How a writing coach helped me
Ignoring my inner critic, loudly jumping and down, shouting, "Loser!" and "See? I told you so. You can't write. Told you, told you, told you!" I finally verbalised the words, out loud, to the (still) blank screen in front of me.
“I need a writing coach.”
There - I said it.
By this time, I had opened and closed so many folders on my laptop titled “The Book” that even I was losing track of which one was The Actual Book. But it was time to stop clowning around and get writing, otherwise, I knew the book would remain a dream forever, eventually morphing into just another regret.
Going round and round on the Merry-Go-Round of excuses
I knew the time had come to start writing The Book that has been incubating for about a year already. But for some reason, I couldn’t get myself to do it. In my head, I went through all the typical writer's complaints that I heard so often at my workshops.
- I have no time
- I have writer's block
- I’m scared of rejection
- Who would want to read my writing anyway?
- This is stupid.
- I am stupid.
But none of these excuses seemed to fit the bill for why exactly I couldn't get myself to write the darn book when I've helped other writers to get started on theirs. How hard can it be to write a draft of Chapter 1 when I journal and write articles every day anyway?
I’ve never had writer's block. I've never actually had time either, and yet I’ve been writing steadily for a few years now. I'm not scared of rejection because my writing has been plenty rejected, and each time I felt immensely sorry for myself for about a week before picking up my pen and continuing to write once more.
I don't write just for readers either. To have people reading my work is great, of course, but even if no one ever read it, I would still write it. I'd be immensely pissed off, for sure, but I'd still write. So that's no excuse for not writing The Book either.
Taking the leap
Without a good excuse to fool myself (my inner critic) with, I most definitely felt stupid when I finally put my ego aside and emailed my friend, who happens to be a writing coach.
In the space of about two days, give or take a few hours for the time difference between us, I had a plan drawn up, and was already pounding away at the keyboard. Slowly, Chapter 1 of The Book materialised, and then Chapter 2.
Know that even capable people need help
I learnt something through this experience. Asking for coaching made me feel like a failure. A loser. But why? Doctors need doctors, dentists need dentists, therapists need therapists - why would it feel so embarrassing for a writer to need another writers' help?
Because the level of help that I needed from my writing coach was kindergarten stuff.
- How do I form my letters?
- How do I string them into a sentence?
- I can’t make sense of the whole – break it down for me.
- Where do I start?
- How do I do this?
Not only did I feel stupid, I also felt like a child, turning to a trusted parent and finally admitting that I don’t know how to start my school project when it seems so easy for everyone else.
Chloe, my eldest daughter drives me absolutely bananas when her room gets into such a state that one can barely walk in there. I always wonder, 'How hard is it to return a wet towel to the bathroom when you're done with it instead of leaving it on your bedroom floor?' And on her way to the bathroom, she might as well take the other three wet towels with her! From my perspective, it's easy as pie. Pack your clean laundry in your cupboard, not on your bed. It's not that much further to walk. Put your books on the bookshelf, not on the floor. Again, it's not that far - only about 10 cm further, and up a little, would have done the trick.
So when Chloe finally comes to me and says, "I don't know how to clean my room. Will you help me, please? Tell me where to start," my first thought is always, "Really? It's obvious what you need to do."
But for Chloe, once her room gets out of hand, she can't deal with the chaos and she literally can't think of what the first step is to sort out the mess. All the ideas for my book, cluttering up the floor space in my mind, felt like too much chaos to deal with. Where to start?
My coach pointed me in a direction and said, "Start there."
That's actually all I needed, someone to take me by the hand and tell me, 'Put your towels in the bathroom' 'Get yourself some pen and paper,' 'Pack your books on the shelf,' 'Write the chapter topics,' 'Clean laundry in the cupboard, dirty in the washing basket,' 'Write a few short sentences on what each chapter will be about, discard anything that doesn't fit.
So far, I've only had one session with my writing coach, and that was enough to get me going. But had I not chosen to ask for help when I needed it, no matter how stupid and incompetent I felt, I would still be stuck with a book in my head and no words on the page.
7 Reasons to consider getting yourself a writing coach
- You might feel stupid, but you're certainly not the only person who ever turned to a writing coach for help, so from the coach's perspective, you're perfectly normal. That in itself is enough of a reason to get help if you need it.
- If you have a specific genre that you're writing in, a coach that specialises in that genre can be invaluable. They often have specific insight, knowledge and know-how that you can't get from books, only from experience.
- They provide an objective sounding board for your thoughts and ideas - not necessarily to say which ones are good and which ones are bad, but to help you organise them so that they make sense.
- Writing coaches can see stuff in your work that you can't see - the bad but also the good. They can spot places where things made more sense in your head than they do on the page, and where the gems are that you're missing because you're too close to your work.
- If you respond to the whip more than the carrot, then a coach will be there to crack it for you, spurring you back into action when you hit a plateau.
- You don't always have to buy a whole package, which might be expensive. Some coaches work like that, which is fine, and others charge by the hour, so you can see them when you need to and no more.
- The writing process can bring up stuff that you've been ignoring. A coach can help you with those emotions by keeping you focused on the task at hand so that you don't drown in them and forget about the book.
So if you - like so many of us - are having trouble getting your book out of your head and onto the page, why not consider getting yourself a writing coach? It might be just what you need to get going.
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