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Mentoring Other Writers

By: Angelique Caffrey - Updated: 19 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
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Even if you’re an amateur (rather than a professional) writer, it’s quite conceivable that at one or point or another you will find yourself in a position to mentor other writers. Perhaps you’ll gain the respect of your peers in literary circles who will want to learn from you, or maybe you’ll choose to reach out to a student whose raw talents are in need of refinement from a writing coach. Whatever the reason, know that mentoring is a wonderful activity but that you’ll need to define and set a few parameters in order to make the most of your (and your mentee’s) experience.

1. Find out What Your Mentor Wants, Not What You Want

You may be all ready to mentor another writer, but before you begin, it’s important to ask him or her, “What would you like to get out of our mentoring arrangement?” That way, you’ll ensure that the two of you are on the same page, so to speak. If you don’t inquire, you’ll run the risk of unintentionally sabotaging what could be an amazing relationship Be open-minded when you hear your mentee’s response; he or she might expect something much different than you ever imagined.

2. Only Mentor another Writer If You Have the Time

Many writing mentors make the mistake of agreeing to take on the role of literary advisor without considering how much time will be involved. Again, this can be determined when the mentee answers your initial question (see #1, above.) Should you realize immediately that there will be no way to fulfil your duty as a mentor (as might be the case if heavy editing is expected), it’s better to back out of the position at the beginning. Though you both may be disappointed, it’s the right thing to do.

3. Gauge Whether You’re the Best Individual to Mentor another Writer

Not every person should become a mentor; even though you’ll probably be flattered to hear that someone wants to benefit from your know-how and expertise, that doesn’t mean you have the right background or temperament to be a mentor. For example, if the writer wants to know how to write a book and is longing for a copy editor, you may be the wrong individual for the job. Generally speaking, you’ll need a good deal of confidence, patience and understanding in order to build a trusting relationship with your mentee. If that doesn’t sound like something you’re capable of handling, you may need to pass on the opportunity.

4. Remember to Learn from Your Mentee

Too many mentors forget that they can learn a great deal from their mentees. That’s the beauty intrinsic in mentoring – the education is a two-way avenue. You’re not playing the role of mentor or consultant just so you can talk and make suggestions; you’re also expected to listen and absorb what you hear. That means leaving your ego at the door, something some freelance writing pros and amateurs occasionally find troubling. But an open mind is essential for getting the most out of the mentor-mentee experience.

5. Keep in Touch with Your Mentee

If your mentor-mentee relationship has been set for a limited amount of time (as might be the case if you’re the mentor for a creating writing student at a school or university), do make it a priority to keep up with your mentee. With email and cell phones, it’s easier than ever to check in periodically and just find out how his or her compositions, essays and drafts are coming along. And who knows? You might just be the first person he or she calls after snagging a lucrative book deal!

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