Two Sides of the Same Coin

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When you teach someone else how to do something, you learn a lot yourself.

Teaching has a way of cementing ideas, facts, procedures—all kinds of information—in our brains through the visual and auditory senses, as well as the writing (of the lesson plan, main points on charts or power point and so on).

So, I am going to suggest something you might think is crazy: I’d like you to consider mentoring a beginning writer. 

You may consider yourself a beginner and question just how much help you could be to someone else. But, even if you only stay a step ahead of them, the experience will be invaluable—as you learn TOGETHER.

I remember, as a first year teacher. being assigned to teach two periods of sewing in Home Economics. I had no experience. I didn’t know any of the terms, parts of the machine, not even how to read a pattern.

Each night, I would go home and teach myself what I needed to know in order to get through class the following day. This went on for the entire semester. I stayed, literally, one step ahead of my students. But, by the last day of class, I found myself actually looking forward to the next group of students. I felt increased competence and confidence 

So, the point is: whether you know a lot about the craft of writing, or you consider yourself a beginner, the experience you will gain by mentoring someone else will be invaluable.

It will be time well spent…because learning and teaching are two sides of the same coin.

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A Welcome Intrusion

I often view life, rather the “stuff” of life, as an intrusion on my writing. Just this month alone, I have had taxes to prepare, a book signing, a mammogram, a 13,000 mile oil change and maintenance check on my car, a haircut, a visit to a new allergy doctor, a weekend conference, close of escrow on a new home, two yard sales, six blogs to write—well, you get the picture.

I’ve only been to my exercise class twice this month and only visited my aging parents, once.

Sometimes I feel like throwing in the towel!

If you are experiencing similar feelings about your life, I am going to suggest something rather odd.

Take on yet another responsibility.

I know, it sounds crazy. However, I have recently done exactly that.

I needed a “shot in the arm”—something to energize me—and so I thought about mentoring.

 

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I have begun informally mentoring a couple of “new” writers.  One is a young girl—a cosmetologist—who has answered the call of her heart and begin to write in the evenings after her young children have gone to bed.  The other is a “winter visitor” here in Arizona. We will be able to communicate by email, for the part of the year she is away.

I love to “talk writing” and the opportunity to help others is why I went into public school teaching in the first place. Besides, one can learn so much by teaching others. I’m sure I will be the one benefiting the most from these two relationships.

ou may think you have nothing to offer a new writer, but nothing could be further from the truth.

You can share what you have learned at conferences, read in books, heard from the members in your critique group. If nothing else, you can listen to their frustrations, make suggestions,  and offer an encouraging word.

By doing so, you may find yourself energized and more productive as you are working on your own writing projects.

Think back to when you first started writing. Recall what kinds of questions you had, where it was you went for answers. Share what you found to be helpful.

Think back to some of the more notable mistakes you made. As you mentor someone, relay what you learned in those situations.

Instead if being an intrusion in your busy life, you just may find that becoming a mentor is just the thing to kick-start your next writing project!