Saturday, September 19, 2009

The mentor inside myself

Saw Julie & Julia Friday afternoon. I love watching movies in nearly empty theaters. I can laugh out loud whenever I want and avoid getting any weird stares. This is especially important since I've recently discovered I have a tendency to laugh moments before something really awful or sad happens. Very embarrassing.

Anyway, the movie had everything for me. It was about writing, food, an ex-pat couple, and two amazing husbands (though I only have one).* Plus Meryl Streep as Julia Child looked a strange amount like my grandma.

The movie got me thinking about mentor relationships. I mean, how wonderful to have someone who is such a perfect fit for what you want in life as Julia Child was to Julie Powell. It also reminded me of the Indigo Girls' song, Virginia Woolf:

"They published your diary
And that's how I got to know you
The key to the room of your own and a mind without end
And here's a young girl
On a kind of a telephone line through time
And the voice at the other end comes like a long lost friend
So I know I'm all right
Life will come and life will go
Still I feel it's all right
Cause I just got a letter to my soul"

As a writer especially, I've frequently wished for such a guide, a mentor, a speaker to my soul. Someone who could read my writing very objectively and honestly, but also provide wisdom and encouragement. Now that's not entirely fair, because I have had some fabulous mentors over the years, such as Megan Stielstra and Sally Walker. But they have all been on a short term basis, and all occurred fairly early in my writing pursuit. I also have two incredible writing groups, one in Chicago and one in Bristol, which read my writing monthly. But to have someone available regularly, to read long chunks of my writing, and to really guide me--that's what I've wanted for a while now.

But one of the best parts of Julie & Julia was when Julie's husband pointed out that Julie's mentor wasn't a real person. Yes, Julia Child was still alive at the time, but Julie had never met her. Rather, she had created this ideal Julia Child in her head. And therefore, it wasn't Julia Child who made all Julie's writing dreams come true; it was Julie herself.

Sure, a writing mentor would be bliss, but one of my primary goals for my upcoming MA in writing is to learn to better mentor myself, become more critical of my own writing.

*Yes, I know, the movie is also about a blogger, but I really don't see my blog that way, so not so much worth mentioning.


  1. I just came across your blog. That Indigo Girls song rings so true. Just yesterday, I was talking to a friend about how I wish I had a writing mentor. But I think your point about being your own mentor is a good one. I often feel that way I read certain books (Anne Lamott's "Bird By Bird" and Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bones" are two of my favorites). Happy writing!

  2. Hi Gabi, thanks for stopping by!
    I often think if I could just figure out how to be critical enough, but also believe in myself enough, the writing would come. But then again I'm not sure it's ever possible for anyone to have that kind of self-awareness. But surely we can get better, right??
    Oh, I haven't read Natalie Goldberg's book, I'll have to give it a looksee. I'm a big fan of Stephen King's ON WRITING.
    Happy writing to you, too!

  3. I really want to see this movie!

    As for a mentor, I felt the same way a couple years ago and put up a post on a forum asking for one. It seemed like an odd move, even to me, but I figured it wouldn't hurt.

    It didn't.

    I found a fabulous critique partner within the hour, and she's been an amazing help. I've grown so much as a writer, and I view her as my mentor, even if she isn't what I had in mind (you know, cause I was secretly hoping a multi-published author would see my plea and fall over themselves to help me ;) ).

    Where there's a will there's a way, as they say. Good luck to you!

  4. How great that you really were able to find a cp online like that--and within an hour! I've really been at that point so often this summer, but now it's almost time for my MA to start. I'm hoping to find some valuable feedback, and maybe even a mentorish relationship there. But if not, good to know that blindly posting a plea for help really CAN work!


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