On one level, it seems fairly obvious how I got from studying and teaching literature and writing, to being an editor, to being a writing coach. My training as a writer and a teacher are crucial to my work as a coach. But it goes deeper than that.
What I learned from George Eliot
My thesis was on how George Eliot (penname for Marian Evans – see note) used music to represent emotion in her novels. If you feel your eyes glazing over and you’re wondering what the hell Victorian novels have to do with being a writing coach, bear with me a little longer.
Eliot wanted her novels to change the world one heart at a time. She didn’t believe that top down change imposed by a religion or a government could ever bring about meaningful or lasting change. The only way, she argued, that you could make the world a better, kinder place was to teach people to feel empathy with one another – especially with those they had very little in common with.
To do this, Eliot sought to teach her readers to empathise with her characters, in the hope that they would then empathise with the actual people they encountered in their everyday lives. Thus, she set herself the difficult task of making her readers understand how other people experience feelings like love, sympathy, and hatred.
Think about that for a minute – you know how you experience those feelings, but how do they feel to your partner, your child, or the person behind you in the queue at the supermarket?
That’s where music comes in – you can’t explain feelings without comparing them to something else. Eliot’s favourite comparison was music because music can evoke feelings without the need for words.
That’s nice, but what does this have to do with being a writing coach?
Good question. With my background, I could be a full time editor, a private tutor for pupils sitting their A-levels in English literature, or a teacher. I could also be a project manager, a time-management/organisation coach, or help people learn to give better presentations. So why be writing coach?
I gravitated towards being a writing coach because I’ve spent most of my adult life studying and working with words – and the better part of the last 20 years thinking about how words can change the world.
Over the years, I came to realise that Eliot got frustrated with trying to change the world through her novels. She saw that no matter how many people read them, the vast majority were not going to be more understanding of their scullery maids or try to really understand the feelings of their business rivals.
In the last few years I realised, first on an unconscious level and recently on a conscious one, that the problem wasn’t with her novels or the difficulty of communicating emotion. It was with her approach.
We do need to learn to empathise with each other, but we won’t do that by reading one writers’ novels. We need conversation to develop understanding and empathy.
Joining the conversation
Every time you publish or read a social media post, blog post, or book, you’re joining the conversation. When you publish, you’re presenting your view and inviting comments and reactions, even if your reader doesn’t share them with you. And when you read, you’re listening to and thinking about another perspective.
This conversation can be very quiet (though obviously not in some comments threads), but it’s vitally important to society that we have as many voices in it as possible.
I became a writing coach to help my clients join the conversation. It’s only when we welcome and celebrate multiple perspectives that we can create a kinder, more tolerant society.
How can I help you?
If you want to have a chat about how I can help you join the conversation, book a call here: https://tidycal.com/jennifer5/lets-talk-about-writing
Alternatively, you could checkout my coaching services and courses to see which option is best for you.
Marian Evans changed the spelling of her first name several times – she was born Mary Ann. After studying French at school, she changed it to Mary Anne and then Marianne. As an adult, she settled on Marian. I use that spelling because it’s the one she chose as an adult.