The writing life can feel lonely, and not just during the quiet times when we're actually writing. In fact, the toughest times often come once we've completed a project and are in that phase of recalibration and reinvention as artists. It is usually during this stage. The rebirthing, if you will, that writers seek mentor
s, coaches and support.
While a writing mentor is something many of my clients tell me they wish they'd had, many do not know exactly how they'd define this relationship. When we dig a little deeper, writers reflect the fantasy of the famous author offering advice and invitations to fancy parties.
If only we all had personal advice from Margaret Atwood or Neil Gaiman, we'd be fulfilled as writers and well on our way to a bestselling book. Perhaps this is true, perhaps not. In reality, a true writing mentor is not about sponsorship. No. A real mentor is anyone you can learn from during this process of making, destroying, remaking and sharing art. And we all have the capacity to find mentors. No matter where you are or how few people you feel you know. In fact, it is often the case that we already know these people just don't think of them that way.
The best mentors not only offer solid advice, but they mesh well with your individual style and goals as a writer.
Think about all the people you know who are invested in your writing, even if it's a short list. Even if it's just that one person on Twitter or your mother. Now make a list of all those who have influenced your work indirectly. Are there opportunities to reach out and share your gratitude? To ask questions with the idea that you can also offer something to the relationship?
Please keep in mind that a mentorship goes both ways. If you want support, you must also take time to get to know your mentor(s), get to know their work, and support them as artists and authors as well. Without doing so, it will be hard to find someone who champions your work long-term.
Another option for finding mentorship is to reach out to a coach, a writer you admire, or to sign up for an online class. As a writer at any stage, you can look to places like Poets & Writers, Meetup, or local writing groups to seek like-minded people. You may find mentorship from one or many other writers, but keep in mind that it could be the case that your mentorship comes from other creative people who haven’t written a word but know the power and perils of creating and sharing work in other ways.
If you are truly looking for a mentor, just remember that people are more receptive when the relationship is truly that -- a relationship. And no one has all the answers. Well, maybe one person. You.
I recommend doing a little research, asking other writers what classes they’ve enjoyed, and being willing to stay open and wait to meet your mentor. Understand that there might already be people offering you wisdom that you haven't heard. And listen without falling into the trappings of imitation or forgetting to listen to yourself. After all, you are always the expert.