My 4 Teachers | An exercise in helping me decide how to write.


Back in grad school my thesis was a writing camp- for students who had trouble reading and for people who had trouble writing.

Writing has always been a form of self-care for me. It helps me think things through and express them in ways that feel like talking to a friend who loves me. It also feels like helping the world- because I know there are people out there like me who are struggling in ways I’m struggling. Writing reaches them. It makes them feel like they’re not all alone. And that gives me purpose.

Writing feels like venting, like creating, like advocating for myself, like acknowledging my own feelings.

But then I also began a business and I NEEDED to write about myself for my website, for social media, for blog posts, for newsletters, for interviews, etc.

And then I began to have writer’s block.

I stopped posting.

I didn’t post on my instagram in any meaningful way.

I didn’t send a newsletter for months (you can attest to that!).

A few things were going on.

I was feeling depleted by my role at Cleveland Flea.

I was forgetting how important writing was to me.

I stopped making time for writing- feeling like other things should take its place.

And then, weirdly enough, I forgot how to write about myself.

So, I solved this in a few ways.

First, I began self coaching so that I could prioritize writing.

  • I got rid of the thought that there wasn’t time for writing.

  • I began reading nightly. (I found that reading was integral to me bringing writing back into my life)

  • I scheduled time for writing and when I’m writing (like now) I feel kinda stressed because I’m always thinking that I should be doing something else, but like my first point, I just remind my brain gently that writing is the only important thing I should be doing.

Secondly, I put myself through one of my Vision Coaching Exercises that I use for my clients who want to express themselves more creatively.

  • IDENTIFY YOUR 4 TEACHERS (The people, books, philosophies, etc that are guiding lights for you. These can change as our lives change. They can be dead, alive, fictional characters, instagram accounts, neighbors- anyone who inspires you through how they live their lives and express themselves.

  • Once you’ve identified these teachers, list what they do that you love. How they express themselves in the world that feels amazing to you.

  • Then you also write down the values you THINK they have. It doesn’t matter if they have these values or not, it’s more about what they make you think, what you’re interpreting from them.

MY FOUR TEACHERS (right now, because they could change):

What I like about each:

Mark Nepo | I love thinking big about the universe and our inward journey with Mark Nepo. His book, The Book of Awakening, has a really cool daily structure. It starts with a Title, Poem and then goes into a lesson and an exercise in meditation. I like that structure. I like his tone and the way he weaves philosophy and poetry into real stories about struggle (in his own life usually). His values would be: Love, Truth, Openness, Metaphysical (like the universe)

Brooke Castillo | Brooke is my mentor and the Founder of The Life Coach School. She’s bold and straightforward and super connected to her own internal mission. She produces SO MUCH CONTENT and I’m in awe of that. She’s always evolving personally and never presents that as though something is wrong or she should be ashamed of it or that it’s super hard. She’s accepting of the world (this is obviously my interpretation) and she teaches me to not resist what the world is trying to teach me. Brookes Values: Self-growth, Curiosity, Believing in the impossible.

Lisa Taddeo / Three Women | This book changed my life at a very critical point. In my viewpoint, Taddoe’s writing is like stream of consciousness combined with poetry and is wildly descriptive in ways that feel more like poetry than documentary. It’s documentary from the viewpoint of someone who is sharing a vision of women. Details are interpreted with an intent to shape your own experience about those details and reveal what the characters might be feeling at the time. It’s hard for me to explain but when I read this book while I was on vacation in France this Summer, the way I saw the world changed. I was seeing things in a new way. A way that was highly expressive and evocative of my own internal feelings. She could describe a leaf blowing in the wind and connect it back to observations about how her Three Women were feeling. That was really captivating to me and it unlocked me to see my own world this way- in poetry-meets-internal-meets-external world. I really loved it. Her values would be: Creativity, Raw Emotion, Truth

My friend Shira | Well, I love Shira’s light-hearted approach. She’s a coach I met at The Life Coach School and she’s got an organizing business and I just like how she gets stuff done and doesn’t get too caught up in drama on her way there. I know her and I do know she gets inside her own head, but she always manages to keep on the subject matter of helping people organize rather than get into the pity party of her own drama around business- and sometimes that’s refreshing to me. She reminds me that if I want to be someone to help people run businesses, I need to produce content around that and trade my own personal drama for some deadlines and moving forward. I also like how her personal life and business life seem to have a (fairly) good distance from each other- for sure she LIVES her biz values but she has buffers between life and work and I admire that. Her Values would be: Structure, low-drama, boundaries, light-heartedness, self-confidence, to-the-point.

Here’s what you’ll be left with:

  • A short list of inspiring people to look to for creative guidance when you’re lacking direction (subject matter if you’re in need).

  • A short list of VALUES that you’ll want to weave into your writing (guiding principles).

  • A short list of how YOU also want to be perceived in the world (tone).

So, what can I learn from this in my own writing?

My writing can be a mix of these things:

  • Love, Truth, Openness, Metaphysical

  • Self-growth, Curiosity, Believing in the impossible.

  • Creativity, Raw Emotion, Truth

  • Structure, low-drama, boundaries, light-heartedness, self-confidence, to-the-point.

Sounds like a long list, but it’s not. And when I go to write I can use these terms as guiding principles. When I think of all of them together, I know myself more. I see how both subject matter and tone can be drawn from each.

And practicing daily or weekly or monthly with these using the places I create content will help me become even better at writing.

One more crucial tip I’d give is this:

Define what it is you want your reader to DO, THINK + FEEL when they read your piece. Writing is cathartic, but for business owners there also needs to be a purpose beyond that- if you want your energy spent writing to be doing something for your business.

Pausing quickly at the beginning of each piece of writing to decide what your intention is for both you and your reader is a good practice.

For me, today, I’m sharing that I’m back to writing consistently (yay!) and I’m introducing a program that will help people access their creativity in a way that maybe they didn’t believe possible.



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Stephanie Sheldon