The Writer’s Own Hero’s Journey

Gandalf-2

by Kathryn Graham

“You cannot transmit wisdom and insight to another person. The seed is already there. A good teacher touches the seed, allowing it to wake up, to sprout, and to grow.” Thich Nhat Hanh

When we write we are whisked away with our characters into another place and time, and through them we are often tag-alongs on a hero’s journey. You know the one. It is the epic tale of a hero who answers the call to adventure and leaves behind her ordinary world. She meets enemies, allies, and goofy sidekicks along the way. She fails at times, but she is ultimately victorious.

As writers, as human beings, we also benefit from our very own heroes’ journeys. We may be wielding word processors instead of magical swords, but we’re on our own personal quests. Whether you write as a hobby or to become a professional, your goal will lead you on an adventure of personal discovery (whether you like it or not).

On that winding pathway, one person you’ll probably want to meet is the Mentor. This is Gandalf for Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. Obi-Wan Kenobi and later Yoda for Luke Skywalker. Professor X for the X-Men. These are the sages who have been there before you. They’re there to help you overcome your own set of obstacles, hit you with sticks when you screw up, and offer words of encouragement just when you need them.

They can point to a hole you’re about to fall into so that you can side-step it. Or they can laugh and offer a helping hand if you fall into it anyway. It’s not a mentor’s job to make sure that you succeed. They are there to shine a light on a possible pathway forward, so that you can choose to walk, run, crawl, or even stand still.

For a long time, I was looking for a mentor for my writing. I took a number of workshops with very nice writers who were very nice people, but ultimately none of whom were willing or able to continue a relationship with me outside of the time I had paid them for their services.

That is, until I found LB. One of the first signs that LB was different was when I entered the Spec Scriptacular. I had some issues with the submission process, and I was afraid my script would be ineligible. I e-mailed TVwriter, and the response was swift, friendly, and personal. ‘No worries, friend, you’re all set.’ That script went on to become a semi-finalist that year, and I went on to take the TVWriter workshops.

Now, despite the fact that I grumble when I hear things about my writing or my work ethic that I don’t like, I know that ultimately I have someone in my corner who believes in me even when I’ve lost faith, who will shove me when I need to be shoved, and pat me on the back when I need that too. (Don’t tell him I told you any of this).

So how are you supposed to find a mentor? Take a class or two. Ask your friends if they know anyone or look around on Craigslist. Write to your favorite authors. Be careful about who you select because this is as much your choice as theirs – and there are bad mentors out there. (I wouldn’t choose Rumplestiltskin, for instance). But as long as you trust yourself you’ll be able to tell the difference. Or, y’know, you could take a class or become an article writer here at TVWriter.com. That’s what I did.

About Kathryn Graham

Los Angeles-based television writer, TVWriter Contributing Editor, and lover of women. e-mail: kathrynagraham@gmail.com