50 Shades of Coaching: And a Few Confessions


Did I hear you say “Ugh”?

Many writers don’t know what they are getting themselves into until they find that not only is having a coach fun, inspiring and motivational, but essential. Writing Coaching is also incredibly therapeutic. If you think about how hard you work on a chapter or a story, how far down inside yourself you dig, and add up all the inevitable issues that a writer collides with like, confidence, am I good enough, organization, deadlines, doubt, stuck-ness, inertia, elation, self-love, and fear, then writing is like every intimate relationship in life and fraught with all the same potholes and possibilities. But, instead of the relationship being with someone else, it is between you and your deepest most essential self. Writing is all about ruthless honesty with YOU.

 Do you really know what your story is going to be about?

As a veteran psychologist and a long time professional writer my work with clients is a combination of so many of my skills: Critique and editing, listening and tracking the process, content development, therapeutic support, research and helping clients get published. And one of the most valuable things I can offer a writer is to help them discover the story they truly want to share and unearth where they want to go with that story. Some people start with a book but end with a screenplay instead. All too often a writer ends up telling a story they had no intention of telling at all and one tiny article can flourish into a series of books.


But, one of the nuts and bolts jobs I have is helping the writer stay on track, not get derailed by life, Procrastinate because of lack of momentum, or overwork their writing. I am here to get you unstuck and keep moving forward. This is one of the biggest roadblocks for even great writers: staying on track. Having mini deadlines and regular coaching sessions can keep the work moving forward and help the writer come to completion far faster. In our fast paced life with a thousand distractions we can start and stop a hundred times, lose track of the threads of our own creativity and this can in fact be the kiss of death to a story. One story dead in the water is common but one writer dead in the water is what we want to avoid.

Yesterday I was at the mercado in Uvita, Costa Rica buying vegetables and homemade corn tortillas. I came across a man who mentioned he was still working on a book after living here for 23 years. I asked him what it was about and he said “It’s visionary fiction”. That sounded intriguing, so I ventured further and said, “how long have you been working on it?” That always is an interesting answer and tells me a lot about the person authoring a book. This was his response:

“Well I have been writing for about eight years. I am on my 57th revision and have cut the book back from 234 pages to 150 pages.” I was frozen in place as I fondled a papaya thinking he had been working on War and Peace.

I nodded and replied, “57 revisions huh, cough, cough”. Nothing more was said.

As I walked away I whispered to myself, “well that book will never be published since it is clear that this author, no matter how good he is, is writing for himself, and the process is in fact his destination. For some authors this is so true and very important.

But for others this can be a nightmare in getting a book finished. One thing or the other stands in the way of the next chapter, or they go back over and over a chapter and want it to be perfect before venturing further. My job is to help the flow continue and for an author to never be stuck in any of these cycles.

Doctor Dread

So, I tell my clients I am a midwife, a project manager, a therapist and a muse to help each person love their writing, excel at it and get the baby born in nine months.   It is a task that takes tenacity on my part and trust extraordinaire on the part of the writer.

I am also here to deliver the truth from where I sit as both an educated reader and a trained writer and for this a client needs some pretty thick skin. Most writers bask in the prose of positive, constructive feedback but dare tell them that the chapter falls flat or simply was not very interesting or went off on a tangent and there are some writers who will simply, not call you back. I personally believe the “negative” feedback is the most valuable of all, since it sends us into self-reflection and we can either become clearer and more devoted to our course or we can learn something new.

 You are worth every single cent

The investment of money people apply to coaching is also a very important part of the process. It is no different that hiring a weekly therapist to hold the space and help you through to the other side of your process. The interesting thing is that as a therapist for over thirty years I charged between $150 and $250 a session. Not so in coaching at this point. Although coaching is even more complicated sometimes than therapy and requires numerous hats to be worn, the general going rate for coaching is far less than therapy. Go figure.

As an example of how coaching is prices, here is an expert coach and their financial plan for writing coaching: She offers,

Plan One

  • $2,500/month
  • Twelve–three weekly–45-minute phone coaching sessions  (or equivalent)
  • Up to ten hours manuscript reading & critique, development editing and email exchanges per month

Plana Two

  • $1,000/month
  • Eight—two weekly—30-minute phone coaching sessions (or equivalent)
  • Up to three hours manuscript reading & critique, developmental editing and email exchanges per month

Plan Three

  • $500/month
  • Four 30-minute phone coaching sessions per month (or equivalent)
  • Up to one hour manuscript reading & critique, developmental editing and email exchanges per month

Plan Four

  • $375/month
  • Two 30-minute phone coaching sessions per month (or equivalent)
  • Up to one hour manuscript reading & critique, developmental editing and email exchanges per month

With any of these packages, additional reading, critique and email exchanges extending past the time frames outlined in the package are available upon request, and will be charged at $150/hour.

One best selling coach charges a straight fee of $800 an hour. Holy Moly! Does she write the book for her clients?

This is simply a gauge since as coaches everyone is different.

Accountability is the Key

As in most things when we invest money we take whatever the endeavor is more seriously.   And having another person to be accountable to is even more important. I remember the days of writing all alone in my room and no one having a clue what the hell I was working on. I had no deadlines, no one expecting a chapter, no feedback to kick me in the butt and sometimes a lack of real motivation so I would just zone out with the X-Files.

So coaching is a practice, a spiritual commitment between two people, and exchange of resources and in fact an alliance that makes a writer better, faster, more confident and ultimately successful. Coaching is a mini education for writers as well. I could not have chosen a better way to apply my skills and my commitment to story being one of the most powerful tools in the world.



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