These are the itches that I can’t leave alone. And oftentimes I wonder if the itching is purely because I’m cross and jealous that MAs in Creative Writing didn’t exist in ‘my day’ – heck, forget the Bath College of Fine Art, I’d have sold my parents and brother and thrown the gerbils in for a place on a Creative Writing degree course in the 80’s. (I’d have kept the dog of course).
Similarly I would have been/would be very pleased to be considered a suitable candidate for Mentoring at any stage of this Writing Career I have chosen for myself. Well, wouldn’t I?
Because in my head (you’d better bring a cagoule – it can get messy in there), a Creative Writing degree would help me hone my craft, polish my phrasing, enhance my metaphors and sharpen my shynopshishes. Maybe.
And wouldn’t having a Mentor be the next best thing to having an agent on-side all the time? A staunch and loyal supporter who encourages, rallies, cheerleads and hands out shoulders to cry on at the drop of a cliché? Isn’t that what they do?
Another part of my internal tussle the n invites my Art Teacher, the very arty farty Mrs Black, godlove’er, who used to peer over at my latest ‘piece’, point and suggest slight alterations. Which she’d then go and suggest to the next art student, and the next and the next, until we were all basically producing pieces of art a la Mrs Black. Which frankly even back then I couldn’t see the point of and made me want to slap her. I did tell her once to leave me alone, this was how I wanted to do it and I loved the result. I even got a commission from the Head to produce a print for his office. Glory days.
I bet nobody poked their nose over Van Gogh’s shoulder and told him to make his sunflowers a bit more realistic. Can you imagine Mrs Black telling Picasso he should really make his nose stay in the middle of the face and not stick an ear on the nice lady’s neck?
I mean, where would it all end?
So is there a Right Way and a Wrong Way when it comes to creativity? Did Jane Austen get her work scrutinized by a Master or a Mentor before publication (I don’t know actually… she might have done for all I know).
Lately I’ve been seriously considering getting myself a Mentor. I did enter a competition earlier in the year when a successful author was offering her services as a Mentor over the course of a year which included meet ups, skype/phone calls, e-mails, help with editing, revisions, introductions to agents and publishers and I very nearly internally combusted with excitement because I thought surely, at this stage in my writing journey I must be ripe for Mentoring. Surely there can’t be much more left I need to learn… surely….. “… (stop calling me Shirley”).
I poured my bleeding heart out into that competition application. I told her how long I’d been writing; how close I’d come to getting an agent; how many books I’d written, how I’d give an arm and a leg (the parents are long gone and the brother’s got a family now so I don’t think he’d appreciate being a bartering tool these days) for the opportunity she was offering. I emailed the covering letter, the application and a sample of the book I was working on at the time. And waited.
I was so certain.
And I’m the least certain person I know.
Added to the fact there were 6 winning places on ‘offer’ and a further 8 ‘runners-up’ who would receive some special assistance in their creative endeavours, I imagined it was only a matter of waiting for the deadline to arrive.
This...THIS is why I should have the miniscule Bone of Belief amputated from my stupid body.
Not only did I not gain any of the 6 winning places –which had been upped to 12, I also didn't qualify as a runner up either – of which there were now 15 (or something like that).
I was rubbish.
If proof were ever needed as to how positively sh*te I truly was, then here it was in black and white. Or rather it wasn’t. Anywhere.
I can’t tell you the number of times I read the names on that l-o-n-g list of successful applicants and I can’t tell you how many of them I Googled – just to make everything hurt even more.
But today, after months of wound-licking, I have finally realised and rediscovered the hole in my shell where my head is supposed to poke through, and I stand before you and ask: do you think Mentorship is a good idea? Or should this experience just be sucked up and got on with in preparation for the Right Time?
Oh, and if anybody has a watch capable, can they please tell me where the Right Time is?!
* Other stupidly successful authors are also available :)