Going it Alone

As with all journeys, the mentoring process has to end, and the time will come for you to go on alone, hopefully with renewed confidence, vigour, and purpose.

At the Writing Smithy, we appreciate the excitement and its reverse side, terror, that this stepping out can bring. We experience it ourselves every time we say goodbye to one project and brace ourselves for the ‘next thing’. So we thought we’d end our guest slot with some ideas we use again and again to help us move into a new phase of activity – the great unknown…

 

Networked

I hate the notion of ‘networking’. It sounds so manipulative, contrived and non-instinctive. And I know Jenn’s toes curl at the mention of the ‘n’ word too. However we both form and develop relationships as a natural part of our lives. And if I re-consider networking to be relationship-building then it suddenly appeals and feels as important as my morning toast.

The support network that the writing community offers is immense. However geographically disparate our fellow writers are, we belong to the same community and can enjoy its rich experience and energy. And certainly while working with people we are keen to help locate local writing centres of activity – they are everywhere, if a little hidden sometimes. These are absolutely wonderful resources for every writer – dipping into them at whatever level or depth you want: be in writing courses, writing groups, live literature events or reading groups. Sounding boards, groups in which to share opinion and argue, or just a quiet sense of connectedness are all helpful to your continued development as a writer.

 

Our Toolkit

Something else we try to highlight in our work with writers is the immense resources we all have ourselves – our personal toolkits. These can contain

1. our best personality traits – tenacity, fastidiousness, self-discipline etc etc

2. practical skills – great time-management, inherent capacity for self-promotion, being a canny networker etc

3. previous successes – getting that job, writing that press release, finishing the novel etc

 

Write them down! Regularly! They change and you need different tools for different times in your life. It’s all too easy to forget your strengths. I don’t think it’s just me and Jenn who have an extremely unhelpful habit of comparing our internal lives with others’ external activities. Of course we know all our doubts and ‘failings’, we live with our constant nattering brain everyday (except those of us who have achieved a state of silence) and, thankfully, aren’t privy to that nattering of others, so don’t know what their doubts and perceived failings are. As with your goals, try to be as specific as possible when nailing your resources. The more you are the more you’ll remember them and be convinced by their existence.

 

Diary Dates

By this I mean try and replace the meeting dates (be it in person, by email, or on Skype) you had with the Writing Smithy with meetings with yourself. A personal check-in date. Make a list of things you want to go over – jobs to do, jobs done, your toolkit, whatever – and fix a date to it.

I know Jenn has these check-ins in various places, using them as an opportunity to go somewhere new or that is useful for her research. I have my favourite café, half an hour’s walk away. Wherever you choose, make it a place different to your usual working spot, encourage yourself to develop that objective ‘outside’ eye that has been growing throughout your mentoring process. The editing part of writing is very much about building this objective view to your work, and it can help beyond the words on the page too, to build your professional writer-self too

And even if you haven’t had any mentoring, and don’t intend to, I’d recommend this last point just for the joy of having a job (be in full-time or part-time or evening-time) in which you can schedule meetings and locations whenever you want! Be the best manager you can be to yourself, and your workforce will love you for it 🙂

(Sarah and Jenn from the Writing Smithy literature consultancy are guest blogging here until August 12th.)

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