I have a mentor. I’ve had a mentor since last November. Having a mentor was something I’d always wished I had (somehow I imagined that a mentor might ‘discover’ me, approach me and ask if they could help me on my writerly journey because I looked a bit worn out with all the trying and flailing and did I want some lemon squash to go with that?) but I never worked out when I’d ever be in a position to have one.
Answer: there is NO such position. You are the author of your own book and YOU get to decide when you have one or not.
Answer #2: Your therapist tells you to jolly bloody well go and get one if that is one of the (list of 3) things I would like most in my life right now. So I did. I got one. And I picked the best. I approached five or so, got (to my mind, anyway) fobbed off by a couple who directed me towards a mentor I had absolutely nothing in common with, and then I found Jill Dawson, author and founder of GoldDust Mentoring. I know. Go straight to the top or don’t go at all. If I treat myself to THE BEST facial then I’ve got every chance of looking amazing however short-term the results. Something like that anyway.
And we had one of our monthly meetings this week; the penultimate one, and one at which I had envisaged approaching some kind of writerly conclusion with the manuscript we’ve been working on (a first draft at 97,000 words, of which we have now gone through 70,000 together). But it so happened that before our meeting, I had a kind of –‘epiphany’ is the wrong word–‘lightbulb moment’ also makes it sound way more atmospheric and evangelical that it really was, but I hardly ever–EVER make a decision for myself and remain firmly by it. This time, though, I had. And I was. I still do and continue to.
I decided the book began at the wrong place. And at first I thought ‘so, start it from chapter 2, then’ and then I thought ‘No. You don’t mean that; that’s a cop-out’ and after I’d given myself a jolly good talking to, I realised that I meant I’d started from the Wrong Place in the Timeline. I needed to go back to Before. Way back. And then end it after a fortnight and not 6 years as the original manuscript intended.
And the idea of doing this didn’t-as often does-send me into a frenzy of panic and thoughts about not ever writing another bloody word because I’m too old for all this palaver, it actually brought a sense of calm to my mind. Inadvertently, I could see it already. I knew where to begin, I knew what was going to happen during the fortnight I was concentrating on, and I could see the end (okay there were 4 possibilities but with my mentor, we decided on the best one). I wasn’t daunted. I wasn’t cross that I’d spent three years writing and re-writing this thing, only to spend my savings on finding a mentor who’d work with me (she’s encouraging, enthusiastic and all the things I need in a mentor) only to virtually dismiss the whole thing we’ve been writing together and start over.
She said I needed to journal this ‘feeling’. I’d thought I’d needed to even before she said it, because feelings like this are quite rare; for writers, for me especially, and if I could somehow bottle it (write it down) so that I could return to it in less decisive moments, then I’ll always have it to hand.
Of course I’ve put it off for a few days and therefore niggling little irritations have since been allowed to wander over the calm surface of my decision, leaving the odd ripple, but I’ve managed to keep rein on them. Admittedly I don’t feel half as excited about this re-write as I initially did, and now I’m nearly 10k into it, I’m scared I’ve made an error of judgement, but even this fear itself I’m managing to control without self-combusting.
Somehow I can only liken this ‘feeling’ which Jill encouraged me to bottle, as very close to learning a new dance, or recipe, or language; it’s all there for the taking, all the sounds and letters and steps are already there; now there’s a thrill of working out where to place them to make the best sight/sound/move.
I’ve even been thinking differently. About lots of things. Less. Not over-thinking. I have my therapist to thank for this: instead of automatically judging myself, berating myself for thinking something and then letting that thought spiral out of control in a downward motion, I am learning to step back, be curious and just watch to see what happens; where will it take me, what can I learn from it? At home, at the paid job and especially while I’m writing, I am now all about the wait-and-see. And if that isn’t exciting then I don’t know what is.