I began coaching the day a dear friend shared a story and tears about how badly she wanted to tell a story and how she just didn’t know how to do it. Whatever she wrote didn’t live up to the ideas she had in her head. And she didn’t know how to get the help she needed. Like me, she felt compelled to write, felt the connection and bliss when she did write, but was never satisfied with what she produced.
As I listened to her, I knew I was watching a mirror of myself. I had been where she was. Truth to tell, I still hadn’t burrowed my way out of that self-doubt and frustration. Even though I had taken ten years of my life to put myself through school and get my degree in creative writing, I still didn’t have a grasp on how stories worked and how I could become an author.
No one agrees on who said it first, but it has been said that in writing, it takes a million words before you know what you were doing. That million words translates into about ten years. But I had already put in ten years. Though I was farther ahead than my friend, I still wasn’t where I wanted to be. And I was sick of doing it alone. So I said to her, “Let’s figure this out together.”
That was in the year 2000. In that moment I began to coach in small groups. Six writers working on our own projects, sharing our raw work with one another for support and encouragement, writing to prompts I assembled for each person to begin to learn story structure, writing craft and the process that would release their story into the world. We did not critique. This experience wasn’t about what wasn’t working. It was about what was working.
When I was in college I encountered the university writing workshop. To sum up my experience, I will quote a professor who stated this on the second day of my first writing workshop:
“There is so much bad writing out there, as a University Professor I consider it my obligation to encourage the best and weed out the rest.”
And so we started workshopping one another in the energy of fear and cutthroat competition. Interesting that try as I might, I can’t remember or find this professor’s name anywhere. Perhaps he is no longer weeding students out.
In my coaching classes, we focused on what was working and an amazing thing began to happen when my writers began to learn craft and try experiments. They began to find their voice. They produced the best writing they ever had. They were learning while completing a project at the same time.
I have kept that same energy in all my coaching.
Many people have a story to tell and no one voice dominates above all the rest. If you want to put in the time to learn and if you are fearless in discovering your voice and what it is you want to say, you can do this. And I can help.
What one of my first clients has to say about her experience with me:
Just seeing your name and face reminds me of all those powerful Fridays writing in your home way back when. I wouldn’t have a book in the world if it weren’t for that beginning under your guidance. Thank you. Know today how appreciated you are. ~ Carolyn Jennings, author of Hunger Speaks: A memoir told in poetry.
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