Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes
“A good editor is someone who cares a little less about the author’s needs than the reader’s” ― Dene October
Earlier this spring, I was feeling like I was standing on stage with 83 plates spinning on sticks around me. It felt like it was my responsibility to tirelessly run around the stage, keeping all the plates spinning consistently.
If I were to spin one plate too hard, it spun off the stick and crashed to the floor, sometimes taking a few other close plates with it.
If I let a plate spin too long, it wobbled and wiggled and eventually thumped to the ground.
There were times that I was simply trying to run from one plate to another one across the stage, and my own clumsiness knocked about four plates down—and I didn’t have time to stop it.
I couldn’t prioritize the plates, so paper plates spun next to porcelain serving platters, and I knew that I was focused on the wrong dinnerware.
My feelings wheel resembled the outer rings of exhaustion, sadness, frustration, and burnout.
So I did what I tell clients to do all the time, and I sought outside help and council.
I signed up for a 3-month coaching program, where I was assigned a coach that the service determined was a good fit for me and my needs.
In the first session, I essentially sobbed for 45 minutes, pouring this overwhelm all over my poor coach.
But hey, I can’t be the first client to have done this to her, right‽ Her job is to coach people who may or may not be clinging to the last strings holding them together in life and business, and I get that.
I often work with writers and solopreneurs who come to us in the same place creatively. They have hit some wall with their writing, and they’ve decided they need outside feedback and coaching to get their plates spinning safely again.
There have been a lot of conversations that involve tears and angry shouting. One coaching client once threw a glass they were holding against a wall, shattering it to shards. Not gonna lie—both of us quietly stared at each other through our Zoom windows for a good 20 seconds before I gently calmed them down with breathing and reframing exercises.
My work with this coach was shaping up to be this exact kind of explosion of emotion … except it never was.
What happened, you might ask?
My coach decided to befriend me.
Now I’m not saying that coaches and clients can’t be friendly with each other. In the same way that editors and their writers should never hold adversarial or “strictly professional” relationships, having a coach means having someone you trust who wants the best for you.
When lives start intermingling and the line of “strictly professional” turns to “professional” and then turns to “we exist in the same space and hang out”, it can be difficult to keep the relationship beneficial for the person who truly needs the benefit (the client.)
It is hard to tell, as a coach, where the line falls between constructive criticism and superficial platitudes…or you completely overcorrect and go in like a little red-penned banshee to “help” your now friend.
It is hard for a client to listen to the feedback openly and with a clear mind, instead of jumping into friendly banter, trying to explain their thoughts to their virtual bestie.
It can be hard for both parties to establish boundaries on availability, safe words and language, and friendship security.
The friend-client might know that a friend-coach is slammed against a brick wall with work and personal life stuff, have stepped back professionally from some obligations, and they still feel it is ok to jump into an inbox to ask “I know you are busy, but…”
Or worse, the friend-coach may overstep the boundaries of permission, as they endeavour to help their friend-client improve. Whether the friend-client is looking for that particular feedback or not.
This is what ended up happening in my 3-month coaching program. My main coach stated in our second session that I was “so engaging and fun, she could just talk to me for hours.”
I get that a lot.
From then on, she decided that the issue in my life was that I was a super fun person, but I needed to have more fun in my life.
No matter how much I tried to tell her that I had fun, but I needed to free up time in other areas of my life to have even more fun, it didn’t matter. She knew I was fun, but she found that to be what was most endearing to her in our relationship, so it was what she wanted to focus on.
I wanted to focus on how to stop shattering the frickin’ plates!
It went so far that in our final session, she spent the last five minutes of my paid session asking me what I thought she could do to improve. After telling me how she thought I felt in each session’s exercise (often incorrectly identifying that I didn’t like something, when in actuality I had a huge breakthrough personally.)
She felt our relationship was so close, that she knew me better than I knew myself. In three months time. Which can happen with a coach or editor. There are times when I know what a client’s issue is from 7 minutes into our first call…but I don’t say that.
The thing with coaching and editing is that they have to get to that issue on their own, with guidance, or they’ll repeat the habit that causes the issue again and again. You can’t just fix it for them, or assume that you can.
There might come a time in your writing journey where you decide you need outside help.
You might sign up for a course or program. You might buy some writing tools or resources. You might join a writing group to get feedback…and you might even start working with a professional editor.
But I urge you: beyond confirming the quality of your resources and the fit for what you are looking for, do not look for a coach who will be your peer and friend.
The best improvements will come from someone who wants the best for you, but is also far enough removed that they don’t want or need anything from your relationship…and are able to provide the outside objectivity you want to make the changes you need.
What You Missed on Craft Your Content …
Our articles have the same mission we do — to help you to make your own words even better!
What You Missed on the Writers’ Rough Drafts podcast …
Learn the secrets for getting your writing published on top websites, publications and journals — direct from the editors and content managers who accept or reject your submissions.
- How do you stand out as a writer for Search Engine Journal? Managing Editor Miranda Miller joins us for episode #74 of Writers’ Rough Drafts, where she tells us how being active in the space you want to write in will help you — and your pitches — get noticed.
Other places we’ve popped up around the interwebs.
- Here’s an interview I did with Superlinguo, where they asked me about how my linguistics studies inform my writing and editing work. I also got to talk about my love of the history of words and how I keep an etymology journal. (What? You don’t keep an etymology journal? You should!)
- With anything that requires discipline, like eating healthy or sticking to your daily writing goals, it can be tempting to throw up your hands after one slip-up and abandon all progress. You can fall, then rise, then fall again — and repeat this pattern endlessly. If you are afflicted by the yo-yo writing effect, check out my post on Medium, which originally appeared in a December 2020 edition of The Writing Rundown.
In Other Reading This Week …
Need more insights and inspiration for your writing and mindset?
- Looking for another way to write happy, sad, angry, or any of the other primary emotions? This feelings wheel, credit Geoffrey Roberts, is a great way to find synonyms that add gravity and importance.
- We learn to say no very early in our lives, and parents will likely tell you their kids use the word liberally. So why is it so hard for us to say in professional settings? This post on LinkedIn argues that saying no is an essential professional skill — and offers you sanity-saving tips on how to say no at work.
- Want to learn how to master your media and influencer research? This June 24 webinar with SparkToro founder Rand Fishkin along with Sarah Evans will teach you today’s best practices in building a highly curated media and influencer database so you can build this industry skill set.
- Can a sandwich be a symbol for adventure? What does it mean to “forget yourself?” In this post on BuzzFeed, journalist Annie Daly shares the life lessons and global wellness practices she learned visiting different cultures around the world.
- The Comedy Cellar gave life to the scene for New York comics in the ’80s, and in this post Stew Fortier shares what he learned from founder Bill Grundfest — including the advice he gave John Stewart, Bill Mahar, and Ray Romano when he discovered them at his club.
Pitches & Submissions…
Want to get your own writing and ideas published on other sites?
- Ella Kemp at Massive Cinema is commissioning essays for the new editorial section. She’s looking for writing on film-related topics that will encourage people to go back to the cinema. Send pitches to email@example.com. Submissions are paid.
- Calvert Journal is looking for pitches to mark the 30th anniversary of the end of the Soviet Union. Articles can be on individual countries or the Soviet bloc as a whole, as long as there’s a cultural angle. They’re also looking for pitches for their Women Recollected series, focusing on forgotten female pioneers of 20th century culture in CEE and Central Asia. Click here for guidelines. Rates are £150-200 per piece.
- Work sucks — according to this series on The New Republic. And Katie McDonough wants you to pitch her stories on how it sucks. Click here for how to pitch. Rates start at $400.
- Polygon is calling for animation reviews — especially anime, donghua, or European imports. Email Tasha Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org with clips and pitches for upcoming titles. Here’s an example of what they want. Rate is $150-250 depending on how much view time is required.
Weekly Writing Tip …
A quick chance to learn from the masters.
“A good editor doesn’t rewrite words, she rewires synapses.” — S. Kelley Harrell
For the Upcoming Week …
Because we all need a good chuckle to start things off right!
There’s really no higher compliment.
Till next time!