My Coach and I

My Coach and I

My Coach and I

‘Last piece of assessment—complete! Happy dance!’

Those words, posted as my Facebook status over eight years ago, marked the final strides of a marathon I began in 2011, when I enrolled in Tabor Adelaide’s creating writing program. For seven words that were so easy to type, winning the right to type them took much disciplined effort, many taxing training sessions, and even more unruly bouts with angst.

Writers constantly line up at the starting blocks. Sometimes we’re running a fast blog sprint or a 200-metre short story dash. Some jump hurdles by writing outside their comfort zone; others embark on a cross-country exploration of history or memoir. Long distance bravehearts pace themselves to finish that novel, or series. Some of us are crazy enough to try a literary decathlon.

One thing is certain—every race takes preparation, inspiration, dedication, commitment, and the support of others. We’re more like relay runners than individual athletes. We pick up the literary baton and run with it, producing the best text we can. Our fellow writers, friends and family members urge us on from the sidelines. Editing moves the text forward in an effective slipstream. Publishing increases its momentum through polished presentation and aggressive marketing. All this, just to get that important baton to—not the finishing line, but its starting position! It’s our readers who pick up our literary batons and run with them. Our task is to make sure they enjoy the run, making it a win-win experience for all.

To be honest, when I signed up for this creative writing gig, I envisaged more of a fun run than a marathon. I wanted to try tertiary study and creative writing seemed far more appealing than … well, just about everything else I could think of. Tabor offered external study options and dedicated, qualified lecturers. My choice to enrol seemed like a no-brainer—until that first day in February 2011, when I sat alone at my computer, sporting a stylish set of headphones as my new fashion accessory, poised to listen to the orientation lecture. As I positioned the mouse on the starting blocks, ready to click ‘play’, the enormity of the task ahead exploded like the shot of a starter’s gun. I was off and running, but did I have the wherewithal to reach the finish line? Maybe. Maybe not.

What I needed was a strong, central motivating factor, a personal coach if you like, to inspire me as I ran. In literary terms, I needed a strong chiasmus, a central point of intersection to connect the beginning of my study story with a successful conclusion. As I tackled my first assessment task, a chiastic poem, the perfect Chiasm offered to become my writing coach:

And after that study marathon? The practical application of all the wonderful things I’d learned beckoned me forward to the next starting line … and the next. Submission opportunities for poems, creative non-fiction, short fiction, devotions … blogs to encourage fellow writers … novel outlines called me to the starting blocks. Each new race would require renewed enthusiasm, more preparation, and stamina. Could I keep going?

So far, the answer to that question is yes—thanks to the consistent training and input I receive daily from my faithful, enduring Coach, who also has a passion for words, pictures, and the positive potential in people.

This post (and original comments) was published on the Christian Writers Downunder blog in February 2012.