Friday, March 25, 2011

Happy Writers Society: Grab A Mentor

Today's post is brought to you by SM Schmidt, who is a long time reader of this blog and a fellow nerd. I am so glad she decided to send this along, because it's an idea I've never thought of and I think it could be really helpful! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Grab a Mentor
People love big statistical numbers that point toward your failure.
These same people will happily tell you writing is a crapshoot, hardly
anyone succeeds, and they wish they had time to write but they’re busy
having a life. Things we as writers already knew and gee, thanks for
reminding me that I really do miss tv.

So what do you do to keep a professional game face on twitter and (if
you have one) your blog? Obviously this means you won't be
descriptively giving this person a horrific death and sharing it with
the world anytime soon. But next time you sit down to write, alone
with your imagination, those doubts will be in the back of your mind
haunting you. Here is the scary part of writing that separates the
would be from the doers. We’re alone when we write. There is no wise
coach yelling at us from the sideline, no teammates to pick up our
slack, no curve to upset except our previous work.

How can we stay happy writers then if naysayers and dream suckers
disrupt where the stories live? You can grab a mentor to keep you
company and ward off such bad juju. I don't mean an actual person.
That could be boring or hard to manage. A book from an author you
identify with is the mentor I suggest. Mine happens to be Barbara

As I write, when the doubts creep on me and leave the cursor blinking
for more than a few seconds, I look over to the book I choose. It
reminds me in a voice I think of as Barbara Hambly’s to focus the
doubt and find the real source. I ask myself is this doubt really
about my odds or is it because my character is flat, this scene has no
purpose or could I be unloading more conflict? I make that doubt
professional craft fodder and banish it with the aid of a mentor who
waits to give me that little boost.

Because sometimes it is too scary to talk about those sort of doubts
with a cheerleading family member, friend or fellow writer in the
trenches. Their biased praise really isn’t the fail proof cure for it.
The doubt isn’t always going to go away so easily, that’s what
chocolate and hugs are for too. If writing was simple as always
feeling good nothing would ever be written, however, having a secret
weapon doesn’t hurt either.


  1. I am still happily in that place were I have not been crushed and am completely convinced that I am going to make it.

    Its still a deep passion of mine that I have had for as long as I can remember. I was making up my own storys as a little kid.

    So I dont know what you mean, I hope I never find out, becuase as I saw. Im just super convinced that I am going to make it.

  2. I find the same encouragement from Gail Carson Levine. She has a writing book, but all of her books seem to whisper inspiration to me. Which sounds cheesy, but still.

  3. This is a great post. We need all the encouragement we can get in a world so full of doubt and insecurities. Thanks for a great idea.

  4. This really is a great post. I recently found a book that offers this kind of mentor-ship to me. Writing truly is a solitary experience in so many ways. We often need to reach out for encouragement in tough times (like rejection). The nice thing about a book or fellow author's work is that it doesn't talk back.

  5. This is a very helpful post -- well, it is for me anyhow. Thank you so much for the advice. I honestly never would have that to pick out a "mentor" in such a way. But I really like the concept and plan on picking it up. Hopefully, when I'm ready to quit and go turn on the tv or get lost in someone else's book, my "mentor" will kick my butt back on track.

  6. As usual, a great post, Natalie. Sometimes making time to write reminds me of being on a diet. I'm surrounded by saboteurs. People who profess their confidence in my ability to do this and succeed, yet seem to go out of their way to distract me or interfer with time I've made clear I meant to use for writing. And it's not like I don't already have a full-time+ job.

    You have such good taste. I love Barbara Hambly.

  7. What a thoughtful post. I found this while looking for some info for Barbara Hambly, and am so glad I did. Natalie and readers, you'll be glad to know that 17 of Barbara's titles are now available in ebook format for the first time ever.

    More information about this, and a documentary-quality, short video featuring Barbara talking about her inspiration, writing life and writerly journeys here:

    Keep up your inspiring posts!
    - Lauren