I just heard from a writer I’d worked with three years ago. I always hesitate to check in when someone is still writing – so I love it when a writer gets back to me.
This time it was a complete surprise. The writer, let’s call him Bob, wanted to let me know his book is being published. Last I heard, he wasn’t sure what he was going to do next.
It’s always exciting to hear that a writer I worked with completed their book and it’s going to be published. I hate it when I’ve read a good story and can’t tell other people to read it because it’s still in manuscript.
I’m all in on author-publishing so I don’t ask writers how they’re published. In fact, I don’t even count getting a book published as the only way to keep writing. One author has had a lot of interest posting her chapters on Facebook. Another has won a prestigious grant to work on an entirely different book. A few have switched careers and now post regularly on social media – showcasing their talents to more readers than they might have found with a book.
He’s a whole other story.
Before we started working together we had a pretty intense conversation about religion. Something I usually don’t talk to writers about but, in this case, it mattered. Bob was writing a quasi-religious book and his religion was different from my own. Would this be a problem? He decided it would be an asset because I could tell him if the book had merits for a general readership.
We agreed to go ahead with the understanding that he would also find readers who would be more familiar with his subject matter once the book was finished.
Bob was right - coming at his book from two different perspectives gave us both a chance to learn the best way to shape the book.
He was sure from the beginning that even though his personal story might add another layer – he didn't want to write about it. My job, as I see it, is to help writers write the book they want to write. Not try to steer them toward the book I think is there just under the surface.
So we went along for a few months, trading chapters back and forth. His writing was strong. His concept was good. I could see the appeal for a religious audience.
And then . . .
Two things happened.
He had a bit of a midlife crisis. He read a book he thought was brilliant.
He realized he wanted to write a book like that one. He knew in order to do that he’d have to write his personal story. The crisis had opened him up in such a way, he was ready to do that.
This all happened outside our monthly meetings. I didn’t know about any of it until he told me - weeks later. The breakthrough he needed came from his life, not from our work together.
When you’re coaching or teaching it’s often a little too easy to overestimate your influence. To think that just because you’re on the scene, you can direct its outcome.
Bob has been way too kind thanking me in his acknowledgments.
The truth is – all I did was step back and get out of his way.
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