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Who’s your on-line writing coach?

14 September, 2007 Posted by Joanna As Snippets

Do you have an on-line writing coach?  I do, several in fact, although they probably don’t know it (yet).

I realised the other day that one of the reasons I follow my ‘favourites’ so avidly is that they demonstrate, model, illuminate some of the vital ingredients of confident writing.

Now following them avidly doesn’t mean trying to copy what they do or imitate their style.  That can really mess up your writing.  It does mean admiring, learning from, being inspired by, working out which of their approaches you can deploy in your own writing.

I talk about the “ingredients” of confident writing because to me they’re like the things you need to add when you’re cooking: a pinch of salt maybe, or a twist of spices, perhaps that spoonful of flour to stop the eggs from curdling…

You know how it is when you just know, just sense, what it is that you’re looking for.  What will make the meal complete.

So I might go to the Middle Zone for some storytelling, learning, and fun.  There’s learning aplenty from Liz Strauss too – big things like integrity, credibility, how to make an impact, and even bigger things like a sense of curiosity, and wonder.  I follow Emma Bird at HowtoItaly because of her authentic writing style (and way of life), the way she writes with all her senses, capturing an amazing, powerful sense of place.

I turn to Robyn McMaster to see how a love of learning and a desire to share the knowledge can turbo-charge your writing.  Then there’s Mike at Converstations whose writing is refreshingly simple and whose whole approach well – is just so – well… hospitable is the best word I can think for it.

If I’m looking for a powerful reminder of writing with purpose (and writing to help find my purpose) I might turn to Adam Kayce, the Monk at Work.  And then there’s Nick Smith at Life 2.0, who might not think he’s a great writer but whose work is so powerful, so simple, so to the point I feel like I’ve washed my face in the pure cold water of a mountain stream whenever I’ve been there.

There are writers who show off their skills in brevity (what a fine art) – perhaps we’ve Twitter to thank for that Rick? :-) If I’m looking for a burst of wonder I might go to Sylvia’s place.  The sun always seems to be shining over there.  Oh and then there’s clarity and word power of course, which I know I’ll find at Word Sell.  And if I need a reminder of hard, beautiful, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, spirit spilling authentic writing I’ll spend some time absorbing the work of one great writer: Rachel from North London.

So many great writers out there, and I haven’t yet mentioned my one most powerful, most influential writing coach: Rosa Say.  In the short time that we have known one another she has taught me so much, about: writing as spirit spilling, writing for the possibility of change, having the courage to toot, sweetly.

Mahalo Rosa for all you do.  Mahalo to all of you: coaches, writers, readers.  I learn constantly from all of you.

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Categories : Snippets

Brad ShorrNo Gravatar September 14, 2007

Hi Joanna, it means a lot to me that you enjoy my blog. When I want thoughtful reflection on subjects that strengthens my writing skills, I come here!

Joanna YoungNo Gravatar September 14, 2007

Brad, yes I do (cartoons, word nerdery and all!) - and as I was writing this piece I realised that what I seek out in my favourite blogs is both variety, and examples of the things that I want to build into and develop in my own writing.

I guess that’s part of the way that we learn together - and strengthen each other’s work by reading, writing, contributing, commenting, coming up with ideas for new projects and the like :-)

Laura September 14, 2007

Great list of writers!

Rosa Say September 14, 2007

Mahalo to you Joanna. Meeting you earlier this year was my gift (I remember the exact day, and have it marked in my treasure box, for you started “spilling” then) and despite the seems-short time span, you are a vital friend to me; I believe we bring out the best in each other, for you must know what an essential writing coach you have become to me as well!

We who write are often encouraged to be true to our own voice, but our voices need cultivating, pruning, and shaping just like a growing tree, and you are watchful, thoughtful, yet totally unrestricting gardener extraordinaire. How lucky we are to be in your care.

RobynNo Gravatar September 14, 2007

Joanna, I’m honored that you named me as one of your writing coaches. You both inspire and encourage me.

I loved your recent work on authenticity. And I thought of that as I contributed to Rosa Say’s Joyful, Jubilant Learning for today.

Thanks so very much for giving me ideas and sparks!

Joanna YoungNo Gravatar September 15, 2007

Hi Laura, great writers indeed, and I could have gone on (and on!)

There are of course many great writers on writing out there too, but I decided not to focus on them this time as I wanted to try and highlight the way we learn, consciously or otherwise, from all the great writers we follow, whatever their content. I enjoyed working out some of what I was learning or maybe… soaking up… from others.


Joanna YoungNo Gravatar September 15, 2007

Rosa, thank you for the lovely metaphor. I will treasure it :-)
I think (know, feel) we are good for each other - but sometimes it’s nice to say so in public too!


Joanna YoungNo Gravatar September 15, 2007

Robyn, thank you for that feedback. I don’t quite know how to explain this (whereas you would probably know what was going on in my brain!) but the knowledge that my words have in some way connected to the words that another person chooses to write, a story they decide to tell, well it’s the most amazing reward for me as both writer and coach.

You wrote something in the comment box on your piece at JJL:

“When we’re willing to stretch beyond what we think we can do, it’s amazing what happens.”

I have been thinking about the way us human beings - or those who are committed to stretching beyond - can learn from and inspire each other.

How we each have something to contribute that adds to the collective effort (words, humour, knowledge, insight, experience, warmth, brevity, levity, visuals - well I guess you might say all the intelligences…)

We might all be offering something from a different standpoint (using IT, learning about the brain, management theories, personal development, writing, marketing) but we are all supporting each other to keep on stepping forward to see what happens, and what we can create together.

Which is a pretty amazing thought for me to start my weekend with :-)

Adam Kayce : Monk At Work September 15, 2007

Thanks for the mention, Joanna — and in such good company, too — I’m touched/thrilled/tickled. :-)

Robert HruzekNo Gravatar September 15, 2007

Gee, Joanna, I’m honored that you’ve included me in your “spice rack” of ingredients. The thought that somehow I’m adding a pinch or two of flavor to your writing is somehow exhilarating and humbling at the same time.

I think that’s what intrigues and excites me the most about the Web - its ability to enable conversations - and bridges - across any and all barriers.

May we continue to flavor each other’s thoughts and writings!

Cheers and Joy!

Joanna YoungNo Gravatar September 16, 2007

Hi Adam, my pleasure - and I’m looking forward to you coaching us in how to write like a pirate :-)

Joanna YoungNo Gravatar September 16, 2007

Robert, I’m with you on that - the ability of our words and ideas to spin off each other, to connect, to turn into a richer, more intriguing story… well it’s just amazing. I’m hooked!


Emma Bird September 17, 2007

Hi Joanna

Like the others, I’m also honoured that you’ve mentioned me and that I’m your ‘off-topic’ blog. It’s a wonderful way to start the day and is as good as the cappuccino for a pick-me-up.

But, of course, you also add something to my writing. When I’m short on the inspiration front then I walk into your blogging sitting room, read your posts and the comments, and I’m ready to go again.

Oh, and I love Rosa’s metaphor, too, in relation to your role as chief gardener, or coffee-maker. Your feedback and comments are always insightful, thoughtful and spot on.

Grazie mille

Joanna YoungNo Gravatar September 17, 2007

Thank you Emma, your feedback in turn is helping me to understand the value of what I do as a writing coach :-)
I love non-work related job descriptions but it will be a hard choice between chief gardener or coffee maker… Perhaps I will just choose different roles for different days and moods…


Rick MahnNo Gravatar September 18, 2007

I also appreciate you mentioning me, I sometimes wonder if I bring any value to anyone’s day, and it means a lot to me that you read my blog. Especially with all the great writers you’ve listed here.

I’m a few days behind in commenting here, mostly due to taking a few days off because I can’t think of things to blog about. Thankfully, my blogger’s block is passing and it’s due a lot to writers like those mentioned in your post here.

My thanks to you Joanna for ideas, confidence, and eloquence in writing. It is very much appreciated. Oh, and thanks for all the great links to check out!


Joanna YoungNo Gravatar September 18, 2007

Rick, I was pleased to mention your blog - I think your happiness one-liners in particular are brilliant - and unlike anything I see anybody else doing.

There’s always stuff that we can enjoy in other people’s writing… always.

I’m glad your block is passing - good on for you for keeping going and writing through it, even if less frequently than before. It’ll make it easier to get into the swing again once your flow comes back


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