It happened on a Wednesday. They called on a Thursday. I interviewed on Friday.
If I got the job, it would mean I was a professional writer.
When I interviewed that Friday morning I met the man who would become my writing mentor. He would stretch me and make me uncomfortable, but he would help me grow.
I'll never forget Charlie's words as he offered me the job, “You're unproven, but your skill is there. I'm willing to give you a chance.”
It All Started With A Blog
My first blog launched in 2009. Now the world could judge my work.
People tell me my writing style is encouraging. I'm concise and clear and I don't write to impress, I write to share my insights and help people stop and think.
Blogging became a way to learn what worked and what didn't. It was blog posts that helped me get my first professional, full-time writing job.
The Power of a Mentor
When I began working for Charlie, I knew he was talented. He's the writing partner of a well-known leadership expert and together they've authored over 100 books. Several have become New York Times best sellers.
I embraced the job with a learner's mindset. I determined every day to improve my writing skills. My first professionally edited draft looked like a murder scene. Red letters covered the page with countless words crossed out, rearranged, and rewritten.
What emerged was my voice, made better.
I realized then that having a mentor was vital for my growth and success. If I wanted to reach my potential, I had to humble myself and receive his guidance.
Maybe you've never thought about searching for a writing mentor. I promise you it will make take your writing to the next level.
A Mentor Sees Things You Don't
You've heard the old saying—you can't see the forest for the trees? This happens with writers. Charlie calls it being lost in the weeds. It can be tough staring at the blank page, feeling the ideas bouncing around in your head. You understand what you want to say, but you can't write the right words to say it.
When you finish a draft and come up for air, you've emerged from the weeds. Then you step back and discover whether what you've written is good.
A writing mentor can help you test your work along the way. He or she will notice things you don't. You can bounce ideas off of your mentor and decide if they stick. They'll break the news that what you found inspiring, wasn't. They'll affirm that what you wrote conveys the message you intended. It's a humbling process, but well worth the time and effort.
Sometimes that second set of eyes can work wonders on your writing. A writing mentor is an objective voice that keeps you on track.
A Mentor Helps You Hone Your Voice
Writers often struggle with finding their voice. Staring at a computer can be lonely. You perceive how good writers should sound and you aren't sure you sound that way.
A writing mentor can help you find your voice. Without searching for a random compliment you can ask your mentor to tell you what makes your voice unique. They can tell you what needs honing and evaluate the voice you want to convey.
Sometimes you need someone else to point out what deep inside you already recognize. When I learned that my style of writing is humorous, conversational and encouraging it resonated with me. That's the person I try to be, so it makes sense that my writing style matches.
A mentor can help you capture your voice and develop a style that is your own.
A Mentor Encourages You To Go The Distance
When I was having doubts about whether I was a real writer, Charlie told me, “You create content on demand, in a unique voice. Not everyone can do that. Trust me, you're a real writer.” Sometimes writing is a lonely life. Writers are solitary creatures who need strong internal drive to get their projects finished. It's easy to start a project, but it's difficult to finish.
Early in our relationship, Charlie gave me sage advice: “Keep your butt in the chair.” It's easy to get distracted, but a mentor can help keep you on track. They create structure and accountability that helps you get things done.
Without a deadline, either self-imposed or demands-of-the-job-imposed, most writers would never get things done. We research and plot but don't put words on the page. We flame out when things get difficult. A mentor helps you pull through those difficult times.
How Do I Find A Writing Mentor?
If you don't have a writing mentor, I encourage you to look for one. Finding a mentor doesn't have to be difficult. And a mentor doesn't have to be a professional writer.
They need to have your best interests at heart. They need to understand the writer's journey and be willing to share the hard truth sometimes.
This can be someone in a writer's group, a close friend, or a private Facebook group. ProWritingAid recently published Growing The Writing Cooperative, about a small group of writers dedicated to helping one another improve. Research and ask someone to partner with you.
It will be worth it when you turn out higher quality writing and higher amounts of work. My friendship with Charlie has evolved, but he's helped me become a better writer by sharing what he's learned and where he's grown.
Find someone like that and your writing—and your readers—will thank you.