Marianne Canters

Writing Coach, Content Strategist, Publisher and Owner of Tekstgericht

“Wees altijd de leerling van jezelf. “

Always be your own student. The better you know yourself, the better you can understand and develop yourself to ultimately become the best version of yourself and live your best life…

What is your personal story?

As a child I always wanted to go to culinary school, but life pointed me in a different direction. I studied to become a Dutch teacher. Despite Dutch being my worst subject in secondary school, I loved learning how to write reports and essays. It was a fantastic choice. All the different types of writing, film and literature, storytelling… I realized ‘this was my thing’ and in that first year I already saw how I would take it further.

I knew I wouldn’t become a teacher, but that I would learn everything there was to learn about writing. In the first years after graduating, I would gain experience in various types of writing and then start my business as a freelance copywriter. And that’s how it went.

After graduating, I started writing texts for jingles, commercials, and manuals. I worked as a content manager and corrected texts for a large publishing house. In 2005 I had the opportunity to write for a brand new supermarket magazine, the Echt Genieten by Jan Linders. That gave me the opportunity to start my own company as a freelancer: Tekstgericht.

It wasn’t the most logical moment, since I was pregnant with my daughter. But I felt the moment I had been waiting for had come.

Trusting my intuition blindly
That has actually been the common thread throughout my life.
To feel. Follow my intuition and learn from what comes up and happens. Now I trust my intuition blindly.

I make decisions based on what I have to learn and what my intuition says. That eventually led me to my mission, which is to empower (entrepreneurial) women as a writing coach, content strategist and publisher.

Who are your role models?
Oprah Winfrey, who has worked so hard on herself, her sense of self and what she stands for to (women in) the world.
Maya Angelou, because of her beautiful statements.
Iris Apfel, because of her unique appearance, personality and way of living.

Share the important challenges or breakthroughs in your career that led to where you are today

Passionate entrepreneurs motivate me
As a copywriter I discovered that I found writing texts for smaller companies much more enjoyable than for larger companies. When you work with smaller companies or independent entrepreneurs, you see their eyes sparkle when they talk about their products or services.

After a few years I decided to do it differently. I literally felt I had to make this switch. I continuously follow my feelings. It's how I make choices. I decided I would only work with those smaller entrepreneurs. And instead of writing texts, I wanted to teach these passionate entrepreneurs how to write their own texts. By writing from their own passion, they could do a better job than I could.

Now I teach female entrepreneurs (part of my mission) how to create their own content that is genuinely meaningful, and fits with their mission and the great work they do. I help them tell their own stories, do their own marketing and grow their business. In this way, I help them to live their mission and, as I experience it, to make the world a better place. And by doing so, make themselves clearly shine.

Growing and facing my inner critics
Unfortunately, when my daughter was almost three years-old, I got divorced. It was a sad period.

Fortunately, opportunities come your way – for me it was writing my first book project, the art biography of Teun Gijssen, a painter.

I almost didn't do it, because: ‘Who did I think I was and that I could write a book?’ You know that little voice in your head. ‘I've never written a book. I can't do that, can I?’ I was brooding about it, because I wanted to do it, but was so afraid that it wouldn't work… Until one of my best friends asked me: ‘And what if you do it and it doesn't work? What's the worst that could happen? Will you get sick or worse?’ That made me decide to do it.

It's a question I still ask myself when I go on those exciting, bigger projects. Even though intuition and my feelings indicate the direction, sometimes those voices still come. By asking myself these questions, I always get that last push that I need.

I wrote that book. And then two more. Number four is on its way.

Learning from behaviors that hold you back

In our interviews, we love to talk about ‘12 behaviors that hold you back’ – that were researched and published in the book ‘How Women Rise’ from Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith. We asked Marianne if she could identify with any of these 12 behaviors that hold women back from moving forward in their careers.

Reluctance to claim your achievements
During my life, I noticed certain fields of tension that all revolved around the same issue. I really needed to learn how to ‘receive’.

This at first became clear when it came to receiving compliments. My first business coach taught me that sharing reviews is incredibly important for your online marketing. So I had to ask people for reviews. That was one thing. ‘Share that you are good at what you do… you don't do that, do you?’ I had something to learn. I started asking for the reviews and started sharing what was said, but really feeling the compliments land inside myself? I couldn’t do that.

That played out in many areas of my life. Including making money.

I later found out that this had to do with the fact that I didn't consider myself very valuable. That makes it very difficult if you want to be self-supporting. Receiving money – directly related to setting my rates was a problem. Whenever I had to make an estimate, I’d have a stomach ache all day long.

I've done a lot of inner work on this. ‘Why couldn't I receive? Why is that so difficult for me?’ The sore spot is gone now. I know what has always been going on and recognize it when it shows up.

I know I'm not the only woman who has this. Many women consider receiving as 'an issue'. I honestly believe that this is more of an issue with women than with men. In my view, men have a stronger sense of self. Or know how to convey that better, to radiate it.

As women, we often make ourselves smaller. Not surprising, given our history. When women stood up for themselves and their expertise, they were punished in terrible ways. (Unfortunately, it is still the case in some places.) It could cost you your life if you did.
So you shrug off a compliment with: 'Oh, it's nothing, you're welcome. It's all right… No, I'll give you that as a present.' That's how I did it anyway.

We have work to do here as women. We have patterns to break here, so that the women in the generations after us do not have to be afraid when they want to follow their passion (and talents) and make themselves visible to do so.

Ruminating over past mistakes
I regularly look back to evaluate the steps I have taken. To learn from them, to adapt and to consciously move on. In the past, I could spend a long of time going over things that didn’t go well in my head. Again and again. Since I started my business, I have learned to deal with this differently, step by step. Because that constant ruminating takes away energy, which you simply need.

Besides coaching female entrepreneurs myself, I also like to be coached. I consciously choose women who have more experience than I do, who have already lived a whole life and are older and wiser than I am. Women who have made mistakes themselves. I can learn from them. I learn from what they have learned. As a result, I have been able to take many great steps with my company and in my life.

I was also very good at minimizing myself in the way I talked. ‘Sorry to ask you this… Sorry to bother you.’ Sorry was one of my most frequently used words. Almost to the level: I'm sorry I exist. (See again the relationship with how valuable I found myself.)

I discovered this when someone bumped into me while I was standing still in front of the store I had just visited. I said sorry to this woman, while she walked away as if nothing happened. Then I realized: Hey, this is really not okay. I became very aware of my own use of words. If you recognize this habit: pay close attention to the language you use.

When you find yourself in a difficult situation, what is your go to skill?
When I am in a difficult situation now, I immediately get in touch with my feelings. If possible, I take physical distance. I go for a walk outside or let it settle overnight. That way I know exactly what I feel. And I write. Of course I write.
By stepping out of the situation you give yourself the opportunity to rise above it and see what is going on from a different perspective. So does writing.

If you find yourself in a difficult situation, I always say, start writing. Clear your head. And when you think you're done, don't put a period but a comma. Continue writing. Up to that moment, your head has spoken. And you’ve cleared your space for intuition. Your intuition comes after that comma. The more you practice this, the easier it gets. (The best tip for this is; start writing, every day!)

Do you think personal branding is important for professional women?
Definitely. Personal branding helps to increase your self-confidence, which also helps you professionally.

Think of it as your moral compass. It reflects your norms and values. Your standards, your mission, what you feel passionate about, what makes you happy. It is important to discover and know this about yourself.
By doing this, you can decide whether what you do contributes to what you truly want to stand for in this life. You know the expression: make sure you have your own plan, otherwise you will become part of someone else's plan.
I see a personal brand as its own compass that helps you with this. It helps you stay on course and keep a close eye on your limits.

What advice would you give to other professional women who want to shine in their career?
See everything as an opportunity to learn. Be the student of yourself. If you are asked to do something and you feel resistance, ask yourself: ‘Why is it there? Where does that come from? What do I have to learn here?’ The better you get to know yourself, the better you can follow your feelings. You know where you want to go. Your feelings will help you stay on course. This is how you develop yourself further. By constantly asking the question: ‘What do I have to learn here?’ And certainly if you include that question in your journal, the answer will come up there automatically. If you just put in that comma.

Want to know more about Marianne?
Go to Tekstgericht, Boek van Betekenis, or 365 Geluk.

Photo courtesy of: Jessica van Duren.


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