5 Tips to Finding a Writing Coach Who’s Right for You

“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” — Bob Proctor

Do what you love may be the most overused advice in the career-improvement world.  A blogpost on the complexity of this directive went viral on Jacobin a year or so back, it was shared 57,000 times on Facebook and riffed about in the New York Times Opinionator by Gordon Marino.

I know all this first hand. Once upon a time I turned my back on a half-finished MBA and a corporate job with its maddening pace and rigid hierarchy. The fact that my boss gave my job to her newly unemployed husband didn’t help. I escaped to do what I loved. In my case the passion was writing.

The act of quitting made me subversive. And that alone fueled creative expression. I mapped out chapters, the content. Figured I’d have the manuscript written in six months, employ an editor, find an agent, become a best seller, Oprah would call, the whole bit.

Four years later, I found myself gazing into my monitor not knowing whether to put a period at the end of the sentence or keep going with a comma. I’d lost my home in foreclosure, gone bankrupt, written 300,000 words, revised the body of work four times. And while I was slurping away at my second or maybe 87th Cosmo, I understood what I was really missing, a mentor. A guide. A coach. Someone who’d gone before, knew how to shape art into something saleable and would come along with a tribe of like-minded people with whom I could collaborate. I didn’t want to go back to school. What I was looking for was beyond the confines of academia. I needed someone to touch what the poet Mary Oliver called the “wild silky” part of myself and, finally, make it palatable to the world.

Mentors are necessary. Hemingway had Stein, Beethoven had Neefe. The true challenge once you know the secret lies in finding a mentor is how to find that coach who can make your passion work in the world. This is like how to find a raindrop in a rainstorm. There are thousands of coaches out there. They’re like doctors and lawyers. But here’s what I learned (the hard way): some coaches are competent, some are lousy, even soul crushers. I dropped coins in wishing well after wishing well. One wore a floral patterned dress that matched her bonnet and tried to make me into a mystery writer; another one was always throwing theories at me I couldn’t apply; one promised me the stars, took my money and then never contacted me again.

Suzanne, my mentor and writing coach.

How do you find your coach?

Here are five helpful hints for the girl or gal who wants to (or maybe has) dropped everything to do what she loves:

  1. Go with the gut. Have a bad feeling even though her website’s copy seems like a projection of everything lying dormant in your heart? That’s your intuit talking. Run. There are too many fantastic coaches out there who have integrity and know how to move you forward.
  2. She’s part of your tribe: if you see her write a post in a publication you love or show up in a group on social media with whom you share a vibe, chances are you have similar taste, so you might want to take a shot at it. I found my coach through my Reiki teacher. My coach had helped a fellow Reiki student get an agent and a book deal. She’s now distributed with Random House, has been on NPR, has speaking engagements, the whole nine yards.
  3. She has street cred and success: When I went on my coach’s website, she had testimonial after testimonial from people who had published books, made a career out of writing, had gotten bylines with top media outlets and had life changing experiences after being with her. She was also successful in her own right. An internationally-acclaimed author with lots of kudos to her name, she’s made her living writing, which is what I wanted to do and so I knew she could trail blaze a path.
  4. She gets you, every single part of you. The secret to my coach’s success is that she works in the Gateless Writing Method, a very specific method based on brain science, craft tools and community that moves creatives to places they’d only imagined. Through this method, she helps all of you rather than just the part of you working on your craft. That divorce you haven’t quite gotten over? Could be a barrier to next step on your career path. The trauma you suffered as a child might be the thing that needs to be coddled before you begin to really allow yourself to go big. Make sure your coach isn’t just about deliverables, numbers, list building, ideal clients and great gallery gigs.
  5. It doesn’t happen overnight: I know, this one sort of sucks. But anyone who promises you the world in thirty days or even six weeks isn’t really helping you make lasting change. It took most of us years to get here and the true unraveling and resetting can take a while to grab hold. Something magical did happen with my coach, everything my shaman has been teaching me about the process absolutely broke through, and while it felt like it happened overnight, it’s too deep and long lasting for that. Now I feel seasoned at this writing thing. But first I had to undo a lot of the conditioning I’d learned in my corporate gig.

Since working with my coach I’ve been shortlisted for prizes, published in the top online media outlets and have been picked up by prestigious lit journals, but more than that? I understand that often those who fail at doing what they loved just didn’t have the guidance they needed to learn how to soar.

What will you do today to obtain the guidance you need to succeed?

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Lisa publishes essays on the writing life, sex and relationships, and her love for horses. Her essays have appeared in Horse Network, Manifest-StationHuffPost, and the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty. In August of 2018, she was awarded a one-month writer’s residency at Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts in Fairhope, AL. She lives near Boston, where she bikes, hikes, rides horses, and edits technology blogs for the CTO of Hitachi Vantara. She is pitching her memoir, “Calamity Becomes Her: Love, Loss and a Healthy Dose of Overcoming Adversity” to agents and at work on the sequel.

You can contact her at lisa.demasi@gmail.com and follow her on TwitterLinkedIn or via her website nurtureismynature.com.

How My Disapproving Mother Unwittingly Fuels My Creative Expression

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The room began to close in. The air got thick… dense. Tension seeped into my pores. I grew smaller in stature—shrunk right there in my chair before her, as if I was Alice and had just choked down a little red pill.

The topic is forthcoming, typical of family gatherings, a line of discussion of an inquisitive nature. It is terribly humiliating this line, disintegrating the little validation I feel about myself, and certainly paving the way to pulverizing any validation I someday hope to feel.

She is triumphantly sitting across from me in my brother’s parlor, her hands folded over her swollen belly on this Christmas Day.

My hands are not folded over my own swollen belly, but my ever-shrinking Alice fingers are fumbling about, trying to maintain a grip on my ever-growing glass of sherry. I wallow in thought.

It’s a terrible thing to be shrinking, I muse.

I try to convey to her, with an expression of pity, that I’d like her to cut this sort of thing out: Hand me the blue pill! Return my body back to its normal inadequacy!

She picks up on my expression, but it doesn’t stop her. Her eyes, piercingly blue, bore into my forehead, mining my mind for the reasoning that prolongs the ongoing predicament. It is the matter that seemingly sears her brain daily, upon waking.

Words penetrate the thickness.

They loom before me, big and fat and dripping with turkey gravy. She says, “Are you ready to get back into the circle of life yet?”

Here we go.

I resist rolling my eyes, suck in my breath, and feel the pressure against my insides. Time slows to a crawl.

My lungs deflate, a slow leak like a bum tire. I maintain my front, an uneasy smile, thinking I have never departed from the circle of life!

Alice and I sometimes share shrunken commonalityI am here, albeit dwindling to mere molecules in my chair—she, mother; me, daughter—amid a festive family holiday. In my book, that constitutes part of the arc in said circle.

A voice in my mind, sounding as if it’s just taken a hit from a helium-filled balloon, squeals at me: That’s not what she means.

I laugh to myself, entertained: “Girl interrupted.” Say something else…

She’s not referring to procreating or dying or even “eat or be eaten.” She means circulation as in, “Are you ready to get back into circulation yet?”

Oh yeah. “Girl reactivated.”

The topic is the one that translates to me getting a paying job, rather than continuing to “run away from reality,” with my so-called “writing interests.”

I suppose, from her perspective, four years is a long time for her daughter “to run away from reality.” It is a novel pursuit, which thus far has yielded fruit the size of a water meal. However, in these four years she has failed to realize that I’ve poured my heart, soul and angst into this self-proposed commitment. Accordingly, I’ve also sought out Reiki to induce some self-love, since I am—especially when engaged in writing—constantly and colorfully harassed and torn to shreds by my inner critic.

Needless to say, my mother is my outer critic.

In the peace of the lovely colonial room, Dennis sits in a chair to my left, and my father sits beside my mother. My brother is off in the kitchen, cutting cheese.

The question, relating to the humiliating, fruitless topic that my mother could not resist in asking one moment longer, (particularly in light of the New Year—making resolutions, picking up the pieces and starting anew, and so forth) remains there, unaddressed. It lingers, splattering the coffee table with fowl juice, tainting the sherry and the nibbles, while extinguishing the flickering light of the assorted votive candles. This “circle of life” subject deflates the holiday mood; all falls flat.

I gaze back at her, with a hint of incredulousness in my expression saying: Why can’t you support my endeavor? Why can’t you just be a nice mother?

She, of course, does not pick up on this. She has never picked up on it, despite the countless amounts of times I’ve attempted to impress my feelings upon her.

Why should I expect anything different this Christmas Day?

Although he’s sitting beside me, I don’t defer to Dennis for his unwavering sympathy, support or opinion. I keep this subject between my mother and I, leaving open the possibility and space for us to “hash it out,” so-to-speak.

The “hashing it out” (a confrontation of sorts) does not happen. As usual, any real invitation to speak candidly, openly… ends up shunned upon.

There’s no avoiding her intention. She moves the subject right along and puts the question in a more specific form, saying: “What kind of job will you look for?”

My expression sours.

The refrain in which Elton John sings “in the cir-cle, the cir-cle of life” begins to repeat in my head.

The core of me within begs to rise up and show itself—my insides, out. The scorched and glistening spongy tissue springs from my throat and slops to the floor next to the coffee table. I stare at the battered evidence, my guts, and choose to defend myself (something I haven’t dared to do since I was a teenager).

My face is deadpan, void of the four-year compounded emotion relating to my writing efforts (best described as trying to squeeze blood from a stone intermittently). I assert into the space, some distance over my scorched and glistening core—my guts—and say, “I’d like to become a successful writer.”

My mother’s expression remains unmoved, quite serious and probing.

I refrain from glancing at Dennis and keep the perimeter open and clear for fire. I hope for confrontation—for a once-in-a-lifetime candid discussion.

Dad shakes himself out of dozing at the subject matter and pushes his glasses further up on his nose. He interjects, “There are lots of teaching jobs out there. You could be a teacher. All my retired engineer friends teach—you could teach middle school or high school.”

But Dad, I don’t want to be a teacher.

Not quite to my advantage, my mother’s ears fall deaf on the suggestion, and the conversation flatlines.

I focus on the flame of a burning candle, situated in the middle of a marble-topped mahogany end table, between my father and mother. I cross my eyes silly—my forehead cramps. The funky play of light brings me into a world of my own, prompting ironic clarity.

The helium inner voice comes on the wind again—she is from a different time and a different playing field. She knows not what it means, what drives and feeds one’s magnetism for risk, leaving the known for the unknown.

The voice becomes stronger, and sloughs off the high pitch. She is the catalyst to our creative expression, you see, the thing that sates us—our subversive writing.

Anew: I am rebel with a cause, confident, triumphant even, in my own right.

My scorched and glistening guts slither up the couch and climb back down my throat to their rightful place. In a trance-like state I say, “Wait till my manuscript hits the big screen.”

My parents are stunned and wide-eyed. I can just make out their expressions in my periphery.

Nothing more is said on the matter.

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This essay was published in Elephant Journal with the title She, Mother. Me, Daughter, January 17, 2015.

Lisa publishes essays on the writing life, sex and relationships, and her love for horses. Her essays have appeared in Horse Network, Manifest-StationHuffPost, and the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty. In August of 2018, she was awarded a one-month writer’s residency at Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts in Fairhope, AL. She lives near Boston, where she bikes, hikes, rides horses, and edits technology blogs for the CTO of Hitachi Vantara. She is pitching her memoir, “Calamity Becomes Her: Love, Loss and a Healthy Dose of Overcoming Adversity” to agents and at work on the sequel.

You can contact her at lisa.demasi@gmail.com and follow her on TwitterLinkedIn or via her website nurtureismynature.com.

 

What Happened When I Did Reiki on My Conservative Mom

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. ~ Rumi

My mother and I are in her bedroom. I have the rare opportunity to administer healing energy to her, an act that will draw us together—physically, emotionally, spiritually. We are awkward about touching one another; emotionally, we don’t discuss matters close to the heart. The idea of God and a Higher Presence is strictly private.

This is the nature of our relationship, dictated by her upbringing.

Overwhelmed at the prospect of laying hands on her, I ask her to lie down on the bed. I recall when I needed her support and love—when I first got my period, the aftermath of boyfriend breakups, amid broken bones and excruciating pain—and she conveyed little.

Her convictions, tainted by my bouts of rebellion, are as big as a mountain.

I enrolled in learning Reiki with infamous Libby Barnett when writer’s block saturated every molecule of my body. Explaining the premise of the healing art to my conventionally-minded parents was like conveying Einstein’s theory of relativity in Swahili.

I read their expressions like an open book.

They figured, like my memoir writing, practicing Reiki was an escape from reality—another endeavor to keep me from returning to the workforce. But to counter their belief, I didn’t offer to demonstrate the various Reiki positions on them—I felt defenseless against their skepticism; this most recent act to sabotage their “please-just-do-the-right-thing” campaign.

On top of it, my dad mispronounced Reiki. No pun intended, he called it “wreck-ee.”

The whole notion of “healing energy,” however, must have taken up residence in my mother’s mind. For a week later, as we were getting out of the car, she asked me to do Reiki on her.

I panicked. Slithered down the driver’s seat like Bugs Bunny doomed in fighter aircraft; blurted some excuses. “I can’t do Reiki on you, Mom. I don’t have my massage table.”

“That’s okay, I’ll lay on my bed.”

“But I don’t have my Reiki playlist.”

“We’ll do it without it.”

“But, I don’t have my sage candle.”

“I don’t need a sage candle.”

“But, Mom, I don’t—”

“Let’s try it anyway.”

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My Work is Featured in the IPPY-Award Winning “Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty”

Are you a fifty-something woman in need of revitalizing your sex drive? Get your hands on the Unmasked anthology and dive into a new realm of possibilities!

A refreshingly blunt chorus of older women’s voices. —Kirkus Review

Marcia Meier (Ireland, Place Out of Time, 2017, etc.) and debut editor Kathleen A. Barry, a psychotherapist, present an anthology of essays and poetry about female sexuality after age 50.

For some women, aging doesn’t mean the end of their sex lives but rather the beginning of new adventures. Liberation from pregnancy fears, child-rearing responsibilities, and menstruation allow them to fully indulge their own pursuit of pleasure. This anthology gives such women the opportunity to speak for themselves—and they do so with aplomb.

Nonfiction author Bernadette Murphy discovers the orgasmic perks of learning to ride a motorcycle post-divorce.

Lisa Mae DeMasi, whose work has appeared in multiple literary journals, finds that, with reiki practice and essential oils, achieving climax no longer feels like “trudging up Mount Washington with a dead body strapped to my back.”

Writer and blogger Rita Bullinger describes how a communication technique called “Imago dialogue” has increased intimacy and sexual satisfaction with her lover: “Communication coupled with oral sex, I’m convinced, is what makes sex at sixty-six the best sex of our lives.” It’s not all excitement and discovery, however; writer Lola Fontay shares the unsettling experience of witnessing a man masturbating in front of her at the end of their first date. Poet Becky Dennison Sakellariou considers the legacy of silence around women’s desire: “A woman like me is invisible, if she is not, / she should be, an anathema, a sin.” But many writers here use humor to talk about the havoc that aging can wreak: “Just when we have our act together the warranty goes out on the equipment,” says author and professional speaker Sally Franz in her hilariously prescriptive essay “Tweaking Sex After Fifty.” The authors also often address sex with tact and sensuality: “Sometimes then, long-married / bodies, after stuttering into sleep, / curve into long slumbers of silk yesses, / yesses loud enough to waken dreams,” writes poet Brenda Yates. Toward the end, the bad online dating stories do become a bit repetitive. But there’s a diverse array of perspectives here, each unique enough to keep readers intrigued.

This collection of essays and poetry is meant to bring sex after fifty for women into the open, to proclaim that it is important, it is natural and healthy and, for some women, it is absolutely necessary. “Unmasked” will surprise, inform, and–it is hoped–encourage all women of a certain age to (re)discover their sexuality.

I am so proud to be a contributor to this Anthology! You can pick up your own copy here.

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Lisa publishes essays on the writing life, sex and relationships, and her love for horses. Her essays have been appeared in Horse Network, Manifest-Station and HuffPost. In August of 2018, she was awarded a one-month writer’s residency at Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts in Fairhope, AL. She lives near Boston, where she bikes, hikes, rides horses, and edits technology blogs for the CTO of Hitachi Vantara. She is pitching her memoir, “Calamity Becomes Her: Love, Loss and a Healthy Dose of Overcoming Adversity” to agents and at work on the sequel.

You can contact her at lisa.demasi@gmail.com and follow her on TwitterLinkedIn or via her website nurtureismynature.com.

Snoopy Come Home

“Are you upset little friend? Have you been lying awake worrying? Well, don’t worry…I’m here. The floodwaters will recede, the famine will end, the sun will shine tomorrow, and I will always be here to take care of you.” −Charlie Brown to Snoopy

He’d been dumped at a dentist’s office sometime during the night. It’s hard to believe, he’s terribly irresistible this darling little bunny, a Holland Lop-Eared. He’s mostly white, has dark brown ears and spots running down his back. He came to me as Mickey but my brother soon renamed him to Snoopy. Very fitting for the “bun,” he even presents me with his food bowl between his teeth, a paw-printed metallic dog dish.

Snoopy. The sweet little guy that greets me in his cage every morning for days now seeking a handful of pellets and hay; set him free from confinement to the expanse of the non-rabbit-proof living room and random passing cat. How adventurous he is.

Snoopy. The bun who in the evening jumps into our laps, displaces a cat or two or three, nuzzles our faces with his whiskers, unearths a kernel of popcorn from in between the cushions. How playful he is.

Snoopy. I am his “foster mom”—I foster buns until they’re adopted, a rewarding task when it comes to a happy newfound bond involving children or adults like me who haven’t outgrown caring for small and furry creatures. I am not paid to foster; the sweetness of caring for them pays me in bushels. How sweet he is.

Snoopy. I grow to loathe the day he’ll leave me, get adopted into a forever loving home. It’s okay, I tell myself, this is what it’s all about. This is the process, it makes room for one more to come into my life, be cared for. How tender he makes my heart.

Snoopy, the puppy dog rabbit. Precious thing. Until my work schedule changes and his late afternoon salad of organic kale, dandelion greens, Swiss chard and romaine is delayed two hours and he begins body slamming me out of his pen. At first I think, okay, he’s upset, his routine has changed. I send him Reiki energy, surround his body in light, think he’ll adapt, it is but a mere adjustment. How quirky he is.

Snoopy, you’re a sweet thing, I think as I reach into his pen the following afternoon to give him a scratch on the ear and set his bowl of salad down. Never bite the hand that feeds you. This is my next thought because Snoop-Dog is upset, taken a chunk out of my knuckle, his salad is late again—it’s got my blood in it. How surprising his behavior is.

Snoop-Dog, oh, Snoop-Dog, I think a day later as I shield myself from his snapping incisors with the gate of his pen. I’d rather drown in the saliva from your kisses than be bit and bruised and have to give you back to the rabbit-whisperer for aggressive buns in which you came to me post rescuing from the dental office. How it breaks my heart.

Snoop-Dog, oh, Snoop-Dog, back to rabbit rehab for you. I always wanted to be here to care for you, recede the floodwaters, end your famine, shine the sun on you but I am petrified. Petrified of you, an adorable Holland Lop that bites into my flesh as if I’ve wronged you. Really wronged you. Oh, my dear lagomorph, what’s got into you? 

Snoop-Dog, oh, Snoop-Dog, I hope Terry the rabbit-whisperer can bring you around. She tells me she is going to change your routine every day, not one hour will mimic the one before. Topsy-turvy, Snoops, your whole world is going to be turned upside-down. This is intended to tame you into adapting to change so someday you can be adopted and not bite the hand that feeds you. How saddened am I to let you go this way. 

Snoop-Dog, oh, Snoop-Dog, I bet in Northern Central Mass. you are not getting organic greens, so many pats on the head, the freedom to wedge yourself behind the dryer for hours on end. I kinda enjoyed the bun body slamming but given the chance, would you have not bitten me, particularly the last bout when you lunged through the air like an acrobat to plant your teeth into my shin?

How I miss ya, Snoops. Wish you could come back to me. You have been cheated by love and trust, but too quick to form misunderstanding of all I am capable of giving.