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“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” Benjamin Disraeli

As so many of my friends across the pond are gearing up for Thanksgiving tomorrow, I couldn’t help but reflect on areas of gratitude in my own life. According to Webster’s Dictionary, a mentor is a trusted counselor or guide – someone who tutors or coaches another.  In my own experience, a mentor is this and much more. For me the mentor-mentee relationship has a unique chemistry; the mentor believes deeply in the talent and potential of her mentee to rise to high levels and conveys those feelings to the mentee.   The mentor establishes a vision for and with the mentee. One small success after another builds and enhances that relationship.

I do believe that everyone needs and deserves to be taught and nurtured, but the mentor-mentee relationship cannot be forced, and ideally develops naturally.  Of the four significant mentors I can count so far in my life, none have I sought out for this role. Each relationship has developed organically, out of mutual respect and interest. I have had two female and two male mentors, hailing from: Switzerland, Canada, Scotland and the USA. I have had mentors for different areas of my life: career, spiritual, personal, writing, though in each case there has always been great personal growth simply from having someone believe in me. A couple of these relationships were only for a season, two or three years, whilst others are ongoing, and developing into lifelong friendships.

I have also had the privilege of being a mentor to various young adults, at different stages in their journeys. Truly these relationships of trust and encouragement are grandiose!

A good mentor works closely to develop the mentee and creates an environment where the mentee feels free to ask any question or express any concern. This must never become a relationship of dependence, or it will not work! Ultimately a mentor is teaching the mentee how to go it alone. The last step is for the mentor to get out of the way. The mentor can help you realize that you can now do it on your own.

Some of these relationships are very formal; mine have erred on the informal, but with an acknowledgement, spoken or otherwise, of the mentor: mentee bond. Always, they have been reciprocal. Though the mentor clearly has knowledge, skills and experience in greater measure than the mentee, in my mind there has to be some level of two way sharing for real trust, growth and the maximum benefit to both individuals. While expertise is involved, mere facts alone I can get from a website! The relationship is even more about showing one’s mentee their beauty, their worth and their infinite potential (which includes tough love, of course!).

As writers, in an age where most editors no longer have the time to take on a mentoring role, do you still feel the need to seek out writing or illustrating mentors, or do you feel this need is met through critique groups and partnerships? Do share how you found your writing mentor or, indeed, any other wonderful mentor and/or mentee relationships that have marked your life. I certainly would not be the person I am today without these four people’s investment in my life, for which I am very grateful, and to whom I have expressed my gratitude.


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8 Responses to Mentors

  1. Oh indeed — I have had some amazing and valued mentors in my life. One of them has been in my life since I was a teen, and she’s still inspiring me to this day. She helped to free me from feeling that I wasn’t artistic, and to find forms of artistic expression in which I could truly find joy; she encouraged me beyond my comfort zone personally, and I grew through the challenge; and she’s still there, as a solid, supportive, and encouraging presence now. Another started out in a formal music-related relationship, but through friendship and working together and sharing experiences, musical and otherwise, she helped me to see myself as a musician, not just as a person who liked music, and she’s taught me so much more, as well. Those are just two, two women who have been an integral part of my life for years. There are others, of course, but those two are the ones who stand out in my mind and heart this morning.

    I so appreciate what you said about there being some reciprocity in the mentor/mentee relationship. I hope that I have given something to these mentors, I hope that I will give of myself to other mentors. I wonder if anyone would consider me a mentor? (I don’t have the contact with young people the way you do, and so don’t see myself in that way so much.)

    Thank you for this.

  2. Joanna says:

    I loved your reply, Beth. The love and appreciation you have for these two mentors in your life just flows over the interwebs. How often we need these people who can lead us out of our blindness and fears about our inadequacies into our true potentiaL How precious that one of these ladies is till inspiring you after all these years. Of course, I see so much creativity in you, it is hard to imagine you ever doubted this.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Julie says:

    This is such an interesting topic that you expressed so eloquently! I’ve had one professional mentor that really took me under her wing, and always had my back. Sadly, we’ve lost touch over the years, but I’ll always appreciate her support. In hindsight, I wish I’d been more appreciative at the time. Recently, I’ve met some wonderful virtual mentors through blogging, but my greatest mentor has always been my mother. Thanks for visiting me, and I look forward to seeing more of you. Julie

    • Joanna says:

      Your last sentence just makes me smile. In some ways in the best of worlds, I believe this should be the case for everyone! I too am finding that virtual mentorship is truly possible for my writing, especially when you add communication tools like Skype. Thanks so much for stopping by, Julie.

  4. What a beautiful post of Thanksgiving, Joanna. I would not be the person I am today without the many mentors that have graced my life. My mentors began when I was a teen pursuing my love of music. When I began my writing career as a journalist, a professional journalist on another newspaper became a very supportive mentor for years — I was a rookie reporter on a smaller paper. She saw my potential and pushed me beyond my comfort zone.

    Most of my mentors were spiritual mentors over a period of 20+ years. They nudged and guided me through my studies and growth. Have always thought of my mentors as the ones who held the light for me as I worked. Some of them are truly “wise women” for me. I also realize that I have been a mentor to many both professionally and spiritually. I don’t go looking, we just find each other. It is a good feeling to know I have given back what I’ve received. And, I agree with you that the relationships always involve trust and are reciprocal. I know we grace each others lives for a reason and am grateful.

  5. Joanna says:

    What a beautiful response, Pat. It thrills me to read how each of us has been blessed with people who have given so deeply into our lives. I see that with you it has touched on the creative, the professional and the spiritual. Both the giving and receiving of such investment is such a rich blessing, isn’t it?

    I see that you too have never sought out these relationships, maybe that’s one reason they are so rich, an unexpected gift, in both directions. “Are we lucky, or what?” 🙂 Thank you for your comment.

  6. This was a lovely thought-provoking post, and I very much enjoyed it. From the comments you have all been very lucky and blessed to have such mentors in your lives, and I can see how much you have grown in richness for this.
    For myself I have always gone alone, discovering my creative side in different areas with no other person involved. It has only been since taking Emma’s course and the Hub I have grown and in a way you have all been a mentor for me. It has been your comments of encouragement, emails of nudging me on, that has given me the confidence to do what I now do. Pat, when you say you find me so “proactive”, and outward going, I am delighted, for I was never so a couple of years ago. So I have much to be grateful for, thanks to all of you.
    Thankyou Joanna.

  7. Joanna says:

    Diane, I am so glad that you are discovering mentoring relationships through the Children’s Book Hub. I think the online community can be really valuable for this.

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