Now that we have turned the page on the calendar to 2008, we in the writing world should ask ourselves if we are doing enough to mentor new writers and assist our peers.
Time, for most writers, is a commodity most of us don’t have in abundance. In actuality, it may be the only thing of value many possess. If you support your habit through teaching, the demands increase exponentially and the idea of dealing with a sweaty-palmed, big eyed novice asking you to read a short story falls somewhere below a root canal and a severe case of poison ivy.
On the other side of the coin, all new writers have experienced the excitement the first time they were invited to a real writer’s gathering. And most of us have felt the disappointment when someone we admire in the literary world has dismissed or disregarded us because we lack name recognition or credentials. They forget that making the decision to earn a living through words is a difficult one, that it is a humbling occupation, one that requires success before acceptance.
As writers, we don’t have colleagues in the next office or cubical to celebrate acceptances or to commiserate with when we receive rejections. For those lucky enough to be surrounded by those who make a living through words, kudos to you, but that is rare. For the majority of us compelled to create imaginary people and places, we have to slog along searching for those who, like us, sit alone in front of a keyboard, trying to slip inside lives and minds only we can see. If the writing gods are on our side and the Universe is feeling generous, like-minded people and mentors will be abundant, allowing us to create peer groups and a social network that will help us evolve.
I challenge all writers, regardless of where you fall on the career spectrum, to pause the next time someone approaches for feedback or expresses the desire to step into the fray, and remember what it felt like when you took your first literary steps. I hope no matter where my writing takes me that I never forget the thrill I feel at being able to call myself writer. Not only does it fill me up to help others, it makes me a stronger writer and, I hope, a better human being.