WHY WORK WITH A FEMINIST WRITING COACH?BECAUSE TOGETHER WE CAN PUSH PATRIARCHY FROM THE PAGE
I’m Sharon Zink, Ph.D. and I’m on a mission to create a movement that will get more women’s books written, published and out there changing the world.
You can read about me here and check out the practicalities of how I work and what I stand for in my manifesto, but in case you’re wondering how a feminist writing coach might be different than a ‘regular’ writing coach, here are some of the reasons why you might consider working with me.
BECAUSE I’M AWARE OF AND AM ACTIVELY FIGHTING THE GENDER BIAS OF THE LITERARY WORLD
Recent research shows that women are still published less than men and that even if women’s books do get to that stage, they are less likely to be reviewed or win literary awards.
In my experience, writing classes and events are filled by female authors and women writers more frequently seek editorial feedback on their work too, so the fact that less women are still published less frequently is shocking and, thus, the proven gender bias of the literary world needs to change.
However, most writing coaches never even recognise the unequal treatment their female author clients may face – I see it as part of my work then to not only be aware of the way patriarchal prejudice may impact the reception of my women writers’ work, but to also get their writing to the point that it’s so good even a male-biased literary world cannot say ‘No’ to it! I also aim to support my women writing clients so their confidence and slaying powers are high and they’re ready for anything!
To win the battle, you need to know you’re going to need to fight – sadly, most writing coaches are not conscious of what women author may confront in terms of the literary world’s bias and so they don’t prepare them accordingly. I’m not making that mistake!
I also know that the more women writers I can help to get published, the more the literary industry will change – and that’s what’s needed for the good of all writers, including many men who also fall foul of the toxic patriarchal game. If one of us rises, we all go up.
BECAUSE I GET HOW TOUGH IT IS TO FIND TIME TO WRITE AS A WOMAN WITH A CAREER, FAMILY AND OTHER COMMITMENTS
Research has proven that women do at least two hours more domestic work each day than men, on top of childcare and earning a living. This puts women writers in a very difficult position.
Whereas their male counterparts can rely on their partners to clean, cook and look after the kids whilst the work on their magnus opus, my female author clients often have to get up at 5a.m. or go to bed late just to get some creative time. They often end up exhausted and frustrated as a result – that is, if they don’t just give up writing completely due to all the demands on their time.
I’ve written a book about this subject (which is coming out on Amazon soon) as I see time-starved women writers so often in my coaching work in the hope that I can help female authors find ways to be creative, even in the midst of the most hectic lives. I generally think time is a major feminist issue and one which we need to confront if more women are going to find a way to create great books and get them published.
Unfortunately, again, many writing coaches do not really appreciate the specific challenges facing female authors in terms of their multiple commitments – the commitments our culture expects of them, rather than their male counterparts – and this is a practical issue I aim to support my clients with.
Now’s the time to write your book as the world’s never needed diverse women’s voices more than it does at present – but you may need help to find a way to create a sustainable and enjoyable writing practice. I’m here to make sure you get that – both for your own enjoyment and satisfaction and because we need your work.
BECAUSE I UNDERSTAND HOW WE WOMEN ARE OFTEN TAUGHT TO PLAY SMALL DUE TO THEIR FEMININE CONDITIONING, EVEN THOUGH SUCCESSFUL AUTHORS NEED TO PLAY BIG
I’m a huge fan of Tara Mohr’s book, Playing Big, and I’ve written an article about how it can help women writers which you can download in my Inspiration Library. Mohr’s work is very insightful in terms of the way it shows how women’s cultural training means we are taught to shrink and stay small, being riddled by self-doubt and fear and ruled by the need for approval, with the result that most of us do not achieve anything like what we are capable of.
I see this as a key reason why less women succeed as writers compared to men as my male clients are often much more confident, even if they are less talented! Being ambitious, going after our dreams and being prepared to be visible and to even ruffle a few feathers are all part and parcel of what all writers need to be successful – my work as a feminist writing coach is then majorly about ensuring women play effing big!
BECAUSE I KNOW WE NEED MORE DIVERSE VOICES TO BE HEARD, NOW MORE THAN EVER
Trump and Brexit … need I say more? Women’s rights and LGBT rights are being bombed back to the 1950s, so we need to speak out. I want the work of women of all faiths, all races, all sexualities, all ages, all abilities to be published and out there changing the world. I want to support my trans sisters’ stories to be seen and I want to stand next to gay, bi and straight guys who also are sick of the toxic patriarchal BS!
I’m a feminist writing coach because sadly we still need it. I do believe gender is performative – as my beloved Ru Paul says, ‘Were all born naked and the rest is drag’ – but we’re still facing not only huge gender bias in the literary world, but we’ve still got the gender pay gap, sex trafficking, GUM, women dying in childbirth, homophobia and transphobia on the rise.
One day we’ll live in a better, more equal world and our books will help that come about – but, until then, we need feminism and I need to be doing this specific kind of work.
BECAUSE I BELIEVE IN THE NEED FOR SUPPORT, COMPASSION, ENCOURAGEMENT AND CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM, RATHER THAN HARSH PUTDOWNS, TO GROW AS WRITERS
I thought this kind of support was just part of being a writing coach, but my women writing clients have told me this is sadly not the case and that many male writing teachers, in particular, loved to critique their work with an acid tongue! I’m all for providing criticism (indeed, I offer editorial support as well as coaching and manuscript assessments), but I do believe it must be constructive, compassionate and encouraging, seeing the potential in every piece, as well as areas for improvement.
I do think, having suffered through a master’s at Cambridge, that the school of hard knocks approach to giving feedback is part of a very patriarchal and competitive paradigm. Hence I think it’s something all feminists should shy away from – if you work with me, I will support you to become the best writer you can be because if one of us succeeds, it helps the rest of us rise.
BECAUSE I AM ALL FOR CREATING STRONG FEMALE AND LGBTQ CHARACTERS ON THE PAGE
I love feminist literature and women writers from throughout history have played a big part in my intellectual and artistic development. Indeed, because I was a feminist academic, there’s nothing I like more than seeing strong women characters in fiction or reading a compelling personal memoir which inspires me to be more or seeing fabulous women sharing their bold ideas in non-fiction.
Hence then if you’re writing something where the heroines are bold or where gender and sexuality is queered up and stretched and your work goes beyond conventional patriarchal thinking, please come to me!
BECAUSE I WILL ACCEPT YOU AND YOUR STORY AS YOU ARE
Basically, humans need connection, we need to be listened to and understood. And accepted for who we are. And yet that’s so rare in this life. We’re arguably more connected via technology and social media, but more isolated than ever.
This is a feminist issue because solidarity and community is how we get shit done. Plus, if you’re writing a feminist book of any sort, especially if you’re exposing personal narratives containing issues such as sexual assault, domestic violence or struggles with fertility, you need to know that your writing coach will not only support you through the ups and downs of creating and sharing your story, taking on board and respecting your experience, but you have to know they’re not going to judge you or be shocked by your material. You have to know they get it. I’ve been through a lot in this life, so I do. I really do.
Also, feminists hold each other up. And that’s part of my work here and a major component of how we’ll change the world for the better.
BECAUSE I BELIEVE IN COOPERATION AND COMMUNITY, RATHER THAN COMPETITION
In the patriarchal, capitalist world we inhabit, we’re taught that dog eats dog and you’re a fool to collaborate with others, unless your self-interest is served. We’re taught that the individual matters more than the collective and that we pretty much should step on anyone who gets in our way. The male-biased publishing industry pretty much operates in this manner as well.
But look what a mess our world is in due to this individualistic ideology! As a feminist writing coach, I want to actively work to create bonds between female authors all over the world as solidarity is a key element not only in how we survive our current struggles, but how we change things for the better.
Writing books is also a solitary business, so I want to create a movement that allows women writers of all backgrounds to come together as we have so much in common in terms of their experiences and the issues we face. My work is about sisterhood then – something that many writing coaches won’t touch upon when supporting you as an author.
BECAUSE I BELIEVE IN WOMEN’S POWER TO CHANGE THE WORLD
Yes, I’m a Martha Beck-trained life coach, so I can ‘ra, ra, ra’ and dream with my clients with the best of them.
But my hope is a feminist one – it’s a hope for a better world where we and the women who come after us don’t need to fight the same battles as us in terms of the gender bias of the publishing industry, the culture which makes us play small or the patriarchal division of labour which means we’re stuck in the kitchen, instead of writing books.
I believe we can make this happen, but it will require women writers to dig deep and be determined to create and publish their books and get their message out, even in the face of opposition and disapproval, so we can shift the literary landscape and the world at large with our words and raise our sisters up all over the world, especially those in the working class, LGBTQ, BIPOC and disabled communities (of which I am myself a part) who need our help.
As a feminist writing coach, I believe in your ability to be whoever you want and create whatever you like.