Two months ago, I decided to take my weight loss goals seriously and hit the gym. The first month, I lost 1.2 KG. The second month, however, I lost 3.7 KG.
The diet remained more or less the same. However, one thing changed. I hired a fitness coach during the second month. Hiring a coach helped me lose two times the weight I lost on my own.
Usually, I stop the exercise when I feel tired. When I work with my coach, he pushes me harder. Instead of the regular ten squats, he would make me do just two more. The 20% extra in every set, for 30 minutes made a huge difference over 30 days.
A writing coach will help you in pretty much the same was as coaches in any other area- fitness, sports, or even creative endeavors.
Why Hire a Writing Coach?
“There are two good reasons for hiring a writing coach: the practical, and the personal. Practically, you want your writing to be as clean and accessible as possible, which means proper syntax, tone, grammar, punctuation, tense, usage, structure, constancy of tone, etc.
Personally, there are very few things as satisfying as finally writing well something that you consider critically important. To be able to think, once you have finished reading a piece which you wrote, “Perfect! Done! Nailed it!” is a beautiful thing. A good writing coach is singularly prepared to help anyone have that moment, which often proves life-changing.”
Sets process and objectives
A good coach will understand your requirements and help you set clear objectives. They’ll also be able to put processes in place to assist you with your writing.
Cheer you on
We want to be appreciated. It’s hardwired into us. Creative work requires a lot of motivation to keep going forward. Your writing coach will motivate you to keep pushing forward.
Beat procrastination and writer’s block
Sometimes we are just lazy and would rather watch TV than write. With clear deadlines and constant follow-ups, coaches ensure you don’t procrastinate. If you hit writer’s block, a coach can help you tide over them.
“Many writers spend years working hard at their craft, but at some point they get stuck – whether in writing, the pursuit of publishing, or the platform-building.
A one-on-one conversation with a publishing professional can help them get unstuck and move their writing career forward. Without an agent, it’s difficult to get that kind of professional insight and feedback from someone who knows the publishing business.”
Holds you accountable
Social accountability is one of the most effective ways to ensure we get the job done. That’s why employees have well-defined roles and are responsible for their performance metrics. Your coach will hold you accountable and keep pushing you to get the work done. No more slacking!
One of the most important skills a coach needs to have is empathy. Someone who has struggled to write a book will understand the pains of writing the first book. An experienced coach will be empathetic and hand-hold you when you need help.
“I had a client who was writing a memoir. Fear was showing up in every form, paralyzing her from even being able to write her story. Week after week she was coming to coaching calls feeling physically unwell. She was worried what her family would think, not sure she even wanted to continue to write it.
Over time, we identified where that fear was coming from. It was the shame of exposing her failure—because what she was writing about was the demise of her relationship and subsequent divorce. Her inner critic was raging at her to stop what she was doing—now. But her expansive-self needed to write this book both for herself and for others.
One exercise we did was to identify the contours of her inner critic—its texture, shape, smell. We discovered it was an “it”” and not a he or a she. One of the things she decided to do was to make Jell-O, a dark color, and put it in a jar in the refrigerator with the label “inner critic” on it. Every time she opened the refrigerator there was her inner critic. It worked to disarm that voice, and every time the critical voice raged at her, she laughed, thinking about it stuck in a jar in the fridge. This freed her up to keep writing, and she did eventually write and publish her book.”
Push you to do better every time
Can you write 1000 words a day? Great. A writing coach may come in a push you to do 1100. The next week, she’ll set a target of 1200 per day. Soon, you’ll realize writing 2000 words a day isn’t a big deal.
“One of the greatest moments as a coach has to be seeing someone successfully finish a big project, especially if there have been ups and downs along the way.
One of my clients, while not someone who saw herself as a “writer”, wanted to create an ebook to sell from her blog. She worked diligently at it, week after week, turning in pages regularly for me to read. I know there were times when the finishing line seemed a long way off.
It was brilliant to be able to support her with both the practical side of things (structure, grammar, flow) and also with motivation and keeping going. This was very much her success. All I did was support her. But I was so pleased to be alongside her for the journey.”
Types of Writing Coaches
Most coaches focus on areas where they have deep expertise in. Based on your needs, you can hire different types of coaches.
Depending on whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, book writing coaches can help in various areas.
Fiction coaches can help with character formation, structuring a story, and act as a critique for your story line. Non-fiction coaches can help with interview techniques, structuring of thoughts, and other areas in writing.
Some book writing coaches will also offer help with getting your book published. They can connect you with the right publishers or help you with self-publishing.
Stuck with a doctoral thesis? Academic writing coaches have years of experience in writing thesis and will guide you through the process.
Business writing is a broad function. A coach can help you write better emails, proposals, or reports. They can also help you communicate your ideas clearly. Based on your requirement, a business writing coach can provide customized coaching plans.
Want to write the script for the next Nolan movie? A screenwriting coach with enough experience can help you improve your acceptance rate. They can also help you make the right connections.
If you create content for marketing purposes, you need to follow a different approach. Content created for marketing purposes often provides an actionable solution to your customer’s problems. A writing coach in this area will help you identify content that will engage your audience. They’ll also be able to help you create an editorial calendar.
How to evaluate a coach?
Most coaches offer a free initial consultation call. The best way to assess a coach is to jump on this call and ask questions regarding the coaching process.
Here are some of the questions you should be able to answer after the initial call.
Are they brutally honest?
There is no point in hiring someone to tell you what you want to hear. A good coach will honestly say what’s wrong with your writing and help you fix it.
Do they have relevant industry experience?
If you are hiring a coach to help you publish a book, it makes sense to hire someone who has already had a successful book launch.
Do they have the required coaching skills?
Giving you a checklist to follow and waiting for you to complete your work isn’t exactly the type of coaches you want to hire. Talk to your coach and find out their coaching process.
- Do they regularly follow-up?
- What happens if you keep missing deadlines?
- How involved does the coach get?
- How often is one-to-one interaction required? Is the interaction a local meet up, video call, or through email?
- What if you are not happy with the way the coaching is going?
Talk to some of their students
Successful coaches will be proud to connect you with their students. Some of the writing coaches I have interacted with have students who rave about them. These are the kind of coaches you’d want to hire.
If someone is hesitant to connect you with their students, that’s a red flag. It could be that they don’t have any clients who will vouch for them, or their client list could be small. If you are hiring business writing coaches, chances are they will be covered by NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement).
The difference between a writing coach and an editor
A writing coach is not an editor. It’s not uncommon for coaches to offer editing or ghostwriting services.
Editors do not act as a guide. They take the content you provide, edit it, and provide you a more professional version of your content. Editors also tend to get involved towards the end of the content creation cycle. Writing coaches tend to get involved early on. Sometimes as early as the ideation process.
Tips for working with writing coaches
Working with someone else is not easy. Especially when they critique your work and constantly follows up to get the work done. Most people do not like being told what to do.
“As a writing coach I wear a lot of hats: mentor, cheerleader, teacher, editor, one-who-holds-accountable, backboard (for brainstorming), etc. And I find that part of the job is to listen to my clients and adapt myself and our sessions to what my clients seem to need. It’s a service that’s particularized for each individual, yet some of the things that can help a writer move forward with their project can be deceptively simple, even predictable.”
Suppress your ego
The hardest part for most writers when working with someone else is to take criticism in a positive way. How can someone say my character has no depth? How can anyone not familiar with my business say my email communication is not clear?
When you work with a coach, ensure that you suppress your ego. Be receptive to new ideas and new approaches. Just as a love story doesn’t always need a happy ending (oh Romeo and Juliet!), you can approach your writing in different ways.
Don’t follow all advice blindly
Your writing coach is a friendly guide. With only best intentions, they’ll keep making suggestions about your work. But that doesn’t mean you have to follow everything they suggest. This is especially true if you are a fiction writer.
Another experienced friction writer can comment whether your character has depth. But should you consider if they recommend a different plot twist? Maybe. But it’s your work. Imagine if someone told Paulo Coelho to consider a different ending for The Alchemist?
When should you not hire a coach?
You don’t have the budget
Most writers earn very little from their writing careers. Often, even moderately successful writers have to depend on other jobs to make ends meet. That’s why you see so many writers who have published books offering to ghostwrite and edit.
If your goal is to write and publish a book, set aside the money required to pitch several publications. You’ll also need to run a marketing campaign in case you have to self-publish.
If you don’t have the budget to hire a coach, buckle down and work your ass off. That’s the only way to make things work. There’s no room for the luxury of having someone handhold you.
Want to be a NY Times bestseller overnight
Hiring a writing coach does not guarantee success. You need the backing of an influential publisher and an even stronger marketing campaign.
Some book publishing coaches might be able to connect you with publishers. However, connections alone won’t guarantee success. You have to put in the work.
Alternatives to hiring a personal writing coach
Online courses offer a structured approach to learning. Most of the content these online courses provide can be found for free online. The value these courses provide is in providing you with an organized way to learn.
Some classes cover the mechanics of writing (grammar, writing style). Others offer more specialized curriculum like how to self-publish a book.
Online classes are not always cheaper than hiring coaches. Some of the writing courses online run into thousands of dollars.
Writing retreats take one to two weeks. You get together with other writers and creative artists. The goal is to write in a conductive environment. Writing retreats can be quite expensive with some retreats charging as much as $2500 per person.
Online writing communities
There are several communities online where writers hang out. Some of the active communities help writers by critiquing each other’s work. Be mindful of the fact that you are expected to contribute and help others in return for the help you receive.