The Writing Coach: Is One Right for You?

This past November, I gave myself a gift: I started working with a writing coach. It felt like a ridiculous luxury, and I’m still not certain how I convinced myself to leap. Maybe it was reading this article  by Kendra Levin, Viking editor and certified life coach. She challenges writers to undertake their own “hero’s journey” and

  1. Set one writing goal
  2. Choose one thing to sacrifice for writing
  3. Choose one gift to give yourself as a writer

I’m not sure, frankly, what I expected. It’s hard for me to imagine that working with someone else on my goals could help. I mean, shouldn’t I just work harder, prioritize, and make progress on my own? Wouldn’t she just tell me to do the things I already knew I should be doing?

dannymolPhoto courtesy of dannymol on Flickr Creative Commons

So this was a bit of a leap of faith.

It began, as many good things do, with homework: before we started working together, I had to fill out a several page questionnaire, answering questions such as

  • What stands in my way as a writer?
  • What are my greatest strengths?
  • What are my greatest weaknesses?
  • What do I hope to accomplish by working with a life coach?

This was the first cool thing about working with a coach: before we even had our first meeting, I spent time teasing out the answers to these and other questions that helped me clarify where I want to go, and what might be getting in my way.

The second cool thing about working with a coach: it’s actually helped me make progress toward my goals.

You can hear my innate skepticism shining through, right? I mean, how would talking with someone for an hour once a month accomplish anything that I couldn’t accomplish myself?

I now have my answer, one that’s probably obvious to most of you: a life/writing coach is an expert.

Let me explain. A while ago, I started learning to play the violin. My kids had been taking lessons for years, and I’d followed along enough to know the basics, but whereas they’ve been practicing faithfully over time, I’ve been cooking dinners and doing laundry and such. So all I needed, I thought, was to spend some time practicing, remembering where to put my fingers, building up my endurance so I could play without my neck or shoulder aching. But when I found myself struggling, I broke down and took a lesson.

And in the first ten minutes, my lovely instructor identified a dozen small mistakes I was making that instantly improved my sound and made playing easier.

That’s sort of what working with a coach has been like: in ten minutes of conversation, she hones in on the one thing I say that’s significant—the lie I’m telling myself, or the place where I’m selling myself short. She can ask the right questions, the kind that help to identify my priorities and help me figure out next steps toward my goals.

Is a writing coach right for you? It’s a question worth considering. It’s an investment, but one that can jump-start your career. Over the next several weeks—starting tomorrow—I will be featuring writing coaches every Friday so you can learn a bit more about who they are and what they do.

And who knows? Maybe you’ll decide that a coach could help you make progress toward your goals, too.

What about you? Have you ever considered working with a writing coach? Why or why not?

For more information about writing coaches, check out these interviews with writing coaches of all types:

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  1. says

    Fascinating. I’d never heard the concept of a writing coach explained so well before, and from personal experience like yours. The value of critique groups, yes. Getting a mss professionally critiqued (which I’ve had done), yes. But a writing coach? Something totally different, and very promising! I look forward to your upcoming posts featuring coaches. Thanks :-)

  2. says

    As a Literary Writing Coach, I really enjoyed your article and even more, the way that you broke down a writer’s perspective of working with a writing coach. In any type of coaching, the real work is done by the player, the client, the writer, and it is our job to make sure you know what the job is that you’re doing and travel along side you, run the laps on the page, that is our rewarding joy.

    Write On!

    • says

      Hi Brook, Thanks so much for your comment! I hadn’t thought of the coach/coachee relationship that way–that the writer/player/client is the one doing the real work, but it’s such an important concept. We still have to do the work, but the coach can help us pick the right path, or work more efficiently, or choose better tools. I imagine it’s just as rewarding to be on your side of the coaching relationship as on mine!


  1. […] coach/mentor becomes a friend/fellow creative traveler. And since I began my coaching season by blogging about the experience, sharing some of my insights along the way, and interviewing writing/life coaches, it seems fitting […]