It’s been a busy few weeks, but I’m back for this Friday’s Reflections post, folks! 🙂
Today’s topic is Mentors.
You can apply the exercise from this post to your novel – protagonists, sometimes even antagonists, often have mentors who lead them along and offer the occasional nugget of wisdom that sparks an epiphany. You could just try a journal entry about this topic. Or you could write a poem or any other creative piece, like a short story! Absolutely your choice 🙂
So what comes to mind when you think of “mentors”?
A classroom teacher figure? Or someone more like a rather old, but wise and experienced type?
Mentors could be anyone – your friendly, understanding aunt; your closest cousin; that best friend you look up to; your piano instructor; your pastor, or family guru; your mother or father. One of my closest friends thinks of her own elder brother as a mentor – he has been something like a guide for her all her life, through school and college, and even today he’s ready to offer her advice if she needs it.
I had a conversation with my aunt about teachers and mentors once, and what she said then has really stuck with me. She’s my father’s younger sister, and there’s quite the age difference between them, almost a decade’s worth. My aunt told me that the first and best teacher in her life had been my dad, who had helped her with all her school lessons. Until she told me this, I hadn’t really considered my father as a ‘teacher’, even though he’s taught me so much about physics and mechanics and the way the world works, amongst many other things.
Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind, I’d assumed that it was the role of the parent to ‘teach’ or ‘impart knowledge’. But my dad’s way of teaching had always been decisively teacher-like and not parent-like, and I only realized there’s a difference between the two when my aunt brought it up.
It’s always so interesting to look at someone in that new perspective, someone we’ve been looking at our whole lives.
A change of perspective
So just take a moment to close your eyes and open them again, look at the world of people you know from different angle. Whom all would you consider “mentors”? What is a “mentor”, to you? A guide? Someone who offers advice whenever you go to them, or someone who is actively involved in all of the decisions you make and lights the way? Someone who has trained you in a particular craft, and perhaps has taught you life values through that process? Does your mentor make you want to work harder and do better, become a better person?
Think about the ways in which you address the various mentors in your life. Why do you call them that way? Does the way you address them give away the mentor-mentee relationship between the two of you (like “Ma’am”, “Sensei”, “Master”), or is the person a relative whom you hadn’t quite thought of in that way before (like my dad, for me)?
Mentors, teachers, instructors, and such, don’t necessarily have to be “positive” influences every time, either. For instance, in Batman Begins, Ra’s al Ghul is initially Batman’s mentor, but eventually becomes one of Batman’s greatest enemies.
What is most important is the way in which your mentor has affected your life. Take a few minutes, maybe even half an hour or two hours, if you have the time, to reflect and write about it.
An exercise in poetry
Write a list poem about all the things you’ve learnt from someone, starting from the thing of (apparently) least significance, to the thing of greatest significance (or in any order you prefer)
Some more questions to ask yourself
Is there someone who played the role of mentor in your life whom you haven’t seen in a long time, or who has changed drastically since you last saw him/her? Does distance, time or change affect the way you remember him/her now? How and why?
Is there a dilemma you’re facing now that you wish you could consult one of your former mentors for advice about?
All of these questions and answers could apply just as well to a fictional character in your next novel; add depth to characterization by giving your protagonists or antagonists a ‘mentor’ figure. Think Yoda and Luke Skywalker. It’s important to note how much of an impact the mentor has on the protagonist – and how significant and unique what he/she has to teach is, how that contributes to the protagonist’s overall goals.
If you’re journalling, dig up those old memories from school and college days! Perhaps those wonderful teenage years, when nothing was ever going right – maybe someone helped you figure the world out?
And if you’ve got a whole new perspective on this topic that I haven’t even touched upon, that’s great! Write about it!
Whenever you have trouble drawing up words, maybe you can pull out an old school yearbook and rifle through the pages for a photo of your favorite teacher. Old photographs, especially black-and-white ones printed in yearbooks and such, always make me feel so nostalgic 🙂 and nostalgia practically spills words on the page for me!
Happy writing folks 🙂 and happy weekend!