When I first decided I was going to be a writer, there was a whole new uncharted territory ahead of me. I’d gone through school, university and the early part of my working life doing subjects in Accounting, Economics, Business and Finance. I knew very little about creative writing as a job so I really had a lot to learn. I’ll always be grateful to the people who encouraged me along by patiently teaching me things I needed to know. They are my writing mentors.
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In any new venture or endeavour we want to take, it’s always helpful when we have someone who has been there, to teach us. This is very true in the writing business as well. It can be a lonely job, sitting at your desk for hours working on something, but you don’t know if it’s any good. It can be frustrating trying to learn about a new industry but you just can’t seem to get the hang of it. Or you get bombarded with so much information that it’s simply easier to get discouraged and give up. Here’s where a mentor can step in to keep you on the right track, and help you feel like you’re not alone.
Benefits of having a writing mentor
1) Getting impartial feedback on your work - A writing mentor is someone who can read your work and tell you what they really think about it. They can help you by giving constructive criticism. It’s easy for anybody to say your work is nice, but it’s not really helpful feedback. A writing mentor would be able to tell you what’s good about your work and what needs improving. This type of good feedback is exactly what you need to grow as a writer.
2) Inspiration - A writing mentor should be someone who has achieved some goals that you’re aiming for. That way, they can encourage and inspire you to do the same. They can help you clarify your dreams, give you realistic ways of doing things and motivate you to keep going when you feel it’s too difficult.
3) Avoid mistakes they’ve made - We all make mistakes when we’re learning something new, that’s very normal. But you can learn from the mistakes that someone else has made so you don’t have to repeat them. A writing mentor can show you what pitfalls to avoid, so you don’t waste time and effort (or even money) doing things that will not benefit you.
4) Increase your confidence - A mentor would give your confidence a boost when you need it. It’s very encouraging when you get great feedback from somebody you admire and trust.
5) Connections and Opening doors - A mentor could be someone who has built good relationships with other people in the writing and publishing industry. That could be useful if you need an introduction to certain people.
6) Help you achieve your dreams - If you’re attempting something new, there will be lots of people who won’t understand it and would criticise or even tell you that it’s impossible. However, a mentor will be someone who will tell you that it is possible to achieve your dreams. He or she would be proof that you can follow your dreams and make them come true.
7) A mentor may open your eyes to possibilities - A mentor could show you ideas and opportunities that you may not have been aware of. They might be able to push you beyond your own knowledge, give you ideas to boost your skills and help you match your strengths to new tasks.
So how do you choose a mentor?
For me, I started by reading the blogs of writers I admired, and I set up a Facebook group to meet writers like me. Soon, I developed friendships with some of the people I followed and it grew from there. You can of course, have more than one mentor if you want.
If you need help with writing and crafting stories, find someone that you admire their style of writing. If you need help with getting connections in the industry, look for someone who is well established and popular. Bear in mind though, that a mentor like that would be quite busy so they might have limited interaction with you.
You can start online. Look for writers on Facebook or Twitter. Check their bio and read their blogs. There is no harm in asking – the worst they can do is say no. Don’t be a stalker, if they don’t respond to you, move on and find someone else.
Every mentoring relationship is different. Try to have something useful to offer your mentor too, so that it is mutually beneficial relationship. You may decide to meet in person, or not. Nowadays you can interact with people in many different ways, so while it is great, you may not need to meet your mentor in person. I've made friends with so many people who have been helpful to me in my work, even though we've never met in person.
And of course, being friendly and polite goes a long way!
(c) Tolulope Popoola