Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Athletes Have Coaches. Why Not Writers?

My Facebook friends probably think I love the gym. After all, I check in from there five to six times a week. But the truth is, I hate it. I’m a typical reader type. I’d much rather be on my butt, reading a book or at the computer, than working out those muscles. In fact, I was a completely sedentary type until about three years ago. So what changed? When we moved to Florida and I joined a gym for my son’s sake, I got a call about taking advantage of their free personal training session. I showed up. I got “trained.” And then I bought a short package. And then I met Richard. Richard was a nice guy, dedicated to physical fitness and putting himself through school with his earnings. So my gym sessions stopped being about me making me do something I hated to do, and started being about the appointment I had with Richard, letting Richard down if I didn’t show up and possibly costing him money. Plus I’d have to send a text explaining why I wasn’t showing up, and that would just be too hard to justify. They say it takes six weeks for a new activity to become a habit. It probably took me longer than that, but three years later, exercise is a regular part of my routine, with and without a trainer.

And I still hate it.

It makes me wonder if the same process could work for writers who aren’t happy with the amount of writing they’re getting done. I don’t know if I’m a typical writer or not, but I am much happier “having written” than I am deep in the throes of the writing. While the writing is happening, I’m constantly sweating over every word. I’m way too pleased with myself at the conclusion of a single sentence. I get too distracted by my email and the thought that something interesting may have just been posted on Facebook.

Look, a flying fish!

I have friends who get together to write, but I’ve never been able to do that. I get too distracted by their presence. I want to talk to them, not type with them. And there is stuff going on at the coffee shop or the library. People to look at. Boats. How is a person supposed to stare at a blank screen and a blinking cursor with all that going on?

(By the way, I just had to hop on Google to look for pictures of flying fish.)

This problem is by no means limited to writers who spend their days alone staring at a screen. I’m also a real estate agent with a company that is constantly providing its sales associates with motivational techniques to get out there, make those calls, knock on doors, and do what it takes to meet people who’ll want your help to buy and sell houses.

(I just took another break to read an email and then post a comment about said email on Facebook.)

And the reason they are constantly providing these motivational experiences is because the majority of these agents aren’t doing what they know they need to do to be successful, even though the steps are broken down pretty clearly and most agents need to do them because it’s their job and they need to make money and pay the bills! One way my company tries to keep agents motivated and active is by providing coaches. Agents meet with coaches as often as they like to talk about what they did to pursue their real estate goals, what they didn’t do, and why. It’s called accountability.

I do something similar with my weekly writers group. We start each meeting talking about what we accomplished writing-wise that week, and what kept us from writing more. Some people talk about the other things they did that week in lieu of writing. Sometimes I call them out on it, and sometimes I don’t.

I love the idea of using the personal training model for writing. Like a personal athletic trainer would, a personal writing trainer would spend the initial meeting talking about the writer’s goals and assessing where the writer is right now. Does the writer have a great idea for a novel but no idea how to develop it? Does the writer have an outline but lacks motivation to work on the book every day? Is the first draft finished, but the edits seem too overwhelming? The writer and trainer would then work out a schedule of working together, with the trainer’s sole job during that time to keep the writer on track.

Fellow writers, what do you think? Is this a model that could work?

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