Personal development is a big area of focus at my day-job. We have annual plans in place and are highly encouraged to determine what our long-term career strategy is so that we can gain the skills, abilities, and experiences we need in order to make it a reality.
As a manager, I not only have to work on my own development, but I also have to “help” my team work on theirs. This week that meant I attended a day-long Coaching & Mentoring for Leaders class at my local university. Like almost every other management / team-related class I’ve attended, there was a hands-on exercise that involved building a tower. This time there were blindfolds.
The dictionary defines a coach as someone who “trains or instructs” (i.e., a tennis coach) while a mentor is “an experienced and trusted adviser.” Guide, guru, counselor, consultant, and confidante are all listed as synonyms for mentor.
The role of a mentor as “an established employee who guides a newer employee through the complexity of the organization” has grown and changed with the times. Mentoring relationships have evolved too and no longer need to be formal “we will meet every 3rd Thursday for 30 minutes” arrangements.
Coincidentally, while scanning my Facebook news feed yesterday, I came across this article on “5 Essential Mentors You Need for a Killer Career” which suggests that a person doesn’t need a single mentor, but rather a variety of mentors to fill specific aspects of their development. The article was directed towards workplace mentoring, but I think it adapts quite well to all kinds of mentoring.
Here then is my list of essential mentors for writers:
The “Brand-New Writer” Mentor
Someone who is new to a job or activity can bring a fresh perspective. Not knowing “how things are done” can open the door for new ideas and interesting approaches. When I was working on a post-grad writing program a few years ago, there were a number of young college graduates in the classes who were new to writing. They frequently came up with really inventive solutions to the writing prompts and brought a completely different level of energy to the writing process. New/younger writers can also provide a wealth of knowledge if you’re not in that “younger” group yourself.
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” ~ Plutarch
The “Been There, Done That” Mentor
An established writer, who has successfully achieved the same goals you are working toward, can be an extremely valuable resource. Besides being an inspiration, like the keynote speakers at the recent RWA conference, they can provide information on the industry, provide feedback, and even help you establish other valuable contacts. Many writers I’ve encountered in workshops and at conferences have been very willing to share their knowledge and “learned the hard way” stories.
“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” ~ Steven Spielberg
The Supportive Mentor
Often a spouse or a best friend, the role of the supportive mentor is more about helping you keep your confidence up than providing assistance or guidance. Everyone needs to have someone in their corner to turn to when the story is stalled, the manuscript seems hopeless, or the latest query comes back with a “thanks, but no thanks.” A supportive mentor can sympathize (perhaps with a glass of wine or some really good ice-cream) and help you regain your will-to-write. It doesn’t need to be a writer or anyone connected with the business, just someone who believes in your abilities and wants to see you succeed.
“If you light a lamp for someone, it will also brighten your own path.” ~ Buddhist proverb
The Virtual Mentor
The internet opens up a whole new set of possibilities for mentoring. Social media provides a great way to “connect” with other writers and industry professionals that you might never have a chance to interact with in-person. Whether it’s informational discussions between members of your writing group or TED talks by individuals who inspire you to be your creative best, the internet provides a great way to connect with a wide range of virtual mentors.
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” ~ John C. Crosby
Writing is a solitary pursuit and without outside interactions it’s possible to lose motivation or fall into a rut. Mentoring can provide great opportunities for learning and growth – for both sides of the relationship.
Interested in reading more about mentoring? Check out the MentorCloud blog.
“MentorCloud’s Web Worthy series is a curated list of the best mentoring articles and stories from the past week. Check in every Thursday for inspiration, guidance, and practical advice on everything related to mentoring! “
So, do you have any mentors or have you mentored anyone else?