Searching for Mentors

I felt lonely a lot as a reporter. A reporter sort of stands out in a crowd and yet remains invisible. Normal people avoid them, afraid of getting quoted. Crazy people seek them out, hoping to finally be famous. Throwback Thursday remembers the search …

Searching for Mentors

A writer’s life is a lonely one. Sometimes you can find people to help you on your journey, but after a few years of writing, I realized I would really have to search.

I found some writers that met once a month. That worked okay for a while. Then I started looking for mentors who had already been published. The ones I met would show me how to write a successful book, but we would never meet.

My method is pretty random – walk along the shelves, grab whatever catches my attention, and stop when I can’t carry anymore.

Too much stress, too many stories to write for the newspaper, not enough thanks, too much politics; I had to unwind somehow during the summer so I decided to try and read a book every two weeks. [I’m a slow reader.]

The one on the Civil War was good, but I needed fiction. The Danielle Steel was fat and fluffy. It jumped around a lot, but I got used to her style and after 40 pages I couldn’t put it down. She knows how to tell a story.

I scanned a few more books, took some back.

I was trying to stomp out the habit in my brain that says, “Gee, I should have done that” or “I could have done better” so I didn’t read the ones that annoyed me.

Through this process I realized a writer can easily become an arrogant reader – I found huge amounts of arrogance in my own heart – wow. So, I gave each book a little more time. I humbled myself with the fact that these books are on a list that librarians and readers choose from. These authors worked hard to get published. These authors made money. These books are selling at Borders and Barnes & Noble. An editor liked the idea, or the outline, or the manuscript and bought the rights. Then the author had to do quite a bit of work for the editor to get it the way the publication department wanted it.

Robert Harris is an excellent writer, but I would have never found that out if it wasn’t for my decision to cruise the library shelves.

After starting “The Ghost” I am now the newest fan of Robert Harris. He has spent time working in journalism and you can see the reporter-reality in his pages – the net searches, details of downloading, realities of the computer.

I copied this quote about writing. It is the last line the ghost writer puts in his book about Adam Lang. “There. Eat that and try not to cry,” he says.

Throughout the entire book no one knows who he is – wow – yup – that’s a reporter – invisible.

I’m not jealous. I’m happy I found Harris. He’s my mentor. Now I know I’m not the only one.

There’s comfort in that.

(originally published in 2009)

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