Working With a Writing Coach -- Guest Post by Karen Walker

When I read something on Karen Walker's Following the Whispers blog a couple of weeks ago about working with her writing coach, Mark David Gerson, Since I also do coaching, I was curious about her experience working with someone else, and thought readers also would be. I asked Karen if she'd do a guest blog. When she agreed, I sent her a list of questions, and she used them to do the post as a written interview. I hope you'll find it as enlightening as I do.  Thank you Karen!

Why did you decide to work with a coach?
I saw Mark David Gerson’s book, Voice of the Muse in a bookstore and was immediately drawn to it. I didn’t purchase it that day. Then, at a New Mexico Book Coop meeting (a support organization for writers), I met him. He happened to have his books with him, so I bought it. Reading it, I felt as if a very wise spiritual guide/writer was whispering in my ear, helping me on my writing journey.

When I decided to switch genres, from memoir to fiction, I felt as if I were drowning in the ocean. I was in unknown waters with new species and things I couldn’t see or know or understand. I felt a writing coach could help me navigate this new territory.

What's the difference between a coach and editor?

An editor reads a manuscript once it is completed, for content, continuity, syntax, tone, voice, etc. I don’t know about other writing coaches, but mine is guiding me in regard to process, not content.

Then there are line editors who check for spelling, grammar, word choice, etc.

How did you find and choose him? 

After reading his book, I signed up for a workshop. During that workshop, powerful insights emerged regarding the fiction piece that was stirring inside me. The way these insights arrived and the energy with which they came were somewhat intimidating. I decided I needed additional support and hired Mark David on the spot for individual sessions.

How do you work together?

I signed up for eight 1-hour sessions, which I paid for in advance. Mark David has several different payment options you can choose from. The sessions vary from week to week, but basically, I share with Mark David what happened for me since our last session. He then uses his amazing intuitive abilities to provide context, insight, guidance, wisdom, suggestions, and more. Here’s an example: I shared that I felt as if I were walking on quicksand with this process. Mark David said, “It’s not quicksand, just sand. It has solidity under it, but it does shift. You are not being sucked in or down, you are being pulled up.” That was very helpful, since quicksand is a definite negative, whereas sand is not.

Sometimes there are homework assignments, but they are not traditional. One suggestion was to make one day each week a day of indulgence. Another was to create a journal devoted solely to acknowledgement (I tend to focus on the negative rather than the positive). And lastly, Mark David suggested I spend time with the energy of the story. That may not make sense to others, but it sure spoke to me.

How are you benefiting?

I feel as if I have a spiritual guide, someone who “gets” me, who can help me make sense of my journey and how the things in my life are working together to get me where I need to go, in terms of my writing.  

Is this a long-term relationship or focused on a specific project/skill?

Once I have completed the eight sessions, I will see where I am in the process. Luckily, Mark David does phone sessions, since I understand he is moving to the Los Angeles area. I am hoping that once I have a better handle on this project and where it’s heading, I will be just fine on my own getting down the first draft.

Write now: look over some of your own writing, and think about how your projects are progressing. Do you feel stuck? Are you lacking the polish you'd like to have? Would you like to increase your creativity? If you answer yes to questions like, this, maybe working with a coach would be a good option for you too.


Karen Walker said...

Sharon, thanks so much for asking me to write this guest post. You were one of the first people I connected with when I began this internet social networking journey after completing my memoir and I am so grateful to you for all you have done to encourage and support me.

Sharon Lippincott said...


You are so welcome. My sense of your social networking journey is that you have sprouted wings and begun to soar. If I helped you in any way to get started on the journey, your open sharing style on your blog was an inspiration to me to start my Los Alamos Girlhood blog/journal of my experience and thoughts while writing a memoir. Sharing real-time that way, warts, wrinkles and all is a new level of experience for me. So, thank YOU!

Helen Ginger said...

I've never considered working with that kind of coach. It's an interesting concept - and one that seems to be working wonderfully for you Karen.

Straight From Hel

Karen Walker said...

Yes, it is. I'm sure it's not for everyone. Like I said, I was lost in a whole new world and needed help navigating. Still do. I didn't need a coach when writing my memoir--just good editors!!!!

Mark David Gerson said...

Thanks so much for sharing your experiences here, Karen. It's a joy to work with someone so dedicated and committed to her project and her process.