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write like you drive (you might write better)

write like you drive (you might write better)

(2 min read)  Want to write better? Get in the driver’s seat. In my work as a writing coach, I’ve found this metaphor a useful shortcut for a quick mindset shift.

True story. In the realm of automobiles, I’m what’s known as a passenger princess. You will find me in the backseat or sitting next to the driver, doing anything but driving and thinking about anything but the road. You will not find me driving.

I love trusting other people to get me places.

In general, I prefer having control over my life and it is a quirk of my personality that I find so much enjoyment in modes of transportation (car, train, bus, subway, airplane) where I am not the one behind the wheel. In these journeys, I practice trust. I practice faith. I sometimes practice napping. In a car, I accept no responsibility for our arrival; I accept responsibility for looking out the window to witness the world. I occasionally accept responsibility for tuning the radio. Being a passenger is soothing bliss because there’s some kind of truly relaxing freedom in accepting that I can’t really do anything about it if we’re about to crash.

Do you write in the driver’s seat?

Some people write the way I ride in a car. They’re deliberately not in charge. They love to feel overtaken when they write, like a muse is guiding them or like they don’t know where that idea came from. Like they don’t know why part of their story works well, and they don’t know why another part doesn’t. Like they are at the mercy of inspiration. Even great writers sometimes like to feel this way. Like talent or genius is in charge.

That’s one way to do a creative writing process. But it’s not my favorite.

You can feel this way if you want to. Often it feels this way at times, especially in the beginning of a project! But in my experience as a writing coach, it’s proven repeatedly helpful for people when I suggest to them that as they shape their inspiration into something ready to be shared, something they hope will be powerful and unforgettable, they are the one in the driver’s seat of what’s on their page.

If you try to write like a good driver (attending to what’s in your periphery, anticipating when to slow down, having a clear destination but being willing to detour if roads are blocked, etc) you may find that you write better.

When I write, I like to be the driver. I like the burden of that responsibility. I will get us where we are going. I will attend to the signs, the stoplights, and the traffic of ideas. You are safe with me.

That is how I want readers to feel. They are safe with me because I am paying attention to the merges and the off-ramps and I will get us where we need to go. What the reader sees out the window may surprise or unsettle or even flat-out terrify them, but they can get lost in the moment and trust that I’ll keep us moving.

As a writer, you can give someone that experience.

You are in control of the stick shift.

You are not in control of everything! You are not in control of the traffic, the highway system, the weather, the potholes, or whether the wheels come off.

But you’re in charge of moving forward, you’re in charge of your speed, and you’re in charge of paying attention as you adjust where to aim the machine.

When I get behind the pencil, I aspire to be a good driver. Attentive, with quick reflexes and a clean license. I definitely have to U-turn sometimes. Inebriated ideas or unwanted defensive communication habits (like apologizing on the page, using hints instead of saying what I mean directly, or accidentally getting too deep into a premise and failing to maintain legible perspective, might pull out at 80mph across a double white line. If they do, I deal with them and keep us moving at a good pace. It is my job to make sure we don’t wreck our vehicle (the story, the scene, the metaphor) even if I have swerve.

What makes a good driver?

Pick one attribute that makes you feel competent behind the wheel.

Can you try doing that on the page as a writer?

Give it a couple minutes and see.

xo, megan

Thanks for giving this a few minutes. I hope it felt supportive.

Writing coach Megan Cohen is a white cis woman with soft femme hair. She wears black but stands in front of a wall covered in brightly colored brainstorming post-it notes. She smiles with closed lips and warm eyes. Her skin is amazing even though she's middle-aged.

I’m a f*ckin’ friendly writing coach.

Let’s see what an hour with me can do for you. Get treated with honesty and respect. Bring your work-in-progress, your goals, or your frustrated blank page. Sliding scale; no ongoing commitment; just an hour to work on your writing. See me in a private zoom to put my 20 years of experience on your side.

curious/confused?: what does a writing coach do (and not do)

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