Ease in Writing
Writing Tips from Full Circle Communications
February 2010
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Ease in Writing?

"Ease in writing" comes from a poem by Alexander Pope, the British poet:

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.

Foot step chartNote he (and I) didn't say "easy writing." But just as dance lessons can help get you around the floor with your partner more gracefully, the goal for this newsletter is to share a tip or two to improve how you and your organization communicate in writing.
Working with a Writing Coach
A writing coach is not for everyone or for every project. But sometimes working with a coach can make the difference in getting a dissertation, book, or other big writing project done.  A coach can also help you get "un-stuck" to pursue creative endeavors related to work or other parts of life.

I was curious about what a writing coach does, so I talked with two experienced coaches, Nancy Whichard and Quinn McDonald. Here are a few things I learned:

What a Coach Can and Cannot Do
  • A writing coach is not an editor or an instructor to improve your writing. Sometimes the coach sees your work-in-progess, sometimes not. Instead, a coach helps you set goals, then figure out how to work toward those goals, according to Whichard. "I try to keep the client in action," McDonald said, "which might involve solving problems out loud, deadlines, accountability, or creating rituals."
  • While everyone can benefit from an outside perspective, "the people who most quickly benefit have a willingness to try something different," said Whichard. Conversely, McDonald stressed a coach cannot get your book published or your dissertation accepted. You have to do the work.
  • Both coaches emphasized that being coached is not a feel-good exercise. They ask tough questions and  are attuned to when people are (my expression, not theirs) B.S.-ing them.
A Typical Coaching Session
  • Both Whichard and McDonald coach on the phone, scheduling time to talk every 7 to 10 days.
  • They may assign homework or request a weekly check-in by email a day or two beforehand, based on what the client needs.
  • Often, it's managing the rest of one's life that needs attention. "Writing is not solitary, it can be disruptive to your family life and other responsibilities," said McDonald. Notes Whichard, "Coaches can help you figure out how to make writing a part of your life so you're not doing 'binge writing' right before a deadline."
How to Pick a Compatible Coach
  • Chemistry with the coach is critical. They suggest talking with a prospective coach beforehand--is this who you want on the other end of the phone? Both also suggest three months as a good period of time to gauge the effects of the coaching.
  • McDonald has compiled a list of questions to ask a coach. Among them:
    • How long have you coached regularly?
    • Do you give homework?
    • How much do you charge?
    • How long will it take?
You can check out the websites of Whichard and McDonald. They provide far more information than can fit here about their credentials (they are both certified, although from different organizations) and about the coaching process.

A writing coach might be what you need to move a long-delayed or difficult project forward. But--have reasonable expectations. Be open to new ways of working. Like a good athletic coach, a good writing coach won't go easy on you, but the results can make the effort worthwhile.

Super Bowl Heroes, Off the Field
Pierre ThomasSuper Bowl is Sunday--Colts versus Saints. Earlier this season, two players, as well as one each from all the other NFL teams, were selected to tape PSAs in support of community service and the United Way. The United Way and NFL also created trading cards for each player, which I worked with the United Way project manager to write.

Gary Brackett
The back of each card (also online) lists the "community service stats" about each player, along with height, weight, position, and the usual football stuff. The Colts' Gary Brackett works with cancer patients, especially children, and their families. The Saints' Pierre Thomas visits schools, and has rebuilt homes and playgrounds. Players from other teams support youth fitness, encourage kids to stay in school, created foundations, and otherwise try to use their renown to do good.

By the way, the Redskins' "Live United" player was Santana Moss, who is active in DC and South Florida.
Attention, Authors!
Have you written a book or article? Do you have a communications-related blog or newsletter? I would love to share the information with others. Let me know what you have created. I'll write about it (and link to it) in another issue of this newsletter.