• A Writing Coach is … All of These and More

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in ABCs of Writing     Comments No comments

    I remember my first session as a writing coach. I was nervous. WriteByNight was pretty new. We had been offering creative writing workshops in Florida (you can read our creation story here) and were branching out into the one-on-one services in which we now specialize. This was before the days of our wonderful staff of coaches and consultants, so it was just me and David delivering all of WBN’s services. (We would sometimes even coach together, which is pretty cute if I do say so myself.)

    Marcia Drut-Davis

    Marcia Drut-Davis

    Like I said, I was nervous. I had training, of course, and I had prepared thoroughly, but any way you slice it, this was my first true coaching experience. As I sat across the table from my very first client, Marcia Drut-Davis, author of Confessions of a Childfree Woman: A Life Spent Swimming Against the Mainstream, a beautiful memoir on which we worked together for three years, I wondered, What am I supposed to be doing here? What is a writing coach anyway?


    As it turned out, neither Marcia nor I had anything to fear. Marcia soon revealed herself to be a model client – dedicated, driven, and intellectually curious – and I became for her a model coach (so she tells me), providing for her the unique brand of support and guidance she needed to finally commit her story to the page and send her words out into the world.

    Now that I’ve been doing this work for a bunch of years, I know that new clients are nervous, too. What is this thing called coaching? they wonder. Will I be any good at it? What will my role be? What is a coachee anyway? Not only are these good questions, they’re necessary ones, indispensable to the coaching process. Although I firmly believe that no two coaching relationships are identical, I do think that there are some elements common to all coaching experiences, one of which is the simultaneous learning process that inevitably occurs: while the client learns to be a better writer, the coach learns to be a better coach, the coach that particular client needs for her to be.

    Five years and hundreds of coaching experiences later, I find myself working with a client who rivals Marcia for commitment to the writing and coaching process: WriteByNighter Sid Kemp. I am a very different coach for Sid than I was for Marcia; they are, after all, very different writers with different goals and struggles. I will always for my clients strive to be my best coaching self – that’s a given – but that self is malleable, shaped in large part by what a client asks for and what I sense s/he wants and needs.

    Sid’s thoughtful blog post about what a writing coach is to him touches upon what is to my mind the most important aspect of a successful coaching experience: mutuality. I can’t be a coach without you any more than you can be coached without me. We enter into a healthy codependence in order to co-create an experience we can both learn from; in other words, we discover together what it means to be a coach and a coachee.

    In our attempts on this blog to define writing coaching over the past several weeks, we’ve likened the writing coach to many things: a sports coach, a teacher, a personal trainer, an editor, a therapist, a mentor, a spiritual adviser, a life coach, a cheerleader, a friend, a reader, even a parent. What all these comparisons point to, I think, is the unique character of the coaching relationship, one which for all its myriad forms defies definition.

    So what is a writing coach? Today I have some ideas. But ask me again tomorrow.


    Justine Tal Goldberg, ownerWriteByNight owner Justine Duhr is an award-winning writer and editor of both fiction and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in Anomalous Press, Whiskey Island, Fringe Magazine, The Review Review, and other publications. She holds an MFA in creative writing and has provided writing instruction at Vassar College and Emerson College.




    Thus concludes our series regarding the varying definitions and duties of a writing coach. For earlier posts in this series, visit:

    8 Differences Between a Writing Coach and a Football Coach

    What is a Writing Coach?

    No Really, What is a Writing Coach?

    The Writing Coach: Therapy, Training, Editorial Guidance

    To learn more about our coaching services, visit this page or request a free consultation.


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