Last week I lost one of my mentors, and the world dimmed a bit more.
One of the special treasures I keep on my desk is this little “award” that he made for me, honoring one of my books. (Dancing for the General, which is finally coming out later this year, but that’s another story–for later.)
See what I mean about the world dimming?
We’ve all had friends and coaches and teachers and cheerleaders. Writers are fortunate to have many such helpful supporters in our lives. We’ve talked here on the blog about how amazingly supportive the writing community is.
But a mentor goes above and beyond all that.
While I’ve had countless dozens of the former, I can count on only one hand the number of true mentors in my life. And so I’ve been wondering what makes them different? How is a mentor more than just a friend, a coach, a teacher, or a cheerleader? A mentor is all of that and more. But what makes a mentor a mentor? Here’s how I spell it out:
Motivate. A mentor motivates us to want to write our best. Sure, mentors supply knowledge, but they also fuel our desire.
Encourage. Mentors believe in us, even when the rest of the world doesn’t. They stick with us and don’t give up on us. They see and understand our dreams, too.
Nurture. Mentors gently guide us along our career paths. They nourish our literary gardens. They help us pluck out the unsightly weeds, leaving only magnificent blossoms to open.
Time. There is no limit on a mentor’s time. They give their time freely, and they do so gladly. They are always there for us, for whatever we need. Sometimes it’s advice, but other times it’s just a shoulder.
One-on-one. Mentors give us their exclusive attention, blinding us to the point that we think we are the only one they are mentoring. (The truth is that there are usually many others.)
Relationship. The mentor’s relationship is one way to give back to the writing community. It’s what writers do, in exchange for all that we have gained from the generosity of other writers.
We never really graduate from the mentor relationship. We will keep on keeping on, and the writing community is richer for all those relationships.
Have you ever had a mentor, whether for writing or something else? I’d love to hear your insights!