“What do you do at The Jam Press?” (Ah, the number one question).
“We help first-time authors to get their book out into the world. As writing coaches, we also provide creative writing workshop services for writers who want a customized approach to workshopping their writing.” (Sums it up, yes?)
Hopefully this explains a little bit about the work of a writing coach. Each time we are asked, we further reflect on the role that we can play in an individual’s writing journey.
So many writers have been doing it “on the side” for much of their life, as a hobby or a way to process their experiences, always feeling like it’s something that comes after their other work. This is absolutely legitimate, but what often happens when our formal working lives wind down is that there is suddenly so much more room to focus on deep reading and writing. People get back in touch with genuine interests and passions. It’s a beautiful process to see. That creative side of one’s mind can be prioritized in a new way. One of our clients, Julie Schwartz, has involved us in this journey and so far it’s been a remarkable privilege.
So, what actually happens when we sit down with someone like Julie?
The process begins fairly organically, as we need to determine how much editorial work the manuscript or collection of writings require. The writer shares with us either a finished manuscript or a loose series of chapters, and we talk together about vision for both the nature of the book and what publishing goals might exist. We can also explore what the client themselves reads, and what books they’ve seen out there that have a connection with their own work. We are curious and we have a lot of questions. What has left an impression on you? What kind of writer do you want to be? Do you want to be the face of your book or let the book speak for itself? With Janis as editor and Jacqui as creative guide, we offer a double-pronged offering so the writer can always see both the small and big picture of their work.
Sessions can be constructed frequently and intensively over a few months, or drawn out more languidly over six months to a year, giving the client several windows in which to develop their craft independently. Sessions can be opted into on a one-time basis, or, more productively, organized into bundles of four of five at a time so there is a commitment from everyone to go deep. We’ve found that some people simply desire a clock set against their work, so the output feels finite and there are reachable milestones along the way. We are that clock! For example, we might workshop two or three pieces per session, and those are the pieces that take up all headspace for the client throughout the month. Then, when there’s a consensus about the piece being complete, we are all satisfied to move on to the next grouping of chapters/pieces. In this way everyone is biting off manageable chunks, and the looming anxiety around “writing a whole book” doesn’t seem so strong. It also allows us the freedom to dive into the themes of those particular pieces and give them their due attention.
In the time between one session and another, Jacqui and I evaluate the status of the work, read and review new material and plan for the next session. There is a lot of time spent in the “in between”, making sure that enough has been done to deliver fresh feedback and approaches to the writer. Similarly, the client takes that time to focus on redrafting some pieces or writing something new based on advice about where there might be gaps in the story.
Our core priority is maintaining the same voice that the writer had when they first met with us. This is a joy to follow, as usually the voice simply gets stronger and more confident, and the volume of writing increases.
If you are seeking this time and space to write in a guided and supported way, or you know someone who is, we’d love to hear from you.
You can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Janis, who would be pleased if you took a look at this article.