RNJ Corner: Advice for Writing Mentors and Aspiring Authors
In this issue of RNJ Corner, RNJ Associate Editor, Linda L. Pierce, PhD MSN RN CRRN FAAN, discusses what to look for in an author mentor and mentee relationship, and how you can look at the relationship from a learning perspective.
Why is mentorship important?
A writing mentorship is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience (published author) and someone who wants to learn (aspiring author). Writing mentors act as resources for less experienced, but potential authors. Over time, mentors provide ongoing support and continued growth for these individuals.
Writing mentors: What are the qualities for your success?
Can you be a writing mentor for an aspiring author or mentee? If you answered: YES, consider these six qualities for a winning writing partnership. A mentor:
- holds the mentee accountable. Deadlines are a helpful way for writers to complete their own projects; however, they are easy to miss when you are only accountable to yourself. Setting a time to forward your writing to a mentor is external motivation for making those deadlines.
- inspires you. Mentors can offer inspiration to help you complete a work-in-progress and help deal with a writer's block when you are stuck. As an experienced writer, your mentor will have been exactly where you are and can offer advice to help get you through any creative rough patches.
- improves your writing skills. A writing mentor will read your work and give you honest feedback in-person, phone, email, and/or software applications, e.g., Skype or Zoom. This constructive critique can improve your writing process and teach you new ways to approach your work.
- supports your career path. Mentorship is often a long-term relationship. A good mentor will offer guidance as you create a roadmap for your career.
- helps you develop your voice. After reading your work, a mentor can pick up the unique nuances of your style and help you hone in on your voice. Mentors can help you find and develop your writing style.
- assists you make decisions about where to publish. A writing mentor can offer advice on getting published. Mentors have experience and can help you determine where your work should appear, guiding you through the decision-making process of a reputable journal or other publishing venues.
Writing mentees: What to look for in writing mentors?
Not every aspiring author needs/wants a mentor. Ask yourself: Do you need a writing mentor? If your answer is YES, then here are four specific characteristics of what to look for in that mentor. A mentor:
- has passion. Enthusiasm and positivity need to dominate mentorship. The lesson is that it is very important for the mentor to be as enthusiastic about an aspiring writer's work as the writer or mentee is.
- demonstrates sensitivity. Mentors need to be very sensitive to the mentee's circumstances and show passion and understanding. When there is a lack of progress in writing, there are reasons. Mentors need to listen, hear, and support. Sometimes the reasons are not strictly professional, e.g., finding the right balance between work and family responsibilities; coping with cultural transitions after a move from a different part of the country or world.
- appreciates individual differences and shows respect. People are different in how work is accomplished and in motivation styles. Special effort is needed to try to understand all those nuisances and deal with them differently. Mentors can help mentees make decisions about what is most important at this time and when it time to push forward or pull back.
- displays unselfishness and demonstrates support for others. Mentors who let mentees take their ideas and use them, and being willing for them to take credit is not always easy but is always appreciated. In a true partnership, the impact of good mentors goes far beyond their own boundaries.
Learning happens on both sides.
Established writers might consider the evidence of what comprises good mentoring. Mentors might reflect on the chosen strategies and determine whether there are lessons here that could help you alter your approach. Such changes could ultimately benefit those mentees that you work with and, given the lasting and broad influence of good mentors, the nursing profession as a whole.
An advantage for an aspiring author to work with a writing mentor is that it may help you to acclimate more rapidly to the publishing process. By having a 'go-to' person to ask questions, discuss scenarios, and generally learn the nuances of authorship, you may become published much more quickly. In addition, you may never feel that you have nowhere to turn for help. Aspiring authors need to think about what they want to get out of the mentorship relationship and set a specific end goal, e.g., submission of a manuscript.
Mentors and mentees, please consider the Rehabilitation Nursing Journal for your new manuscript; see more information for authors at https://journals.lww.com/rehabnursingjournal/Pages/informationforauthors.aspx.
Written by: Linda L. Pierce, PhD MSN RN CRRN FAAN; Rehabilitation Nursing Journal, Associate Editor; Professor Emerita, University of Toledo in Ohio