Today’s guest post is by author and writing coach Seth Harwood (@sethharwood).
You know that writing idea that keeps popping up, the one you put off with a handful of excuses? One day maybe you don’t think you’re good enough to do it. Another day it’s that the project itself isn’t worth it or doesn’t matter. Perhaps you’ve been finding other things to do.
Is this familiar?
For many writers this is a cycle that keeps us from the desk, from creating pages, locked in a feeling of frustration or of not fulfilling some potential. I know this feeling. I bet you do, too.
The truth is, it does matter. There’s a reality out there that comes to life when you create, when you put your stories or ideas on paper. You become the version of yourself you want to be—the version you’re meant to be. It may sound cliché, but the process of creating can be its own reward; the feeling of writing, even more than having written, can be the joy.
And joy? Oh, yes. That is worth going after.
Enter the coach: your partner
A good coach offers many things, the first of which is a partner. Someone who’s with you on the path, who knows the ropes and can offer feedback on your work and your process with objectivity. That’s right, someone outside of your friend group, fellow writers, and loved ones. Someone who’s seen enough writing of all levels to help you know where you fall in—not today, yesterday or next Thursday, but where you are on the path, the continuum.
When you go to the gym, doesn’t it help to have a friend meet you? Not just for friendship, but also accountability. Studies show that when people partner with someone or meet in a small group, they do more, stay with their endeavors for longer, and more often reach their goals.
How about adding a trainer to the mix? Not only can a trainer at the gym add that accountability, but he or she can see what’s working and what isn’t, diagnose your weaknesses and know what muscles groups to go easy on. A good trainer helps you make the most of your workouts and lets your old injuries heal.
Seeking support isn’t only smart, it’s a sign of strength
Maybe you’ve thought about hiring a coach or finding a good partner, but you prefer to take the hard route, thinking it’ll lead to greater rewards. Maybe you tell yourself that you deserve things to be hard. It’s okay to raise your hand if this is true.
And what really happens? You choose the hard path and what do you get? Difficulty. Struggle. I’m betting you’ve had enough of these.
Support isn’t only a smart thing to seek, it’s a sign of strength. Who do we respect more? The athlete who toils in obscurity or the one who finds friends, teams up, even seeks assistance to get the most out of his or her talents and abilities?
Look around at pro athletes: the best of them work with trainers, personal body coaches, dieticians, private chefs. No matter how you feel about Tom Brady, he’s playing at a high level, later in life than anyone before him ever has. Add Roger Federer and Serena Williams. LeBron James. Today’s top athletes seek support and get it from the best in the business, which enables them to accomplish incredible things, reach unprecedented marks.
You want to be a professional about your writing, don’t you? To show up at the desk every day like you did in your other job(s), like John Cheever walking the block from his Manhattan apartment in a suit to his office, where he’d take the suit off and hang it up on the back of the door before he started the day’s pages.
Well, look to the pros for your model. You don’t have to go it alone.
Writers spend more time alone than almost any other profession. How does this usually work out for them emotionally? Unless you’re one of the few who completely thrives in solitude, I’m betting you could be happier—by a lot.
It’s a sign of strength to recognize this and act on it. If you’ve been beating yourself up and thinking that to admit your difficulty is weak, it’s time to let that voice take a back seat.
It’s not the old days
In the old days, a good editor like Maxwell Perkins would snap up the good manuscripts and even promising manuscripts to edit them up to publishable quality. He spent weeks with his writers to help craft their work into vibrant, salable novels. He was a partner, a mentor.
Who’s doing this for writers today?
Not editors. They have to shepherd too many books through the publication process to focus on any one in particular. The publishing model has squeezed the big profit margins out at every level and now the only plan that’s left is to publish a lot of books, get them all out there, and hope that some will fly, succeed, sell like wildfire.
For a while agents had the bandwidth and profit margin to lend a hand, but that didn’t last long. More and more agents are looking for edited, polished, even finalized manuscripts they can turn around and hand off to an editor for the sale. Maybe you’ve already tried finding an agent. My bet is that you didn’t have much fun.
And fun? It’s part of why you started writing, I bet. It’s even a very worthwhile goal.
When looking for a coach, be sure to find the right fit. Many coaches will offer a free discovery session or a sample read of a few pages. Consider this a chance to see if you’re a good match in terms of personality, interest, and work methods.
Most of all, if you’re struggling, reach out and give coaching a try. You’ll probably learn enough in one hour’s consultation to leapfrog a month of sweat, tears, and maybe even blood.
Don’t just write; have fun doing it. Coaches can help you be productive, proficient, and proud of what you do.
Seth Harwood is the bestselling author of ten books, including In Broad Daylight, The Maltese Jordans and Jack Wakes Up. He has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Stanford Continuing Studies and Harvard Extension. His coaching practice can be found at writewithseth.com.