Sunday, September 6, 2015
A Conversation with Writing Coach Mark David Gerson
A professional writing coach who has traveled from Canada to Hawaii and points in between, New Mexican-based writer Mark David Gerson helps other writers unleash their "creative fire."
When and why did you decide to become a writing coach?
Like many things in my life, I didn't set out to be a writing coach. It just sort of happened. My first clients were individuals who were unable to attend the writing classes, seminars and workshops I'd been offering since 1993. Those early sessions were private, one-time, one-on-one workshops -- often over the phone. Then, students and workshop participants began to ask to work with me on an ongoing basis -- to give them the individualized help over time that them that is rarely possible in a group setting.
As inspiring people to access, experience and express their passion (I also do life-coach work) is my passion, it’s been gratifying to have helped so many writers over the years to unleash their creative fire, overcome writer's block, navigate through particular projects and live out their potential.
What does it mean to move through creative blocks and deepen creativity?
It’s about recognizing that we are all natural storytellers and that we all have the power, passion and potential to express those stories on the page in ways that will touch and transform others. And as we go deeper to the place within us where those stories reside, we are able to live more fulfilled, more creative lives.
You’ve done a lot of traveling to teach. Is that from choice or necessity?
For the most part, I’ve taught where I’ve lived -- and I’ve lived in a lot of places! So I’ve taught in Toronto and in various places in Canada’s Atlantic provinces, as well as in Arizona and New Mexico, and on two Hawaiian islands. However, I’ve also traveled extensively in the U.S., which has allowed me to work with groups and individuals in many other wonderful places as well, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Connecticut and South Dakota.
Your book, The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write has been acclaimed for its unique blend of inspiration and instruction designed to help overcome writer's block and unleash creative potential. What does that entail?
The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write is a distillation of all I have learned about writing through my 16 years of teaching and coaching. It combines inspirational vignettes with practical tools and powerful exercises to get you writing and keep you writing, whatever your genre or level of experience. And I’m proud to say that it has just won its first award, an IPPY through the Independent Publishers Book Awards.
As a companion to the The Voice of the Muse book, I’ve also recorded The Voice of the Muse Companion, a two-CD compilation of guided meditations for writers, also designed to inspire and instruct and to help create the mood and inner space that frees up creativity.
You’ve contributed to five other nonfiction books, including Terra Cotta: Artful Deceivers. What is that about?
I’ve contributed to five books over the years. In some cases, like Authors Access: 28 Success Secrets for Authors and Publishers!, Today’s Brilliance: Inspirational Luminaries Share Words of Wisdom and Terra Cotta: Artful Deceivers, I was commissioned to write an essay for an anthology. Chronicles of Canada included an existing essay of mine in their collection.
What's the most important mistake that fledgling writers make when writing a first book?
I’d say the biggest mistake writers can make -- fledgling or seasoned -- is in assuming that they’re smarter than their story and that they’re in control of the creative process. Creativity is alchemy. It’s taking an unlikely mix of ingredients and letting those ingredients run wild on the page, at least in the initial drafts. It’s a journey of discovery -- of characters, of story, of self. When we try to squeeze our words and stories into a straitjacket, we risk squeezing the life, art and magic out of them.
Would you advise anyone to get into the publishing business in today’s unstable conditions?
First, conditions have never been stable in the publishing industry. Second, if your primary purpose in writing is to make a buck, I’m probably the wrong person to talk to. Not that I haven’t made money from my writing. It’s just that my primary focus -- in my own work and in my writing/teaching -- is about following my passion, and the story, wherever it leads. Sometimes, it leads to fame and fortune. Sometimes it doesn’t. It always leads to something life-affirming and personally transformational and, as such, it’s always worth doing.
Are writers born or can you actually teach someone to write?
In the sense that we’re all innately creative, anyone can write. We may need to pick up skills, craft and technique along the way, but those can be learned. What I teach you is not how to write but how to access, trust and get onto the page the stories that we all carry within us as the natural storytellers we are.
Is writing really a catharsis and do you encourage those with little creativity to continue to write although they have little chance of publication?
Based on some of my other answers, you’ve probably already figured out that I’m going to disagree with the basis of your question. Everyone is creative. That doesn’t mean that everyone will win a Pulitzer Prize or even get published. But writing, as I’ve said, is powerfully transformational. It’s personal alchemy. I would never discourage anyone from setting words to the page in as heartful a manner as possible. Because the personal benefits are always wondrous.