Why Hire a Writing Coach?

Years ago, I hired a closet declutterer to help me organize my office shelves.  And just last summer, I found someone to teach me how to set up a spreadsheet for business accounting.

None of these tasks came naturally to me. Neither did throwing a Frisbee, following a recipe or figuring out the tip for a restaurant bill!

But with guidance, I learned how. And I got better at them.

Writing isn’t any different. Finding that perfect opening sentence, riveting middle or satisfying ending doesn’t always come naturally. Some of us get stuck at the start. Some lose our way, midstream. Many of us can lose perspective  – and our confidence – in the whole project because we are just too close to the material.

That’s where an experienced, patient and tender-hearted writing coach can make a difference.

Maybe you are pursuing a degree and your academic writing assignments are taking far longer than you think they should. You need help organizing your thoughts and getting them onto the page.

Maybe you are good at your job, but your co-workers are not responding to your emails and reports as you would like. You know these could be better summarized, less wordy and more to the point.

Maybe you’ve been writing personal essays and you are ready to run them by a thoughtful reader. You want feedback from someone who can provide you with concrete suggestions about how to make them better. You want more feedback than what you feel you are getting with your critique group.

Or maybe you are looking to explore your creativity, to experience what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls the flow, doing something for its own sake.

 To get your toes in the water, consider registering for one of my writing workshops this fall.

Three hours of coaching can jump start you on a project or help you complete one already underway.

For a ready-to-go project, – take a look at my one-month, three-month and one-year programs.

Shake your life up just a bit. Make something by hand.

What if writing – whether it’s for fun, publication, a business or school assignment – could open you up in a different way?

What if writing could lead you to personal discovery?


For more information, hop over to my website or send me an email.


Summertime … and the Writing’s Not Easy

ITDunya creditSummer, literarily speaking, is the season most likely not to meet expectations.

We think, somewhat logically, that the longer, lighter, lazier days of June-July-August offer us more time to read a book a week or to finish that essay. There’s truth to it. But those same days also tempt us to languish a little, slow down, and turn our wordy-thinky brains down a notch or two. We’re so tired and the lounge chair-hammock-beach towel just calls.

So there it is, summer’s possibility where reading and writing is concerned – versus its probability. I urge you to embrace this tension and let go of expectations. Bringing the words close is a uniquely human act and we humans are easily distracted. We just can’t help it.

That said, I want to leave you with a few thoughts on the subject of writing, specifically, for summer. Or you can think of these as thoughts brought to you in summer to help you make  fall plans.

My schedule loosens up in summer for private coaching sessions for all kinds of writing goals. To give you an idea of what people work on with a writing coach:

I’ve been working with a woman on a memoir of her year in Paris; a young man on personal essays for possible publication; a graduate student on her application essays for a further graduate degree and a college sophomore on improving his writing for his writing assignments.

Feel free to contact me at ellen@ellenblumbarish.com if you’d like to talk about the different ways I work with writers (and how I work with people who might not call themselves writers.)

Take a look at the fall New Trier Extension catalogue for my workshop called “Reading, Writing and Telling the Personal Essay” which begins in October on Wednesday afternoons.

And stay tuned for information about a fall evening workshop that is under construction at the moment.

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up ready

To spread your wings and take to the sky …

And I’ll be here when the timing is right.

Happy summer!

Photo by ITDunya and Waterlogue


Catching Butterflies


For the past thirty years, I have earned a living, and even a few awards, as a writer and editor.

But in middle school, around the time that achievement tests became the standard by which writing and reading skills were determined, my scores led my teachers and parents to conclude that I was struggling with reading and writing. This led to a meeting with my parents that led to many long hours in a windowless closet of a room at school with a reading and writing tutor.

As a teenager, there was already plenty to be embarrassed about, but I remember being really mortified about having to be tutored because I thought of myself as a smart girl.

Luckily that feeling didn’t last beyond my first session. My tutor turned out to be an amiable, patient woman named Mrs. Stoner. (To my GFS friends, this is Caroline’s mother!) She taught me to identify the way I absorbed information, how to squeeze it out and organize it into words. But perhaps even more poignantly for the career that was to come, was how she guided me in honoring my individual learning process.

Funny how life works. I never set out to teach or coach writing. I was never a stellar student. The opportunities came, ironically, from two teacher/mentors. My deep appreciation goes to Hyma Levin for seeing the teacher in me and to Abe Peck for thinking I could coach.  I’ve been teaching and coaching writing for a decade now but only recently did I recognize that my approach – my teacherly soul – is based on what these gifted educators gave to me. Find your own process first and work the details around that.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve witnessed numerous approaches in my students. Each writer, or person with a writing task, takes unique steps toward her goal. But I’ve noticed that there are patterns. I’ve grouped and listed them here. I’m very process oriented so I’d love to hear yours, or if you think I’ve missed any. Feel free to comment below or drop me a line to let me know at ellen@ellenblumbarish.com.

Catching butterflies. Writing is like a net that catches the words – like butterflies –  as it moves through the air.

Empty glass. When this writer gets really quiet, words fill the space.

Gold mining. The writer moves her hands and fingers and the letters and words materialize and she goes back and searches for the gems.

Architectural blueprint. He prepares an outline like a foundation and adds the words as if they are the bricks or stucco.

Labor and delivery. This writer scrunches up and pushes, like she is delivering a baby.

Scratch and erase. The writers writes, then reads what he wrote and revises. He writes some more, reads that and revises. Sentence by sentence or graf by graf.

Altered state writing: She drinks (or eats). Then writes. Then she stops, drinks or eats some more, and writes. And on it goes.

Photo of butterflies taken at Ellwood Butterfly Grove in Santa Barbara, California by Ellen Blum Barish