A mentor is someone who is a wise and trusted counselor. When I teach classes for blocked and procrastinating writers, I often ask the students if they have a writing mentor. Few do.
A writing mentor can serve a variety of functions including; assistance with critical feedback on manuscripts, moral support and encouragement, guidance with time management, knowledge of financial opportunities, and facilitating introductions to writers, agents and and publishers. The right mentor at the right time can make an enormous difference in a writer’s career.
I recently watched Jane Campion’s 1990 film of New Zealand author Janet Frame’s autobiography, An Angel at the Table, and was struck by the key role mentoring played in her challenging road to literary success. Her talent was noticed by key figures during her education and after, who supported an guided her with her writing. This help was essential in making her work public, securing grants for travel and study, and encouraging her to keep writing even through periods of intense emotional turmoil. She kept in touch with her mentors throughout her life – they were a lifeline.
Janet Frame wrote thirteen novels, an autobiographical trilogy, two books of poetry, scores of short stories, and she won numerous prestigious literary prizes. All this was accomplished during a life that included traumatic childhood losses, a suicide attempt, a failed attempt to become a teacher, numerous psychiatric hospitalizations, and an intense emotional sensitivity that made everyday life challenges excruciating at times.
Mentors clearly made a difference in Frame’s life, and you may want to consider connecting with someone who can serve this function in your writing life, if blocks and procrastination are an issue. Taking a class or workshop, or joining a writing group are good ways to meet people who might help and inspire you. Connecting with experienced writers and starting a communication of some sort may initiate a mentorship.
There is no one way that writers find and use mentors, and we all find our own paths, but if you are stuck and can’t see how to move forward with your work, you may need input beyond your personal knowledge and resources. It will take some time and trial and error to find the right person(s), but even one good mentor can mean the difference between pursuing your writing dreams and giving up.