Lessons for the Coach

I love learning. I enjoy coaching writers, too, and I’m excited to note that those writers teach me plenty of lessons.

First off, some people get confused about what a writing coach does. A writing coach doesn’t teach you how to write. It’s not their job to read your pages and give you feedback.

A writing coach helps you identify mental blocks to writing. Or maybe they talk you through the process of creating a realistic time line for finishing your book. Confused about what project to focus on? A coach can help with this.

I’m not the typical writing coach. I prefer to specialize as a story coach. But that’s not the same thing as a book coach.

Are you confused yet? Read this blog I wrote about the different types of coaching.

As a story coach, I ask questions specific to your story. If you’re stuck, I might help you brainstorm.

Can I read pages? Sure. But that will fall under a different service I offer: critique or editing.

What can you teach your coach?

Lesson One: What They Need

One client, Karen Berry said: “ I told my coach that she was my lane corrector.”

Often when I meet with a new client, I’ll ask: “how can I help you?”

You might be surprised to learn that most of them don’t know. So, I let them talk about what they think they need.

I listen. Closely. And I read between the lines.

Good thing I’m great at hearing subtext in conversation.

Some things writers need:

  • Accountability
  • Clarity for their story
  • Help defining character goals and motives
  • Time management assistance
  • Ideas for refining their process

The list could continue. In listening to discover what they need, I often discover what will help me further my writing project or career.

Lesson Two: Inspiration

I became a writing coach because an unpublished writer in an online community asked me to coach her.

What I learned through our coaching sessions over the course of nine months as she finished writing the first draft of her first novel is priceless.

I discovered that helping her find insight into her story inspired me to look for the exciting parts of what I was writing. Her determination to keep going forward when it was hard encouraged me to do the same.

It surprised me to mirror her emotions when she had breakthroughs. When she thanked me for helping her brainstorm, a dose of dopamine shot through my brain.

If I could help her finish her story then surely I could find the will to finish what I was writing.

Helping more clients get unstuck while I was racking up practice hours for my certification fueled my passion. For seeing the thrill in their eyes, but also to write the stories burning in my heart.

Writing coach, coach thyself. Okay, that sounded wittier in my head.

Lesson Three: Redirection

Several clients I’ve worked with have pivoted. One started writing women’s fiction and is now writing mystery. One who thought writing romance novels would be easy has hung up her metaphorical writing gloves.

Their courage helped me reconsider why I was writing. In sessions with a writing coach, I realized that it wasn’t my fear of failure (or success) holding me back. It’s because I wasn’t passionate about the genre I was writing.

I despised the revision work on novels, but I could spend hours revising and editing a shorter piece of fiction without complaint.

Light bulb moment: maybe I’m not supposed to write novels.

It took more soul searching to realize that I linked being a successful author to writing novels. Would I be less of an author if I only published novellas? Short stories?

Since then, I’ve had my first flash fiction published. I’m writing more of those wee stories and it brings me joy.

Thank you, coaching clients. The lessons you’ve taught me brought me back to a regular writing routine.

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.