Copyright (c) 2012. All Rights Reserved.
http://writtencreativity.com
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

Table of Contents
Introduction……..……………………………………………….

3

Chapter 1: What is Mentoring …………...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

Introduction
In early 2010 I left formal employment and began a significant journey in my
c...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

you will find out how to recognize a good mentor, the benefits of being
mentored, and the v...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

Chapter 1 | What is mentoring?
There are many ways in which mentoring has been defined but ...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

where a special mentoring program is created to achieve certain objectives in the
lives of ...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

Chapter 2 | The Writing Mentor
A writing mentor is someone who is also a writer and takes t...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

Holding workshops and/or seminars to discuss specific topics e.g. how to
write a short stor...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

the ones who have been mentored by him/her. For instance, if the
potential mentor has a web...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

other words, you need an active mentor not a dormant or lazy person who
checks up on you on...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

Chapter 3 | Towards Greater Excellence
We all start out on the path of writing in different...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

Smart writing means that you take the time to ensure that the work you submit is
of good qu...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

Chapter 4 | The Exposed Writer
I am an avid blogger like many other writers, and part of my...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

When I joined AMKA it immediately became obvious that I needed to learn a lot
of things. I ...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

Chapter 5 | Navigating a New Landscape
Imagine that you have just arrived at the airport of...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

Navigating a new territory is always hard and unpredictable so having someone
like a mentor...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

identify what lines up with your goals as a writer. For instance, there are so many
competi...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

Chapter 6 | Shaping the Writer Inside
I would like you to stop and think for a moment. What...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

Using your best skill
When I first started writing I wanted to do everything – copywriting,...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

Chapter 7 | Accessing Mentorship
In this chapter you will get to know the various ways in w...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

people with the possibility of instant feedbacks. Online mentoring is simple and
easy and c...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

Writing forums/groups
This falls into the category of group mentoring mentioned earlier. Wo...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

Chapter 8 | Action points
Now that you have seen why being mentored is important and the ro...
Why You Need A Writing Mentor

ABOUT THE WRITER

I am a Kenyan Freelance Writer with a passion for helping
other writers s...
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Why You Need A Writing Mentor

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An eBook outlining the importance of writers getting quality mentor-ship especially when starting out on a writing career. The book is meant to be a handy resource for the writer who is seeking someone to walk them through the writing career.

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Why You Need A Writing Mentor

  1. 1. Copyright (c) 2012. All Rights Reserved. http://writtencreativity.com
  2. 2. Why You Need A Writing Mentor Table of Contents Introduction……..………………………………………………. 3 Chapter 1: What is Mentoring ………………………………………… 5 Chapter 2: The Writing Mentor ………………………………………. 7 Chapter 3: Towards Greater Excellence …………………………… 11 Chapter 4: The Exposed Writer ..………………………………………. 13 Chapter 5: Navigating a New Landscape …………………………… 15 Chapter 6: Shaping the Writer Inside ………………………………... 18 Chapter 7: Accessing Mentorship ..……………………………………. 20 Chapter 8: Action Points ……………………………………………………. 23 2
  3. 3. Why You Need A Writing Mentor Introduction In early 2010 I left formal employment and began a significant journey in my career that has gradually brought me to this point of writing an e-book. The journey has been very interesting and educative as well as dotted with mistakes that helped me to learn a lot more. I am here now because of what I have learnt from more experienced writers who understand the 'ins and outs' in this field. Right from the beginning I realized that passion for writing alone would not be enough to take me to the heights I desired; I made up my mind to read and learn as much as I could from the gurus as it were. This is how I got to be interested in the subject of a writing mentor. You probably already know that writing is a process that needs to be learnt. However, not every writer goes through some form of training to become one. Most of us just start out with the passion to write a story, poem, article, play or other type of writing but have no clue on how to progress further. In addition to that, writing is a profession just like any other and requires skill, which takes time and effort to develop. I have always believed that the fastest way to get to your destination is to ask directions from those who have gone there or used that route before. This saves you from making wrong turns or unnecessary blunders in your journey. Another prudent thing to do would be to walk the road with somebody else who serves as a wise companion giving valuable advice. This, dear reader, is the point of this book – to convince you of the need for a mentor in your journey to becoming the kind of writer you would like to be. If mentors exist in every other field, and I know they do, why not in the field of writing? Writing, especially freelance writing has its own set of pitfalls, tough battles and hurdles to be overcome by both novice and old hand. It is a field that is well-developed in some parts of the world but only just coming out in other parts. There is need to pass on best practices and useful knowledge to new generations of writers and also make it easier for others to be successful in this field. Although there are many expert writers out there for every kind of writing you can think of, not every one of them can function as a writing mentor. In this book 3
  4. 4. Why You Need A Writing Mentor you will find out how to recognize a good mentor, the benefits of being mentored, and the various ways to access mentorship. I have also included some action points at the end for you to implement. Edna R. Aluoch 2012 4
  5. 5. Why You Need A Writing Mentor Chapter 1 | What is mentoring? There are many ways in which mentoring has been defined but in a nutshell, it is the process by which a person or group of people are trained and nurtured to become better at what they are doing. During mentoring, a person's beliefs, attitudes, and ways of doing things is shaped and re-shaped to fit the goals of the mentoring process. New knowledge is also acquired that equips the mentored person for challenges in career and general life. All of this can happen directly and indirectly, consciously and unconsciously. For instance you can be mentored by attending training sessions in a particular field of study or you can simply read books written by an expert in that same field and follow what is written. Mentoring is seen as a relationship between two parties, the mentor and the mentee (or protégé). A mentor is like a teacher – imparting some form of instruction whether directly or indirectly, verbally or by action. The person does not always have to be older; if a younger person has more knowledge in a certain field then they will be in a better position to mentor someone with less knowledge in that field even if they are older in age. To begin a mentoring relationship, both parties have to agree and be willing. The mentor has to be willing to devote their time, attention and resources to the mentoring process, while the person being mentored has to be available for the training, instruction, guidance or whatever form the mentoring process will take. To be mentored effectively, one has to have a teachable spirit, and be easily corrected and instructed. Types of mentoring relationships In my research, I have discovered that there are different types of mentoring relationships, determined by the kind of arrangement between the two parties, the goal of mentoring, and the context of the mentoring process. First of all, there is Individual vs Group mentoring. Individual mentoring refers to a one-on-one relationship where focus is on one person at a time. Group mentoring, on the other hand, refers to situations where more than one person is being mentored at a time. This happens a lot in the education and social spheres 5
  6. 6. Why You Need A Writing Mentor where a special mentoring program is created to achieve certain objectives in the lives of a group of people. There is also Formal vs Informal mentoring. Formal mentoring occurs when there is a deliberate intent to learn, grow or develop wisdom through conversation (see www.mentoring-works.com). It is usually more structured and organized, with each party being informed of their boundaries and expectations from the other party. In most cases the mentee is matched with a mentor according to needs, goals, expertise, experience and other factors determined in the mentoring program. Informal mentoring occurs without deliberate intent, as when you happen to listen to a radio program, motivational speaker, friend, or colleague at work and apply their advice or teaching. It usually happens just by chance, even without the mentor being aware. Mentoring can also be viewed in terms of context. There is career mentoring which can occur at the workplace or in the context of work and career. This is where somebody more experienced in the field walks you through some exercises and monitors your performance. There are also personal development programs designed to help you become a better person as a whole, in terms of character, attitude, and lifestyle. Life-skills training programs also fall into this category. You might be wondering, which is the best type of mentoring relationship for writing? Well, it is up to you and your mentor to agree. It may be formal or informal, group or individual depending on the circumstances. Endeavor to choose what will work best for you especially if any or both of you are involved in some other career pursuit other than writing. Whatever you chose should be convenient, comfortable and easy to implement. 6
  7. 7. Why You Need A Writing Mentor Chapter 2 | The Writing Mentor A writing mentor is someone who is also a writer and takes the time (and sometimes resources) to help you develop your writing skills. He/she is interested in your progress as a writer and will often ask you questions, send you relevant material, point you to helpful sites and provide valuable information to help you grow. Mentors are very important people who play a pivotal role in a person's overall development. They will commit their time and effort to ensure maximum progress and good results. They are usually people who are motivated, hard working, focused and knowledgeable. However, you will find that sometimes you cannot get all you need from one source. You may find that you are benefiting from two or three mentors at the same time. You could be attending the training sessions of one person and also participating in a writers' forum organized by another person. This enables you to widen the scope of your experience and knowledge and thus make greater strides in your writing. There are many ways through which a writer can mentor another writer(s). Here are a few: Teaching in basic writing skills, e.g. the writing process, how to write a lead paragraph, how to write an essay, etc. Giving advice/tips about how to write and publish a book, right from conception of an idea all the way to choosing the publisher, marketing and even planning the book launch and book signing ceremony. Training on a specific category of writing, e.g. running a Film Lab for training screenwriters and directors. Creating a group, forum or organization for networking among writers (both online and offline networks). Members get to sample each other's works, exchange contacts for business, get new ideas, start new projects, discuss problems affecting their careers, and so on. Sending regular publications to a list of subscribers, e.g. newsletters, ezines and blog articles. These serve to enrich the writer's wealth of knowledge and keep them up to date with what is happening in the field. In return, subscribers are free to ask questions and get answers on topics that interest them. 7
  8. 8. Why You Need A Writing Mentor Holding workshops and/or seminars to discuss specific topics e.g. how to write a short story for children, why some writers don’t get their work published, what are the editing standards in the country, and so forth. Some seminars and workshops also train writers for specific skills, e.g. editing skills. Here, participants benefit from interaction with each other as well as with high-profile writers who can give them valuable tips. In some cases certificates of participation are also given, which can be used by the writer as indicators of effort to improve their writing. How to recognize a good writing mentor If you are looking for a writing mentor, you cannot just settle for anyone who claims to be a writer. Not everybody can make a good mentor even if they are excellent writers in their own right. There are certain qualities that you must look out for to ensure you have an enjoyable and worthwhile experience in the mentoring process. Mentoring is a process that requires you to work well with the other party; therefore you need to choose someone whom you can be comfortable with. The characteristics of a good writing mentor are more or else the same ones you would look for in any other kind of mentor; I have just applied them specifically to the writing field. Secondly they are not exhaustive; you may come up with your own set of qualities depending on what your needs are in the mentoring process. However, the ones listed below should serve as a guideline when choosing the right mentor: A desire to help: Look for someone who is generally interested in and willing to help others. This means that they are outgoing in nature and have a kind disposition. Why is this important? You are very likely to make some mistakes along the way and you will need this person to help out rather than condemn. A desire to help also manifests in the ability to share personal experiences, both positive and negative, allowing you to learn how to avoid the mistakes they made. The ability to open up like this also shows some level of maturity. Good reputation for developing others: Look for a person who already has experience in mentoring and then see if you can obtain testimonies from 8
  9. 9. Why You Need A Writing Mentor the ones who have been mentored by him/her. For instance, if the potential mentor has a website or blog showcasing their skills you could check out the feedback comments, or if you have friends who are being mentored you could ask them what their experience was. Colleagues in the same field can also be sought after for their honest opinion. This point is important because if the wrong choice is made then you might find yourself hopping from one mentor to the other with not so desirable results. Able to commit time & energy: Look for someone who has the time and mental energy to commit to the mentoring process. This means that they will show up for meetings if need be and be willing to respond to your questions as well as come up with exercises or activities that keep you both occupied and interested. Of course they shouldn’t overdo anything or smother you with stuff; they should be able to give you some space to work things out on your own. However, commitment is key to making the relationship work. Updated knowledge: Look for someone who keeps up with trends in your area of writing. For instance if you want to be mentored as a copywriter or content writer, your mentor should know about things like keyword research, creating traffic for a site, SEO tools and other terms commonly used in internet marketing. In other words, you need to be able to ask questions and get intelligent answers, not a blank look or raised eyebrows. Learning attitude: The common assumption in most mentoring relationships is that the mentor knows absolutely everything. However, think of your mentor as a helper who simply facilitates the learning process and is also able to glean new ideas from that process itself. Truth be told, we all need to learn from one another and sometimes you may come up with unique, original ideas that your mentor has never thought about. The willingness to learn from another person is usually a sign of humility. Initiative: Look for someone who is pro-active, i.e. can come up with the teaching/training methods, suggest learning materials (e.g. books), link you to relevant networks, help you come up with solutions when you are stuck or suggest possible solutions to problems, and be able to plan ahead. In 9
  10. 10. Why You Need A Writing Mentor other words, you need an active mentor not a dormant or lazy person who checks up on you only once in a while. Good communication skills: Communication is the basis of life; if there is to be life flowing in the mentoring relationship then there has to be regular and effective communication. Look for someone who has good communication skills to make the relationship work. However, this does not mean that the burden of communication is solely on the mentor; this is just a measure for decision-making purposes. Choosing the right mentor is often not an easy task. Sometimes you may choose someone and later on opt out of the mentoring relationship for one cause or another. The reason is simple: human beings are always subject to making mistakes and it is not impossible to find that you are no longer getting along well despite having worked together for some time. Another thing to note is that for you to choose the right mentor, you will need to first identify what kind of writing you would like to focus on. It usually makes more sense to specialize in one or two areas and become an expert rather than spread yourself thin over every kind of writing you can put your hands on. Once you know what you want to do then you can narrow your mentor choices down to specific people and focus on quality as opposed to quantity. 10
  11. 11. Why You Need A Writing Mentor Chapter 3 | Towards Greater Excellence We all start out on the path of writing in different ways; some with very good skills, some with just a little skill and some with no skill at all. We move on and become better writers in one way or the other, mostly with the help of a friend, forum, teacher or network group. At the end of the day, everyone needs improvement and to add on to what they already have. The Chinese have an apt expression for this: kaizen, which simply means 'constant improvement'. This is the key to excellence in every area of life. Excellence is really more about doing your best and going the extra mile than about being perfect. It is about daily looking for ways to do your work better than yesterday – constantly improving on whatever it is you are doing. What you have accomplished now may be good enough for today but tomorrow things will change and the standard is likely to be higher. This is especially so in our fastchanging, competitive world where ever-increasingly higher standards of performance are being required. Smart writing Excellence is a very important ingredient for writers. There is a common complaint among publishers that writers often fail to put their work through proper editing before presenting them for publishing. As a result there are many disappointed writers out there who have not been published simply because of this oversight. Not only that, I have also come across writers who submit articles with so many spelling and grammatical mistakes as well as poor formatting that simply disqualifies them from certain blogging and article marketing sites. In other words, their writing is of low standards. Proofreading and editing are an integral part of the writing process and are ignored only at the writer's own risk. They are basic tools that every writer needs to find access to, whether they do it directly for themselves or through a professional service. A piece of writing that is submitted without any proofreading and editing is a poor show of quality for that writer. On the other hand a writer who takes the time to do both is showing that a standard of excellence is in place. I call this smart writing. 11
  12. 12. Why You Need A Writing Mentor Smart writing means that you take the time to ensure that the work you submit is of good quality, in the same way that any other service must be delivered with high standards for it to be marketable. This is where the writing mentor comes in with training in basic writing skills, i.e. what it takes for you to be called a good writer. As time goes by, you will keep adding on to these skills through practice, more training, exposure to different types of writing assignments, and networking with other writers. Strengthening your writing skills should be an on-going process throughout your life as a writer. Remember that no-one can do it for you; it is your personal responsibility to take the steps necessary for improving your skills. I often view excellence as a ladder that must be ascended upwards steadily at the pace of the climber, rather than a specific point that must be reached at all costs. Excellent writing does not happen overnight; it is something that is consciously developed over time with input from other more experienced writers so do not be too worried if you do not get spectacular results immediately. Working towards excellence In practical terms, working towards excellence means setting a goal (or goals) that you would like to achieve in the short/long term. Short-term goals are those that you expect to achieve over a period of one year while long term goals generally stretch beyond that. Once you have clear goals, share them with your mentor and together you can design ways to achieve them. Alternatively, write down the steps you need to take to achieve the goals and ask your mentor how he/she can be of help in that process. They may not work with you on a full-time basis but they can chip in by way of suggestions, introducing you to an expert, or sending you helpful information. 12
  13. 13. Why You Need A Writing Mentor Chapter 4 | The Exposed Writer I am an avid blogger like many other writers, and part of my blogging life revolves around scouting for blogs that make a good read (I get lots of inspiration from other bloggers). In the process of doing this often I get to learn what other writers are thinking and what their experiences are. I came across one particular blogger who mentioned in a post that writers are often lonely, a situation that adds to various other difficulties encountered in the writing journey. I found this interesting in light of the fact that there are hundreds (if not thousands) of freelance writers out there on the cyberspace, most of them doing similar kind of work. If you doubt this, check the number of people who run blogs, subscribe to active writers' forums or publish books, including self-publishers. This left me thinking, is it really true that writers are lonely or do they just create that loneliness with their actions (or lack of action)? Whatever the answer is, I firmly believe that writers should not be lonely at all. Every writer belongs somewhere; you just need to find the right place to fit in. A lonely writer is like a piece of wood trying to catch fire on its own just a few meters away from a bonfire. A single piece of wood remains cold and ineffective but once it gets into the bonfire with other wood it burns brightly. Exposed Writer A year and a half ago I began to attend a local literature forum, AMKA – Space for Women's Creativity, and discovered what it means to be what I call an exposed writer. Prior to that I had been all on my own, spinning poems, short articles and unfinished stories by the month (I wasn’t writing that frequently). For some reason I thought I could make it on my own almost like Anne Mustoe in Lone Traveler: One Woman, Two Wheels and the World. It was hard hacking it alone. Of course I was doing quite a bit of reading and research on the net but I still felt inadequate as a writer looking to establish a freelance career. Then one day, a friend I absolutely respect asked me how I was doing in my writing and I replied that it was not picking up as I expected. He suggested that I look for "people of like-precious-faith" to mingle with, meaning people who have a similar passion for writing, and that is exactly what I did. 13
  14. 14. Why You Need A Writing Mentor When I joined AMKA it immediately became obvious that I needed to learn a lot of things. I spent the first few months simply listening to the discussions, without submitting any of my work or offering my critique to other writers, though the forum encourages members to do both. Mingling with other writers on a regular basis provided not only a sense of belonging but also opened the door to opportunities I wouldn’t have accessed on my own. It was through this forum that I got my first short story published in an anthology, Fresh Paint: Literary Vignettes by Kenyan Women. I equate this literature forum with the bonfire mentioned earlier. It is healthy for writers to stay close, work together, and uphold each other especially during difficult times, which are bound to come. Every writer's journey has its own set of unique experiences, both good and bad; it helps to share these with someone who understands, or better yet, someone who has more experience in the field. In the process of rubbing shoulders with other writers in different settings you become 'exposed'. As a result, you get to expand your own thinking and embrace new ideas and developments in the writing field. The exposed writer is one who is able to take advantage of learning tools and opportunities offered during the mentoring process and translate them into success. Mentoring is very much a learning process but the responsibility of ensuring that the learning takes place lies more heavily on the shoulders of the one being mentored. The mentor will offer the exposure needed through networks, writing forums, workshops, seminars, books and the like but the mentee has to make use of that which has been offered and move forward. The exposed writer is therefore neither working alone, nor missing out on important events that can help to build his/her writing career. Have you been feeling alone? You do not need to. Don’t accept it. Find a way to connect with other writers and do not fear to let them know your needs. Remember the saying that in one person lies the possibility of connecting with 100 other people; so don’t ignore an invitation to network with other writers. 14
  15. 15. Why You Need A Writing Mentor Chapter 5 | Navigating a New Landscape Imagine that you have just arrived at the airport of a city that you have never been to before, thousands of miles away from home. For some reason, you were not able to book a hotel in advance so you need help choosing one. You did not have an appetite throughout the trip and avoided eating anything so you also need to find a restaurant or café because you are starving after a five-hour flight. No-one around seems to be concerned with your lone figure standing silently in the middle of the airport lounge. You try to recall names of hotels you have heard of or seen in travel magazines but your brain registers a blank page. Suddenly, you remember a tour guide company that was highly recommended by a friend before you left home. You quickly reach into your pocket and pull out a brochure which provides their contact details. Their offices are located right next to the airport lounge and they recommend a pocket-friendly guesthouse in the outskirts of the city; a quiet, secluded area surrounded by beautiful foliage – just what you needed for your writing project. They offer a variety of cuisine and their rooms are excellent. A taxi is provided for your trip to the guest house. Sounds too perfect? Maybe, but it sells my point that getting your way around a foreign place is not easy without a guide. Getting your way around the world of writing, freelance or not, is no mean task either. As mentioned earlier, there are very many freelance writers out there working hard not only to make ends meet but also to stand out as professionals in the field. There are also many others who are striving to be authors of books. If given the chance, each one would have a story to tell; a narrative of their personal journey to becoming the writer they are today. Some stories would be long and others short; some would be anecdotal and others more sobering. Whatever the case, they would probably yield valuable insights for the one who is starting out as a writer. They are like maps to guide a user on where to step, what to avoid, where the danger lies and so forth. The stories of other writers' experiences – verbal or written and published – are a great source of wisdom for the novice. They tell you in plain and simple language what would probably take you months or years to discover for yourself. They effectually make your writing journey easier. 15
  16. 16. Why You Need A Writing Mentor Navigating a new territory is always hard and unpredictable so having someone like a mentor to guide you lessens the burden of finding out the right direction on your own. Based on previous experience, a mentor will give you tips like where to get relevant information, who to link up with, what new opportunities are available, and so on. Recognizing good opportunities It is said that opportunities are usually like windows that open suddenly at a particular time and can close anytime. They are also said to come 'dressed in work-clothes' so that those who are averse to hard work rarely notice the opportunity. In the world of writing the best opportunities tend to be hidden in unlikely places and are mostly in the knowledge of a few people. Sometimes one has to dig deep and search wide to find a good place to submit your work or get assignments. Even when you come across some opportunities that look promising it is only after you try it out that you will know whether it was really worthwhile. Take guest blogging, for example. This is one of the most important things to learn about if you want to be a successful blogger regardless of your field. There are many guest blogging opportunities out there for writers. However, to get maximum benefit one has to go to specific sites that have the kind of audience you want to attract. Once you identify a good site (or sites), you have to at least spend some time familiarizing yourself with how the site operates, what kind of articles are accepted, who is in charge of guest posts, what are his/her expectations, and so on. The next step after that would be to send a pitch (short write-up of what you intend to write about) to the contact person for guest posts and wait to receive feedback. Obviously all of this takes time, which you may not always have, and furthermore, that feedback may never come! A good mentor would cut short this process or eliminate it altogether by first leading you directly to the right site then helping you tailor your articles to that specific audience. You can avoid all the common mistakes that writers make when they are guest blogging for the first time, by paying close attention to instructions and suggestions from your mentor. A good mentor would also teach you how to recognize and harness good opportunities. It requires practiced skill to size up an opportunity and determine what kind of fruits it will yield. Besides, not everything is beneficial; you need to 16
  17. 17. Why You Need A Writing Mentor identify what lines up with your goals as a writer. For instance, there are so many competitions for poems and short stories, each having its own set of rules for entry and for winning the prizes. Such opportunities are generally good exposure for unpublished writers but you have to be able to identify what suits you best. 17
  18. 18. Why You Need A Writing Mentor Chapter 6 | Shaping the Writer Inside I would like you to stop and think for a moment. What kind of writer are you? Is that what you have always wanted to be, or do you want to be something other than what you are right now? These are the two questions I find very useful in my own journey because they help me to keep my goals in sight and to continue pressing on toward them. They are questions that are also very useful when training writers or teaching a writing class. Certainly, they are helpful questions for the one who wants to step into a writing career. All of us are striving to be a certain kind of writer. As much as we may share a similar gift (that of writing creatively) it is to be expressed in individual unique ways that reflect who we are on the inside. Writing is not only the transfer of thoughts and ideas onto paper, it is also the communication of an inner personality that belongs only to the particular writer, enabling the external world community to both know and celebrate him/her. Ultimately, we express the creative genius of the Creator who bestowed that gift in the first place. This is probably the best fulfillment one can ever get from writing. The Writer's Voice Simply put, this is the unique expression of the individual writer that sets him/her from other writers even if their work happens to be similar. It is the way a writer 'says' something or communicates an idea, so it has to do with language. Developing your own voice as a writer is crucial to standing out in the minds of your readers, such that they are able to recognize your work every time you write. This is especially useful for poets and writers of novels who need to develop a relationship with their audience/readers. Shaping your voice takes time and an ability to write honestly and sincerely (from the heart). It also requires being patient with yourself in spite of mistakes that you make, however horrible they may seem. Sometimes you will find that voice very easily but other times it will seem very elusive and hard to define. However, with a little help from your mentor, the task becomes easier as you learn various tricks and tactics to make yourself stand out. 18
  19. 19. Why You Need A Writing Mentor Using your best skill When I first started writing I wanted to do everything – copywriting, blogging, short stories, poetry, essays, name it! I didn’t really mind what kind of writing it was, I just wanted to do it! Now I look back and see that initial period as similar to a toddler who is just beginning to crawl or walk. The use of legs for the first time opens up new and exciting opportunities for a child and the ability to get to places faster all on their own is probably breathtaking. I realized soon enough that I could not feasibly do everything as I thought; unless I wanted to become a jack-ofall-trades and master of none. It was in my best interests to focus on specific kinds of writing in order to derive maximum benefit out of my gift. This would be more in line with my goals as a freelance writer. I began to ask myself, which is my best skill? What can I write best without much struggle? This led me to thinking about who I really am on the inside because that is what would come out in my writing. I am still in the process of shaping the writer within me and hope that one day it will stand out as clear as the blue sky. If you can identify and build your individual writing skill you will be better placed to succeed in whatever writing you want to do. Your best skills will open doors for you to develop your writing career to higher levels. However, sometimes it is hard to identify what is inside of you and you may need someone else to 'see' it for you. Recognizing another person's gift is usually much easier than recognizing your own. It could be a result of low self-esteem, in which case consistent encouragement would be a good solution. Once the skill is identified it needs to be sharpened day by day in the direction of becoming better and better until the world begins to recognize that a new writer is on the scene. 19
  20. 20. Why You Need A Writing Mentor Chapter 7 | Accessing Mentorship In this chapter you will get to know the various ways in which you can access mentorship and the pros and cons of each. There are two principle things that stand out about mentoring and you must always keep them in mind: it is a process and a relationship. As such it takes place over a period of time which can either be defined at the start of the process (happens mostly in formal programs) or left open in an informal kind of way. During that process change, growth and development will take place that will put you in a different position from the one in which you were when the mentoring started. For that reason, you or your mentor may feel the need to change the method of mentoring to suit where you are at the time. For instance, you could move to a different city where it is not possible to have face-to-face meetings but you can use emails and chat. Be as flexible as possible to make the needed changes and do not limit yourself to only one way of getting mentored. Varying the process allows you to reap the best from each. One-on-one mentoring This is a process whereby you have regular interactions with your (one) mentor which can be pre-arranged or spontaneous although the former is more useful. This is the most common way to getting mentored and is the most effective. It allows face to face interaction and gives you exclusive access to your mentor which is not always possible with other methods. This way, you get more time and attention from your mentor. There is a lot that you can do together that would not be possible in a group setting. The other side of it is that it tends to be more restrictive in nature since you are limited to that person's knowledge and abilities. Online Mentoring As the name suggests, this is mentoring that takes place via the internet. It is a method that is increasingly becoming popular as more and more people around the world access internet facilities. The ability to chat, exchange emails and read e-books using various applications has opened wide the door to multiple mentoring processes. Information can be shared across a wider cross-spectrum of 20
  21. 21. Why You Need A Writing Mentor people with the possibility of instant feedbacks. Online mentoring is simple and easy and can be used in combination with one-on-one mentoring above. You can opt for online mentoring if you are familiar with the internet and use it very frequently. It is also suitable for those who run busy lives and/or are not able to go out of the house for one reason or another, e.g. a housewife or a sick person. Online mentoring can be applied in the following ways: (a) Use Skype: The advantage with Skype is that you can chat as well as make video/non-video calls. A video call brings you as close as possible to face-to-face interaction which happens to be one of the most effective means of communication. However, it is limited only to those who have Skype on their computers or can access it in a cyber café, which is not very common. (b) Listen to podcasts and webinars: These are mostly accessed when you sign up or register with a specific site (they are often open to members only). Some will require some form of payment which may act as a barrier but the information you get may well be worth the money. If you are the kind of person who enjoys listening to a lecture as opposed to reading a book or having a conversation with someone then this could be for you. Reading This is essentially a kind of mentoring that takes place through influence. The reader is influenced by the ideas set forth in books and articles. It is a very limited kind of mentoring since there is very little, if any, interaction with the author. There is no place for asking questions and getting answers unless you get the contact details of the author and write them an email or request for a meeting. Furthermore, you are limited to the subject dealt with in the book you are reading, which may not be sufficient for your needs. You also have to do quite a bit of research to find out which books to read. On the other hand, if you aspire to write your own books then reading other people's works would be a very good idea. Reading exposes you to a lot of information and can be done at a pace you are most comfortable with. 21
  22. 22. Why You Need A Writing Mentor Writing forums/groups This falls into the category of group mentoring mentioned earlier. Workshops and seminars for writers can also be included here. Writing forums are places of networking and stimulating interaction where you can learn a lot. One of the advantages is that there is room to practice and get instant feedback. For instance, members often submit poetry, articles or stories, which are then discussed or critiqued by fellow writers. Such forums are also able to deal with a wide variety of subjects in one sitting, as when two or three speakers are invited to moderate various topics. The only disadvantage is that mentees do not get individual attention unless they take the initiative to approach the leaders. As a result it is possible to be a member for years and not make much progress in your writing. You can counter this by being pro-active and making sure you get your needs sorted out. 22
  23. 23. Why You Need A Writing Mentor Chapter 8 | Action points Now that you have seen why being mentored is important and the role it plays in a writer's life, what is the next thing? Look for a mentoring opportunity, of course! If you want you can give yourself a 'trial period' during which you evaluate what difference it makes for you. The time period is basically your choice but I would recommend not less than six months. At least in that span you can be able to tell if there is any significant growth or change. 1. Start by first deciding what kind of writing you want to do in the long-run. I know this may be easier said than done, but it is important as it will inform your writing goals as well the kind of mentoring you choose. If you can't keep to one then choose not more than three. 2. Set your writing goals. You can divide them into short and long term goals. Be as honest and realistic as possible. 3. Do your research – find out about writing forums, high-profile writers in your field, authors, books, etc. 4. Do not have many mentors. Start with one person and focus on quality not quantity. 5. Keep evaluating your mentorship needs by tracking your progress over time. Use that to inform the kind of mentoring you settle for at different points in time. 6. Always keep in mind that mentorship is an on-going process and there is no set time limit for it unless you or your mentor decides to end it. Therefore, do not make any hasty decisions. Always take your time, evaluate, ask questions, dig deeper, compare notes with others then make a wise decision. 7. Enjoy the journey to becoming a writer! Make sure you share this book with friends, family and associates. . 23
  24. 24. Why You Need A Writing Mentor ABOUT THE WRITER I am a Kenyan Freelance Writer with a passion for helping other writers succeed in their calling. To do this, I run the website writtencreativity.com as a platform for promoting upcoming writers and their craft. As a writer, I major on newsletters, short stories, blogs and poems. You can follow also follow me on Facebook, or @EdnaOdongo (twitter). 24

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