A guest post by Jacqueline Smith, member of Inside Story.
My first experience of The Writing Coach was through joining Inside Story, but I’d first met Jacqui many years ago when she was teaching creative writing courses at Richmond College.
‘Having a Go’
I remember sitting around the tables reading and sharing our work. It was daunting and I was a complete beginner, unlike many of the others, but Jacqui created a warm and welcoming atmosphere and I was happy to bare my soul. It felt like that, particularly when part of you is in the story you’re trying to write. I certainly wouldn’t have considered myself a writer back then, I was just ‘having a go’. I remember meeting a literary agent at a party and she told me that I needed to write a book like The Beach, which had just come out. The problem was, as much as I loved that book ( and film ), my story and writing style was very different.
Fast forward twenty odd years of life, work and family to February 2021 and the launch of Inside Story. This looked like something that could work for me. I was still teaching and life was still full on but Inside Story could fit around all of that, as long as I was prepared to commit to it.
Committing to the Process
So I dug out my old notes and diaries as the original story was still in my head and heart – it just wouldn’t go away, even after all that time – and joined the course. Now, I had been using Zoom for over a year as I was having to teach on it, and, to be honest, my brain associated it with work, with all its frustrations. I’d had to stop my drama and dance classes because I just couldn’t bear to do yet another thing online. Imagine my delight when I had a completely different reaction with Inside Story!
At first I couldn’t attend many of the live classes but, whenever I had some time, I would head to the website and watch the recordings, pen and notebook in hand. I loved it. Slowly, something started to happen to the way I thought about my writing. Through meeting the other members online and listening carefully to Jacqui’s teachings, I started to believe in my ability to write my book. I started to believe I could be a writer. I bought my journals and notebooks, I put the dates on the calendar and I completed the module exercises. In short, I committed to the process.
Ignoring the Doorbell
The way that Inside Story works means that it’s accessible to most people. The expectation is that you will attend maybe one class and one write-in a month and catch up with the rest in your own time. There is however the hard core group of writers who make it to most classes and write-ins and the feeling of community and support is tangible, even with a screen between us. The commitment is infectious – members will listen in on car journeys, while rocking young children to sleep, and so on. I understand why they don’t want to miss it. I’ve come away feeling inspired and energised, ready to get back to the story growing in my head.
The write-ins have been a revelation. The simple deed of committing to a particular time to write is a powerful first step towards accountability. The doorbell may ring, your teenager may need something but some writing will get done. And ultimately, the process is all about getting ‘ Black on White’. It’s about confidence too and Jacqui addresses this in some of her classes, which aren’t all about the craft itself. She looks at challenges and mindset, both when writing and when submitting work. She’s well placed to do this, being the first traditionally published novelist in the country to have trained as a Life Coach.
I don’t know where my writing journey will take me. I want to share the story in my head with the wider world but I’m well aware of the challenges of getting a book published. Indeed, I’ve understood that on a deeper level in recent months, as I was lucky enough to have been chosen by Jacqui to work on The Writing Coach team – so I’m beginning to see the industry more from the inside now. It’s easier for me now to find time for my writing. And my new industry knowledge only makes me all the more determined to complete my book. At the moment, I am content to take one step at a time and I’m grateful to have Inside Story by my side. I’m certain I would not have achieved so much without it.
Fnd out more about Inside Story (doors close Sunday 13th February 2022 at midnight) here: