Often times one of the hardest things to deal with as a writer is a blank page. When faced with it you may find yourself looking for inspiration just about anywhere-your neighbors, the kids, the backyard, and of course the Internet. A good Google search can be your best friend when the first paragraph of your piece seems almost impossible to conjure up.
And in addition to these assistants, at some point or another a writer may also crave the support and inspiration of other writers. This is a pretty common occurrence. It may happen just due to the commonality of occupation, similar recounts of obstacles and victories, or just the overall connection that is present when you share the same experiences as someone else.
Likewise, the opportunities to connect are numerous.Sometimes it may be through a circle, group or forum, or a more personal encounter such as a writing buddy, friend, coach or mentor.
Choosing a mentor
You don't need a mentor to start your career as a writer. But as you tread down the path of composition, whether it be as a freelance writer, journalist, or author, you may eventually feel the need to enlist a little bit of help and support. And this is usually how the mentor-mentee relationship is initiated-you've noticed some flaws or undesirable traits in your writing and you want to improve or you feel alone in your craft (as many writers go on for years without co-workers) and are looking for some sort of mutual understanding, inspiration, or just a few good words.
There are different ways to go about mentorship. And the traditional or in-person one may not be for you. Firstly, not everyone can afford a writing coach or even prefer one. And secondly, even when it comes to volunteer mentors or coaches, sometimes you may not always have the time or flexibility to meet up and grab a notepad and coffee to get to work.
So like many writers you may find yourself in one of these categories; the good news is that your mentor doesn't need to know that they're your mentor. A beautiful relationship can develop after just a few good reads.
Leisure readings are priceless for obtaining several benefits with regards to writing style, approach, literary elements, and so on. Likewise, inspiration from other writers can come about unexpectedly-it can be something you've always known but never thought of in such a way, a fresh lens or perspective on a particular issue, or just the right amount of mental stimulation to get you moving in the right direction.
So who should you look to for writing inspiration and advice?This a good question. Since there are so many writers and authors to choose from, (many quite talented with much to offer along the lines of wisdom, tips and advice) it would actually be pretty difficult to come up with a comprehensive 'hotlist' of who to take from. Also your choice of writers and authors will likely be different from the next person's-depending on something unique that 'touched' you from their works or just your own personal preferences and experiences. Though keep in mind that a good writer is a good writer and you'll almost always know when you've found one.
Some common sense steps to take:
- Read: How can you learn anything without reading? Though you may be able to find some useful information via audio or visual, for the most part the medium of communication with writers is literature. To pick up some knowledge on the craft, such as writing techniques or methods, along with support and inspiration, you have to get out there-and read. *Writer's blogs and forums are also good sources for useful information as well, in addition to traditional printed text such as magazines, books, and newspapers.
- Evaluate: Just because someone is a well-known author doesn't mean that they'll be offering you the gems of advice and support you desire. Since you are searching for someone to take your wisdom from it would definitely be wise to set a criteria for evaluation. Nothing fancy but just a few basic guidelines. For instance, what are their credentials? How long have they been writing? What have they written? Do they reach out much, and if so are they helpful to fellow writers? And lastly, note that a lot of writers that make great mentors may only have a few published works-publication is not necessarily an indicator of talent or teaching capabilities.
- Compare: Finally once you've rounded up your candidates and are at work to see which one may fit the bill, you can take some time out to compare the authors or writers you've selected (based on what happens after you're done reading).
- Did you notice anything unique about their writing style that you particularly enjoyed?
- Did they in some way motivate you to write?
- Did you feel challenged and engaged as you read?
- Did you learn a new skill?
- Was your overall feeling a positive one?
- Would you recommend them to others?
Some words of advice from successful writers and authors
Jodi Picoult - Jodi encourages writers to write even when its difficult. She explains her view on the reality of writing.
"Write even when you don't feel like writing. There is no muse. Its hard work."
She also notes that there is no quick get-rich-guide to writing.
"If you write because you want to be rich, you're in the wrong business."
Pat Schneider - Pat shares some advice about being a successful writer and the importance of outside influences.
"A huge part of leading a disciplined writing life is having other people in your life who care about your writing, want it, believe in it, and encourage it ..."
Carol Sjostrom Miller - Carol suggest using the 'buddy system' when writing to improve productivity. Below she explains how to choose a 'buddy'.
"Your buddy must be someone you like, someone whose opinion you respect, and someone you feel comfortable sharing your writing with."
Scott Gold - Scott makes a good point about the benefit of blogging in today's world.
"Now you can still publish something even if its on a website and have it out there for people to see."
Larry Brooks - Larry also provides some insight into blogging.
"A blog is about your niche, your field of expertise, your message. Your blog is, in essence, a gift to your readers."
*Anyone of these writers or several others like them may fall under your shortlist for writing mentors or educators. There are hundreds to choose from, so just take your pick!
Drop your comments and questions below.