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On The Writing Coach Threads Discourse And Writing On A Budget | Opinion

Author's Note: If you'd like to skip the background for this post and jump right into the resources, click HERE.


Writing a book is one of those things that may sound easy until you get into the thick of it. It's just making it up as you go, and then making it sound coherent, right?


I'll be the first to admit to my own adolescent nativity when I started the first draft of my scrapped-for-now first effort at writing a novel. In the nearly fifteen years since then, I've only just scratched the surface of how tricky and how rewarding it can be to write a book. Figuring out what story you want to tell and then figuring out how to tell it in the best way possible. Learning the craft so you can bend and break the rules.


And once you have completed what you think is the final-draft-for-real.doc, you realize that your journey has only just begun. Publishing your work is an entirely different ballgame with its own obstacles to navigate.


We have an infinitum of resources at our fingertips thanks to the internet and other resources, yet some are more accessible than others.


Recently, there seems to have been an uptick in online coaching and courses for just about anything, and one in particular fell under the scrutiny of the Threads writing community last week.


I typically refrain from putting my thoughts on these situations out there because a) I'm an internet introvert who dreads confrontation and doesn't want to further provoke any drama and b) I may feel that I don't have anything new or of value to add to the ongoing conversation. But something about this one instance rubbed me the wrong way and I am finding it difficult to not give voice to my feelings on the matter.


To quickly sum it up, an author was promoting a course to teach her audience how to write a perfect query letter that will get them their dream agent, a six-figure book deal, and make them a bestselling novelist. I will not be naming the individual in question but it doesn't take more than a quick scroll through Threads at the time of writing to figure out who they are. I don't want to make them the subject of this post.


Offering guidance is one thing. Charging upwards of $500 is another, and that got the collective gears of WriterThreads grinding to a screeching halt. Some were quick to point out the fact that most of the information covered in the course can be found elsewhere for free and shouldn't come with that hefty price of a tag, while others questioned the credentials of this author, who at the time of writing this post is a debut author themselves and *allegedly* icked out the community in a prior incident, and expressed concerns with the author's marketing approach.


I don't want to get into those specifics. For one thing, I've never interacted with this individual and only have secondhand information presented to me as the algorithm sees fit. Also, deep dives into individuals based on social media discourses aren't the content I want to bring to the blog (if spilling the tea is your cup of tea, though, I recommend checking out Reads With Rachel over on YouTube and her Authors Behaving Badly series and Jess Owens for her Book CommuniTEA videos). Instead, I'd like to add give take on the writing coach threads discourse and talk about some of the reasons such courses—and other resourceswith a high price tag can be more of a hindrance than a help for budding writers.


At the end of this post, I'll include a brief list of free and low-cost resources for writers so stay tuned.


Before we go too far, a bit of context about me: I am speaking as a writer who is not yet published apart from this blog and is in the process of drafting her sixth novel. I hold a BA in English and Communications with a concentration in Creative Writing. I would love to go back for my Master's someday, as many of my peers have, but it's not feasible at this point in my life. There's the matter of paying for tuition and already having student loans lingering from my undergrad degree, but also the cost of living in general. I'll be honest, most of my paycheck goes towards nonnegotiables like bills and cat food (and before you say it, depriving myself of the occasional drink from Starbucks would barely make a dent).


Looking back, I could have gone to an in-state college and saved myself at least a little by doing that, but what's done is done. And now, like a lot of us, I'm simply making the best of the hand I was dealteven if I'm responsible for slipping a few cards in that proverbial deck.


If I were able to spend a good chunk of money on a writing course, I would rather it go towards credits for an eventual degree than purchasing access to information I can potentially find elsewhere for low or even no cost.


I'm only one of a few million writers in the world, and I imagine one of countless writers who are not in a position to spend $500 on a writing course even with the option of monthly payment plans.


But it's not just about having a disposable income or the lack thereof. Time is also a limited resource. Many of us have to prioritize our jobs and other responsibilities over our writing aspirations, and therefore squeeze our writing into whatever nooks and crannies we can find. Admission and travel costs aside, there is the simple matter of whether or not you'd be able to take the time off from work to attend big writing events like conferences and retreats, especially if it's multiple days long or more than a few hours away; you may also have to arrange childcare or pet-sitting while you're gone.


This is more or less the same reason I get frustrated with people who say, "If it really mattered to you, you would make the time for it." My writing matters to me more than most things in the world, but I also like not starving and having a roof over my head. As much of a snarky exaggeration as that is, the fact is going to work so you can afford rent, food, utilities, and other life necessities is not optional for the majority of people, whereas they may not need to attend a writing seminar in the same sense.


When you're just getting your footing in the writing world, gaining access to insider tips from a pro sounds like it would give you a leg up. But when you're only scraping by, it can feel as if you are sinking and can only watch as others swim to the shore with ease.


This, too, has an impact.


Imposter syndrome is something you will see me write about time and time again on the blog, and that is not without reason. It's something I am often fighting against. Those thorny tendrils of self-doubt that creep up and make me wonder if my writing will ever be worthy of being published.


That feeling of not being enough might be exacerbated for writers unable to access the same information as their peers for financial reasons, which may very well be beyond their control. For example, unless you are in a specific role within the business, you do not have control over your pay rate as an employee at your day job. If you make minimum wage in Connecticut like I do, that's $15.69/hr at the time of writing, but in Kentucky it's $7.25/hr—which is also the federal minimum wage nationwide. Thinking back to that $500 writing course, before taxes and ignoring every other expense and taxes, it would take me just shy of 32 hours to earn enough to buy my access to the course while a writer making minimum wage in Kentucky would need to work close to 69 hours to do the same. And while a gallon of gas generally seems to cost a bit less in Kentucky than it does in Connecticut based on a quick Google search, this online course will be priced the same no matter where you are. And that's only for a virtual thing; imagine having to also factor in travel to attend an out-of-state in-person event.


When a writing course or conference is being touted as the thing that will guarantee your success as an author (assuming its legitimacy checks out and there are verifiable proven results), a writer working tirelessly to achieve their publishing goals may feel like they have to sign up, especially when they see other writers posting their positive experiences. However, when financial reasons mean they have to forgo opportunities to learn, receive feedback, and make valuable connections with writers or even industry professionals, they may be left wondering if their own success story will ever be written.


Instruction aside, these events often foster a sense of camaraderie among guests. They may often include general discussions about the craft or workshopping pieces of each other's writings, as well as some special events like panels and cocktail hours. Simply being there adds a layer of togetherness that might make an onlooking budding writer feel isolated and unsupported because they're not part of the in-crowd of newfound friendships—which are arguably vital when you're just starting out.


This is not at all to imply that absolutely no writing courses, conventions, or retreats out there are worth the splurge. If they are something that interests you, and you have the means, go for it. And if you have skills that you want to make a profit through, I'm not here to stop you. However, some writers have to be a little more selective when it comes to writing purchases of any kind, whether materials or experiences, which in turn makes it harder to access the same tools as readily as some of our peers.


It's also worth noting that this isn't limited to writing courses and events. These feelings may also be spurred on by not being able to have the newest or best bit of writing tech or software.


But here's the thing: humans are storytellers by nature. We've been passing on stories since the dawn of our existence, well before we could transcribe them. The urge to share our stories predates the act of writing by eons. Even if you are not able to buy the snazziest software or attend every conference and class, you are not precluded from being a writer. Use your creativity to get resourceful. Don't be afraid to seek out new approaches, even if they are unconventional or aren't the shiny new thing.


Fortunately, there are so many resources available to writers for little to no cost.


If you are reading this—first off, thank you for stopping by—the most obvious is going to be blogs and websites. I think it fair to assume that you know the internet is overflowing with information on any topic you can imagine. Platforms like Writer's Digest were where I got a vast majority of my writing knowledge early on, and I continue to reference them over a decade later.


If you'd rather listen to your writing knowledge instead, YouTube has a growing author community teeming with writers sharing their insight; some of these creators may have exclusive videos and other perks for Patreon members, but the vast majority of content is readily available at no cost. This is my preferred method of absorbing information because I can have a video from someone like Jenna Moreci or Abbie Emmons playing on my way to work. I also find book reviewers like Reads With Rachel, Julian Greystoke, and SBU English Club helpful as a writer because they give insight into what may go through a reader's head so I know what to look out for in my own writing. Similarly, podcasts are something I've only gotten into recently so please send me your recommendations!


Additionally, although this post was inspired by a social media discourse and vexation, my overall experience in the online writing community space has been good. I'm still an introvert learning to come out of her shell, but I've made many friends through social media, some of whom I've formed a virtual writing group with to share feedback and chat about the craft. There are so many great creators whose tips and tricks have proven helpful in reshaping my own writing process amid changing circumstances—and it hasn't cost me a dime! It can take time to curate your feed, so to speak, and find friends in the community, but it is SO worth it.


And of course, we cannot forget what Arthur taught us: having fun isn't hard when you've got a library card. Libraries are a fantastic resource for anybody-especially writers. Books can get expensive, so borrowing them from the library makes them more accessible for writers on a budget. And if your local library doesn't have a specific book you need on hand, chances are they can order it from a different library in the region; I cannot speak for every state, but in Connecticut, as long as you have a valid card from the library in your town of residence, you can borrow books from any library within the state. This doesn't only apply to physical books, as the majority also offer audiobooks and eBooks, too.


Some libraries may even host events like book clubs, author readings and signings, presentations from experts in a given field, crafting classes, and even writing groups you can join without costly fees (provided you return your books on time).


With any of these resources, be sure to do your due diligence and make sure that the information you are getting is coming from a credible source.


And, more importantly, don't feel that you are less-than or an inadequate writer because you cannot afford certain writing investments. You are, always have been, and always will be enough.


 

You'll often hear the adage, "It takes money to make money." As writers, we may be inclined to invest in software or apps geared towards the writing process, a solid desk, tickets to attend writing conferences or conventions, classes, or any number of incidentals like paper and pens. And down the line, they may also need to hire an editor or cover artist depending on the publishing route they choose. Many of these are nice to have but not essential. And for many, they are not always attainable.


However, it is important to remember that financial barriers don't make you any less of a writer. At the heart of it all, being a good writer isn't determined by the tools and events you are able to afford, but by the passion behind your words. The courage to sit down and get the words on the page. Being willing to be vulnerable.


Writers are a creative bunch, and that creativity often lends itself to resourcefulness. Whether it's seeking out a very specific piece of information in your research or making the most of what you have to work with, a lot of the writing process is finding ways to make things workeven if it's on a "for now" basis.


Your worth is not defined by the writing software you use or how many writing classes you can attend in a year. It's in your passion and dedication to the craft, not your financial circumstances. Your words are more valuable than you know, and the world is waiting to hear your stories.


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