5 Reasons You Need a Writing Mentor (and How to Find One)

    writing mentor - 2 boys reading

    This writing business can be a lonely endeavor. We’ve all been there. Self imprisoned in our lonely garrets – or more likely behind our laptops. Reaching out to the world with our writing but feeling helpless and alone.

    Fear not fellow writers. There is hope. I’ve recently discovered a wonderful way to overcome the fear and feel connected with the rest of the world. Let me introduce you to the benefits of finding yourself a writing mentor.

    Benefits of a writing mentor

    1. Confidence boost
    To give your confidence a well deserved boost, there’s nothing like having another writer who you respect and admire take an interest in you and your writing.

    2. Inspiration
    Talking (or emailing) someone who has already achieved some of your own goals can be incredibly inspirational – not to mention motivating. It’s all about bringing it to life and making the path to success a little clearer.

    3. Contacts – opening doors
    The world of publishing is notoriously tough and unfortunately it is still often all about who you know. Having a well connected mentor can be a way to gain some introductions. But you should never expect this as a given – it’s up to the generosity of your mentor. Nor should you forget that all the best contacts won’t overcome a lack of commitment or talent.

    4. Help you achieve your dreams
    Having access to someone who has already achieved similar goals can be invaluable. We all learn from our experiences so why not make the most of someone else’s wisdom rather than re-inventing the wheel yourself.

    A mentor may open you eyes to possibilities you haven’t even dared to dream.

    5. Impartial constructive feedback
    Hollow flattery can be easier to come by than genuine constructive feedback. No one is perfect and we all need to be reminded from time to time. If we aren’t made aware of our short comings and what we need to do to improve, we’ll never learn and grow as writers – or as people for that matter.

    How to choose a mentor.

    There ís no script. I found the best thing is to figure out what you need to get your writing on track. If it’s introductions then go for someone established and well known, if it’s inspiration go for someone whose work you love reading. You don’t need to limit it to one mentor.

    If you don’t know of anyone suitable, seek out your local writers center. Or look online – maybe your favorite blogger can help? Be brave. There is no harm in asking – the worst they can do is say no.

    How it works day to day

    Just as in life, every relationship is different – so is every mentoring situation. You’ll figure it out as you go along. The first time I met my mentor I had a list of questions but didn’t referred to them once.

    These days before we meet (which might be as little as once every 2-3 months) I send my mentor some of my writing. It makes for a good starting point. She tells me her thoughts, which have been extremely helpful and we take it from there.

    I also discuss my goals with my mentor so I can get guidance on whether I’m being realistic and of course some direction on the best approach to achieve them.

    In the modern age there’s no need to meet face to face (although I do find my mentor’s availability increases if I offer to buy her a glass of vino or two).

    Want to fast-track your development as a writer? Join the Budding Writer’s Lab CLICK HERE to find out more.


    Image courtesy of Pixabay

    About the author

      Jules Clancy

      Follow Jules at Stone Soup

    • teendudes says:

      So my next step should be searching a mentor !!!! Thanks for making my vision more clear.

    • I’ll echo the advice of Natalie Goldberg, author of “Writing Down the Bones.” If you take a class from a writing instructor or, in this case, take on a mentor, make sure the person is writing. Goldberg wisely points out that if the person isn’t writing it means they have a very strong inner critic, and they will turn that inner critic on you.

      Her good friend Julia Cameron, author of “The Artist’s Way,” says find a “friendly reader.” Critical readers or mentors could crush the spirit of an aspiring writer before he or she has a chance to develop.

    • Omar says:

      I love having people read my work and offer criticism. Even though I may not like it. Thanks for the tips on finding a mentor.

    • Before I comment I just want to declare an interest. I run a company called BubbleCow that provide mentors to writers, but I am hoping this doesn’t turn into a plug. (well that bit was a plug but you know what I mean…)

      When we started BubbleCow we knew there was a need for good writer mentoring, but even we were shocked by the number of writers that have shown an interest.

      I think that the perfect model for mentoring is similar to the support that is offered by post graduate creative writing courses. I have found that writers are looking for three vital elements. The first is support and critical feedback. By this I mean that writers not only need constructive analysis of their work but also pragmatic advice on how to improve. The second is a writing framework. Many writers need an ‘excuse’ to write and having a mentor breathing down your neck can be great motivation. The third is market knowledge. A good mentor will not only help with the text but also have an insight in the market. This will allow their feedback to not only direct your writing towards the most publishable format, but also provide advice on where to go to see your work in print.

      Yet it is not all rosy. My advice for any writer looking for a mentor is to make sure that they can fulfil all three of these criteria. You are looking for a published writer, with in-depth market knowledge and the time to commit to your work. Not an easy combination. I would also suggest that writers are ultra realistic about what they expect to get from the relationship. At BubbleCow we only take on writers we feel have a chance at producing a manuscript of publishable quality. If your work is never going to reach this standard then the best mentor in the world will be wasting their time if the goal in to see the book in print,

      Hope this helps…

    • Eric C says:

      Where do you get one?

    • joylene says:

      I’m lucky, I’ve had some great mentors. Still do. And return I’m mentoring a few of my own. Thanks for the spot-on post.

    • tea_austen says:

      Great post, Jules–I definitely agree. I always say that writing may be a solitary pursuit, but having a writing career requires community. I’ve made a point to stay in touch with friends from old writing groups, old writing jobs. We support each other and trade advice, knowledge, editor contacts, job offers we can’t take on at the moment. If you can find others who are not competitive, it’s invaluable.

    • Greta says:

      Having a mentor in general is important. People don’t realize how a mentor can guide you quickly through the scary places that stop us from moving forward.

      Thanks for the great blog,

      Greta Jaeger, LPC, CPLC

    • Kaushik says:

      Great idea! Finding someone resonant is tricky though.

    • jules says:

      thanks for all the great comments guys

      so glad to hear there are others out there who have experienced the benefits of a mentor – and happy there are a few who have been inspired by this post.

    • Kittie Howard says:

      Jules, Thanks for sharing some great ideas. Writing shouldn’t be a lonely process but one of growth and fulfillment. Yes, yes, a mentor would add much.

    • Rebecca says:

      I’m grateful for my screenwriting coach. Not only does she gives us helpful hints, she shows us the proper way to write a screenplay. We get to correct our mistakes without struggling through the process. We discuss different aspects of the screenplay such as scenes, dialogue, log lines, etc…It’s been very helpful. I will be thanking her in my Oscar and Emmy speeches 🙂

    • Patrice says:

      Great idea! I’ve never had the joy of having a “mentor” per say, but I do see its benefits. I hope one day I will have the opportunity to give back something I never had but would have appreciated. Thanks!

    • Anne Walls says:

      Jules- what a great article. So many writers just starting out feel isolated in the process, and having a mentor who has been there and in some ways succeeded is really key. The point about discussing goals with them is brilliant, and necessary. Thanks so much for the post!

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Jules, You make some great points. So often, people mention writing being a “lonely endeavor,” but stop there. Taking it that step further to explain that 1) It doesn’t have to be and 2) Ways to make it less so is more helpful than a common declaration.

      As someone new to online writing, I’ve found reading blogs tailored to freelance writing (Thursday Bram is a favorite!) has provided a lot of insight, but taking that extra step towards creating a personal connection would be all the more powerful.

    • Thanks Jules – great tips!

      I’m a life coach and have buddy coaches, but I invested in a mentor when I went for coach certification. It really works. A coach’ll bring out the best in you, and help you unlock your own answers, but I also love learning from folk who know much more than me and do them better; being mentored is a different dynamic.

      I’ve found it’s important to have a mentor whose energy inspires you, one who doesn’t let you indulge in pity parties or join you down in the rabbit hole when you over-explain yourself into analysis paralysis. At the moment, I’m learning a lot about novel writing from Larry at Story Fix.

    • Mentors are so important in most things we do in life. If you want to be the best at something then learn from the best.

    • Jonny | thelifething says:

      Everyone needs a mentor…and not just for writing.

      Since traveling I have been without a mentor and I believe that I am the worse for it.

      This post has inspired me to get my act together and get myself one so thankyou.

    • Hey Jules! I’ve definitely been blessed with a lot of great mentors and teachers. And I can see the impact they’ve had on my life. Thanks for the great article!

    • Great article Jules. I think having a mentor can make especially a new writer like me feel hope in the tough writer’s market. Even if they can’t change the nature of the business, they can let you know you’re not struggling alone.

      In addition to having a long term relationship with a true mentor, I’ve been able to get help from writers who were not mentors but who were willing to give that quick hit of encouragement, direction, or suggestions. I think writers as a group are very generous with their time, even the famous ones.

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