So, here’s something I never thought I’d do… after mulling over it for a few weeks I decided to ask someone I know to mentor me in ‘the craft’. In other words, help me along on my journey to becoming a full-time, bona fide real author-person. And already it is proving to be a wise decision if I do say so myself.
Okay, so here’s the backdrop: on the author/writer food chain I’m right at the bottom, possibly just above the plankton, but definitely below the eels. I have self-published two diddy little ‘works’ online and have a bunch of other stuff partially written. I have a head full of ideas and even a long-term strategy blah blah blah. But what I don’t have is a completed novel that will shift more than a few copies to ravenous readers out there. And I have decided that I have reached a point on this journey where it’s make or break time for me. So how badly do I want this? Enough to realise that a change is needed.
In one of my smarter moments this year I have decided that I must either decide to settle for ‘normal’ and give up on any stupid dreams of becoming a financially viable full-time author, or I need to make the jump to pro. Now. And as a Mr Steven Pressfield*, and every other successful failure will advocate, it can be done. But it requires, amongst a host of other qualities, action. So I decided to act. I’ve been reading about stuff like this for a few weeks and watching a few videos on Youtube on motivation and success, and someone like Tony Robbins mentioned using your resources to their fullest potential instead of making excuses. This stuck in my head.
Now in the world of writing, I have extremely limited experience and absolutely no contacts, well, apart from one person who I’ve gotten to know this year. Now this person is an actual published author with more than a few years of writing experience in various forms and nearly a dozen books published and selling, with movie deals in the mix as well. In other words, an accomplished author that has a lot of business acumen. A perfect candidate to be a mentor to me. But would they want to?
I get on well with this person and didn’t want to come steaming in making unreasonable requests like a parasite. The last thing I wanted to become was a chore and someone to dodge! So I left things until I was very sure that asking would be a sensible thing to do and that they would understand my position. I was though totally prepared to accept a refusal – this was a business arrangement, and as such, I had to treat it like one.
Here are my tips around seeking a mentor:
- Friends and family don’t count if you want objective feedback as a writer. You also don’t want someone who is going to mince their words.
- A mentor needs to have far more battle experience and knowledge in the arena than you do. You need to swallow your ego and realise this. They need to be better than you or you will have nothing to learn and they will offer you no value.
- You really need to gel with them or they will have no time for you and you will be less likely to absorb what they have to offer.
- Ideally, they should be optimistic and inspirational individuals as well as highly experienced and knowledgeable. The last thing you need in your life is a ‘soul-sucker’ (Andy’s word of the year).
- You will be the one with the most to gain, so you should be the one doing the most work and putting in the most effort! Don’t ever forget that or you may find yourself mentorless. And if they say you are crap then you are! Be grown up enough to shut your mouth, take it on the chin and learn. You should be a sponge, not a child.
- Make sure you show and prove your gratitude with results along your journey. Acknowledge your tutor-mentor for the work (whether it be in time, effort, frustration or anything else) they have put in, and at the very least buy them a decent bottle of wine at Christmas. They are helping you out of altruistic motivation – so don’t take the piss. Treat them well and make them proud!
- If the time and opportunity ever presents itself you should share the wealth and help mentor the next numpty that comes along your path with a dream and a crap manuscript. It’s only right.
In conclusion, this author agreed to help me, and while it’s early days, this is showing signs of being a really good thing for me. I did my part work-wise by bringing something to the table and my mentor did theirs by duly destroying this completed work. They did, however, provide an absolute wealth of feedback, some of which I kinda suspected, some of which was brutally honest (and was like getting hit in the face… with a cricket bat), but some of which I’d never even thought of and which was very surprising, but extremely encouraging.
I now have someone I have made myself responsible to, and in return they are prepared to read my shite, offer whatever they feel is appropriate and help me in ways that are far too generous, but for which I am extremely grateful and for which I feel the need to prove myself, as well as to say thank you for. Mentoring for me was a step I decided to take of my own accord by involving a proven professional that would force me to feel obligated and duty bound to achieve results for, not to mention suck all possible knowledge out of on my own adventure within the craft of writing. From my side, I wish to prove to them that they will not have wasted their time by taking this journey to a destination that would not have been reached without their tutorship. So far, so good.
Thank you from an extremely grateful numpty – red, white or pink?
* Author of the pretty great and awfully straight to the point War of Art.