Edward Owen – Author

The Million Dollar Mentor

CHWG new logo 2

No human being on this planet was ever born knowing how to do anything except cry. As babies, our survival depends on our ability to get food, shelter and our diaper changed. An argument could be made that crying is an instinctual behavior and not the result of conscious thought. That would mean that we are actually born knowing nothing and all of our behaviors are indeed learned. For the sake of argument (and getting to the point of this post) we’ll go with that premise.

At some point, someone taught you to read (a safe assumption given the nature of our current communication). Unless you were a prodigy, they didn’t just hand you a copy of ‘War and Peace’ and let you go to it. Or even ‘Fun with Dick and Jane’. Nope, most likely they read stories to you first. In my opinion, this is one of the most important things parents can do for their children. The fact that my mother read to me when I was little is the biggest single reason I’m a writer today. I was reading on my own before I started kindergarten. The point is, someone with a skill (reading) showed me how to do it. And I later showed my boys. Once we end up in school, our teachers normally take over this role.

Mentoring has many similarities to teaching. One person is passing along knowledge to another. However, whereas in teaching the student often has little or no ability at all, I would argue that a mentor is one who helps us improve skills we already possess. Let me explain.

If you are unable to write because you do not know how to spell words in the English language, you need to go to school and learn this basic skill. A mentor cannot help you improve a skill you do not have. To be a better writer, you have to be able first to write. Most of us can string words together into a sentence that can be read and understood by others. That’s writing as basic communication. Email messages fall into this category. (Although I have received a number of emails that were so poorly composed that I had to read them several times to figure out what the sender’s message was – and don’t even get me started on text messages.) Writing well implies that there are those who read your words by choice because they elicit some type of emotion from said reader.

If it is your desire to write in this way, I suggest you seek out one or more mentors to assist you in your most worthwhile of journeys. There are a number of ways you can do this. Critique groups are a type of mentor. If they are done correctly, you get the benefit of a wide variety of experiences and opinions. Whether they are online or in person, make sure the critiques are done in a positive and helpful manner. Honesty is crucial but harsh or cruel remarks are uncalled for. If you find yourself in such a group, talk to the leader/moderator. If their response supports this kind of behavior in any way, leave the group immediately and find a new one. (If you are in Los Angeles, CA; Portland, OR or Missoula, MT, look us up: Coffee House Writers Group)

Writing partners can be great mentors if they have some experience. At the very least you can bounce ideas off of them and they can keep you going through the stalls and bouts of writer’s block (I don’,t really believe in writer’s block. More on that in another blog.) Depending on their experience and skill level, they may even be able to help you improve a great deal.

We live in the age of communication. The internet is ubiquitous (nope, you have to look it up ha ha!) and a vast resource. One of my online mentors is Kristen Lamb. If you want to be a better writer, subscribe to her blog here. I have dozens of writer friends all over the world and they are always ready to help. Reciprocate. Offer your opinion and volunteer to be a beta reader. Not only will you be giving the author valuable feedback, you will be learning as well.

One person who has helped a great deal is Arial Burnz, a good friend and the editor for my short story collection, Nightmares and Body Parts Vol. 1 The Karma Collection. Yes, you can buy it. (Shameless self promo, see links on the side, I hope). Arial has not only helped with my writing but my website and the design of my book cover. Yes, it is awesome to have talented friends. In return I helped her and her husband repair part of their house. (Writing and Drywall, that will be the title of my autobiography.) Read Arial’s blog here. (She has a thing for hot Scottish vampires and writes about them.)

Mentors don’t have to have all the answers, just enough to get you over the hump and on to the next level. Pay attention to what they say. Stretch out of your comfort zone. Then pay it forward. My niece is in high school and she is a writer. I help her as often as she asks me to. Maybe she’ll mention me in her Pulitzer acceptance speech. Until next week, Dear Reader, dream of awesome mentors.

4 Thoughts on “The Million Dollar Mentor

  1. Awwww! Ed!! This was so sweet of you and brought tears to my eyes.

    Aside from making it all about me, yes…as usual you nailed the topic on the head. Mentoring is a great way to improve your skills and a great critique or writers group is a wonderful resource.

    To share a resource, I recommend people visit http://www.Writing.org. You can sign up for a free account and they have a huge community of writers and readers who give each other feedback. They even have a point system where you can earn badges for giving feedback, which can translate into upgrades for certain features. It’s a pretty nifty website for aspiring writers to make friends and get constructive feedback.

    I’m still open to editing your work for more construction work around the house!! LOL! Just let me know!

  2. OH! And by the way…I have a new writer’s blog where I’m sharing my writing tips and information I’ve learned over the years as an author-turned-editor, cover designer and self-published author: http://arialburnz.blogspot.com. I’m still posting stuff, so there isn’t a ton of information up there, but it’s a start.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Post Navigation