How Valuable It Is, in These Short Days

Tara K. Shepersky is a contemplative walker, writer, & photographer based in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. She’s also the creator of The Florilegia Project, a conversational art and poetry experiment. This is the final installment in her monthly column about the creative practice.

I have in mind a new project. It involves embarrassing myself in public. You can help. 

I don’t mean a book (although I absolutely have more than one of those in mind). I mean a creativity-adjacent practice that I’ll commit to doing regularly, in the spirit of discovery, for a specified period of time. Not a hobby so much as a ritual of creative play. 

I’ve discussed previously how projects unrelated to the daily work of writing can function as both structure & impetus for creative practice. Since 2015, I’ve had one going most of the time. Sometimes it’s a daily thing, sometimes weekly, etc. Always, there’s an element of public accountability, because that’s motivating for me. 

My current practice of play is The Florilegia Project, which is still going strong, and daily. (Well, mostly daily. Sometimes I am—or I was, before COVID-19—far from home and it slips my mind, as my routine slips with the different delights of travel. And sometimes I’m just busy, quarantine or no quarantine. So I make it up later. Daily-ish.)

Meantime, I have started copying down, in a small blue book, the poems I know by heart. This is not the project. I’ll get to that.

Okay, but—why copy poems down if I have them by heart? The most immediate reason is that I forget, sometimes, which poems I know. There are more than the four or five things most humans can easily hold in mind at once. And no one else knows my mental library, so it’s not as if I have someone to prompt me with a title or a first line. Now I have this book.

Another reason is that someday I will die. If I am very lucky, it will be when I am old and happy and finished living, and I will slip peacefully to rejoin earth and sky and river. It may not be like that. Regardless, I hope that someone I love is there when it happens*, and I imagine, because our culture is terrible at death and also because death is just hard, that person may have a difficult time knowing what to say and do. I want them to have a ready helper: this book to read aloud (or at least the knowledge of it to rely on) to comfort both of us.

(Less finally, I may have injuries or incapacities yet ahead of me in life. It seems to me that such a touchstone might come in handy for less mortal circumstances too.)

There’s a third reason, connected to the last. 

The book doesn’t have a title, but it has a quote on the flyleaf, a sparklet from The Florilegia Project, in fact: “how valuable it is, in these short days.” It’s from Molly Fisk’s graceful poem “Winter Sun”, which I discovered in this beautiful collection**. 

We never know how short or long this individual day might be—or our own days generally, or (there’s so much of this in the air now, living as many feel we do at an end of the world), our culture’s or even our species’ days as we know them. And there’s so much of value and of joy inside those days to celebrate. This book—a single copy, written by hand, of the particular poems that allow themselves to echo in my particular memory over time—is one such small and quiet celebration. Fragments I have shored against my ruin—or something like that. (See, that one I do not have memorized.)

_______

I said I had a new project, and I said that this memory-book is not it.

The book’s creation is, however, the genesis. It got me thinking along several specific lines, and out of those is born the project, which does not yet have a name. 

I.

Poetry is for reading, sure, but also, often, for speaking. That last is certainly its older form. I speak poetry to myself quite a lot, out solitary-walking.

Occasionally I’ve been asked to read my own poetry aloud. I love doing this. I’m also scared of it, and not terribly assured in the doing. My poems sound different out loud than in my head; once they’re written, I mostly read them silently. So translating aloud, sometimes I stumble. I need practice.

II.

Most of the time, I connect most deeply with words I hear, rather than words I read in silence. (Sometimes I read aloud to myself to effect this.) I may repeat and ponder them silently later, but to graft them onto my heart, I use speech.

III.

I have hundreds of songs and hymns memorized, plus several liturgical settings from the church I grew up in, and many of the various spoken formulas of my faith.

The holding of these in memory is a formative experience of my life. Not just back in the day when I first did this memorization (mostly unconsciously), but now, every day: an ongoing formation. They’re a background, a lens, and a part of my identity. They’re quite often a comfort.

IV.

The poems I have by heart function like that, too. But there are far fewer of them.

Partially, this is because I didn’t memorize a lot of poetry in childhood. (I did memorize some delightfully silly Shel Silverstein poems for campfire recitation; ask me to recite “Warning” sometime; it’s my favorite.)

So, in the last couple of years, I’ve started intentionally adding to my mental collection. 

It always sounds daunting—at least to me—to commit whole poems to memory. Turns out, though: I can still do it. You can too. The human brain is amazing.

V.

I love the practice of sitting with (walking with, breathing with) a single poem.

I am one of those people who wants to read everything, learn everything, more more more. Lately I have been learning to do less, and do it deeply.

Even writing those words, I can feel my greedy brain hasten to smooth over the actions they imply: the magazines I love and don’t get around to reading; the books I buy and don’t read, sometimes for years; the ballet class I won’t be going back to when it restarts, because it’s too late at night; the places I don’t travel and films I don’t see. Hush, brain. This is ok.

One thing about doing (and, specifically reading) less that’s better than ok: it clarifies my thinking by giving my thinking space. Yes, I know this is nothing new, but it is new to me, and I am in love with it. One reason I’m writing these words is to remind my future self: rediscover this love.

VI.

One thing I don’t have in memory is much of my own poetry.

I have, at this point, written plenty of poems. Certainly over a hundred that are “finished” and that meet my standard of beauty and value; about 30 published or about to be so. And I could not, as I was making the cover of this memory-book, call to mind more than one in its entirety. (Is that odd? Do poets today, working mostly in writing and not in speech, usually memorize their work?)

Anyway, I want to commit more of my own work to my heart as well as my voice, alongside much more poetry I love by other people. So this (at last!) is my project:

Twice a month, for one year, I will learn a new poem (or revisit an old one). I will spend time with it every day: learning it, maybe writing it out, turning it over like a small river stone in my pocket. And at the end of a couple of weeks I will recite it.

To you, if you want to hear it.

This is the accountability bit: there it will be, in my voice, posted on my website semi-regularly for anyone to hear, scoff at, comment upon, puzzle over, whatever you find yourself doing with both the poem and my voice speaking it. 

I promised in paragraph one that you could participate. I’d be grateful indeed if you did, and here are three ways you can:

1) Take a chance on listening to my (short! I promise!) recordings. Send any thoughts or questions or suggestions my way via comment or email.

2) Help me name this undertaking. Right now it’s getting vaguely called after the memory-book. If you have a suggestion, please leave it in the comments. 

3) Suggest some poems to me. I can’t guarantee I’ll love them or that my brain will want to learn them, but I will be glad to read them and find out!

So what do you think, friends? Come listen to some poems with me? Maybe memorize and record one of your own? (I would love to hear it!) We all need something to get through this present moment. I’d be pleased for you to join me. 

_________

* I conceived this project, and wrote the first draft of this introduction to it, before COVID-19 changed all of our lives. How and with whom folks are thinking about death these days has shifted. But I didn’t change my words above, because this pandemic is not the only reason to think about what it means to have a good death, or to set things in order for the loved ones you hope will survive you. “Things in order” is poetry, in this case: a little piece of comfort and ease in a big and difficult transition. But of course I also mean your will, your advance directive, your spiritual practice, your worldly affairs. 

**Since many of us are buying more books these days, can I make a plug for purchasing from your local bookstore instead of Amazon? Amazon has deprioritized books anyway. Please help your local small businesses stay afloat in this Interesting Time. If you don’t have a local bookstore, might I suggest the excellent Fact & Fiction in Missoula, Montana? Or my own local, Annie Bloom’s in Multnomah Village, Portland, Oregon?

What Freelance Writers Can Do When They Don’t Know How to Pitch

Olivia Walters writes articles, blogs, and essays about life after higher education, take-aways from traveling, family relationships, and inspiration for other writers.

I’m a lifestyle writer, which means I’m in the business of digital journalism. Writing about events, unknown travel destinations and beverage products helped me get my feet wet in the freelance world. Like others who write for the internet, I understand that the conversation is always changing and the job requirement is to stay on brand and relevant — otherwise, there’s little chance of getting an editor’s attention. 

Many beginning freelancers mistakenly assume that that the work they publish at the start of their careers will lock them into a certain niche forever. Those with larger portfolios and higher word counts understand that a freelance writer can evolve their career by developing different interests over time. 

While I continue to grow as a lifestyle journalist, let me tell you what’s happening to culture and travel news during the pandemic. Travel writers are, in theory, supposed to write uplifting pieces that might distract and put readers in a dreamy bubble for three to four minutes. Now, social distancing is the major trend — not just because it’s a government mandate, but also for the social stigma that comes to those who aren’t. A lot of publications are pushing for stories about virtual tours, listicles of things to do at home and resources to keep readers both ready and willing to stay indoors.

In response to the coronavirus, the media had to change course. Stories about festivals, art exhibitions, date-night spots, local business launches and anything or anywhere that brought people together no longer interested lifestyle editors. My pitches were getting squashed left and right.

This is an adjustment for all kinds of writers. Finance journalists now need to cover ways to make short-term income, while fiction writers must push their book releases back or turn to YouTube for virtual promotion.   

On top of worrying about lay-offs, publication freezes, and budget cuts, freelance writers also need to try and stand out by uncovering new angles to the global discussion. The trouble is that the internet is saturated with coronavirus stories. Despite the immediate need from editors to publish stories they know will keep readers interested, editorial calendars are drowning in copy about the pandemic — and they might not have room for your idea, no matter how good it is.

So if you didn’t know what to pitch before the world turned upside down, there’s no shame in admitting that you’re completely lost today. Despite these challenges, you should not stop brainstorming — but how are freelance writers supposed to pitch ideas that are unique but still mainstream? 

After a couple of days living with writer’s guilt (you know, that feeling when you’re not writing), I turned to one of my favorite sources for ideas. Twitter is a gold mine for daily news from working editors and writers in all kinds of genres. My research revealed surprising advice that will guide down-and-out freelance writers on how to change their approach. 

  • Dozens of Twitter users are calling on writers to write about anything besides the coronavirus. It seems as if the best way to get ahead as a freelance writer is to pitch stories with the mindset that anything is possible. Again, people are craving distraction, informative reading material, and — above all — an escape. 
  • When you don’t know what to pitch, search the latest Twitter threads about what editors are accepting. Many editors tweet details about their publication, contact info, and pitch guidelines. While many of them are still accepting coronavirus stories, a growing number of editors desperately want non-pandemic pitches. 
  • You can also look for Twitter writer accounts that retweet these editors’ requests. It’ll take some digging, but the hashtag and keyword search options are freelance writer-friendly. To make it easier to know which publications have cut freelance budgets, there’s an active Google Doc that lists which publications are (and aren’t) still accepting pitches. Freelance writers are encouraged to share it with their network. 
  • Outside of Twitter, you can start from the bottom up by reaching out to old contacts. Even if you’re a beginner, you have to know someone in the writing world. Get back in touch, because asking for a referral is a common strategy freelance writers use to find work. 
  • I’ve also known writers to re-pitch old ideas that didn’t get accepted the first time around. This might not work for everyone, but if you’re organized and can refer back to old pitches, you might be able to clean them up and fine-tune the idea to fit in the current media dialogue. 
  • Another tactic is to turn to guidance from newsletters about writing — there are tons of them out there — but bear in mind the influence that sources other than yourself can have on your creativity. If you read too much bad news, whether in The New York Times or in a freelance newsletter, you might find yourself too anxious or discouraged to pitch.

I’ll end this with one more thought about how freelance writing sometimes strips originality and freedom from writers, leading to uninspired work or total burnout. 

We’re always trying to cater pitches to a publication’s audience — but if we get too focused on writing for other people, it’s easy to lose sight of why we love to write in the first place. If you don’t feel particularly inspired right now, maybe you’re not giving yourself enough of a break (from writing, from pitching, from the news cycle) to allow new ideas to emerge. As we all know, sometimes it’s just best to step away, take some “me time,” and come back to the keyboard tomorrow. 

Pitch ideas come to freelance writers who are persistent, but the scale will only balance for those who know when to walk away for a little while. There is still a market out there, so keep pitching and keep the word count flowing. 

How Getting Fired Ignited My Creativity and Made Me a Writer

Rachel Carrington is a freelance writer and fiction author. She also teaches fiction writing classes for Women on Writing. Find her on the web at rachelcarrington.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram at rcarrington2004.   

I’ve considered myself a writer for over thirty years. I’d write a book here and there, submit it to various agents and publishers, and wait for a response before I’d invest more energy in another book. A dozen or more rejections would have to occur before I’d flex my creative muscle again and begin another story. Looking back now, I see that I wasn’t a writer as much as a dabbler. I didn’t even tell people that I was a writer. If asked, my response was always “I’m a paralegal.” I wanted to write, but I didn’t have that consuming need to write. And I was comfortable with what I now realize was nothing more than a hobby.

My first book, a romance novel, was published in 2002. I patted myself on the back and took some time off to celebrate my victory, and I didn’t miss writing. Because I was officially an author, and I could be proud of myself for achieving my dream. But I hadn’t really. My dream had to consist of more than a few paltry royalty checks and a book that barely hung onto the bottom rung of the sales ratings, or it was nothing more than a bland wish. But I was published, and that had to be enough. After all, it was the Holy Grail for many struggling writers. So, with that feather in my cap, I could legitimately say I was a writer, a creator of fictional worlds and characters I’d brought to life from my imagination. That had to mean more than money. At least, that’s what I told myself.

I still had a full-time job that paid the bills, so I wasn’t too concerned with income. I might not be the next breakout star in the literary world, but I had reached a level of comfort in my writing. By the time 2004 rolled around, I’d even gotten another book published and an article or two. After another glass of champagne to celebrate, I went back to my career where I had a cushy office, solid income, and even cushier benefits. I was needed there, and I could see myself working until retirement. There were certainly worse jobs to have, and I could write on the weekends if I wasn’t too tired. So my plan was in place. 

But one car accident later forced me to reduce my hours at work. Then my body revolted, and the good health I’d enjoyed faded away. I ended up in the hospital where I had several major surgeries practically back to back. I soon learned I wasn’t as indispensable at work as I thought I was. Because my boss, who needed a full-time paralegal, hired another one while I was still in the hospital. The day I walked into my office and came face to face with my replacement is still etched in my mind. The sun blistered my face as I carried my box of belongings to my car and left the parking lot for the last time. 

With my world crashing around me, I went home and cried. I wallowed in bed. Ate more ice cream than I should have and tried to lose myself in television. But nothing tamed the anger inside. So that night I began writing. About getting fired. About my fear of getting evicted from my apartment. About my health issues. My fury over my body betraying me. How I juggled bills. All of it was fodder for essays which enabled me to spill out my despair over the next few weeks. 

When the electricity bill came due, and I had to borrow money from friends, I decided I should try submitting what I’d written. Because writing was all I could do at the moment to earn income. So I submitted my first essay, and it was accepted by a small literary ezine. The pay was minuscule, but I still remember how excited I was. More so than even when I’d gotten my first book published. Here I was writing words that had meant something to me. Experiences that had changed me and the world around me. 

When the well of bitterness ran dry and the checks began arriving in my mailbox, I discovered that fear had given way to confidence. I was paying my rent, keeping the lights on, and as much as I hated to admit it, I think I owed it to the attorney who no longer wanted me as his paralegal. He forced me out of my comfort zone. If he hadn’t terminated my employment, I don’t know that I would have discovered why I wanted to write.  Or that I could shape emotions into words. 

Soon, those emotions found their way back into my fiction writing, and I saw a difference in the creation of new books. And I couldn’t wait to see where my imagination would take me. I no longer wrote because I thought I was a writer; I wrote because the need was too strong not to. A craving I’d never felt before drove me to my computer each evening. 

It’s been fifteen years since I was fired. I’ve written hundreds of articles and dozens of books since then. But essays are still a large part of my writing process. They help me express my emotions without losing my temper or collapsing in a puddle of tears. And they brought me fully into this crazy, wonderful world of writing where words mean more to me than sitting in a courtroom or drafting legal documents. 

Looking back, I don’t wish I’d kept my job or my comfortable way of life. The removal of my safety net ignited a spark within me that, in turn, fanned the flames of creativity. My office isn’t as plush as the one I had, and the income isn’t guaranteed or necessarily steady, but this is the career I was meant to have. I became the person I was meant to be. Now when someone asks me what I do, I tell them I’m a writer because that’s what I am.

Your Own Holy Text

Tara K. Shepersky is a contemplative walker, writer, & photographer based in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. She’s also the creator of The Florilegia Project, a conversational art and poetry experiment. This is the third in an ongoing column about the creative practice.

Sometimes I hear someone talking about a thing they love or watch them doing a thing that’s part of their identity, and I imagine them writing a poem about it.

My friend, for example, who shapes and measures and tests recipes with the kind of minute attention I give to the placement of a comma. 

My mom, who is some kind of sorceress of flora. (The most practical kind imaginable: magic is work, and sometimes it hurts her back and her getting-older hands.) 

My dad, who has a hundred aviation adventure stories that light up his voice when he tells them.

My cousin, who not only sets out to read the entirety of Shakespeare’s work in a year, but also writes essays about each encounter, occasionally drawing some startling connections.

My husband, who listens for ways to bring friends, family, and perfect strangers joy, and crafts accordingly. (He is such a Hufflepuff.)

I don’t want to write a poem about these things in the voices of their particular humans. I know that’s a thing poets do, especially with historical persons or our own ancestors. It’s a function of poetry, maybe: lending our voices in attempts at understanding. It doesn’t feel right here.

For one thing, I’m talking about living people. You all have your own voices. They’re beautiful. I guess I’m a little drunk on that right now. 

For another, this is a metaphor. The way certain folks lavish the same physical and verbal care on their enthusiasms as I do on a poem — I guess the thing my poet-brain does is immediately imagine them actually writing a poem.

All of this is to say — I don’t know, what am I saying right now? Your life is a poem? Some motivational-poster noise like that? (I mean, that stuff is on motivational posters for a reason, and no, that reason is not only consumer capitalism.)

Maybe it’s to say you should write a poem. If you want to. It’s hard, sure. Sometimes. It’s kinda mystical, sometimes. Equally, it’s not difficult at all, and equally, it’s just another way of making beauty and/or sense of the world, of telling a moment — or a relationship, or a flower, or a lifetime — as you experience it.

You might be perfectly content writing poems by digging in the dirt, or carefully leveling a cup of flour, or teasing out and tying together threads from Through the Looking Glass and Henry VI

So, not writing poems. 

The phrase “you do you” covers a multitude of vaguenesses, but this is the kind of application where it shines. The world is slightly terrifying right now. I love watching people put beautiful, creative, utterly themselves things into it. Balancing the scales.

____________

This is one reason I write poetry, of course. It’s my gift, and I’m often frightened, too. My poems are my feather on the cosmic scale. 

Another reason: because I have to, because to do so gives me a joy I can’t live without. (I could exist without it, but that is not the same.) Writing poems cuts me open, also, quite often. This is not incompatible with joy, which gathers pain and sadness as close as it does contentment and exhilaration. 

But there is doing a thing because you have to, viscerally, and there is figuring out how doing that thing dovetails with your philosophy of life: what you want to give, what you want to achieve, who you want to be and why. When I started to think about it seriously, I realized I write poetry* because, on one level, figuring out life philosophy is my life philosophy. So really what I’m doing is writing my own holy text.

A number of extant texts are important enough to the ongoing formation of my identity to be called, for me, holy. The Psalms. Evangelical Lutheran Worship (a hymn and liturgy book), and its predecessor, which has a name but which I mostly call The Green Book. Most of Mary Oliver’s work, and Wendell Berry’s Sabbath Poems. Guy Gavriel Kay’s fiction, Robert Macfarlane’s non-fiction. 

For the rest, it’s inside me. Or the inside of me interacting with the outside of everything else. And as someone who doesn’t garden, or cook, or story-tell, or gift, or critically assay to discover and nurture my place in the world, I do instead what my particular joy dictates: I compose. 

Holy texts, flawed and fragile as any other human endeavor, have bits and pieces of rubbish left in them. The Psalms, for example. Some of those singers turn pettiness and vengeance into high art, and I read those lines with distaste. And… this is also part of what I connect to in those rousing appeals for deliverance from suffering. I, too, often write poems to companion myself in difficult moments, times when I’m being tugged out by the tide. 

And I also hope, of course, that my own low tides will speak to a reader somewhere, some other when, and bring them comfort, or strength, or a feeling of being seen and understood. I often revise for that person. But I don’t compose for them. I do that to fill my own depthless well of unknown longing. To conjure something beautiful from the nothing-times. To make an honored guest of that lonely, that particular echoing pull.

Granted, I write poetry from a place of contentment, too, very often. Though even that tends to illuminate shadows at its edges. That’s part of my life philosophy: in all experience, its opposite—and from this understanding I try to live toward kindness, appreciation, and generosity. I try to do this because I am not gifted at it. Poetry (among many teachers) is mentoring me toward it, showing me how I need to grow. Other people’s poetry, most certainly, and also the process of writing it myself. Writing my own holy text.

You are doing this too. (I guess I’m bringing us back around to those motivational posters.) Possibly you don’t know it, but that’s life, so often: you create the type of work you practice.

So maybe that’s what I’m trying to say: practice, with an intentional heart. Gift to yourself, and the rest of us, your joy. Your holy text.**

____________

*And everything else. But poetry, for me, is a distilled form of literature, the most potent. Your milage may vary. 

**And, you know, if you feel like it, go write a poemYes I know I linked that twice. Because it’s great.

Collaborating Couples: How to Share a Writing Life (and a Byline) With a Significant Other

Hart Fowler is an independent journalist. S. Noelle Lynch is an incendiary nocturnal fiction writer and journalist.

There are many relationships in which both partners write, but true writing couples are few and far between. For every Joan Didion and John Dunne, there are other ambitious, talented, and romantically involved writers who have tried integrating their work in a collaborative effort only to fail to find a balance—or, even worse, fail to maintain their personal relationship.

As a writing couple, we have collaborated on six published articles over the past six months. This experience has had a significant learning curve, and we are here to share what we have learned from our collaborations.

Two heads pitch better than one

Having two independent thinkers conjuring up story ideas expands your realm of expertise. If you read our previous collaborative guest post, The Power of the Shower Curtain Whiteboard, you already know that we keep track of our pitches on an 6’ by 8’ transparent shower curtain pinned to a wall in our writing room. When either of us encounter a breaking or topical news story or an interesting juxtaposition that is in one of our wheelhouses, we write it on the board. We are fortunate in that we have both similar and contrasting interests, so having two heads to generate pitches doubles our idea-generation regiment. 

For example: Hart was recently interviewing a musician on speakerphone for an article previewing an upcoming concert for a regional magazine. When Noelle overheard them discussing a shared passion for recreational game, she mentioned she’d seen a sports magazine in the library that focused on the game. Hart pitched the sports magazine on a profile piece about the musician’s love for the game and the piece was accepted.

Knowing what turns your significant other on is key to a successful relationship—and being able to help them find a place to write about their interests and passions can help your partnership in more ways than one.  

Use your partner as an in-house sounding board

One important skillset a freelance writer must quickly develop is the ability to work to meet the needs of different clients and editors. The first draft is just that, and having a second pair of eyes on your work helps you hone in and whittle down your piece into something more lean and focused—and gives you more confidence when you finally press the send button. This increases the chances of the piece coming back with fewer edit requests from the client, which is a good look for everyone involved (especially in an industry where time is money). 

When the edit notes do come back, your partner can serve as a sounding board and help ensure you fulfill your editor’s requests. One example of how this worked for us was with the piece Joystick Fantasia: Inside the Spectacle of Video Games Live for Electronic Gaming Monthly. After investing many hours on the researching, reporting, and writing of a piece, it can be frustrating when the piece comes back with significant feedback. That can get to you, affecting both your confidence and your workflow because rewriting often takes a substantial amount of time.  

But your partner’s emotional and intellectual support can be a godsend. When the edits came in around 11 p.m., we dove in, worked through the night, and had a rewrite back to the editor by that morning. The editor was pleased not only with the new shape of the piece, but also with the piece being turned around so quickly. It was a win-win, as we both could enjoy the satisfaction of not only making the work better, but also knocking it out before it began to over-ripen—which can happen if you sit and brood on a piece too long. 

It is important to note the difference between helping your partner edit a piece and encroaching on their writing voice. This is definitely an acquired skill, and we have found this to be a fine line that, when crossed, can lead to tension. While it is important to accept criticism if you ask for it, it is similarly important to not try to rewrite their work in your voice. This can be detrimental to not only how you approach collaborating on future pieces, but also to your relationship in general. Tread lightly and have thick skin.

It is, after all, a team effort. 

Develop a singular voice

While we’ve put together many collaborations where one of us does the writing and the other serves more of an editorial role, we have also begun working together as co-authors using a singular voice.

We are still learning the skill of developing a shared voice, and understand why there are very few co-authored works out there. We marvel at Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, the husband-and-wife showrunners of HBO’s wildly ambitious and successful Westworld. They are one of the most successful collaborative couples of all time, and somehow manage to have maintained a singular vision over three seasons working hand-in-hand on the acclaimed series. 

For our recently published Love on the Rocks for Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, we first brainstormed ideas of what we wanted to include in the piece, and made a shared Google Doc that consisted of potential section headings and raw notes and anecdotes. We really hit a creative flow when we began composing the piece simultaneously on separate computers on different sides of our writing room. 

Be forewarned that this is not for the faint of heart; this was the third time we tried this technique and the first time it worked. What we learned this go around was to work on different sections, and to actively avoid writing in the same graf, as to not step on each other toes. We also learned to trust each other’s edits and additions.

It is freeing when you can let go of your voice and find the voice that fits the piece—and it was a beautiful thing to watch the story get fleshed out in real time, revisiting a section and seeing it develop, returning to a sentence and suggesting a better wording. With a trust in one another, disagreements over phrasing or flow reached a new level of constructive criticism as we were reminded that we both are good at this, and it helped our mutual respect shine.    

Know when—and how—to share a byline

Joan Didion wrote of her collaboration with her husband, author John Dunne: “I never had to finish sentences because he would finish them for me.” Yet they rarely, if ever, shared bylines. 

One of the many satisfactions of being a published writer is reading your byline on the piece. Be it print or online, seeing your name and/or a short bio gives a sense of pride in your accomplishment. Your byline can also encourage readers, and perhaps editors and publishers, to look you up, send feedback, and/or approach you with other story ideas.

Similarly, reading your names together as a co-authored byline shows a mutual respect and satisfaction. 

However, you need to extend that respect to your clients as well. For the aforementioned Shower Curtain Board story, Hart pitched the story, and Noelle both edited and wrote many of the lines. Even the concept of the shower curtain board was a shared idea. 

The piece went live with Hart’s byline. When we asked Nicole to add Noelle’s byline to the story as well, Nicole was happy to do it—but let us know that we should have told her it was a collaborative work during the initial pitch.

Lesson learned: Be upfront and clear with the editor from the get-go. As long it doesn’t affect the agreed-upon pay for the piece, this shouldn’t have any negative effect. In fact, the editor is getting two writers—and if they have a following, two sets of readers who follow the writers’ work—for the price of one, which is a win-win. 

There’s some gray area when assigning credit in the byline when one of the collaborators serves more of an editorial or “second set of eyes” role. 

We requested an “additional reporting” credit for the EGM piece, for example, because Noelle played a more heavy-handed role in the editing process and was less of a co-author. But if you want to work on a story together from the beginning, pitch it to the editor that way— and if it turns out one person does the brunt of the work, do your best to avoid conversations of who did what. The field of creative collaboration is littered with failed attempts at assigning authorship, and as a romantic couple, it is of the utmost importance to not get bogged down in such conversations. (If you find yourself arguing over who contributed more, it is a good time to rethink future creative collaborations.)      

While we are most definitely not a “power couple,” we are a couple that writes both independently and collaboratively. Being a collaborative couple is not easy. It takes work, just like the romantic part of our relationship. There will be conflict, that is for sure. But regardless of whether you’re reading your partner’s byline, editing your partner’s work, or sharing a byline together, working creatively with someone you love can give you a twofold sense of pride. 

The Gathering and The Shaping

Tara K. Shepersky is a contemplative walker, writer, & photographer based in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. She’s also the creator of The Florilegia Project, a conversational art and poetry experiment. This is the second in an ongoing column about the creative practice.


I miss my book. I mean the one I’m supposed to be writing

I don’t miss the manuscript I completed last year. That one’s alive on its own now, finding its feet, and doesn’t need anything from me at the moment. Plus I’ve finally untangled my identity from it, after months of intense conversation, late nights, and needing to be together all the time. Writing that book (well, shaping it—we’ll get to that) was a lot like falling in love. I can’t live like that for long without exhaustion.

Which is precisely what it’s earned me. 

I had a second manuscript already in the works, so it seemed reasonable, thinking about goals for this year, to say I’ll finish it by the time midwinter returns. All I really want to do though, this year so far? Is read.

About this time last year, I was making an effort to get back into the habit of loving reading. I think of myself as a reader, but I’d fallen out of doing a lot of actual, focused book-reading. I got better. But I was so busy falling in love writing! It’s now, when love writing has wrung me out, and left my usual defenses crumpled, that my re-made reading habit has moved in—insistently—to take its place. The place of lots of things, actually. Movie watching, multi-hour walking, and meetings for committees I care about quite a lot have also been victims of my pure exhaustion. Instead of them, I read.

It’s glorious. It also puts my current manuscript mentally across the room from me, lounging on the rug against the scrolled arms of my loveseat, eyebrows raised. 

I do know that the writing process is circular. Every artist needs to lie fallow periodically. You’re not less of a creative person for doing it. It’s just that I miss my current book. I’m excited about it; I want to fall in love again. And I am completely incapable of shaping that love into something beautiful, something outside my own self, right now. 

Which brings me to the difference between this part of the process I’m feeling nostalgic for—I call this The Shaping—and the part I’m inhabiting now, the much quieter Gathering. These are, as far as I can tell, the two distinct phases of my own writing process, once of which feels much more like “writing” than the other. And therefore feels more legitimate.

The Shaping is the being-in-love phase. It’s a furious round of writing up outlines, work-dreaming poetry, debating line breaks, revising revising revising, scrapping whole poems for parts, and changing my mind a hundred times about what order the pieces go in and what the sections are called. It’s the part that gets me to a definable end, a goal achieved. 

It’s also the part that drops me right off that end like it’s a pier, with the water down below cold and rough and deep and full of unknown creatures. It’s tiring, swimming to shore through all of that. And here I am chafing to run headlong off that pier again, as soon as possible. 

The phase that comes before this violent intensity of love is gentler altogether, and ambiguous as a cloud. It gets nothing at all “done.” I call it The Gathering, because it has that feeling of wandering about, not aimlessly but not focused on a goal either, and questioning, investigating, enjoying what you run across. It’s made up of daydreaming poetry, vague notebook scribbling, writing prompts, and joyful drafting; also literal wandering, journaling, dancing, deliberately putting myself in the path of new skills or ideas that have nothing to do with writing. And also reading.

Ah—reading. So I can say that right now I’m in The Gathering phase. If I’m being generous, which I want to be, so I will: lying fallow is a first part of Gathering. 

(You should keep in mind that I’ve made these terms up to articulate some learning from my own experience. Also that past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. You should ask yourself what the heck I know.)

Here’s another thing I don’t: when will the present (wool)-Gathering resolve into The Shaping? And if that’s a mystery, how do I know I can write another book of poems in 2020? 

Maybe annual goals written in January are something in the nature of a first draft. Maybe they clarify what you value, and then hold it up to the harsh light of what you need. 

***

Besides a writer, and a reader, I define myself as a contemplative. “Contemplation” sounds passive, but it requires a lot of discipline. I’m so tired lately that sometimes I think I’m not rested enough to be a good contemplative. I get enough sleep, but I’m still trying to drop off during my morning silence-time. Contemplation seems to require space, by which I want to mean “not having a bunch of pressing demands on your schedule,” and by which I more sustainably mean an inner sense of spaciousness and time. 

The same thing poetry requires, in fact. 

The Gathering is a spacious season. You need it, or I do anyway, to invite depth and surprises and Mystery to participate in The (eventual, unsummonable) Shaping. 

I think The Gathering is about play, as much as anything. Mary Oliver has a line about “letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.”* I’ll sleep too, I guess, and read books like I used to: constantly, playfully, with no thought of what they might teach me or how I might use their knowledge. 

I’ll wave sometimes across the room at my manuscript, who is actually fine over there alone, maybe Gathering too. 

We’ll have so much to talk about when we get back together.  

***

*It’s from her poem “Today,” which for me is maybe something more like “This Month,” or maybe “This Quarter.”

Learning to Trust the Circular Nature of Writing

Kimberly Lew is a published playwright and writer whose work has appeared online on websites including The Washington Post, Real Simple, Fodor’s, The Toast, and The Billfold. Learn more at www.kimberlylew.com.

When I was younger, I loved arts and crafts but was low on patience. I had a lot of creativity and maybe some artistic talent, but I needed instant gratification. If I did a sketch, I expected it to look exactly the way I wanted it the first time around — I was not a fan of erasers. When learning to sew, I expected to turn around ready-to-wear garments and accessories. There were many lopsided purses and pillowcases I insisted on using because I couldn’t admit that I needed to practice my stitching or measure my materials a little more carefully.

Writing was a nice outlet for me, especially in school. I used to love being able to write something during journal time and volunteer to read it out loud, getting to see my classmates’ reactions to my stories and ideas. Then, when all was said and done, I could close the journal and move on to the next thing.

But the more I started to learn about creative writing, the more I realized how important the revision process was. It was tricky to be able to filter through the noise of feedback, to tiptoe along the line between my original vision and the advice of others. As I started wanting to work on longer projects, the idea of how long of a journey it can be to see something through, all so it might just sit in a drawer or on a hard drive, became incredibly daunting. I stopped writing for a while, because it didn’t feel productive when there wasn’t necessarily a visible finish line — or anything else that would give me the same feeling as seeing my classmates respond to my work.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that the lack of writing was still a part of the writing process. In the first long break I took from writing with any kind of frequency, I traveled, living in Georgia, then California, then studying abroad in London. I reconnected with family that I hadn’t been able to spend time with. I got my first job and made my own money for the first time. By the time I started writing again, inspired by a writing course I took in London to help fill out my class schedule, I had a lot more life experience to draw from, a lot of new perspectives of the world to explore. Since then, I’ve gone through a lot of different phases where I’ve come in and out of writing, and I’ve learned that those times can be as important as the ones where I’m fully committed.

I used to believe that writing was a linear journey; that you had an idea and then you put that idea onto paper and then you tightened that idea through editing and then you got that idea published. There were two finite points, a beginning and an end, for every project, and to take stock of one’s work would be to lay out every line, sorting them into two piles: those were that complete and those that still needed to be finished.

Over time, I’ve come to see that writing can be more like intersecting circles. Every piece can be a representation of a particular moment, while intersecting with different stories at different times. And every circle, while complete in its own right, does not exist in isolation.

One of my most prized pieces I’ve ever had published is an essay about my grandfather. It was born out of a short piece I wrote when I visited him one summer, basically a journal entry scrawled on loose-leaf paper as I tried to come to terms with my feelings about his living with Alzheimer’s. It lived in a purse for a year and then eventually became the inspiration for an essay I wanted to submit to Longreads, which was not accepted, and then shortened to send into Modern Love, where it was also rejected. The piece was sent to a few other places before I set it aside completely for a few years. 

When I finally resurrected it, a lot of things had changed. I had written a full-length play inspired by my grandpa and Alzheimer’s that had a reading in New York City, and I had sadly lost my grandpa more recently. Using this piece that I had revisited every so often over many years, I wrote a new personal essay that reflected new discoveries and experiences. Eventually, that piece found a home where it was edited and published, and I completed one of many circles that got a passion project where I needed it to be.

While treating writing like a discipline is important, I’ve also found that sometimes an idea needs time to develop — and even if you put it on a shelf, it has a tendency to come back around. Sometimes bigger works require multiple versions, lots of notes and revision, and research. Sometimes the darlings we’re told to kill have a second life as an important puzzle piece or totally new thing. Sometimes a piece doesn’t make sense until you have the life experience to understand other people’s critiques.

Learning this has allowed me to put less pressure on my writing. I used to get worried — especially when I wrote something I was immensely proud of — that I might never feel so inspired again. But time always helps, and I keep getting the opportunity to look at the body of my work and all its many circles, making new connections and rearranging them into new configurations. As long as I want to write, I not only have the potential to create something new, but also a whole foundation to build on to get to the next thing.

Now, if I get into the weeds of a project and find that it’s not working, I don’t feel pressure to mold it into something it’s not or to feel the need to salvage it out of pride. Instead, sometimes I step back and tell myself that I’m completing the circle for now, that I can let go. Maybe there will be a chance to revisit it in the future — to pull it out of a drawer or a hard drive and reacquaint ourselves, like old friends.

Goals and The Scatter: Cultivating a New Year of Creativity

Tara K. Shepersky is a contemplative walker, writer, & photographer based in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. She’s also the creator of The Florilegia Project, a conversational art and poetry experiment. This is the first in an ongoing column about the creative practice.

In the past year, I’ve gone a bit sour on cruising the internet, and gotten back into curated newsletters. (Side note: if you have favorites, please share!) A friend of mine, the lovely and thoughtful San Francisco Bay Area poet Allie Rigby, publishes a monthly one called The Herd. In this month’s issue, while admitting her ambivalence about New Year’s resolutions, she encourages her community to think about what they want creatively in 2020—and to share one intention with the group. “There is magic,” she points out, “in sharing a goal.” So I’m going to do some magic right now; you’re my witness. In 2020, I’ll write my second book.

Also, I’ll get the first one in front of a series of publishers I think are right for it, until one of them agrees. Plus, I’ll do some serious vocational discernment, work daily with a plan I’m designing to mitigate the frightening ways my body handles stress, and spend a full day, once per month, in silent retreat from all tech and to-do lists.

I was going to share just the art-specific goals with you here. But that contradicts something I’ve been learning for years, which crystallized in 2019: everything you do feeds—or eats, or a little of both—your art. Maybe also this: your life is your art. 

I wrote my 2020 goals while driving up the central coast of California on my winter holidays. During those same holidays, I interviewed for a new job, then received the news that they want me to start this month. Change has been coming in this department for some time, a distant storm I’ve been feeling just over the horizon, charging the air. I’m relieved to feel the rain falling. The inevitable thunder and lightning both excites and worries me: a new employer and colleagues to learn, a project I’m helping to invent as we go along, some travel, work dreams, changes to my daily routine. And as all of that whirls around me—oh right, I’m writing a book and managing my stress so it doesn’t kill me.*

Most creatives don’t live by our art alone. Writing is a full-time job, for which I need another such to pay the rent and take vacation and buy good wine and feed the cat, et cetera. I suspect I’m preaching to the choir right now: you read a blog about the art and finance of a creative life. You know this is a balancing act. So how does one actually balance?

I don’t know. But following my earlier bit of magic, I’m going to set in motion another. I’m going to tell you about The Scatter, and how I’m using it to build a creative life that aligns with my goals and my values, while respecting my limits and also the essential mystery of being human.** And I’m going to let the shared statement of that intention roam free in the world, and see what good work it can do. 

You may already recognize The Scatter. It’s that daily frenetic task-switching from article to email to work to laundry to existential worry. It’s the inability to focus on knitting or reading or going for a walk—just that, and only that. It’s the compulsion to check Twitter again, or your email, or your stats, even when you lack any specific question or interest, just because you have a free half-minute burning a hole in your brain. It’s the need to check eight things off your to-do list today, and the feeling after you’ve done them that you could really do more. It’s the way you question your competence and worth when you realize how exhausted you are, and the way you still think you can get all of that done tomorrow. 

My Scatter started to show when I took a job that couldn’t provide the intellectual challenge I need to focus for eight hours a day. Humans are great at adapting to non-optimal situations—I got my work done, and well—but all such decisions exact prices, produce side-effects. I did this job for some time, and it afforded me many things, including quite a lot of bandwidth for writing. It also brought The Scatter, dropped on my kitchen floor every day like a critter the cat dragged in, and I have to clean it up. 

I told my (wonderful) therapist recently that I couldn’t find time to do all the things I need. I had already edited out of my life so many things I liked or valued but just couldn’t keep saying yes to without exploding; why hadn’t that solved the problem? She asked if I’d considered not trying to do every important thing every day. Maybe some things are weekly, she suggested, or monthly. 

Around this time, I also discovered that I can do about one thing a day before my body starts throwing stressed-out signal flares. I had to say this out loud to realize its truth, and then I had to figure out what I actually meant by it. 

Every day, I get out of bed and perform the rituals of bathing and dressing. I do some kind of contemplative practice, I do whatever my current project is, and I walk or I dance. Most days I also work (tech Monday through Friday, writing Saturdays and Sundays.) I’m doing, by a conservative estimate, at least five things. 

Outside that baseline, I’ve got one free square in the middle of the day’s game board. So if I want to draft an essay, or submit poems, or volunteer at my library, or have dinner with a friend, or go to the DMV to renew my drivers license—that’s my One Thing. 

So I made some lists. First, every activity I require and/or value. Then I crossed some of those out. What could I edit? I did. (Now I just have to stick to it.) 

Next, I placed those activities into four columns: Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly. (Very quickly, I started writing this out as DWMY.) Daily is my baseline. I make time for each thing on the Weekly list at least once a week. The idea is the same for Monthly and Yearly.

  • Weekly includes items like writing sessions, naps or baths, housework, email correspondence, movie nights, errands and incidentals. Yep, those are all things I used to try to fit in daily or every other day. 
  • Monthly is for volunteer work, therapy and discernment time, silent “sabbath” days (see my 2020 goals, above), manuscript development, submitting individual pieces for publication, outings with friends, seasonal projects, less frequent incidentals like medical appointments, and freelance writing pitches or assignments. I was previously trying to do most of these every week. 
  • Yearly is things like theater, travel, craft workshops, personal or writing retreats, and social visits with out-of-town friends and family. And yes, you guessed it, I was trying to fit all of these in much closer to monthly. 

I’ve been practicing with my DMWY list for about a month—half of which I spent on vacation; that part doesn’t count. So I don’t know yet how effective a tool it will be. I do know some important things already, which suggest this can help me both to control The Scatter, and to work effectively and joyfully toward my 2020 goals. 

First: when I’m feeling The Scatter, I can know that I am doing enough, and doing good things, if I put a mental checkmark by my Daily baseline items, plus one item from my Weekly, Monthly, or Yearly list. This is already helpful, although it’s going to take time to accept that I may simply get less done. Which is ok. 

Second, when I’m feeling exhausted, or having a lot of stress symptoms, I look at my lists: how many extras did I take on today? Yesterday? How does the week ahead look? Soon I’ll be able to ask myself things like: What’s my pattern this month? If I’m feeling unbalanced, I’ll be able to look at my lists for Weekly or Monthly items I’ve been neglecting.

Last, and perhaps most importantly in the long term, DMWY builds unscheduled free time into my day, and reminds me that such time is crucial. Building a valuable day around Baseline+One Thing means there’s almost always time left over. In the past few years I’ve tended to fill that uncritically in the moment: an hour of writing here, a half hour catching up with online articles there, an extra errand, a cat nap, bouts of Twitter. And still I felt I was “getting nothing done.” DMWY has already helped me identify what I truly need and want to accomplish, and set limits on the daily exercise of that accomplishment based on experience of my own traits and limits.

The rest of my day? That’s for play. For “boredom,” which is great for creative life. For refusing to define, or schedule, or quantify or try to “use” every minute of my time.  

I am, of course, capable of doing more than One Thing, and many days demand it. Life is complex and doesn’t often cede authority to my personal plan. But the limit of One Thing is just true for me, and hard-learned. DMWY is an experiment: (how) can I best align my actions and values and limits, and accomplish what’s most important to me in the short and long term? I imagine this will take time. And In spite of my regular feelings to the contrary, I have nothing but.  

***

*I just said something possibly wise and possibly crap about your life as your art. I guess now I get to find out which adjective applies. 

**This is going to sound a lot like another 2020 goal. I don’t think of it that way because I started it in 2019, but keep reading and see if it doesn’t just dovetail right into my Official 2020 Goals. Calendar years aren’t objectively real anyway.  

Can You Really Make Money as a Book Coach?

Photo credit: Kevin McIntrye

Jennie Nash is the founder and CEO of Author Accelerator, a company on a mission to help writers write books worth reading by training book coaches to guide them through the creative process. She is also the author of Read Books All Day and Get Paid For It: The Business of Book Coaching. Join her free online book coaching summit the week of January 20, 2020. Jennie will be interviewing 15 top experts as she takes followers inside the world of book coaching.

I founded Author Accelerator in 2013 because I was seeing the enormous impact that working with a book coach could have on writers and I wanted to help other people learn the systems and strategies to do this work. Once people understand what book coaching is — being an editor, a project manager, a shepherd, a cheerleader, and a guide for writers while they are writing — the next thing they want to know is if you can really make money doing this work. This question stems from the “starving artist myth” that says that writers don’t have any money and therefore writers won’t spend any money.

But the myth is a myth. Writers have money, and they are willing to invest money to become better at what they do and to achieve specific goals around their work. After all, they buy books on writing, attend workshops on writing, travel to far-flung cities to go to conferences on writing, and spend a great deal of time on writing.

Seth Godin, marketing guru, says that marketing is doing work that matters for people who care. Writers definitely care about getting their work into the world, learning the skills they need to express themselves with clarity and power, finishing the books they set out to write, reaching readers, and myriad other things. By helping them achieve these goals, I make multiple six figures a year as a book coach and have for the past five years. 

In my Book Coach Training and Certification Program, I never promise any of my students they can make that kind of money. So much depends on your experience, your entrepreneurial skill, and your motivation. What I like to do, instead of making promises, is explain how I got to where I am, money-wise. It shows that building a business is a process that unfolds over time and making money is a practice you can develop. This progression is adapted from my new book, Read Books All Day and Get Paid For It: The Business of Book Coaching.

  • Hourly. In the beginning of my book coaching business, I charged by the hour. I set my price around $50.00 an hour and thought that was pretty great! $50/hour seemed like a lot. I neglected to factor in the time I took to market my work, talk to potential clients, onboard them, bill them, deal with regular business issues like software upgrades and buying office supplies, and handle problematic clients. It turned out that $50/hour was not sustainable and didn’t feel good. 
  • Going from hourly to higher hourly. I quickly upped my hourly rate, eventually getting to $120/hour. I thought this was the solution and was quite pleased with myself. But the same thing kept happening where other expenses weren’t being factored in, and, on top of that, I was WAY over-delivering, even at this higher price. The way I work with people is to go all in. I want my clients to achieve their goals and I want to do whatever I can to help them do that. I began to understand I needed to change my fee structure so that I could work the way I wanted to work.
  • Going from hourly to project rates. I began to set prices by the package. This allowed me to work the way I liked to work, to deliver the kind of value I wanted to deliver, and to really help my clients meet their goals.
  • Going to higher project rates. As my clients began to do well, I got more and more work—far more work than I would possibly be able to do. My solution for managing this problem was once again to raise my rates, thinking this would solve the problem of supply and demand. It didn’t. I also learned that just because people can pay doesn’t mean I want to work with them.
  • Going to an application-based in-taking process combined with higher project rates. I added an application to my client in-taking process so that I could take some time to evaluate a project before I worked with the writer. If I chose not to work with them, or if they couldn’t pay my fee, I would recommend them to other book coaches. 

Another change I made during this time is that if someone is desperate to work with me and needs something done on a very fast deadline, I charge a rush rate. I got to the point where I was charging double my normal rate if someone wanted something done very fast and refused to wait. I would only do this for clients I knew, or new clients whose projects were appropriate to what I was trying to do in my business. In one notable scenario, someone asked me to help them develop a book proposal in less than three weeks. She was heading off to a conference where she had signed up to pitch and had nothing to show. I asked if she was willing to work day and night, and to do whatever I told her to do, and to pay double my normal rate. She agreed. We did two months of work in less than three weeks, and she ended up getting a two-book deal.

It was around this time that I started earning six figures a year as a book coach. Here’s how I continued to grow my income:

  • Starting Author Accelerator. I started Author Accelerator in part because I saw the opportunity to serve more clients by referring them to coaches whom I had hired and trained. When the company got off the ground, I began to refer writers to Author Accelerator book coaches. We set our prices very low at first because I thought the market wanted lower-priced work.
  • Establishing longer required terms. I began to require clients to work with me for a minimum of six months at even higher rates. Again, this allowed me to do my best work for the clients who were the best fit for what I was offering. This was also a big inflection point for my business; I earned multiple six figures as a book coach when I made this move.
  • Raising rates and terms at Author Accelerator. Using the lessons I learned in my own work, we changed the way we work with writers at Author Accelerator, adding higher prices and longer terms of engagement.
  • In-person premium events. In response to client requests, Author Accelerator added in-person workshops, so people can work directly with me, live. These are premium-priced events. The first one sold out, and we are planning more.
  • What’s next? My business has grown to a point where I work only by referral, and I have a waiting list. Clients must pay a deposit to hold a spot in my schedule, and I only take on a new client when one leaves, either because they are finished with their project or no longer need my services. As a result of this reality, I changed to a retainer model. I take very few clients and they pay a premium to work with me. 

You can see that my book coaching career has been a work-in-progress the entire time. I constantly change how I work with clients, what I charge, what I offer, how I decide who to work with, and a hundred other variables. But I set up my business so that I was able to earn money from Day 1, and now I’m equally invested in helping new coaches do the same. Whether you jump into book coaching as a side gig or a career pivot, being paid well for your time and talent should be part of it. Finding a way to read books all day is only the first step in designing an engaging and rewarding path. Figuring out how to be paid well is the step that will ensure you can keep doing it.