Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Whatever Happened to Mentor-ability?...


When I was in fifth grade I volunteered to be a lunch time monitor for a first grade class. It was my public school's way of utilizing its student body for free labor under the guise of teaching about responsibility, but I reveled in it nonetheless. Maybe a part of me just liked having the little bit of power I could, but mostly, I liked working with the kids-- helping them with their lunches or tying their shoes or breaking up arguments over stickers or Pogs or Barbies or whatever. Then the following year my creative writing class joined forces with another local elementary school, this time acting as writing partners for third or fourth graders. That is where I felt I really excelled. I may have only been a few years older than these kids, but I had ample experience with fiction, so teaching a child how to craft a children's book seemed right up my alley. I took great pride in the mentor role and even got a little competitive over my kid's book when compared with my friends'.

Looking back on this now, I realize I would have really benefited from keeping this an on-going theme in my life. When I moved out to L.A. and started working in entertainment, especially, it would have behooved me to seek out a mentor, tuck safely under his or her wing, and hone both my own skills and my contacts through that person. After all, with someone already established effectively vouching for me, it would have been an easier road, and with someone already established guiding me in terms of style and sensibility, I would find myself continually inspired to keep pushing myself and doing better.

For whatever reason, that thought didn't cross my mind that almost decade-ago that I moved out here, though even if it had, I wouldn't have known where to find an adequate mentor. You can't quite put out a Craigslist ad for something like that. And what if I found someone on my own who I wanted to be my mentor? Sending an unsolicited Facebook message or introductory email is as awkward as those "Do you like me? Check yes or no" squares when they come back with the negative box checked. It's somewhere in between asking someone to be your friend and asking someone to hire you, and honestly, I'm not comfortable with either. I like things to happen organically.

So, if you think you have what it takes to mentor an extremely set in her ways writer with her TV show ideas, inquire within. And it works both ways: if you like what I do or what I have to say and want some advice from me, I'm totally willing to pay it forward. Creativity is built on community.

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