I’m Recruiting: Could You Be My Mentor?

I wish I had a mentor. I can’t really explain why, but I think that it has something to do with my neediness abandonment issues aspirations of becoming a writer.

I recently committed myself to becoming a full time writer. That’s the dream – writing… ALL the time. Making the decision was easy, but once I had finished celebrating my decision-making, I realised that was the easy part. The reality of my decision involves working really hard all the time and not getting distracted or losing motivation. All the things I’ve perfected being terrible at.

Writing is lonely business. I’ve known that from the off. As a complete social recluse, I guess it’s part of the appeal. But every now and again I’ll get a crisis of confidence – a week will disappear and I’ll question what (if anything) I’ve actually achieved. Then I panic, because I don’t have the right work ethic. My writing isn’t good enough. I’m not marketable as person. I am an impostor, a fraud. I’m not really a writer – aspiring or otherwise and everyone knows it.

This is where the mentor comes in. The mentor has to kick my arse whilst also being supportive and reassuring. But not too supportive and reassuring. Encouragement is difficult to get right, particularly with weirdos like me. Too much encouragement and I’ll momentarily trick myself into believing I am doing so incredibly well that I don’t need to do much of anything for a while. I don’t really respond well to negativity so zero encouragement only confirms my fears of being an under-achiever and prompts me to fall into a depressive slump.

There are loads of potential mentors out there, and I’m sure someone out there might be right for me. But for some reason, whenever I think about my ideal mentor I imagine some dapper gent – someone sophisticated, wise, worldly, humorous, someone successful who can afford to by me mojitos.

Take, for example, Jonathan Ames’ mentor George Christopher in Bored to Death. Apart from the fact that he’s played by Ted Danson which automatically makes him brilliant, he’s a gent, an editor of a magazine, he makes martinis in his office and wears waistcoats. Brilliant. And to top it all off, he offers genuinely good advice:

Although, this is not the sort of chat I would want with my own mentor. Even if he was Ted Danson.

That said, George Christopher isn’t the perfect mentor. My perfect mentor is the mentor of mentors, the crème de la crème, the spaghetti to my cold left-over bolognaise, the Jack Donaghy to my Liz Lemon.

Without a shadow of a doubt Jack Donaghy is my ideal mentor. The tragedy is, my dream mentor is a fictional character played by Alec Baldwin. The only way this fantasy will ever be fulfilled is if Jack Donaghy actually existed and Jack Donaghy actually happened to be Alec Baldwin.

This pretty much renders my search for the perfect mentor futile and perhaps a little bit crazy. I’ve set the bar pretty high. When you set the bar at ‘fictitious character’ you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

I’ve contemplated trying to recruit a mentor  using an application/interview/test process. But I think that might put people off. And I wouldn’t know how to go about ensuring that my application form/interview questions/rigorous testing methods would result in me actually finding my ideal mentor. Also because it looks like a lot of work when I really should be writing. And because I seriously doubt any level-headed person would actually go through the process, so I’d probably just end up with someone more crackers than I am. Not ideal.

So the search for the mentor kind of continues whilst also collapsing and becoming redundant at the same time. My dream mentor doesn’t exist, so I can only hope that some day a Jack Donaghy/Alec Baldwin type will appear in reality. If they do, and they become my mentor, I suggest that their first job is to stop me from wishing fictional characters actually existed.

In the meantime, (and in case you have no idea who Jack Donaghy is) here are some of Jack’s greatest personal attributes.

Best. Mentor. Ever.

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Comments: 7

  1. Suniverse July 11, 2012 at 9:47 pm Reply

    I’ll totally be your mentor.

    I’m not Jack Donaghy, but I do love 30 Rock. AND YOU!

    • Jo and the Novelist July 12, 2012 at 5:15 pm Reply

      I think you’d make a great mentor. How do you feel about moving to England?

  2. Simone July 12, 2012 at 7:51 pm Reply

    Don’t listen to those negative liars in your head. I read all of your posts and love them, and totally get you and your voice – that’s what a writer does – pulls in the reader and takes them along on a journey. So what if you’re not marketable to hundreds of millions of people. That’s probably a good thing because most people are fucking idiots who would rather watch jersey shore or go to the mall or eat every-fucking-thing in really giant sizes.


    Anyway, about getting a mentor… I was going to do the same thing, but then I started a writing group. That first one failed because everyone was too busy with their day jobs. So I started another group with seriously dedicated writers. There are 5 of us and we meet once a week. We send out our pages a few days prior to the meeting, then get together and talk about what worked and what would make it work even more.

    This process has reinvigorated my attitude about writing. The weekly deadline is key. And having a supportive group with a good dynamic is amazing. Email if you have any questions about how to start it up and manage the process.

    Don’t stop believing. You made a wonderful decision. As a writer, you will have to make an endless stream of them. But you don’t have to do it alone.

    Oh my god. I really just wrote all of this. Someone needs to step off the internet… xoxoxo

    • Jo and the Novelist July 13, 2012 at 3:09 pm Reply

      Aw, thanks Simone. That really cheered me up. I think a writing group would be better than a Jack Donaghy, even though I don’t think a writing group would buy me endless mojitos.
      Your comment made me listen to ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey. It was strangely invigorating… xoxoxox

  3. Nick MB July 13, 2012 at 11:00 am Reply

    I’ve kinda had the tutors on my MA course as semi-mentors for the last couple of years, but I had my last ever tutorial the other day. And now I’m out in the world on my own, I have to self-mentor. I’m quite intimidated by this. Have mostly dealt with it so far by getting coursemates to read my stuff, but it’s not really the same as actual mentorship. Work ongoing on what the hell to do instead.

    • Jo and the Novelist July 13, 2012 at 3:12 pm Reply

      There should be some sort of support group for writers which provides you with a mentor… and booze. Kind of like an MA… But without the booze. Are you still meeting up with people from class?

      • Nick MB July 13, 2012 at 4:37 pm Reply

        We have a fortnightly feedback group thing, performance a bit sluggish, but it’s still surviving. I’d like something a bit more structured and (he says, with great self-obsession) more focused on me, to be honest. But I imagine if I want someone to lavish love and attention on my work, I might need to spend money on it, and I don’t have any.

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