declare your story to the world. Make a decision and just do it. It’s a glorious feeling to share your truth with the world.

No matter what your story is, you have the right to tell it. I can’t remember who told me this, maybe it was you, Caroline… “If someone doesn’t like your story, tell them to go write their own.” That statement really empowered me to stay true to my story and so far, I haven’t had anyone reject me because of it; however, I’m prepared with my response if they do.

AofS: Yes, Lisa, I say that all the time. In my novels, I fictionalize my childhood in Missouri. And I always say, if one of my siblings doesn’t agree with it, or doesn’t like it, he’s free to tell his side of the story. In fact, I would LOVE to read that. I think everyone telling their side of the story offers an opening for understanding and healing! But for now, it’s my turn to tell my side of things, and everybody better be getting out of my way. 🙂

AofS: What affect has telling your story had on OTHER people who read your book?

Lisa Jones: The affect of my story has been tremendous – based on the emails I’ve been receiving and nearly a daily basis. Here are just a few:

“Your book is incredible, Lisa!  I couldn’t put it down. Word is going to spread. For those on the edge of believing in eternity, the Holy Spirit, and God’s angels, this will firmly push them into the daily miracles in front of us all. Thanks for letting it all out. It made all the difference in the world.” KJ

“I just started reading your book.  Your bathing Ian . . . “He sat innocently, depending on me for this basic act.”  My dad did this when he was dying.  One time, I put him to bed, he was disoriented, and I stroked his head and told him everything was going to be all right.  He told me, “My Mom used to that.”  I’m sitting here sobbing . . . Thank you, Lisa, for writing your story.  You’re speaking our feelings . . . our words . . . those of us who have taken care of a dying loved one.  THANK YOU!!” VP

“I know especially those who are devastated by extreme loss will really appreciate this book, Lisa—it’s a Godsend for many souls!” BL

“I just finished your book and I had to reach out to you and say what great experience it was to read. And as an old Georgetown English Major, how well written.” WO

“I was moved on so many levels. I cried, I laughed, I felt each word. I can honestly say I am not the same after reading this book!” JH

I’ve even had people blogging about my book:  http://janepollakblog.com/2013/10/04/do-you-believe-in-angels-lisa-jones-success-is-evidence/

As word spreads I’ve been getting more and more recognition for telling my story. I’ve been on major radio stations, and TV talk shows: http://www.wfsb.com/category/211200/better-connecticut and even had articles being written about me: http://arts.hersamacorn.com/7210/lisa-jones-discovers-art-living-happy/. Hey, I’m nearly famous – who knew it would take writing a book about my life to achieve it?

AofS: As I read the feedback you’ve been getting, Lisa, I got goosebumps! What an epic, soulful journey we had together. I wish you so much love and light in your success.

Buy Lisa’s book here: http://www.amazon.com/Art-Living-Happy-Real-Life-Awakening/dp/0615830250/

Art of Storytelling offers a free initial consultation, http://www.artofstorytellingonline.com/

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