“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.