This award-winning author explains how working with a writing mentor can help you achieve your goals and be more successful—but warns of the challenges that come along with it.
by Dr. Katherine Hutchinson-Hayes
After leaving school administration to pursue a career in writing, I went through a similar process I’d been through as a principal by finding and working alongside a mentor. Mentors are indispensable, and working with a mentor can be incredibly beneficial for authors, providing them with valuable opportunities to receive guidance and feedback on their work. However, there are specific challenges that authors may face when working with mentors. This article will discuss some of these challenges and how to overcome them.
One of the most significant challenges authors face when working with mentors is finding the right match. Finding a mentor who understands your writing style and goals, and who can provide constructive feedback tailored to your needs is important. If you need to be a better fit with your mentor, getting the most out of the experience can be challenging.
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Another challenge is balancing your mentor’s feedback with your vision for your work. While it’s vital to consider your mentor’s suggestions, you want to maintain your voice and style. Finding the right balance between incorporating your mentor’s feedback and staying true to yourself as a writer can be difficult.
Communication can also be a challenge when working with a mentor. It’s essential to establish clear expectations and boundaries and communicate openly and honestly about your needs and concerns. If you’re uncomfortable with something your mentor suggests, speaking up and voicing your opinion is paramount.
Working with a mentor is a process, and it takes time and effort to build a strong relationship. It’s important to be patient and open to feedback and to take the time to reflect on your work and your goals. With the right mindset and approach, working with a mentor can be an enriching experience to help you grow and develop as a writer.
Writing can be an isolated profession, but a mentor makes it more communal and less lonely.
In his interview with Susannah Hunnewell in The Art of Fiction No. 196 (The Paris Review), Nobel Prize–winning author Kazuo Ishiguro shares that writing was his second career. Originally, he was a musician, where he continually worked with mentors. He described dreading his MFA program and belonging to a writing community because of the expected “humiliation and scrutiny.” He explained that instead of humiliation, he experienced “growth, feedback, and confidence” working with writing groups and mentors. Later, Ishiguro had two impactful mentors. One taught him the business of writing and introduced him to his agent.
A unique quality about writing is it can be an isolated profession. A mentor makes writing more communal and less lonely. Also, keeping goals in writing is tough, but sticking to our goals is easier with a mentor. Here are five ways mentors help authors become successful and achieve their goals:
1. Provide valuable feedback. Authors work with mentors to learn the art of developing a thick skin and responding appropriately to input revisions and deadlines.
2. Promote growth. Mentors help establish a baseline from the first draft to the final copy. They can also help create a process for revision.
3. Procure consistency. Mentors require authors to develop good habits of having someone to report to, thus creating accountable writers.
4. Precise guidance. Mentors assist in finessing the craft and business of writing. They often have vital connections and insight. Sometimes, an author’s career can take off because of an introduction to the right person.
5. Prioritize goals. An honest mentor will encourage while also warning of the pitfalls of poor planning issues with style while exposing mentees to the art of setting and achieving goals.
A writing mentor will give you advice and feedback on your challenges and goals. When working with a seasoned mentor (who may come as an author, editor, or teacher), their guidance is based on their experience traveling to the places you want to go. While there may be challenges when working with a mentor, the benefits of having a trusted advisor to guide you through your writing journey can be immeasurable.
By finding the right match, balancing feedback with your vision, communicating openly, and being patient, you can make the most of the mentor-mentee relationship and take your writing to the next level. In every career, I’ve discovered they’re invaluable for authors. Behind the scenes, there are tears, revisions, and rejection because growth is painful. However, the pain is worth the growth. I’ve experienced success working with my mentor by achieving many of my writing goals.
Katherine Hutchinson-Hayes, Ed.D., is an author, speaker, educational consultant, and editor who has had her hand in leadership for many years. She loves speaking to groups and delivering messages with a quick wit and real-life stories. Katherine is a content editor and writing coach for Iron Stream Media and a sensitivity reader for Sensitivity Between the Lines. She also is a review board member and contributor to Inkspirations (an online magazine for Christian writers), and her writing has been published in Guideposts.
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