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Coaching A Dream To Reality

Feelings follow action. A story about the power of coaching.


MAY 03, 2024


After I completed coaching training through Co-Active Training Institute a couple of years ago, I was resting on my sofa, recovering from a knee replacement, when my phone rang. “When are you going to work on that book you’ve been chipping away at?” my mentor coach Julie Colbrese asked me, directly and warmly.

“Oh, my gosh, I know, I should do that. I mean I have the time right now but I’m just not feeling it,” I answered, slightly sheepish because I knew how that sounded. A weak light-heartedness barely masked my underlying hesitation and under-confidence.

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Compelled by the power of stories, I’ve been writing since early childhood. Yet that harsh self-judgment we all sometimes suffer from kept me from sharing a single word of my writing with anyone. In spite of the fear, that longing to tell stories, to become a published author, stayed with me and in fact was growing with intensity, demanding that I pay attention to this dream.

I felt stuck.

I teetered on a sharp edge:  unable to quiet the drive to write yet terrified to share it with others.

“Why don’t you go on a writing retreat?” Julie suggested.

“Oh wow. That’s a great idea! I mean, people do that. I could do that — there are tons of writing retreats, all the time. OK, I’ll look today.” My resolve was strong. That suggestion was a new way of looking at the prospect of writing. It was non-threatening. A retreat felt kind. It felt like self-care, a mini vacation. It didn’t seem like an outrageous proposition, and it was something I could take action on in that moment.

Opening my iPad, I searched for “professional writing retreat for first-time authors” and started reading descriptions. The fifth retreat in the search results resonated:

WHO SHOULD JOIN?You, if you need an adventure, plus the gift of time and space in a laid-back island setting.You don’t need to be a writer or to have a grand project in progress. You may need support to start, or finish. You may be halfway through a novel, you may be working on a screenplay, or recording your life story.  You may just have a dream to write and don't know how to start. You may want to improve your storytelling and learn new skills.  You can be working on a novel, memoir, poetry, workbook, online course, photography-based book, life story or just a creative writing project.You may simply want to attend the talks, do the writing reflections and enjoy a holiday amoungst like-minded creatives and become part of a global writing community.The time is both a deep-dive into your own book, and a task-based program to get your word count up, or finish your book ready for submission. Both advanced and novice writers are welcome. 

What a description. Low-pressure, welcoming, and open. Sounded perfect for exactly where I was at in my writing journey.

I checked further details, and paused. Oh, I thought to myself. It’s in Kenya! OK, well, I guess I’m going to Kenya.

Excited with this new adventure, I quickly submitted my application. Within days I was accepted and arranged travel and lodging, and called Julie back.

“Hi, I’m checking in. So I found a writing retreat — it sounds like a perfect match for where I’m at. I went ahead and booked it, and you’ll never believe where it’s at.”

“I can’t even imagine. California? Massachusetts?”

“No. Lamu, Kenya.”

“Lamu? in KENYA? Wow, way to lean into a coaching assignment! When are you going? Are you going to stay and travel in the area while you’re there?”

We discussed all the details and I told her that I’d extended the trip to go on a safari, too, after the writing retreat concluded.

Six months later, I arrived in Manda airport and boarded a small boat to cross the channel to Lamu Island, a Kenyan archipelago on the Indian Ocean.

Taxiing, Lamu style

Beginning serious work on a memoir, I worked alongside this international group of retreat participants. Some were well-established published authors. Others, like me, were just beginning their writing process. And a few were there for the sun, the food, the music, and the experience.

When asked, I introduced myself to the group and explained that I had come here to finally answer this life-long question:  Can I write well enough to publish, or not? After all, I told myself, if my writing is truly as bad as I suspect it is, I’ll never have to see these people again.

I haltingly read my passages to the group, fully participating in the program agenda. My voice shook as I stood and read the “inciting incident” portion of my opening chapter and caught my breath as my audience responded with laughter, cheers, and applause. Stunned, confused, it slowly registered that they liked it. They liked my writing. They wanted more! The encouragement felt overwhelming and instantly the invisible bondage of fear, like metal scales of armor, dropped from my limbs, my sides, my chest, and my throat.

I leaned in. I gave myself permission to write, to enjoy the writing, to experiment, to play.

In this magical land, I learned to let go of the most restrictive restraints I’d placed on myself for so long. And I met another coach, our retreat host, the renowned Sarah Bullen, who continued to coach me through my writing process.

A working lunch

Many of you know that I’ve been on a healing journey for most of my adult life, starting in my early 20s as I began recovery from alcoholism and addiction.  So I’m no stranger to self-help, mental health resources, various therapy modalities, and many alternative medicine practices. While those are all highly recommended tools from which I’ve benefited, nothing moved me to action the way Julie’s simple, clear, and curiosity-based coaching did. It didn’t take years or months of analysis for me to understand why I was stuck; it took a single question to push me out of paralysis.

The bold move I took to respond to her suggestion resulted in a fully completed memoir, which will be published by Köehler Books early next year. Utilizing coaching to take action — in spite of my fear — quickly resulted in a transformation I couldn’t achieve on my own.

Written and submitted to you, my dear online community, with the deepest gratitude to Julie and Sarah, and my friends in Lamu.

Find your path

For more information about Sarah’s remarkable writing retreats, see The Writing Room Retreats — join us in Greece!

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