5 ways to get the most out of your mentor


Forget that mean English teacher you had in grade school. Forget memorizing dry rules that don’t make sense. Forget trying to get it right for a film or video teacher you just can’t seem to please. While a mentor teaches, he or she can also do much more for you and your writing.

One of the gifts of working with a mentor is that you are not graded. In the long run, you are the judge of your own progress. Those of us who mentor work with you to build layer upon layer of craft – and even deeper, to help you trust in your creativity. Here are five ways you can get the most out of your work with your mentor.

1. Let your mentor know as soon as you begin working together about any questions you have about your craft.

Tell them areas that you know you need work in. Ask them to tell you about their beliefs about creativity and their own standards for strong work. When you open up with them, you are essentially telling them how you’d like them to work with you.

2. Send them your work and they will respond.

Take your time. You are not in a race for some imaginary finish line. Read their comments more than once, check out any links they might include in their comments. Wait a day, then read their thoughts again. You may agree. You may disagree. Try to use as many of their ideas for this first revision.

3. Work with your mentor.

Wait for their second round of comments. Tell them the ones you agree with – and the ones you don’t like. It’s often good at this stage, to talk person to person – phone, Skype, Face Time – or, if you are lucky, over coffee in a local café. Listen to their take on your take. Use what you can – and leave the rest.

4. Work with your second revision.

Make it a blend of your mentor’s suggestions and your own intuition. Again, take your time. Unless you have a publication deadline, you have all the time you need to hone, shape and refine your craft. Perhaps try in the second revision to use a suggestion you don’t like. See where it takes you.

5. Ask your mentor to point you toward resources you can use to enrich the connection.

I tell my writing students that the only book they will ever really need is Steven Pressfield’s War of Art. In fact, his book is invaluable for creatives in any medium.

Finally, give your mentor feedback about what is working and what makes you want to bail. Transparency is a gift to each member of a connection.

Photo: Arkangel

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