Choose Your Own Mentor

I've given a lot of thought this week to examples. Some working authors in this industry provide an unfailing example of how to act. Others, unfortunately, serve as a terrible warning.

I'll never forget those generous, gracious authors (and more experienced, unpublished souls) who gave me a hand up. These men and women clearly remembered what it was like to step into a world with mysterious and highly-specialized rules of conduct and confusing jargon. They took the time to teach, to explain, and to gently offer advice. Often, they put such advice into the context of funny (but wince-worthy) How I Screwed Up Bigtime stories. I learned more about the business just chatting with these folks than I ever did in years of reading how-to books or blindly writing on my own. Some (as they were able) even gave me cover quotes when I timidly asked, and none ever condescended (at least publicly) to "newbies". As a result, I became their loyal readers and never missed the opportunity to talk them up. They also became role models of how to behave as a professional.

Unfortunately, not everyone has proved to be so pleasant. A tiny but memorable minority of authors loudly bad-mouth the people and companies with whom they work, or fellow writers. They're dismissive of those with fewer accolades or shorter track records. They embrace their inner diva in a big way, or make jaded and cynical remarks reflecting their disillusionment. In doing so, they poison the well of hope where all "younger" (I'm referring to experience rather than age here) writers drink. When I run across these folks, I don't forget them either. And I have to say, their bad behavior prevents me from checking out their books.

As you deal with other writers in the coming weeks, take a moment to ask yourself, am I behaving as a great example... or a highlight from the annals of What Not to Do?


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