I always think back to that line from the Cheech and Chong movie, Up In Smoke: “Everybody ‘chares’ things” as they pass a joint around. Well, everyone doesn’t “share” everything, but as a trained teacher…well I prefer instructor because that’s really what it was, I always get a certain joy out of “paying it forward,” which happens to be another movie line that’s been adapted into the current lexicon.
IT’S HAPPENED TO ME
There’ve been countless times in my life that I’ve been mentored, way beyond the scope of this article. To keep it focused on writing, while I have to give credit to Rhondi Vilott Salsitz, the most prominent writing mentor for me has been Carol Davis Luce. I’ve been at this passion for almost twenty-one years and she’s been with me through almost all of it. Even though it’s a cliché, she’s been with me through thick and thin.
Everything she’s taught me has been reinforced by countless others over the decades. There have been other writers that have done their parts here and there, but before I take up this entire article listing names, I’ll just say that collectively, they’ve all helped me become a better writer. That’s including the good and bad advice.
Everyone has to develop filters. This isn’t something that comes automatically. Trust me on this. It isn’t always instinct, though sometimes it may seem that way.
Filters, and knowing what’s right and wrong for you takes time. Lots of people give a plethora of advice and the majority of it’s useful. However… How do you tell? Sometimes by consensus. A lot you find out by developing your own instincts after you’ve dived into a few manuscripts and forming your own style.
Your filters develop over time and experience. A good mentor can help steer you with that.
WHY BE A MENTOR?
Okay, some of us aren’t natural teachers. Then again, are you a parent? There you go. If you’re too young for that or never went that route in life, well…mentoring is a way to prepare for kids or even helping those nieces and nephews.
Paying it forward. If you’ve been at this awhile, you probably didn’t get here in a vacuum. Well…I’ve known a few people that did and started asking questions after years of writing solo without any interaction from the outside. Then again, they were asking me, so guess what? I mentored them, in a way. Could they turn around and do the same? To them, they felt far from qualified (this is from conversations with them). Does that mean they can’t pay it forward with someone else? Some of them never will because they have no confidence in what they do. Their contribution would be to send that someone to another person who might be able to help. That would this person’s way of helping…a very small way of paying forward. I hope most of you are not in that boat!
For the most of you, once you’ve been at this a while, you develop certain skills and when and if you get something published, there can be a certain joy in passing on what you know to help others. Pay it forward.
COMPETITION IS SUCH AN UGLY WORD
There’s always that jock mentality that by helping others, you’re helping the competition.
Writing and stories are art. There is no competition. There are thousands of books out there and each has a unique voice. Some say each book is competing for your attention. In that respect they’re right. However, look at it this way. Your book is also presenting them with another avenue of adventure, entertainment, another escape. It’s not so much competition as variety.
If you do your job well, have a great cover and let people know you exist, they’ll find and read it. If they like it, they’ll come back regardless if Joe Jock thinks he’s competing with you for a better book. They might read his also, but that doesn’t mean they won’t read yours. If the mood strikes, they’ll read both and move on. They’ll read whatever they want, not because one is better than the other. There’s no such thing. It’s all about mood and flavor and what each individual likes. You can’t really compete for that. You can’t compete for taste.
Taste is not sport.
MENTORING HELPS EVERYONE
Just think of this. By paying it forward and mentoring, if you have the skills, you’re helping to prevent the marketplace from being polluted with substandard material.
By paying it forward, you’re giving the world better variety of books.
By paying it forward, you’re contributing to the world of books and supporting a robust writing market.
By paying it forward, you’re seeing that “aha” moment when that other writer finally gets it.