whitefox: helping brands, thought leaders and writers create beautiful bespoke books
Gabriela Blandy is a fully qualified Life Coach and NLP Practitioner. She is a personal and professional development expert with over fifteen years’ experience of working with writers, creatives and entrepreneurs.
Gabriela has been awarded the Royal Society of Literature V S Pritchett Prize and has a Masters in Creative Writing. Her writing has been published in various books and journals. She has also been published alongside Sarah Waters and Daphne du Maurier in Virago’s collection of ghostly tales, Something was There. Gabriela has hosted hundreds of literary events, both in London at City University and the bar at RADA, and at The John Osborne Arvon Centre and spoken on the Creative Writing Masters Programs at Oxford, UEA, Warwick, Birkbeck and Guildford.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a coach for writers, creators and entrepreneurs?
My experience of ‘becoming’ began as an absence. I sensed something missing in my life and repeatedly found myself thinking, ‘There has to be more than this’. At the time, I was working as the Assistant Director of a retreat for writers. It was deeply rewarding work, yet I was seeing something in the retreat participants around me that appeared as a problem, which I wasn’t sure how to solve.
Every week, people arrived at the retreat announcing nervously that they weren’t a writer. I witnessed how the men and women around me would talk about their books with an air of conflict: they wanted to write, yet doubted themselves; they longed to be published, but couldn’t prioritise their writing.
I was full of advice from the years I had spent working on Creative Writing MA programs in the UK, but whenever I shared my wisdom, the light switched off in the eyes of the people I was talking to. Clearly, advice was not the answer, but what was?
There is a phrase that when the pupil is ready the teacher arrives.
Three years into my job at the retreat, I went on a staff training day. For a portion of the day, a woman from outside the organisation came to run a workshop. She introduced herself as a business coach and explained that coaching was non-advisory. A week later I booked on a weekend-long training for coaches, and I was hooked!
At the same time, I’d begun to explore my own longings for more, which had led me to start working with a Shaman. I was discovering powerful spiritual practices that were igniting my own imagination.
My own writing practice had become tainted when my first novel was rejected by publishers. My agent at the time was very supportive, but I hadn’t been able to find my flow. This had been the reason I took the role at the retreat because I was beginning to wonder whether my purpose in life was to help other writers, rather than write myself.
Coaching and Shamanism helped me rebuild my creative home. Writing began to bring the pleasure it once had. I found a way to write that felt like a satisfying form of ‘imagination yoga’. It became a gentle and reliable tool to ground me when my job or life got a little shaky.
These experiences of Coaching and Shamanism felt so life-changing that I was drawn to find a way to share them with others. It made sense to start my own business where I would be free to work with people in ways that felt aligned to what I’d discovered. Naturally, I was drawn to guiding people that I describe as ‘creative souls’ because they are people, like me, who are seeking more and drawn to create and impact, perhaps even heal, others.
How do you encourage writers to reach their goals and find their unique voice?
This might sound strange, but I encourage my clients by stepping back and removing the need for encouragement.
Imagine a gentle sloping lawn, which has just enough tilt to it that a ball would naturally roll along. It’s the same when working with a client on their goals. We find a place where the client simply rolls along towards their dreams, like that ball. If I actively encourage my clients, I undermine their own ability to strive for their goals: why ‘push’ a ball when it can naturally roll forward making use of the slope?
The trick is to help the client become this sloping lawn.
Each case is unique, but some of this work involves clearing resistance. Often, our thoughts are set in such a way that the ‘ball’ of our desires seems to roll away from the very thing we want. This might be because even though we have a goal of, say, publishing a book that impacts the world with our message, we don’t believe it’s possible.
Our unique voice comes at the moment we are ‘tilted’ just so. Of course, it’s no surprise that this is the moment we are rolling forward with ease!
Now, I can convey all this in a few paragraphs that can be read in a moment, but it can take months, even years, to tune in and feel the nuance of the way we are ‘inclined’. I like to use a lot of visualisation techniques with my clients. It’s a powerful way to communicate with the unconscious mind and can be a wonderful method to help the writers and entrepreneurs I work with see into themselves and understand what it is they want and how they want to express their stories and experiences.
What are some key practices and techniques that all writers should aim to incorporate into their writing process that will improve and progress their work?
The first step when working with a writer who wants to improve and progress is to help them define what that improvement and progression looks like for them. This safeguards against being stuck in that uncomfortable loop where we feel we’re not good enough, or we’re not achieving what we want, which can ironically lead to us spending less time on our writing.
I find that with many of my clients, due to the nature of living in a busy world, focusing on short term and manageable goals works best. This mitigates the common mental habit of repeatedly giving ourselves a hard time for not having completed a perfect book yet, because we’re focused on a smaller part of the whole.
A short-term, manageable goal might be to plan to write five hundred words over the weekend. This invariably leads to more, but the intention is to have a practice that feels doable. In this way, we don’t end up feeling bad for continually putting it off. It’s a great way for writers to get back into the saddle, if writing has regularly been shoved down the priorities list.
Another practice that we regularly come back to in my group program is to ensure that writing has a special place in our lives. For many frustrated creatives, writing has become a chore they never seem to get around to. Rather than feeling a love for the words they want to pen, they’re beating themselves up for not giving themselves the time to write.
This is why I help my clients develop a nourishing journaling and meditation practice. In my group program we come together each week to practice a specific meditation designed to calm the nervous system down. Many of the reasons people are struggling to write isn’t so much about time, but rather that they’re in a stress state without realising it. The body is not designed to compose insightful prose whilst running from a bear attack! Each week I design a series of powerful journal prompts, which bring about insight and enlightenment to help my clients train their brains to view writing as the key to the pleasure that a deeper understanding of ourselves can bring.
Do you believe writing and publishing a book can help to empower women? How?
I believe in the power of Divine Feminine Energy, which brings a state of powerful groundedness and an immense capacity to love. This energy, or way of being, is available to all of us. As women, I feel that we can have an easier time tapping into this than men, but this isn’t a rule. In fact, many women can reject the qualities of the Divine Feminine because they might have been brought up to fear vulnerability, or didn’t receive loving nurture from their mothers. This has been my own experience. Writing my own memoir has enabled me to heal this absent energy in my life, bringing my natural power back to me.
A published book is a fabulous way to spread a message and connect people, both in the words on the page, as well as the press and publicity that comes from writing a book. For me, power, or empowerment, are about open, authentic connection and I do find that books and discussing our books are wonderful ways to achieve this.
I truly believe that the more women in the world who are tapped into Divine Feminine Energy, writing about their intimate, personal experiences, the more we will spread the power of this way of being, offering an important balance to male energy.
What advice would you offer an aspiring female author about to embark on writing their first non-fiction book?
It can be quite a challenge to edit a full-sized manuscript that’s been written with little understanding of its intention. I’ve been there! So, being at the ‘about to embark’ phase is a wonderful place to be on your writing journey because you have great potential to get clear before the writing begins.
The way to navigate an ‘embarkation’, which I’ll offer here, could also work for someone part-way or all the way through a first draft.
You firstly want to be aware of the world of your story. This is the stage upon which the action unfolds. Whether you are writing a memoir, where you will lead your reader on a story of your own transformation, or a teaching memoir, which will involve lessons, exercises, even case studies, there is always a world in the background, which provides the story that will engage your reader. Once you as the writer know how that world begins, and how it changes, you will understand the journey you are taking your reader on. We can often get caught up in the information we want to convey in our work, forgetting that storytelling is the more powerful way to spread a message because it does something fabulous to the brain. Seeing the shifting narrative contained in the changing world as the backdrop to your non-fiction book means that you will engage your reader.
It also helps to understand what pleases your reader. This is because our brains are programmed to pay attention to pleasure. Perhaps you have a reader who receives pleasure from the tension of not knowing what’s going to happen next. If so, you’ll want to explore how you can keep them hanging. This might mean that you release your information slowly. It might be that your ideal reader loves drama. I’ve recently read a fantastic non-fiction book about trees that read like a thriller. Not only did I adore it, but I’ve recommended it to many friends.
What is your writing mantra?
I have a mantra for my writing and my business, which came early on in my journey as an entrepreneur. It was six months after leaving my job as the Assistant Director of the writing retreat and I was feeling rather depleted and disheartened about how my coaching business was growing. I had decided to make time at the weekend to practice a Shamanic ‘Journeying’ ritual, which always brings me powerful insights. I knew that I was blocked, but I couldn’t see past this.
During a beautiful meditation where I was able to see the life and career that I was working hard to create, I had a clear thought. The words ‘Every Act is a Celebration of your Dreams’ came into my mind. It was clear I hadn’t been taking action with my writing or my business with this energy. I’d been full of struggle, suffering, and the sense of how hard everything was.
I now have those words engraved on the back of my iPad, and I will use this mantra in both my meditation and my journaling practice to ground me whenever I start to get impatient about my results.