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Working with a Writing Coach

This content originally appeared on the Authors.ai First Draft Friday channel. You can watch the original interview with Alessandra on YouTube as well.

After getting a writing coach I learned that a lot of writing comes from positive psychology. I don’t have just one writing coach, I have several because I understand that not everyone can match your brain or how your mind works. From each, I am learning different things about myself as a writer.

Everyone remembers the well-known author Nora Roberts saying, “You can’t edit a blank page” Well, I beg to differ. I edit all my novel pages before I even type a word onto a page. Sorry, Nora.

I also love Rachel Aaron but her 2k–10k is demotivating for me. I don’t need to know how much I can write per minute and hour. I need to want to write.

Learn how you work.  

For me, thinking is writing.

But I realize that not everyone thinks or works like I do. So, here is my 7 Tips on working with a writing coach for every writer.

1)  Pick a coach that works for you

Talk to them first in a 15- 30-minute call through zoom, in-person, or Skype. Make sure they are genuine and that you are not simply “renting a friend.”

What I mean by that is to try NOT to find someone who will not push you, and only be there to talk for however long you are paying them, and then be done each week. You deserve better.

Be careful with who you spend your money on and make sure you can work together. Everyone needs something different—any guru who tells you differently is selling something.

My coaches are not book coaches; they are people coaches. Instead of focusing on the craft of writing, writing coaches focus on how you go about writing.

After two years of strengths-based coaching, I get far more written every day/month/year than I ever did before using everyone else’s “magical productivity system.”

2)  Learn how your brain is wired

In CliftonStrengthsfinder terms, I have a #1 Strategic personality. The CliftonStrengths assessment is the core of what my coaches use, but they also use other psychometrics: MBTI aka Meyers-Briggs, DISC, Big Five, Enneagram, etc. The more you (and your coaches) know about you and how your brain is wired really helps in the writing process and creativity.

3)  Write at your own pace

For me, thinking is writing. Napping is writing. Taking a walk with my wife is writing. Lately, I’ve been playing Angry Birds (now that’s free in Apple Arcade) and…you guessed it—that’s writing.

How is it writing? For me, as a high Strategic and high Intellection personality, I think time. My brain tells me that I need to go think some more by making me STUCK. When that happens, I need to go DO SOMETHING (because I’m also a high Activator personality). It’s always something mindless to let my brain wander around in the dark and figure it out intuitively.

What this means is that I’m likely to never be in the book-a-month club. TL;DR version: If I have to write book-a-month fast to be successful, I’ll quit writing. It’s not fun. It’s not the quality I aspire to. The legendary Roni Loren gave a grand talk at RWA19 about “artisanal writing.” That’s what I’m happiest doing—sex and swords and sorcery and all.

I know I can write book-a-month fast, because I’ve done it. I had “book coach” take me through her fast draft methodology to finish an entire book in two weeks: 100,000 words, story and plot complete. I fucking hated every minute of it, and I still hate that book. After I found Story Grid to teach me how to build a story that works, I know what’s wrong with that book—but I’m not going to fix it any time soon.

4)  Take advice carefully

Not everyone works the same way. So how to write books might be valuable, but their entire methods on writing might not make you excited about your writing. For example, many “gurus” suggest being always present on social media, but it just isn’t doable for all of us, because I have a day job just like many others. There is nothing wrong with you, it’s just not how you operate in a creative way.

I’m not allowed on social media most days anyway. I’m a “high P” personality in MBTI terms, which means I’m very data responsive. If I “just check Facebook real quick” then the search party will find me at the bottom of Pinterest or Wikipedia weeks later. Real quick is a lie.

If a guru can’t tell you which personality characteristics make their method successful, then their advice is for shit. Let me say it for the cheap seats: WE ARE ALL NEUROLOGICALLY UNIQUE. THERE ARE NO MAGIC FORMULAS. THERE IS NO ELEVATOR TO THE TOP.

5)  Debunk the myths

The way I came upon the decision to get a writing coach was all because I wanted to take a nap.

At a writing conference I sat in a panel that I wasn’t really invested in and figured I would doze off and rest. But I didn’t get a wink of sleep and found myself stunned on how this author-coach woman spoke about busting through myths known to writers far and wide.

For example, Stephen King says “writers write” if you don’t write 2,000 words every day, you aren’t a real writer. Another myth is that the genre you choose is the one you must remain in until you grow a large enough audience to move on, but both just aren’t always true.

Coaches are there to help you find what really does work for you beyond the professional writers that only know what works for them.  Becca Syme and her team of coaches at the Better-Faster Academy boosted not only my writing career into the right gear, but improved my life and my marriage. For reals. 10/10 recommend. I’m not only a customer, but I drank the Kool-Aid™ and helped to moderate some of the small group sessions at BFACon21.

6)  Choose your own adventure

For example, you could take a year off to write or move away into a cabin in the woods and focus on nothing but that book like a buddy of mine has done. For myself, I chose to set a goal in January 2020 to keep my day job while also writing.

The way my mind works, I need other projects to focus on and other needs to be met while writing. I’m a high Significance personality and the software job as a professional nerd wrangler for three teams of Amazonians feeds many of my top strengths (as well as providing an income to do the kind of marketing I want to do and the lifestyle my lovely and gracious pirate-queen expects).

For me, in Elizabeth Gilbert terms, writing is a vocation. I’ve done it for free for over a decade now and I’ll keep doing it even if nobody buys my books (hence the need for a day job). Plus, I’m a realist. Since the invention of the printing press, 0.1% of writers have ever been able to live solely on their writing income. Maybe someday I will if my books take off like I want them to, but quitting your day job before you’ve reached the level of success you need to live is unwise.

7) Give back to the community

You need a team while writing to make sure you convey the correct emotion and to see how others write and what the others have done in their own work. We want to be the “chosen writer”, but we need to be realistic and hear from other people in their own takeaways on their writing journeys.

I’ve learned as much about writing by helping other people with their own books as I ever did in a class from a guru or a writing craft book. You will earn more karma giving back AND learn more that will inform your writing by helping others.

I believe I will continue to progress with more coaching for the rest of my career. You can’t expect the same success every time you write a book; every book is a beast of its own nature when I write.

I would also recommend finding different coaches for different things. I meet with at least four different coaches every month, and each one gives me something different and improves my writing practice every time.

If you are curious to learn more about the sorcery of storytelling and the magical craft of writing, you can engage me as a Story Grid Certified Editor. I call myself the Book Shaman. If you are interested in dark-fantasy, sorcery, sex, and sword fights then my antiheroine protagonist might pique your interest. Check out my novel Raven Queen, Arise. You can pre-order your copy on amazon today!

Dark Tidings, writing peeps!

Published by Dave Reed

daydreamer-in-chief, romantic & writer