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Eight Lessons I Learned from Hiring a Writing Coach

By Ari Lewis, writing in Crain’s Cleveland Business…

The best athletes in the world have personal trainers: LeBron James, Serena Williams, Megan Rapinoe. I knew that to be the best, I needed to hire a writing coach to take me to the next level.

As a species, we have a monopoly on collective knowledge. So engaging with a mentor or a coach is one of the best ways to become smarter. A good friend referred me to his writing coach, who lives outside the Cleveland region. Now I value a good referral, but I also value relationships — and we’ve got plenty of expertise in this region. In Cleveland, relationships remain key — over the course of the pandemic, and long after.

I wanted to become an even better writer simply to see where it would take me. I enlisted the help of Randal Doane at Cadence Editorial Services. (He works with clients in medtech and biotech, and he has a side hustle contributing to Harper’s.) Randal’s based on the west side, and his knowledge of the region and some of its key players allowed us to talk at a high level about things well beyond split infinitives and paragraph breaks. He is also knowledgeable about a range of topics, which is apparently what happens when you have a Ph.D.

How did it work?

To begin, our process entailed:

• my delivery via Google Docs of essays to Randal on Monday and Wednesday by 11 a.m.

• a Zoom chat at 3 p.m. those days, which included line-by-line discussions of my draft, with a focus on pop, voice and formatting

• work on my social media voice, and in particular Twitter

Before connecting with Randal, I published nine essays a month: eight for my newsletter and one for Crain’s Cleveland Business. In that period, I learned quickly that quantity doesn’t equal quality.

Key tips

We covered, of course, the obvious things. Make verbs active. Use the historical present. Put subheads to work, because some readers will simply scan your article. “Be honest about your own attention limits,” Randal also advised. “If it takes you 20 minutes to get into a writing head space, don’t schedule a 30 minute writing session. You’re just building frustration into your process.” Randal also taught me how to split quotes and put the speaker’s name in the middle.

For the rest, click here.

If you’re ready to take your game up a few notches, Hennes Communications offers media and presentation coaching.  And we can do this virtually or in a socially-distanced manner, as you prefer.  For more information, call 216-321-7774.

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