Three Things Mentors Do Well

On my journey as a writer, I have been blessed with many mentors. I’ve noticed they do three things well:

  • Listen
  • Advise
  • Encourage.

Seems basic, right? But sometimes, when the world seems to be spinning out of control, I need to focus on basic things. With that in mind, I’d like to share three moments when a mentor has listened, advised, or encouraged me, perhaps without even realizing it. These little snapshots left big imprints.

Snapshot #1: Lunch at an outdoor café.
I was brand-new at writing kids’ books, and Connie was a veteran. We’d met at a big conference earlier that year and discovered—get this—we lived in the same, small town in Indiana. We were both writing biographies, and as we talked about the women we were researching, we grappled with bigger issues… Why do we admire them? What is their historical significance? Why do we feel compelled to tell their stories? By listening, she validated my ideas. She heard the heart behind my dreams.

Snapshot #2: An invitation from a librarian.
I knew Laura from the children’s desk at the library–and also from the soprano section of the church choir. One day, Laura invited me to a meeting with a publisher who sold books to her department. I was so new to publishing that I would not have even known to ask for something like that. But Laura could see farther up the path. She recommended I study the publisher’s catalogs as a way to understand the market. Years later, when I stopped in at the library to hand her my first book, she beamed. Her early advice had helped shepherd me.

Snapshot #3: A short sentence on a college paper.
I was taking a university course, exploring literary journalism for the first time. At the bottom of my final paper for the semester, my professor wrote a simple statement of encouragement. I can still picture his tiny handwriting and the words he wrote. How powerful is it that his words left that impression? Even small compliments build courage.

I’ve shared examples from my career, but a mentor may walk with you through any aspect of your life, including a hobby or even your faith. With that in mind, I have a challenge for you this month:

  • Do you have a mentor? If not, would you like to look for one? If so, will you thank that person?
  • Would you like to be a mentor? Chances are, someone out there shares your interests and would grow as you listen, advise, and encourage.