Category Archives: Writers’ Coaching

Romance Your Writing

I sent this post out to my list on Valentine’s Day but you can romance your writing all year long!

Happy Valentine’s Day, Your Writerly Highnesses!

May this day remind you of the many ways in which you can show your love. Not just in the romantically high-profile ways like giving flowers to your sweetheart, but also in the less heralded ones like extending a friendly hello to a stranger on the street, going out of your way to open a door for someone struggling with groceries…or taking two hours out of your busy day and spending it on a writing project that’s close to your heart.

Our writing projects need our love too!

When we have a longstanding relationship with our writing, as many of us do, we can take it for granted. It can become a chore, an item on a to-do list – or even worse, a source of quiet torment because we haven’t been able to get to it lately.

Here are four romantic gestures to dissolve the dreary and rekindle the spark between you and your writing.

1. Plan a date night, if you’re a night owl – or a date morning, if you’re a lark. I was busy all last week with editing work for clients, and so to ease my writerly heart, I made a plan to devote the first two hours of my Saturday to my memoir project. An act of love that not only soothed my soul, it was also fun!

2. Yes! Write for the fun of it! Being a dutiful sort, I have to remind myself to have fun with my writing. (Sad but true.) Deciding that having fun was the only requirement made for a delightful morning. And inevitably, that have-some-fun! attitude opened doors to great solutions to writing issues that had been dogging me for months.

3. Take your writing on a retreat. Dedicating time just for your writing project with no other distractions is delicious. I’m lucky enough to be part of a group of writers who periodically gather in a secluded setting – a retreat centre, a group of holiday cabins in the off-season, or even someone’s home if our numbers are low and other family members are away. We devote our days to writing on individual projects with very little interaction among us. Then we reward ourselves with a great meal (we take turns cooking dinner) and an evening of revelry! I just booked myself and my memoir into a weeklong retreat this coming April. Can’t wait!

4. Share your writing. This seems obvious, but we generally don’t write strictly for our own amusement. It’s important to find out how our words affect people. There’s little more rewarding than evoking an unexpected positive emotional response to something we’ve written. It fuels our desire to keep going. But even if the response is negative, it’s so helpful to find out how we can improve (assuming the reader is someone you trust as opposed to someone whom you know won’t support you). Finding your voice as a writer does not happen in a vacuum. Austin Kleon, author of Share Your Work, says it well: “I realize that the only way to find your voice is to use it. It’s hardwired, built into you. Talk about the things you love. Your voice will follow.”

Paying attention to our writing by using our voice, by giving it our time, or by writing in community, blesses us in the best possible way – with that deep, heartfelt peace and contentment that comes from doing something we were born to do.

Come Home to Your Writing

Lately, I’ve been excited about new clients, interesting editing projects, and an upcoming writing workshop on Bowen Island – 2018 promises to be a great year!

And yet a few days ago, I struggled with a nagging anxiety arising from persistent thoughts of “not good enough,” “not deserving,” “not belonging…” It’s a familiar, painful state that I’ve usually been able to challenge and neutralize fairly quickly. But not this time.

At the end of my work day, I took myself out for a walk, my go-to remedy when I’m feeling rotten. Just a few meters down the road, the message I most needed to hear came through with blazing clarity – “You need to get at your own writing.”

Couldn’t argue with that! I had been neglecting it lately. Between illness, the distractions of a legal suit that I’d been involved in (now resolved, thank God!), Christmas, a new relationship, I’d been barely giving my own writing the time of day

And then there’s Veronica, also known as my writers’ coaching and editing business. She not only wants my undivided attention on clients’ manuscripts, but is always demanding a blog, a social media post, an email response to a potential workshop participant – and what about that talk to encourage others to get at the book they’ve been dreaming of writing?

I love Veronica – she’s dedicated and committed, but she would take over my whole life if I let her. Here’s what I need to tell her: “Look, Veronica. I know I’m not doing enough marketing, but if I’m not writing, my whole life sucks. My client work suffers, my workshops slump, my creativity flat-lines, and I am well on the road to despair. If I don’t write, there’ll be no one to do any marketing. Capiche?”

That night, before going to bed, I resolved to get up early in the morning and get at my memoir first thing. Before meditation, before exercise, and especially before descending the rabbit hole of email or Facebook.

Then, later that night, in the wee wee hours, these words woke me out of a sound sleep:

“Come home to your writing.”

It was a message that went straight to my heart in its lack of blame, its generosity, and its eternal message of welcome.

I needed an invitation that transcended writing as a “should,” or an act of will. Having been a writer for hire for much of my professional life, I have developed the will and self-discipline to get at whatever writing I’ve been commissioned to do, and to get it done.

But what about writing with no deadline attached to it? What about writing that no one cares about except me, who has not always been the most faithful of stewards? That simple phrase, “Come home to your writing” told me that writing is more than an act of will. It’s where I belong. It’s my home. As someone whose peripatetic life has tended to create a chronic sense of exile, writing has always had a place at the table for me.

My writing clients will often tell me that their lack of self-discipline is the reason they’re not getting their writing done. I often refer them to the work of Steven Pressfield, who equates writing or any other creative endeavour as a fundamental, heroic act of a warrior: “Contempt for failure is our cardinal virtue. By confining our actions territorially to our own thoughts and actions—in other words, to the work and its demands—we cut the earth from beneath the blue-painted, shield-banding, spear-branding foe.”

Steven is right. We do need to warrior up, to face the dragons of resistance, and to damned well sit down and write.

And I have come to believe that we also need to feel that writing is our home. A place of sanctuary that will always embrace us. A place that transcends our ambitions, our thoughts of what we “should” be accomplishing, or even our desire to write well. I believe that these words of the great poet and mystic, Jelaluddin Rumi, written about 800 years ago, have something to say to us:

“Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. This is not a caravan of despair. It doesn’t matter if you have broken your vow a thousand times, still and yet again, COME!”

Come home to your writing this year. Come home as many times as needed. There will always be a seat at the table for you.

The Courage to Cross the Finish Line

Just a few days ago, I received a beautiful new Young Adult (YA) novel in the mail, a gift from one of my clients who had hired me a year ago to provide her with feedback on her work in progress (see Masterpiece Package).

I told Lucille (not her real name) that she had a strong story idea and gave her some notes as to what she needed to do in order for her idea to be realized. She had done a lot of business writing in the past, but this was her first attempt at a novel. The issues that I identified are commonly found in novels in progress.

I told her to make sure that:

• your focus is on your main character.
• your character is active and that his/her actions are driving your story.
• you provide enough detail and examples to make the world that you’ve created come alive for your reader.
• when you use dialogue, your characters have distinct voices that reflect who they are, so that we always know who’s speaking.
• your language and tone are oriented toward a contemporary YA reader.

A year later, at another client’s book launch, Lucille came up to me and thanked me for being honest about the shortcomings in her novel, and not simply telling her what she wanted to hear. She told me that she had taken my notes to heart, had been working away on her manuscript, and would be having her own book launch soon!

What a joy it was for me to hear that! Whether or not she applied all of my suggestions was less important to me than her willingness to take the feedback, to keep going, and to carry her fledgling novel across the finish line.

It takes stubbornness to cross that finish line, it takes talent and, perhaps most important of all, it takes courage. Just this morning, I received that very message in a blog by Seth Godin, brilliant best-selling author, entrepreneur, TED talker and all-round motivational god: “You can improve your skills, get better tools and do the hard work of actually getting better…But most of all, you can realize that the most urgent work is the work of dancing with your fear, because the fear is the real reason the work isn’t getting done.”

Lucille didn’t let her fear hold her back. And that makes Lucille a hero.

“You’ve wrapped. You’ve shipped. You’ve licked this sonofabitch. Kudos to you!”
Steven Pressfield