Years ago, when I first started pursuing my dream to write children’s books, I pretty much did it in isolation. I thought I had to be published to call myself a writer, so I worked hard to make that happen. I studied the craft of writing, alone. I researched the marketplace, alone. I sent my manuscripts to publishers without having anyone else read or critique them. And I hoped for the best.
One by one, rejection letters came in, and it was hard. Time passed and the rejections continued. Then I heard someone wiser than me say, “You don’t have to be published to call yourself a writer.” And that was a turning point for me. I started telling others I was writing and I began to see myself as a writer. I went to my first writing conference, I joined a critique group, and I signed up to volunteer with SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).
Which is how I became friends with authors Patricia Newman and Erin Dealey. (Here’s us at a SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles where we had the honor of meeting Newberry Award Winning Author Richard Peck):
When I spoke at Women and Leadership last month about how important it is to have mentors and sponsors in your life, I shared how these two women impacted my writing journey. Patti and Erin were farther along than me in their careers, they had already experienced success, and they were selfless with their time, knowledge and expertise. Getting to know them and other writers, and spending time with them helped me grow in ways I never would’ve on my own, and it made my direction clearer than it had been before.
That’s what mentors do:
“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and help them navigate a course to their destination.” — John C. Maxwell
I share all of this for two reasons:
1. Having mentors can change your life and I want YOU to have mentors like I did to help you pursue your dreams. The more people I work with in my coaching practice, the more I realize that mentor relationships can be hard to cultivate: we are either too busy, or the idea of approaching someone as your mentor is intimidating. But I look back on that writing season of my life and my challenges and successes (I got hundreds of rejection letters before I got my first book contract), and I know my path would’ve looked different without mentors. It might’ve even stopped before I got that first “yes.” So whatever your dreams are, if you don’t have a mentor in your life, PAUSE RIGHT NOW and think about who you’d like to build that kind of relationship with. Be intentional and know why you’d want that person to mentor you and what you’d hope to learn. Then step out and ask them to coffee and begin the conversation. Be brief, kind and appreciative. But don’t hold back and miss out on asking. A closed mouth doesn’t get heard.
2. I don’t want you to keep your dreams to yourself like I did. If you’re writing, call yourself a writer. If you’re starting your own business – even if you think it’s small and you haven’t landed your first client or had your first sale – call yourself a business owner. There’s power in your words, and even greater power in sharing what you’re doing with others. Doors open in community much more than they do in isolation.
So tell others about your dreams, build mentor relationships and surround yourself with community. And if you do all that, there will be GREAT THINGS AHEAD!
p.s. to Patti and Erin and all the amazing mentors who have come alongside me in my life – thank you, thank you, thank you.