Weekend Writing Inspiration: Is It Time For a Writing Coach?
September 11, 2020
Sometimes you need help to make writing happen, solve a story problem, or sort out the next steps in your screenwriting career. One of the most powerful reasons to work with a writing coach is to have someone on your team — someone to turn to when the going gets tough, to support you to do the work, to help you make smart (and sometimes tough) choices, or even to celebrate the victories with.
When you’re in the market for a writing coach, you’ll want to think about what you most need. Do you need someone who will provide emotional support? Offer accountability? Help you solve story issues? Navigate career management with you? Help you hone your pitching skills? All of the above?
Think about what you’re hoping to accomplish and use those goals as criteria for interviewing possible coaches to work with. And keep in mind that not every coach will offer all things (and perhaps should not, in the interest of specializing), so you may find that you rely on different coaches for different aspects or stages of your writing and career.
Here are some situations where working with a writing coach could be the difference between staying stuck and moving forward with confidence.
1. You’re spinning your wheels on story development
Going around in circles? Try a story coach to help you create internal consistency with your story, plot, structure, and characters so you can move ahead with more confidence. My clients tell me how much of a relief it is to work with someone who can look at the story with them from the “inside,” side-by-side together.
Here’s a caveat: Look for a coach who focuses on helping you tell the story YOU want to tell, not what they think the story “should” be. While there are certainly genre conventions and certain natural places a story will want to go — stories do take on a life of their own — you are always the expert on your story and your coach’s job is to help you remember that and execute accordingly.
2. You’re not writing consistently or effectively
If you’re not writing as consistently as you’d like to be, working with a writing coach who understands a writer’s mind can help. A good coach can also provide accountability to help you stay in action.
When you’re designing your writing life, including creating accountability, building a sustainable writing habit, or troubleshooting typical writer’s stumbling blocks (like perfectionism, procrastination, paralysis), a writing coach will help you address the specific challenges and particular circumstances you’re dealing with.
After all, not every writer faces the same situation. Some writers are parents (and likely helping their kids do distance learning right now). Some writers are retired and have little structure in their days. Other writers work busy day jobs and struggle to find time to write. Still other writers are already working professionally but need help managing workflow, writer’s blocks, and other life demands.
In addition to external circumstances, you’ll have personality and temperament traits that influence your needs, preferences, and desires. While we may get ideas from other writers about what we “should” be doing, writers certainly aren’t one-size-fits-all. Work with a coach to design your writing life so you can write consistently and effectively, in a way that works for you.
3. You need emotional support for a challenging writing experience or stage of writing
Sometimes writers have trouble moving through a particular stage of writing or difficult feedback they’re having trouble recovering from.
Working with a coach who personally understands the challenge of facing yet another major script revision or wrestling with the emotional pain of unpleasant feedback can be a way through and out. Very often, having a listening ear for what you’re going through is all you need to help move through it. In this case, look for a writing coach who is also a writer themselves, who “gets it” firsthand, so you can process, release, and move on from any emotionally difficult aspects of your work.
Sometimes you’ll want to work with a therapist, particularly if there’s a significant crossover with personal life issues. Make the choice based on whether the challenge you’re facing is particular to writing (go for a coach) or deeper personal issues (try a therapist). If there’s a crossover (often the case!), consider both, if possible.
4. You’re navigating career management choices.
If you want feedback on navigating branding, website creation, social media, pitching, networking, and overall career strategy, you may want to work with a writing career coach or a screenwriting manager. If you’re not yet in a position to get signed by a manager, a coach can be a good step along the way.
In the early stages of discovering who you are as a writer and beginning to establish your brand, you can choose a coach who specializes in those areas. In later stages, you’ll want to make sure you choose someone who’s up-to-date on industry changes and has industry connections you can lean on.
When you’re coach shopping, keep in mind that not every coach excels in all departments. Some coaches are excellent at helping you push yourself and make strategic career decisions, but may not be so supportive when you need help dealing with the fallout of difficult feedback. Choose wisely and in alignment with what you need and want at the current stage of your writing life and career.
Your weekend writer’s assignment
If you’re feeling like you need someone in your corner to help you solve story problems, navigate writing challenges, make writing happen more consistently, or sort out career planning and decision-making, consider bringing a coach onto your team to help. A good coach will offer a range of services that can work for any budget, from shorter meetings or group support to more in-depth one-on-one coaching.
Written by: Jenna AveryJenna Avery is a screenwriter who specializes in sci-fi action and space fantasy, and her most recent project is a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story for a Canadian producer-director. Jenna is also a writing coach and the founder of Called to Write, where she has helped hundreds of writers overcome procrastination, perfectionism, and resistance so they can get their writing onto the page and into the world where it belongs. Jenna writes about writing and fulfilling your creative calling at calledtowrite.com, writes for ScriptMag and Final Draft, and teaches at Script University. Download Jenna’s free guidebooks for writers, including “How to Choose Your Next Book (or Script!)” when you join her mailing list at https://www.calledtowrite.com/mailing-list