Why Get a Mentor?

I thought about getting a writing mentor for a long time. Then I came across two things (well, three) that decided it for me. The first was the Australian Writers Mentoring Program founded by Kathryn Heyman to offer high-level mentoring to new and emerging writers. I read everything on the website and researched the mentors, including Toni Jordan. Then I read an essay over at Writers Digest, How I Stopped Sabotaging My Writing Goals: Confessions of a Late Bloomer by Andrea Jarrell. In that essay she writes: "working with a more experienced writer has been an essential part of my path." For me, that was the clincher. And I knew after reading three of Toni's novels that she seemed a good fit. I just had to find the money.
Got a book in you? A mentor can help get it out.

I talked to my partner. He agreed that it was worthwhile making the investment in me and my writing. It would mean giving up that annual holiday to the Bahamas (haha .. we don't have an annual holiday to the Bahamas). And then Arts South Australia set up a new grant for Emerging Artists, and I applied for it. I find out this week if I've been successful in my application. The funds would cover the cost of the mentorship, plus some living costs. If my application isn't successful, plan B is to get some feedback on the application and reapply. In the meantime I have my part time job and my partner works full time so we're not going to starve or be homeless (my biggest fears when I'm catastrophising). And in the end, it's an investment in my writing career, and that's worth every penny.

So, I am now working with Toni Jordan to redraft my first novel, No Place for Children (working title). My first phone conversation with Toni was a short meet and greet in which we talked about how we might work together for the next six months. Toni's in Melbourne and I'm in Adelaide so we'll be using phone and Skype; but Toni will be in Adelaide for Adelaide Writers Week and I'll be in Melbourne for this year's Emerging Writers Festival, so at least 2 of the 5 sessions will be face-to-face. In that conversation we also talked about where the story started and the shape of it in broad terms. Toni also validated the story, which is not something I thought I needed to hear. But it turns out I did. If a fifteen minute phone call is indicative of how this mentorship will go, then I'm certain I've done the right thing.

Truth be told, I was at the stage in the writing where further rewriting risked destroying the story I already had. It was why I applied for the mentorship in the first place. I couldn't think of a better way to move forward. And I felt this story needed to be told. I didn't want it to end up in a drawer and me feeling that I'd failed.

Another reason I wanted this is for the deadline. I'm going to be rewriting 10,000 words a month for the next 5 months. Some of that rewriting will be editing but I'll also need to write  new material. 10,000 words isn't a lot when you're working solidly on it at least 3-4 days a week. But with no deadline, and all the other swirling thoughts and self doubt heaped on top, it can be an impossible task. I'll always remember the conversation I had with a much more experienced writer than me who told me that all writers need deadlines; he needed a deadline otherwise he'd be writing into a void and never get anything finished. That was a revelation to me. I thought well-established writers wouldn't have the same difficulties as novices, but perhaps they do. 

This isn't the first mentorhsip I've had either. When I decided to stop writing plays and write prose, I worked with the writer and teacher Dr. Threasa Meads. She gave me a grounding in the fundamentals of writing prose, an understanding of the work I needed to do, and an excellent reading list. Now that I've had my short work published and have drafted a longer manuscript, I need some guidance to get to the end. 
If you're considering a writing mentorship then I recommend it. Understand though, that your mentor will not do the writing for you. As Jarrell writes: "mentors are like midwives; they can help you but they can't do the birthing for you." 

This writing mentorship is the single biggest investment I've made in me and my writing in recent years. I'm so worth it.


Glenn Hayden said…
As always, the way you expose your process and your thoughts, fears, celebrations and continual unearthing of your self worth and worth of your art is, to say the very least, inspiring. As human and as artist.
Caroline said…
Thanks, Glenn. I appreciate the comment!