Greetings! Queen here, indulging in a bit of Sunday Speak, if you will. Today I won’t be doing any cover reveal or even doing any promotional pushes for my writing. I don’t really see this as a vent but more of a series of thoughts put out in the universe in order to gain some perspective.
When I first started writing, it was purely for cathartic purposes. For many years I never thought about sharing it. It was not until my late high school years and college years that I dared to find other poetry groups. I was a part of a whole bunch of them on this site called College Club. I don’t even know if it really still exists or not but I had a tremendous amount of fun on it. However the site I spent the most time on was an organization known as Fireseek. I was exposed to many different styles of poetry as well as prose, short story writing and spoken word. It was also set up as a hierarchy of sorts, with members, moderators, super moderators and administrators.
I didn’t have any plans to do anything besides be a member but that community welcomed me with open arms. I soon became very popular and it wasn’t too long before I was made a moderator and eventually a super moderator due to my availability, accessibility and willingness to provide feedback and help my fellow writers. It was very enjoyable to me and it never felt like a hindrance in any way.
The more I rose in the ranks, I discovered that not everyone was happy about it. Down the line, the betrayal of two people I thought I could trust led to my being forced out of the organization. Although I did eventually become a part of another one, it wasn’t quite the same as the former place I had started calling home and the people I started considering an online family. The whole experience soured me, particularly to networking, advocacy and mentoring my fellow writer.
For many years, I stayed off the grid. I was still writing poetry but I wasn’t sharing as much anymore. I wasn’t in any poetic groups and I mainly blogged via Yahoo 360. Once changes were made to Yahoo 360, it wasn’t the same and many people searched for alternate places to blog. I played around with Multiply for a while before finally settling on Blogger. That is the home for No Labels Unleashed, where I primarily did (and still do) my personal blogging.
Once I decided to start publishing again, I had to get back in the swing of networking. I figured I would join a group here and there but had made up my mind not to get too invested. One of the spots I found was on Goodreads and the name of the group was the All Authors Support Group (I know it used to be a longer name but it escapes me). I saw this initiative that the founder was hosting, called the All Authors Blog Blitz. It seemed simple enough but I do confess to almost passing up on the opportunity. After the Blitz, the group was still a bundle of activity, not like other groups I had seen. I noticed the founder was highly dedicated to being a mentor and an advocate. Her energy felt selfless and not tainted with ego or power.
I took a deep breath, stepped out of my comfort zone, and engaged with her. First, an email here and there. Then a couple of phone calls. Next thing you know, we were staying in contact every day. Her zeal started rubbing off on me and the fire to help my fellow writer was reignited.
I know the title of this blog post has you confused. I know up to this point, this read like a “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” scenario.
Many things have changed from when I was mentoring back in my college years up until this point.
Yes, there are writers out there who are still hungry, but many years back, the platforms to publish were not as sophisticated as they are now.
Yes, there are works being published (even more now than back then) but the attention to quality has greatly depreciated.
This has even trickled down to mentoring. Where does it stop being helpful and start being enabling?
I’m a firm believer that the main belief in writing ability has to come from the author himself. It’s more than just reciting the positive mantras. Does the person have a plan where he wants his writing to go?
On my first stint at publishing, I was just glad to say I had published something. I do confess to not even having anything mapped out after that. Back in those days, I didn’t have a set mentor and the people around me had the same mentality as me, just pleased as punch to add “published author” to the resume.
For longevity in the writing game, a plan is essential. The author has to visualize it, and more than that, put in the work. Yes, I just sounded Iyanla-like just then but the person has to be willing to put in the work.
That is where being a mentor can be tricky. Yes, you want the other person to do well. Yes, you want to set up the tools to where a person can be successful. Ultimately, it is up to that person to take the encouragement and the tools and manifest these things into action and progress.
Examples are as follows:
1. (a) Setting up a blog where the person can showcase one’s work (actions of a mentor)
(b) Doing the actual blogging and promotional posts for the author (possible enabling, unless the author has hired this person to officially do his public relations)
2. (a) Providing marketing suggestions to keep one’s name relevant as the reader waits on his or her next piece of writing (actions of a mentor)
(b) The person reaching out for you to do it, even though it’s tools for one’s own work (signs of enabling)
3. (a) Placing the person in a position where it opens up opportunities to get one’s work out there on a larger scale (actions of a mentor)
(b) That person dropping the ball yet still expects to still have the perks of the position (signs of enabling)
4. (a) Being the additional push and cheerleader for one’s endeavors (mentoring)
(b) Being the primary and/or only push and cheerleader for an author’s endeavors that aren’t your own (signs of enabling)
In my mentoring capacity, there are a few individuals where the lines of helpfulness and enabling are starting to get blurred. The key isn’t whom is to blame for what, but what has to be done so that the blurring doesn’t happen (or if it is in action, continue to happen).
It all boils down to seeing beyond the potential of a person and recognizing that person for the way he/she actually is.
The person may talk a good game but do the actions echo that one’s ready to play? The person may have dreams of being greater and doing other projects, but have set goals and timelines been constructed?
If the person is facing adversity, is it being used in a constructive or a destructive manner and does it hinder creativity in a temporary way or a permanent way?
I can see all the potential in the world in a person but I can’t force a person to see himself in the way I see him. Sure, a person can have friends but that doesn’t really mean that all of your friends have the capacity to be a business asset. A person can be superb personally but suck professionally, and that’s all right. It seems simple but can be the hardest thing in the world to accept: for when one is successful you want people who’ve stuck by you to be a part of it. Everyone just isn’t able.
This also trickles down into the friend/mentor scenario.
The sticky thing about having a mentor relationship with someone who was your friend first involves how much will the friend take advantage of certain things. Like if one dropped the ball on a due date or assignment, what are the possibilities that the friend will ask for a bit more time, knowing he/she should be held to the same rules as everyone else? Even worse, what if that person is very critical of others who have done said offenses, but the moment one’s about to be fried in fish grease, these things should no longer apply? Should the professional shades come off in place of the friendship spectacles?
Hence the blurring.
In order to be at my best professionally and personally, I have to set stern guidelines, looking sort of like this:
“As your mentor and advocate, I can do (this) but I cannot do (this). I can give you the tools but ultimately your success is up to you. I will not do your work for you or try to substitute my enthusiasm for the drive you should already have. “
“As your friend, I am willing to do (this) but I cannot do (this). Please hold my personal and professional integrity in the same extremely high regard as I hold our friendship. Do not place me in positions where I have to choose between my professional integrity and our friendship. I will not feel guilty for taking steps to keep myself and my outside endeavors on the highest levels of operations.”
All right. Jumping off of my soap box now. Thanks for reading.
Poet, short story writer, and aspiring novelist. This blog details my writing journey and everything in between: supporting other writers, doing a feature column and serving as editor-in-chief for All Authors Magazine Online.