Thanks for the feedback…

Thanks for the feedback on the writing tutor thing. I'm still thinking about what I would/should charge, but I do think it's likely to be a fairly high hourly rate, taking into account my schedule, childcare, etc.

My friend Minal Hajratwala does a fair bit of writing coaching, which I think is also an interesting approach. Would I be a good writing coach? Is that a useful thing to have? It's not a service I ever paid for as a writer, and I have a certain hesitancy about the entire concept -- but on the other hand, I had the freedom as a young adult to go enroll in graduate programs for writing, and I think I got a tremendous amount out of not just the classes, but the meetings with my advisors. Maybe especially those meetings.

Maybe for adults who are working / parenting and don't have time for a graduate degree, or even time for a regular writing class that might meet at inconvenient times, having a personalized writing coach who can work with their schedule is worth paying extra for? What do you guys think? Are writing coaches actually helpful, or does it feel skeevy / scammy to you?

I'm honestly not sure why I feel a bit of the latter vibe to the idea; I'm trying to figure that out. I totally respect Minal and think she'd be a great help to a lot of new writers, for example, so clearly I don't think it's automatically problematic in her case. But the concept still worries me a bit.

6 thoughts on “Thanks for the feedback…”

  1. It seems a little sketchy to me, too. I don’t think it has to be? But I wonder how you manage clients’ expectations, what you promise them and what you can actually deliver.

    I can imagine a talented scam artist doing really well for him/herself at this by doing very badly by a stable of regular clients — keep encouraging the weak clients in their unrealistic hopes, and keep manipulating the strong clients to stay dependent on you.

    And I imagine running this sort of operation honestly would be really difficult — so often what would-be writers think they want or need is so different from what they actually do need, and you’d always be fighting with that.

  2. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Yes — I think that breaks down the problem nicely into two parts:

    a) it would be so easy to turn this into a scam, and there probably are many scam versions of this out there already

    b) even if you are totally sincere / professional about it, it might be challenging to manage writers’ expectations.

    Minal’s page is interesting in the latter, since she at least attempts to clearly lay out what she will and won’t do for you. That’s probably a critical part of making this work.

    If I did it, too, I think I’d have to limit myself to no more than 3-5 people at a time, max. Otherwise it’d be hard to be fair to them in terms of time/energy/attention.

  3. You could take on the one person who asked to see what the issues are/how you should handle that relationship.

    Don’t forget about your own writing in all this teaching bidness.

  4. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    I think I will do the one person who asked; I’m going to give her a pretty discounted rate, since I’m a novice at coaching.

    And no worries re: own writing. All of this is supplemental summer stuff — no idea whether I’ll have any time for it in the fall. Writing time comes first!

  5. I don’t think it sounds sketchy to me, though the issues David raised are valid ones.

    Those of you who have a negative reaction, I’m curious as to whether you’re reacting to the concept or to the term “coach” (or both, or neither).

    As for expectations, now I’m curious:

    Minal, if you’re reading this, how do you manage your clients’ expectations?

    In particular, do you get clients who expect that after a couple of sessions with you, they’ll have a bestselling book and a movie contract? You explicitly note that they shouldn’t expect connections, but I’m wondering if they have more nebulous (and even less realistic) expectations of immediate wild success.

    And more generally, how do you go about figuring out what the client is looking for? I like your “Creating a writing plan and blueprint for your project, with milestones and a clear path for success” line; that seems like it would help a lot.

  6. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    The term ‘coach’ is definitely part of it for me — in my draft of a page, I used the term ‘mentor’, which isn’t perfect, but works better for me.

    I also find Minal’s page a bit more self-help-ish in tone than I’m comfortable with. Not that there’s anything wrong with self-help, but I’m not used to thinking of writing instruction in those terms. While I know a lot of writers struggle with the actually writing / believing in their work / etc. side of writing, that’s not what I usually teach.

    So maybe part of resisting the ‘coach’ aspects is that I wouldn’t be confident even setting myself up as knowing what strategies people can use for that side of things; I can talk about what I do, but that would take about 15-20 minutes max. 🙂

    And actually her line ‘a clear path for success’ that you liked, I think is worrisome. Because I think a lot of writers will immediately equate success with publishing. And I’m not sure I even know what a clear path to publishing would look like.

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