Writing can be a lonely and dispiriting business. Scribbling or typing away, disconnected from the outside world with no-one to talk to, is not the best remedy for helping us overcome any feelings of inadequacy so why not get yourself a writing mentor.
If you have complete confidence in your ability and you don’t doubt that what you write will be enthusiastically received by your adoring audience, then the isolation is probably preferable to endless interruptions. But if your confidence is in need of a boost from someone in the ‘outside’ world, then a writing mentor could be the answer.
What is a writing mentor?
Dictionary definitions varyingly describe a mentor as ‘someone who guides another to greater success”, “a wise and trusted adviser or guide” or “an experienced person who advises and helps a less experienced person”. A writing mentor does not have to be a famous and successful author. A mentor can simply be someone who is a few steps ahead of you and is happy to let you bounce your ideas off them. Often this is all you need to give you the confidence to overcome your doubts and to keep going.
“A mentor is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” John C. Crosby
Know what you want from a writing mentor
Before you approach anybody to act as your writing mentor ask yourself what you want or need from them. Do you just want some occasional encouragement and reassurance or do you need someone to guide you through the complete writing, editing, re-writing and publishing process? How often do you want to talk to or meet up with your writing mentor? How do you want to communicate with your writing mentor – email, Skype, telephone, in person? Do you want someone you can turn to when you are having a confidence crisis or to help you through writers’ block? Do you need someone to set you tasks, exercises and create deadlines to help you maintain your motivation and enthusiasm?
Where do you find a writing mentor?
If you are lucky enough to have a friend, colleague or acquaintance who ticks all of your mentor-requirement boxes then it is definitely worth asking them. Being a mentor is both time consuming and a responsibility, so do give them some time to think about it. And don’t be disappointed if they say no.
You could visit/join a local writing group to see if there is anybody there who would be willing to act as your mentor. You could enrol on a writers’ course or workshop or go to a writers’ conference to see whether they offer any mentoring programmes or whether there are any tutors or delegates who you could ask/approach.
You could also do a search online. For example, Creative Nonfiction (a US-based organisation) provides a selection of mentoring programs – the pricing depends on a variety of factors and so you would need to contact them to get a quote.
Alternatively, at Beginners Guide to Writing we provide support to new writers, inexperienced writers and writers who lack confidence and so do contact us to find out if we can help you.
If you can find a mentor who is happy to offer their services free of charge then well done. But if the only way to get the level and quality of support you need then do consider paying someone. Mentors not only give up their time but they also share their valuable experience and wisdom and so it is not unreasonable to expect to pay for it.
Don’t be afraid of criticism
“If your mentors only tell you that you are awesome, it’s time to find other mentors.” Cosette Gutierrez
The role of a mentor is to give you advice and support and if this means suggesting ways in which you can improve your writing then accept it as constructive criticism. We all need to be reminded of our weaknesses and shortcomings and so don’t be discouraged when your mentor recommends ways in which you can improve and develop as a writer. A mentor who doesn’t do this is probably failing you.
“Mentors are not there to make us ‘happy’. They are there to guide us to the best of their knowledge.” Samira DeAndrade