THE MENTOR DEBATEComplications Ensue
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Friday, December 02, 2005

Craig over at The Artful Writer (see sidebar) has been blogging about mentors and mentor characters, using, I think, rather idiosyncratic definitions and coming up with very strange theories, but read him and you be the judge. Thought-provoking, at any rate.

DMc disagrees to some extent because his mentor experiences have been good, and he's tried to mentor himself.

One thing I've noticed about mentoring is that most people you try to mentor do not pick up the ball. If I'm going to mentor someone, I expect to hand them the ball and let them run with it. Most people walk a few paces and then forget they have a ball in their hands.

When someone in a position to forward your career takes an interest, by god, latch onto that person. Don't be a stalker, but do ask their advice when you can't figure the answer out yourself. If they give you an opportunity to work for or with them, jump on it. If they suggest you pursue something, pursue it. Most of my interns do their jobs and don't ask too many questions. Almost none of them ask for more work. And yet mentoring is part of the deal with an internship. For your hard work, you get experience and advice. If you just do your job, you're wasting your time.

If someone seems interested in mentoring you at all, try to be a friend. The closest I ever had to a mentor was the late Robin Spry. He put me up for Galidor and Charlie Jade, he optioned Unseen and hired me to create a bible for Isaac Asimov's Robot City, an sf series. Partly because I liked me, partly because he thought I was the best screenwriter in Montreal, for which God bless him.

And every two weeks or so, I called him for advice. And took him out to lunch every month or so. And gave him information when I thought it might be valuable to him.

There are a few people out there I think are promising. Where there's work I don't want to do (it doesn't pay enough, for example), I try to throw it to them. I invite them to meet other people who could help them.

Very often, these people let the whole thing drop.

Well, fine. Nobody has to be my friend. But we're both missing out on a mentoring relationship. Which is good for the career of the mentoree (the telemachus?), and the soul of the mentor. (That's why I'm writing this blog, for one thing.)

(The relationship can also be good for the career of the mentor if the mentoree outstrips the mentor, or if the mentor crashes and burns later on.)

DMc mentions that he never answers the question "Do I have it?" because it's awkward. I don't answer the question partly because I don't know. The early drafts of The Star Wars were dreadful fanboy stuff. But also because "having it" is such a minor part of success. The question really is -- and only you can answer it -- "is this the thing I have to do. Because if it's not, you probably won't put in the work you need to do in order to get there. You'll drop the ball.


Okay, somehow I ended up commenting on the wrong post. *sigh* (see comment in post before this one).

By Blogger Shawna, at 4:50 PM  

I've had four mentors in my adult life -- five if you count my ex-husband, with whom I had a twisted Svengali-like relationship before and during our tumultuous marriage.

One of those mentors was Xena writer/producer Steve Sears. Smart guy, great sense of humour, thoughtful and well-grounded. He taught me a lot about the craft of writing -- especially for the fantasy/SF genre.

Another was Law & Order creator Dick Wolf, who gave me some awesome advice about the cut-throat, back-stabbing side of the business. He also helped me develop one of the characters in my soon-to-be new TV series, a New York City assistant D.A.

Another mentor was Larry Brody, a writer/producer of some of my favourite TV shows, including Spiderman, Star Trek and Spawn. We just 'clicked' right from the start and he eventually hired me to be his publicist. Brode was my very first PR client and I will always appreciate what he said and did to help my career, despite how things turned out between us in the end.

My current mentor -- a man I love like a favourite uncle -- is The Collector creator/showrunner Jon Cooksey. Just as with Brode, Jon and I clicked right from the start and have been solid friends ever since. He's always been there for me, no matter how many stupid questions I have for him about the biz, he answers them all with insight, humour and encouragement. He truly believes that my series, The Black Tower has a great shot at getting on Space within the next couple of years and has gone above and beyond in helping me attain that goal by giving me the names of agents, actors, writers, producers, directors, production company and network heads who might want to come on board the project. Jon's even helped me write (OK, he totally rewrote for me) the pitch and synopsis for the show to better pique the interest of CHUM's head of series development. I absolutely ADORE Jon and hope/pray that he will join the production team for my show once his has wrapped up production in a couple of years.

All of these men -- including my tragically delusional ex-husband -- helped me get to where I am today and I will forever be grateful.

KJC (who also considers Alex and Denis among her mentor-friends)

By Blogger Kelly J. Crawford, at 1:13 PM  

I have had a mentor for a couple months and he's been very helpful. Of course, you should always tread carefully when anyone's trying to give you advice or other kinds of help.

By Blogger RT, at 2:55 PM  

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