Oct 15

“Getting That Baby Out”: Writing Coaching As Birth


Hila Ratzabi (left) during writing coaching session. Photo by Adriano Martino.

These days I have much to kvell about: one of my writing coaching clients, who had never been published before, had his first short story published, plus two more accepted for publication. Another client, also never published before, just had her memoir published to much (well deserved!) acclaim.

My first reaction to these successes is pride. I’m so moved to have played a part in sheparding my clients’ work toward publication and recognition. It’s gratifying to see the fruits of one’s labor, especially in terms of measurable success. My second reaction is awe and humility, not at the role I played in the process, but in my clients themselves. I could never have done the work for them. I watched my clients work on their projects for months, and ultimately, their dedication to the craft of writing, their tenacity, their willingness to hear suggestions, to try new techniques in their work, to become aware of their strengths and habits, to revise as much as is necessary all led to their success.

On occasion I have started the writing coaching process with a client who was not willing (or able at the time) to do the work. We might have met up once or had one conversation, and it was clear that they were not ready to go all in. Making a real commitment to your writing project is a big deal. There are often many starts and stops when it comes to committing to your writing project. It is easy to get off track or want an easy solution to deeper issues in the writing (sometimes a client insists they just need editing, but often much more work on the part of the writer is necessary). Sticking with the work over time and being willing to go deep and challenge yourself and, again, to really do the work does pay off. That doesn’t mean you won’t have to go through many rejections and “failures” along the way. But endurance is key.

I’ve recently been reading books on childbirth, and one of the best pieces of advice that I came across was: No one will give birth to this baby for you. You can read all the books, have the best doula, the best midwife or doctor, but you’re the one who has to get that baby out. This feels very close to my experience with my writing coaching clients. Like a doula, I can coach my clients through the process, but they are the only ones who can get their babies out into the world. And I’ll be celebrating when that happens.