“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
― Abraham Lincoln
Keeping your perspective is crucial for the aspiring writer. We come into the community of writers and aspiring writers with little or no knowledge of the craft and so much to learn. Some of us are not shy, but many more are shy, and in spite of shyness, learn to ask for help.
Blessed is the aspiring writer who acquires an experienced author willing to mentor them early on in their career. Most aspiring writers are not so fortunate and many languish for years in a sea of uncertainty, until they acquire the help they need to achieve success. But if you are blessed, make sure you take full advantage of the opportunity without taking advantage of the person who chooses to mentor you. Because mentoring is not a choice lightly made. It is a decision that some authors make once and never repeat due to negative experiences.
Negative experiences include abuse of a mentors good intentions. Such actions which might constitute abuse are the expectations of the aspiring writer, who having acquired the attention of kindly published author, uses them as a personal editing coach or beta reader without thought to the mentors needs.
The true purpose of a mentor is to provide guidance through difficult or unknown aspects of the aspiring writers chosen path. He/She is meant to assist in the development of a skill, in this instance writing.
Mentoring, common in business and academic settings, is invaluable and is never done for personal gain. The benefits of being a mentor are two-fold: taking the mentor down memory lane and renewing the excitement of early writing, and a close look at bad habits creeping into our daily practice. It is strictly an altruistic pursuit, an offering to “pay it forward” as most mentors have been mentored themselves prior before publication. These mentors offer generalized advice and support for the start of a career, and invaluable advice in terms of explaining routines and rituals with which the aspiring writers are not familiar.
Whether we agree or not, the mentor brings experience to the relationship which cuts through many hours of learning by failure. For the aspiring writer sometimes the criticism –which is likely spot on–will seem harsh. Mentors feel a responsibility to be completely honest, and are not required by custom or circumstance to soften the blow of criticism. Be grateful for the guiding hand and ignore the thorns on those roses. The do not detract from the beauty of the flower, and the criticism does not devalue your effort in writing.