5 signs it’s time to find a mentor


You know you have the gift. You know you have the fire. Yet somehow you don’t seem to be able to move more deeply into your work. You skid up to deadlines at the last minute. You put off assignments. You have begun to dread the creating that you once not only loved, but needed to feel alive.

It might be time to look for a mentor. While a mentor teaches, he or she does more. The one-on-one relationship inherent in mentoring allows the two of you to explore not just your craft, but your relationship with your craft. We create for many reasons – for self-expression, to reach our readers, to educate, to inspire, and to honor people and places which have touched us – and most of us would like to earn our living through our creations.

You might want to find a mentor if:

1. You realize that your fire to create has outstripped your abilities.

Many of us dive into writing, film, photography with only our enthusiasm and a few basic skills. I see more and more writers who were not taught the basics of clean writing in their education. Sometimes, we start almost at the beginning when we work together. And it is always worth it.

2. You believe you are competent in your craft, but there is something missing.

You seem to have lost the fire that first burned in your work. A strong relationship of trust with a mentor can allow you and her/him to dig deeper into your relationship to your craft. He or she can ask the difficult questions and patiently be with you as you find the difficult answers. “Are you writing to please a mom or dad?” “Are you telling a story to get back at someone?” “Are you creating a video with the secret (maybe not so secret) hope that you’ll become famous?”

3. You feel as though what you have to say/show isn’t important.

You consider the vast amount of writing, photographs and videos on the internet and feel that you will just be a drop in an ocean. A good mentor can guide you back into the original urge with which you began “making.” Being read, being seen, being listened to was once, in many ways, easier. The internet has both created opportunities and a tsunami of creative work. Your mentor can help you ride that wave.

4. You have stalled out.

There are as many reasons for blocking as there are people creating. You will be able to work with your mentor to undermine the foundation of the block, a foundation that often has little to do with your talent or your craft.

5. You realize that you need a more informed opinion on your work than your friends or colleagues can give you.

You’ve gone over your writing, you image, your film so many times that you can’t examine it with fresh eyes. A trusted mentor can give you a new perspective – one that might just pop the work free into a new form.

How do you find a mentor? Cautiously. Ask friends. Ask former teachers. Ask an artist/writer you respect. One caution: be careful hunting on-line. There are more than a few “mentors” and “life coaches” lurking in cyberspace. Insist on at least three conversations before you commit to working with someone. Make sure their values (for excellence in creating and ethics) match yours. You may have to try more than one mentor. You’ll know when the match is right.

[Feature photo: kris krüg]

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