Hi, I’m Stephanie.
My high school guidance counselor said that I didn’t write papers; I gave birth to them.
She was right.
I believed that writing was supposed to be hard.
I believed that if I wasn’t suffering, that meant I wasn’t pushing myself enough.
I believed that asking for help meant I was weak.
I believed that I was supposed to be able to do everything on my own.
I struggled for years inside the spiral of self-doubt, self-blame, and self-sabotage, believing that success was meant for somebody else. Meanwhile, I pushed my body and mind for other people’s dreams. I circled around the writing life, coming as close as I could without actually claiming it for myself.
I’m not sorry I did it.
I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the first teaching job I landed in New York City that paid $12,000 a year. Or if I had not first worked as a copy-assistant in a prominent New York City publishing house, where my kind but frustrated boss pleaded with me to Please stop socializing so much and tackle the growing mountain of files that need filing! Or my first freelance proofreading job, when I stayed up all night in my one-room apartment, reading that manuscript again and again until my eyes went blurry, terrified I was going to mess something up. Then on no sleep, I made my way to my temp job, where I pretended to know Quark Express. I gave myself a panicked tutorial on my lunch break before fetching coffee for the staff. Then, I dragged myself to my graduate school class where I tried to recall what I had recently read of Hegel, Baudrillard, Cixious.
This is what it means to be a writer?! I thought. But when do I write?
I worked tirelessly for other people, gained invaluable experience, and built what some might call “character.” Though I was always a questioning student, I followed a traditional academic path. I earned a Ph.D. in English Education and taught at New York University and Bard College. I worked as a freelance editor for such publishing houses as Random House, Bedford/St. Martin’s, and Thomson Wadsworth.
I gained over twenty years of teaching, coaching, and editorial experience. During this time, I had so many unfinished writing projects of my own, I had a running joke with my partner about a website I was going to create, called “Was Gonna.” I laughed about my own elaborate procrastination tactics while being a fierce advocate of others’ dreams.
And then I said, Enough.
I left my academic teaching job and ran away to the ocean to become a full-time writer and writing coach, and a part-time bartender. I turned my coaching on myself and began to take my own writing dreams seriously. “Was Gonna” was no longer funny. It was time to take a risk. It was time to take a leap of faith.
I opened myself up to the help of others because we all need an outside eye sometimes or a trustworthy voice that says, “HEY, YOU GOT THIS.” I wrote an award-winning weekly column, then a memoir. I wrote short stories, essays, young adult fiction, and collaborative books.
I know there are very real obstacles that demand our time and energy. I know that there are a million and one legitimate reasons why it feels like it can’t be done. And I know that sometimes these sacrifices are necessary for our survival and self-growth, and that we have responsibilities to our families and our employers that matter. And I know, also, that sometimes these sacrifices feel like they will drown us.
Which is why I also know that support and community are essential. That we need positive voices that understand the struggle but believe that we are more powerful than it.
It feels unbelievably good to break free from the blocks we thought owned us. It is a powerful HIGH when we let ourselves get lost in the joyous puzzle of a writing project. It feels life-saving when our own writing becomes our ally, not our enemy.
Jeanette Winterson claims that “the true artist is after the problem. The false artist wants it solved (by somebody else).”
The true work—and joy—of a writing coach is to help writers transform obstacles into artistic problems, and to empower them to find pleasure and possibility in the process.
I love helping writers see the best in themselves, articulate what they need, develop a passionate relationship to their own vision and ideas, see their writing as a source of freedom rather than obligation, and develop a rigorous and loving commitment to themselves as writers.