Wednesday, November 2, 2011

30 Days of Thankfulness in Writing – Day 2: Mentors

It’s easy to focus on the negative in the world around us. In observation of a month many dedicate to counting their blessings, I’ve started a 30-day challenge in which I’ll focus on one aspect of my writing life for which I am thankful. I’d love to have you join by sharing about something that has blessed your own writing life in the comments section below. - Jen

An editor I used to work with once said that if you wanted a bigger piece of pie, you had to make the pie bigger first. In other words, if you want to see more benefit from your efforts, you need to be willing to work with others to expand the territory. At the time he was talking about a couple of manufacturers who were squabbling over who had the rights to a certain bit of emerging technology, but what he said works for writing as well. The publishing world can appear cutthroat to outsiders. There are only so many book slots available in bookstores a year (though e-publishing is changing that), agents only take on so many new clients, and editors are a precious commodity. Once you get your start, if you want to make a living at writing your work really has to sell.

Then there’s the pie. When it comes to readers, there are only so many pieces to go around and those tastes are constantly changing. What is hot and fresh one day may be considered old and moldy the next.  Yet despite the survival of the fittest mantra we have pounded into our heads from an early age, I have rarely met a published writer who was unwilling to share a bit of insight with an aspiring writer. In my experience at least, it’s always been the exact opposite.

And that’s what I am thankful for today: the writers who have become my mentors. Some I have never met face to face, we’ve only worked together via electronic communication; others I’ve had the privilege to sit under for a spell. Each of them recognizes their time is a mere blink and wants to make sure there are other well-trained storytellers to take their place when they set their pen down for the final time. They don’t just lock themselves in their writer’s caves and turn out books — they dedicate a portion of their already busy lives to teaching.

These writers remind me of the ancient story keepers who took on apprentices and trained them until they could recite from memory the histories, fables, and tales of their culture. The main difference is my mentors taught me the rules of writing, how to avoid pitfalls they encountered, and they also encouraged me to find my own voice.

So to my mentors Norm Rohr, Douglas Hirt, John Perrodin, Suzanne Eller, Jim Bell, Jerry Jenkins, and all the others who have taken the time to pass on their valuable knowledge to the next generation: Thank you for working to make the pie a little bigger for all of us.

1 comment:

  1. What has blessed me in my writing life is a loving sister who takes her time to cheer me up when I think a character has gone astray. She taught me so much in the ways of the author, and the joys of adventure.