Working with writers can be tricky. They’re on a wild and unpredictable journey. As a coach, I want to help—but sometimes a writer’s goals can prove out of their (current) reach. That’s when I reach deep into my bag of writing coaching inspiration. I need to pull out something that both acknowledges the hard truth they’re facing and offers reassurance that there are still fine opportunities likely to arise for them.
Recently, I read a beautiful ancient tale—one of discouragement followed by unlikely success. Told in Dianne Skafte’s LISTENING TO THE ORACLE, it’s the story of a Greek soldier who loses his way in enemy territory. He is supposed to meet up with his troop on the banks of a certain river. They plan to board a ship there and travel to a town friendly to their cause. Having hired a guide to help him get to his destination safely, the soldier is devastated to find he has been led to a different river!
He berates his guide, only to be met with a shrug—and this enigmatic response: “One river is like another river.” What? But in fact, appearing on the shores of this river is a small boat captained by a man who agrees to take the soldier back to the friendly town that was his original aim.
Once the soldier disembarks from the small boat in the town, he learns, to his horror, that the ship with his mates was captured and all aboard were killed.
Writing coaching inspiration
The soldier was not able to reach the river he aimed for. But he was guided to another river that carried him to safe harbor.
Similarly, when we set our sights on big writing goals, it may be that we can’t reach them—or not at this time. Whether we want to publish in a major magazine or attract an agent to represent us, our desired outcomes may be (temporarily) unattainable.
That’s when it’s time to scout out another river. Reset your goals. Aim to get published in a regional magazine, rather than in O Magazine. Agents can be tough to impress. Consider submitting your manuscript to small press editors instead. Match your target to your current abilities to meet it.
Fortunately, different from this Ancient Greek tale, no one is likely to die in the literary trenches. But when we’re rejected, it hurts. Still, it’s a wise Modern writer who will remember the motto of that Ancient Greek guide. One river is like another river. So look around. A boat you never imagined might appear on a river you didn’t notice. And you might find, ultimately, you are carried exactly where you want to go.
Need some clarity about your writing goals? A consultation with a top writing coach might help! Let’s chat.
Writing is a powerful and compelling endeavor. If you are setting goals but not meeting them, though, you might need a different approach—or more nuanced goals. With over a dozen years’ experience helping writers take their work to the next level, I might be able to show you how to make similar strides. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me. Also, check out THE WRITER mag article “Should I Hire a Writing Coach.”