I’ve done script critiques, workshops, literary presentations, and manuscript edits – and had all of the above done to or for me – over the years. But the coaching thing is a fairly new attempt to merge the skills I’ve picked up from those activities and as a literary lifer into a revenue stream. As I told a young girl I was informally mentoring recently, when you take the path less travelled – as I have as a full time writer living and working in the Caribbean – oftentimes you’ve got to create your own opportunities. Plus, I knew from experience that just because you’ve stepped out and had enough breakthroughs to be considered an “emerging writer” doesn’t mean you always feel on solid ground, literally, doesn’t mean you don’t need mentoring from someone more seasoned; getting published doesn’t suddenly give you all the answers.
Still, I was hesitant. There are writers far more qualified to mentor other writers than me and coming from a small island I’ve experienced the subtle shade some more experienced writers can throw. Ah who she think she be? Of course, some of that is real enough (being ignored, being dismissed) but some of it is projected self-doubt. Either way, I needed to get over it and start putting my skills to work for me and others daring enough to trust me with their literary journey. And I did, going all in when I started promoting the coaching service online.
I made it clear that I was to be a support to their stated writing goals and that I had as much to learn from them as they from me. But there is an unanticipated side effect of the coaching experience that really underscores the truth of that latter sentiment.
Recently, I was cha-ca-cha-ca-cha-ca-chugging down the nagging train with one of my clients who was dragging her feet on submitting her most recent assignment. It stumped me because despite her busy schedule she’d been pretty self-motivated once we’d had a face to face to address her concerns and revamped her schedule into something more manageable. Finally, she confessed that she felt intimidated by the particular exercise. I could relate to this as I was in a similar spot. I had been invited to submit a piece to an anthology over a month earlier and with less than two days to my deadline, I had nothing coherent written. Fact is, the piece, given the nature of the proposed anthology, would require me to go to an uncomfortable and painful place. So, of course, that more than the anticipated pay day was why I agreed to do it. But here I was flinching from it. As someone who obsesses about hitting deadlines, I knew foot dragging when I saw it, especially if I was the one dragging my feet.
So I womanned-up. I told her I understood how she was feeling because I was having the same struggle but that I would finish mine within deadline if she would: a challenge, to us both. Forcing myself to fall or fly with her watching forced me to sit down and write.
When I was done I was sure what I had on paper was no good, but, hey, it was done, on schedule, as promised. I emailed her my status update, and like to think it pushed her to hit her own deadline because damned if she didn’t. She delivered, on time, a story with heart that communicated its message well. It needed work but it was a very good start, and I told her so.
As for my piece, well, I cleaned it up, sent it off to the anthology editor, who, after review, responded: “Your words are so beautiful. I have made a few editing suggestions (see the document)…” In other words, the best possible outcome.