Some of my favorite consultations are those I have with “regulars.” With some regulars, consultations become less like a job and more like a coffee date with a friend, and I have often caught myself laughing a bit too loudly in a space designed with quiet connectivity, contemplation, and work in mind. Sometimes this draws looks from those I share the space with – perhaps of curiosity, perhaps of irritation – and I do try to be mindful, but sometimes I get lost in the person, the writing, the relationship, and everything else fades into the background. I love watching these writers grow, helping them work through ideas and tough spots, and witnessing their successes and continual improvements.
I love these sessions, which makes what I’m about to type just a little bit painful:
Sometimes regulars need to see other people.
I know that we consultants know the utility of multiple perspectives; however, I have realized that, in this case, what consultants see as useful, writers often see as unnecessarily laborious and, perhaps, inconvenient. It is within this realm of conflicting thought that I find myself all but shoving my favorite regulars out of my Writing Studio nest into the caring arms of other consultants.
I suggest: “You know, I think it would be a good idea to make an appointment with another consultant to talk this over. Multiple perspectives are really useful.”
I argue: “Sure, you’ll have to explain your work to someone else, but that’s part of the process. When you’re forced to explain your work to people over and over, you’re forced into constantly organizing your thoughts and pinpointing your thesis/purpose/ideas/etc.”
I rationalize: “I’m not saying that you need to talk to every consultant at the Studio, but more than just me is a good idea.”
I self-deprecate: “I mean, I think I’m generally pretty helpful, but there are other people here who know more about different things than I do, and they might offer you much better suggestions than I can.”
I plead: “Just make an appointment with one other consultant here and see what happens.”
I negotiate: “You can have two consultations per week – you could keep your appointments with me andmake a few appointments with someone else.”
I restate: “Multiple perspectives are so helpful for all writers, teachers, thinkers, etc. Someone else might be able to offer you something that I can’t, or might think of things in ways that didn’t even occur to me, or motivate you in ways that I don’t. Different viewpoints are very useful.”
Most of the time, I can eventually convince reluctant regulars that working with people other than me is a good idea, but, sometimes, they’re absolutely set on writer-consultant exclusivity.
Of course, the important thing is that regardless of whether or not writers take our advice, we are there for them, and if each writer only ever works with one consultant, at least they came to us in the first place. However, for the rest of my Writing Studio career, I will continuously (if gently) urge writers to take advantage of the breadth of knowledge, skill, and insight that the Writing Studio consultants have to offer.
By Joanna Bartell, PhD in Communication