Bowling Green State University - B.A. French and West European Studies
The Coaches Training Institute, Certified Professional Co-Active Coach
Cynthia Morris helps people write their stories. Maybe they're new to writing, transitioning from another career or struggling to get their first words on paper. They might be a seasoned writer whose creative energy has dipped. Or they could be a writer who needs a champion; someone to believe in their work when they forget why they're doing it.
No matter the client, Cynthia aims to bring out their inner ingenuity. "Seeing people light up from their own creative power totally inspires my coaching." Here, she tells us more about what it takes to be successful as a writer, why she doesn't like rules and how she stays balanced despite the hectic schedule of being an entrepreneur.
I believe everyone has something to say, but you have to be courageous enough to say it in the most honest way possible.
It sounds like you have found your dream job, and through it you help others realize their dreams of telling their own stories. What inspired you to become a writing and creativity coach?
I read the "The Artists Way" in 1995 and became an advocate for my creativity and the creative expression of others. I was teaching vegetarian cooking classes and began teaching poetry and writing classes. In early 1999, I read an article about life coaching. Within months, I had enrolled in training at The Coaches Training Institute and the rest is history. This training gave me skills to be able to work with people in an empowering way and I matched those skills with my experience as a writer and writing teacher.
I love helping my clients and students know themselves better. When they're clear about their motivations for creating and understand what they need to do their creative work, life gets much easier and more enjoyable for them. It's a total joy and privilege to facilitate this for them.
Seeing people light up from their own creative power totally inspires my coaching. The kind of conversations I have with my clients are unique -- no one is asking them the questions I ask them. They don't get the opportunity to think about themselves and their work in any other place. Having this facet to their lives and creative work helps them feel deeply motivated to move beyond their fears and create what they want in the world.
What does your typical job schedule and day look like? Does that change at any point during the year?
The thing I like about my work is the great variety of things I get to do. There's not really a typical day. But I'm usually at work by 7 a.m. Some weeks I work with clients, and other weeks my focus is writing and developing projects. On client days, I coach from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a few breaks in between.
I set my schedule up so I have four to five client days per month. That doesn't sound like a lot, but on days I don't have calls with clients, I'm responding to their emails, sending notes and audio files to them and doing other things to make sure they feel supported throughout the month.
Other days, I write for my blog and newsletter and work on projects and marketing. I usually take off around 4 or 5 p.m. to go to yoga. At the end of the week, I schedule meetings with colleagues both outside the office and at home.
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?
(Laughing) Entrepreneurs always feel like they're on an uphill climb. I think it's our nature to always be challenging ourselves and growing. So there's rarely a sense of settling or arriving. But there were some milestones this year that I'm relishing. I published my novel this summer after 12 years of work. I was also chosen as a speaker at the World Domination Summit. Those are two major victories for me as a writer and a speaker.
Several clients finished their books this year. I don't feel like I've made it when a client finishes her project, but I definitely celebrate with her.
So, it was a big year, but I have plans for future things and new vistas to explore!
What challenges keep you awake at night?
There's a lot of administrative work in my business, managing the back end of my websites, making good decisions about vendors to use, how to grow smartly ... basically, being a businesswoman has a lot of challenges and I don't always feel like I know what to do. Moments where I have to make decisions always keep me up at night.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
I work a lot. There's a common misperception that entrepreneurs take a lot of time off. But the 'dream' part of the job is the flexibility and freedom to work on projects that are meaningful to you, with people you care about.
Balance is a total challenge. I'm very enmeshed in my business and I love my clients and projects, so it's hard to separate myself out. I work long hours and there's always more to do, so there's always an urge to be in the office.
But I do take some time off on the weekends and I'm reinstituting my no-computer day, where I don't turn on the computer one day a week.
The other no-fail way I create balance is my almost daily yoga practice. Getting out of the office and going to class, getting out of my head and into my body helps me enormously. I don't know where I'd be without my yoga practice.
What are some of the rules you live by?
I don't like rules, so I don't make them or ask my clients to make them. I prefer to have practices that I honor and show up for on a consistent basis. Writing is a practice. Art making is a practice. Coaching and teaching and speaking -- all things I am consistently practicing.
Other practices include morning meditation. I've been doing this for a couple of months now and the 10 minutes before I do anything else helps me feel a slower pace throughout the day.
I try to remember that we're all in this together. That there's no need to compete or compare.
What inspires you?
Writers who are excruciatingly honest inspire me. Artists who find ways to communicate something powerfully but simply inspire me. Multimedia artists inspire me, as do people who are at the cutting edge. Watching TED talks inspire me to think bigger.
People who carve out something in life that's outside of the norm or the expected inspire me ... artists and designers and entrepreneurs are the kinds of leaders I turn to to see changes that are making a difference in the world.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful as a writer?
Tenacity, persistence, more tenacity. Willingness to learn and to seek feedback from appropriate sources. Writing is a craft that takes time to hone. Willingness to study and practice and learn the craft is vital if you want to call yourself a writer.
I believe everyone has something to say, but you have to be courageous enough to say it in the most honest way possible. Writing makes us feel very vulnerable and we have to learn to be okay putting ourselves and our writing out into the world.
You also have to know why you're writing. Being connected to your motivation will help when you put your work into the world. No matter how your writing is received, you're clear on what's important about writing for you. If you take the time to be rooted in your own motivation and meaning, everything will feel a lot easier.
What advice do you have for women who aspire to walk in your shoes?
Well, first: find your own shoes to walk in, because they'll be much more comfortable! Seriously, trying to be someone else can bring a lot of suffering. If you see people you admire, look at their qualities and skills rather than the whole. What pieces of my life are inspiring and what's your version of that? This became a major theme of my novel. My character wants to be just like Sylvia Beach and she discovers that role models can only take her so far before she has to carve out her own path.
In that same vein, I suggest limiting the amount of advice you consume. There's so much writing and blogging and self-help out there. The online space is very crowded. The people who are making it are differentiating themselves in some way. You have to find and express your original impulse; don't follow the herd.
But if you want to be self-employed, get some basic business skills. I was working for myself for four years before I realized I had no idea how to run a business. I took a small business smarts class and it helped me think in ways that allow me to still be in business thirteen years later.
Take basic business sense, blend it with your unique expression and make an offer that makes a difference for your audience. Voila!
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I see myself still working one-on-one with clients. And I'm gearing my work toward more in-person work, including speaking and group training. I see myself doing more art and multimedia projects and communicating in a more visual way.