I have been blogging for a number of years now. I started, long-time readers may recall, with The Bush Diaries, back in November 2004, after the presidential election of that year. I found that I needed to "do something", and fell into the blogosphere pretty much by accident. That first blog morphed, thank heaven, a couple of years later into The Buddha Diaries, which continues to this day. It's my own way of "persisting" as a writer, and it has led me to many associations that I treasure. Now, in launching Persist: The Blog, I have begun to meet another whole community of writers who devote a good deal of thought to human creativity and to supporting those who find it an essential part of their lives. I have slowly been introducing myself in this community, and thought it would be a great idea to get to know them a little better. So this will be the first posting of a series of interviews in which I find out more about these fascinating, dedicated people.
Persist: How did you get involved in creativity coaching? How long have you been at it? Are you an artist yourself (I use the word generically: writer, musician, actor, dancer...); and was it your experience as such that led you into this endeavor?
Chris: I am an artist — a graphic designer by trade and a writer by heart. I’m also a humorist and make good use of my artistic skills in the invention of many imaginative (and sometimes silly) things you can see on display at ChrisDunmire.com. I’ve authored and self-published several teacher-geared instructional e-books available on CreativeSlush.com — most popular among them is my Origami Dollar Bill Money Plant project which will be featured in Harry Choron’s upcoming book “The MoneyPhile.”
For the past 10 years I’ve been absorbed in writing motivational articles and designing projects to inspire creative thinking and expression in others. My personal passion for creativity (it’s vital to my well-being), is paired with a sense of compassion for others struggling with their own creative nature. As a result, I founded Creativity-Portal.com in 2000 with the intention of encouraging others towards courageously exploring and expressing their creativity, long before I knew what creativity coaching was.
I got involved in creativity coaching through my work with C-P, first as a promoter of life coaches with a niche in coaching creatives, and then as an aspiring creativity coach myself. I became immersed in the works of leading creativity authors and experts — Roger VonOech, Michael Gelb, Julia Cameron, SARK, Eric Maisel, and others, and through Maisel’s “Fearless Creating” and “Coaching the Artist Within” I learned about creativity coaching as a stand-alone profession he claimed to be 'cutting out of whole cloth' as a coach himself and a trainer of creativity coaches worldwide, being regarded as ‘America’s foremost creativity coach.’
Maisel’s work resonated with me so much that between 2005 and 2006 I completed three of his creativity coach certification courses which are now core trainings for the Creativity Coaching Association (CCA). Interestingly, I also had a hand in developing and promoting the original CCA program in partnership with its original founder, Rick Benzel on C-P, but that’s another story.
Persist: Do you have/need any special qualifications or certification?
Chris: I have three certificates through Maisel’s training programs: Basic Creativity Coaching, Coaching Artists, and Coaching Writers. In 2009 I also became certified in the Badonsky/Maurer model of Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching™ (KMCC) and am a current member of the KMC3.
When you ask, “Do you need any special qualifications,” realize that coaching is an unregulated field, which means that life coaching, creativity coaching, and any other type of coaching can be practiced by anyone with or without credentials. And because of this, different coaches may work in different ways depending on where they acquired their training (or not), what philosophy they’re working with, and how they express their interpersonal style. These are important considerations for a potential client to research beforehand, to ask about, and to test out in a demo session to be sure the relationship will be a good fit for both the client and coach.
Organizations like the International Coaching Federation (ICF) try to establish a standard for coaching by a code of ethics and fee-based permission to carry their stamp of approval, but even they disclaim anyone under their umbrella with the statement on their Web site: “Representatives of the programs listed in this search service have agreed to abide by the ICF Code of Ethics. However, ICF approval does not guarantee the ethical practices or effectiveness of the training program or organization.” So again, a client needs to be vigilant while selecting a coach and open to finding one in a number of ways.
Personally, I recommend hiring a creativity coach who is both certified in some coaching model/philosophy and also demonstrably creative in their own life. If I lacked either, I would not practice creativity coaching — it would be out of tune with my integrity.
Persist: To what extent does your work with artists involve "therapy"--for want of a better word--or personal counseling, as opposed to professional counseling?
Chris: The maxim that “coaching is not therapy” applies in the creativity coaching I do, especially in a legal sense. And if a client seeks coaching but really needs therapy or counseling, I’ll refer them.
By design one-to-one coaching offers at least some therapeutic value to the client in that they engage in the process feeling supported, validated, and heard by an objective party who is interested, helpful, and non-judgmental.
In the KMCC model, for example, an emphasis on compassion and the non-linear nature of creativity is integral to the coaching process, along with helping a client to tap into their own intuitive wisdom and personal power to achieve their goals, even in the smallest of steps. This nurturing relationship can easily open up creative blocks and lead to wonderful strides and breakthroughs.
Persist: What rewards do you look for from your work? Which of these mean the most to you?
Chris: I appreciate that I can act as a creative catalyst in someone else’s life. When people tell me that I’ve helped or inspired them in some way, it feels good. When I see a client’s confidence grow, or they are more joyful, or they achieve particular goal, I witness the process working, transforming lives. I know its worthy work. It’s both rewarding and meaningful to me.
Persist: What can an artist expect to gain from working with you? Are you concerned to help them with greater exposure?
One of the first questions I’ll ask a client is, “What are you looking for in creativity coaching?” This starts the process of where our work begins. If an artist is afraid to pick up a paintbrush and make her first stroke, we begin there. Or, if a writer wants to explore ways to widen his audience and expand his readership, we begin there. It’s about expanding possibilities and finding/discovering ways to make things happen.
Persist: Do you have any thoughts about the burgeoning competition in this line of work?
Chris: Among KMCC coaches, I love our variety and celebrate our differences in the supportive community we’re building. After reading the book “Attracting Perfect Customers: the Power of Strategic Synchronicity” by Stacey Hall and Jan Brogniez I realize that people who truly value my services and are attracted to my particular style will make the best clients — and we’ll mutually benefit. Some coaches may be better suited for particular clients because of their own areas of expertise and personality types, and I’m happy to refer them. Coaching is not a one-size-fits-all thing, so I’m glad there’s room for all of us.
My best thanks to Chris for her enthusiastic participation and her generous response to my curiosity. There will be more to come...