Mentorship is often seen as a benefit in business or school. I think writers need mentors too, people willing to share their struggles and failures as well as successes as they overcome those struggles.
What I think mentors do
I know there is a real definition of mentoring. But, what I think it means, and what I’ll talk about on this post, is conversation about improving. Teachers will provide you with the skills to complete a task, or will help you understand enough about a subject to be able to work your way through it. Coaches help you meet short term goals. Mentors will help you attain those long term goals that sometimes seem so far away.
When I was in the corporate world, I would get asked who I wanted for a mentor – a great company by the way – and I always had trouble answering the question. I wanted more than one. I wanted the best person for the political savvy, the best person for management skills and so on. I still believe you can’t find one mentor who will help you do everything.
Once again, the Internet is your friend
When I look for mentors for my writing, I am unbound by genre. I believe you can get advice on craft from anyone. A Steampunk author could look to a romance author for building characters. A thriller writer can look to a literary author for structure. The trick is to find a way to pull what you need from the ocean of help out there.
For me, I listen to podcasts. A plethora of writers happily share their process and ideas and advice through podcasts. I can listen to one or two episodes to see if it’s advice I can use. If the podcast is about craft, someone teaching, I generally unsubscribe after a few episodes. Craft is everywhere and, while useful, it doesn’t equal mentoring. If the podcaster has books available, I usually buy one two to see if they are able to translate what they know into great stories. I’m always amazed at how few of them can. If they can then I go looking for all kinds of other information the author has shared.
How do you know you are finding mentorship?
You find someone who does produce good product as well as talk a good story – if they can’t do what they advise, they are great teachers. You are looking for someone who is willing to say what they struggle with. I follow StoryWonk because I’ve follow Lani’s podcasts for years. She’s willing to say how difficult it is for her to keep focused on what she knows works for her. That helps me because I have the same problem. Hearing how she continually fights this battle gives me ideas on how win my own fight.
Why should you find a mentor?
I believe writing is as much a profession as it is a passion. You owe it to your readers to keep working on your skills and craft. Mentorship is one way to do that. So is refreshing your skills and using the right tools (or maybe that last one is an excuse to buy the latest toy).
One last thought
If you have something you can share, why not throw it out there. Being a mentor is as important as having a mentor.