Having an excellent mentor in your life is important. Trying to navigate this journey we call life solo can be rough. My parents came to know the Lord when I was 12. There were a couple of families that discipled and mentored them. Some lessons they taught (such as how to dive into the scripture and study the Bible for ourselves) are still skills I use 50+ years later.
I had a 16 year stint in the corporate world after our son was grown. While there, I was blessed to sit beside, talk to, and learn from. Their mentorship instilled knowledge I use today in my writing life. (Who knew you could learn lessons about writing working in the recycling industry?)
One of the most important characteristics of an impactful mentor was to ask me insightful questions. My response helped them to help me. My response also helped me to help myself.
I’m blessed and fortunate now to mentor writers and authorpreneurs. Many times, before deciding to work with someone, I ask them a litany of “mentor onboarding” questions. Here are 8 questions I ask and you can have some time of self-reflection to answer them.
What’s your definition of success?
My definition isn’t your definition. We all hold different values, thoughts, feeling and life situations. In the world of writing, one person may desire to reach the bestseller list, another may look for a certain income from a book, while another author may feel success when a reader sends them an email at how much enjoyment or help the book brought to their life. Knowing your definition of success will help you do what I call “read the thermometer” to all the work you’re doing in the writing world.
It applies to everything I do in life. Trying to lose weight? What’s the meaning of success for that goal? Is it a number or the scale? Is it the size of the clothes or the feeling inside?
Are you wanting to learn the Bible? What’s your measure of success? Is it how many times you read the Bible cover to cover? Perhaps it’s how many scriptures you memorize. Or is there something else in which to gauge your progress?
What’s your vision of your outcome?
Some may call this the goal, but your vision drives your goal. When you reach that point of success, what does it look like around you? What’s your world around you look like? What are your feelings? What’s the innermost “thing” that’s going to fuel the fire for the actions you need to take to feel the success?
In the writing world, it may be the stack of your published books on the shelf and knowing that your words have affected others. Maybe you long for reviews and correspondence, so you know your funny stories brought joy and laughter into the lives of your readers.
The same goes with anything in your life, those goals you’re working towards. What’s the vision of your outcome? A notebook of Bible study notes held by your grandchildren as a legacy to your name? A life of laughter and joy as you invite others into your hilariously funny mind and share your stories and the peace you feel inside knowing you shared your gift with the world? What’s the vision you hold in your heart?
What do you want in 3 to 5 years?
There’s seldom that a big, extreme, hairy, audacious goal (BEHAG) comes instantly. Those achievements take long-term work. There’s two things when it comes to making goals. First, not setting them. The next, not giving yourself enough time to reach them. What do you want in 3 to 5 years? Is it a certain income? A certain feeling of satisfaction? How will you know when you reach it? I will truthfully tell you there was a point in my life that I found it hard to look beyond my nose, much less 3 to 5 years ahead. But when a mentor pounded this into my hard-headed noggin, I started doing things to reach goals. For instance, the goal of writing. At the time of her pounding, I was working on learning about creating an online business. But, the idea of “writing a book” kept creeping up.
In my life, I had a tendency to put BEHAGs in a box. Then I would shove them to the back of the closet in my mind. I preferred to live (frustrated) in a rut.
But, one day, I gave BEHAG a chance. I searched about what it would take to publish a book. BEHAG got a little peek out of the box. But I shoved it back in. However, eventually I let BEHAG fully out of the box! All sorts of goodness happened when I did. I stumbled into a group and had the experience of submitting a piece into a collaborative book. I was officially bitten by the self-publishing bug.
My greatest advice to you is don’t wait to envision your BEHAGs. Don’t wait like I did.
What’s tripping you up right now (obstacles)?
Every mentor I’ve had has made me look at my obstacles. A life before acknowledging what’s keeping you from moving forward is a life of staying stuck. Let’s face it. Life isn’t a bed of roses and things stop us. Sometimes we have control, sometimes we don’t. But we have control of how we respond to those things.
What tripped me up in my past was not knowing about the publishing world. Many a lunch hour I spent perusing the internet for answers. Next was the obstacle of time. I had many excuses. But, once I really admitted to myself that I wanted to pursue writing, I found I made the time. My first experience of sacrificing in order to write was when a friend and I did the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
I learned then that when I really wanted something, I would sacrifice. It meant me getting up 1-hour early (4AM is a dark and quiet time for writing.)
Defining what’s tripping you up leads to the next thing.
What do you have the power to control?
We have more power over things than we think. The enemy would rather we stay stuck in our monkey minds. This is where I get on preaching soap-box and admonish you DO have control over your life. Unless you are a small child, God gave you as one of his created beings a free will. You have the power to control your time. You have the power to control your thoughts. You have the power over your choices. Whatever is tripping you up, the obstacles keeping you from doing those things you want to do.. You have the power. With God, all things are possible, dear one!
Knowing your obstacles and the power you have, what are some strategy and actions you could do now?
This is where the rubber meets the road. When you’ve defined your obstacles, and you know the power you have to control some things, what actions can you take..now?
I know one friend whose obstacle was finding time to write. She had adult grown children at home. She was a homemaker, and she did all the cooking and cleaning. Together, we looked at her schedule. I suggested that two times a week, those adult children took turns preparing the evening meal. That would give her two hours a week. Then, how about those children do the clean up after meals. And how about they do their own laundry? She implemented the plan and soon gained 7 hours a week to write.
I mentioned my experience of getting up one hour early to journal and write. Even now, after my husband leaves for work, there’s my blocked off time of productive work from when he leaves until it’s time for my morning check in with my aging parents. I sometimes don’t know what the day holds for me, but I hold my mornings in a precious place because they are my writing time.
Tell me more.. the story from “your story, their story, the truth.”
I have fun with this prompt with some writers I mentor. I even do the exercise with myself if I find I’m saying “I can’t” too much. When they talk about their obstacles, their desires, their goals, I like to ask them to flip the story line. I’ll ask them who a favorite writer is in their genre, or someone else in their world whom they admire. Then, I ask them to tell me these obstacles, or goals and dreams and what you think the “story” that person tells. Often, this little role-playing exercise leads to a breakthrough. It helps them get out of their own mind and start thinking like someone else. Once we do this, they can write a new narrative and plant some new affirmative seeds. I can tell you that between changing the stories I tell myself and leaning in on scriptures and affirmative quotes, I’ve talked myself off the ledge of just giving up on this whole writing thing.
What are you reading?
My thought is writers are readers, or at least we should be. If I’m not reading to learn more about the craft of writing, then I’m reading something by someone in my genre (iron sharpens iron) or I’m reading an entirely different genre for entertainment or to learn something.
I’ve heard more than one agent for children’s books tell the audience that we should read at least 100 books in the genre and age we want to write in. Yes, that usually brings a gasp from the audience. The same goes for other genres.
Truthfully, I never thought my mentor’s questions I endured in the corporate world would help me in my writing life. But they do! Life is life, whether it’s working at the job, working out your marriage, or working on a book.