Every Writer Needs a Mentor: 4 Traits to Seek in a Thriving Writing Community or Mentorship

Every writer needs a mentor.

We’ve all seen images of famous authors gathered around tabletops, coffee mugs in their hands, on the walls of Borders, Barnes & Noble, or local specialty bookshops. Most of us have not given these murals much thought. But what if we chose instead to delve into the relationships of poets and essayists like Hemingway, Thoreau, Alcott, Plath, and more? What might we find?

I did a little digging recently and discovered some interesting and telling commonalities between female authors of the past: most of them had friendships with at least a few other writers in their local communities or exchanged letters abroad. These women shared experiences across differences in stature, across countries, and across ideologies. How can we learn from them?

In a world where comparison and communication technology are at our fingertips, what if we too embraced the idea that women need (and deserve) to be supported in their literary pursuits? What would a community of women focused on supporting each other look like?

Four Key Attributes of a Supportive Writing Community or Mentoring Relationship

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” – Romans 15:4 

1. A Writing Community or Mentor is Teaching-Focused

One of the most vital attributes of any mentorship program is that it challenges beginning-to-mid-level writers to grow while offering opportunities for the more advanced to impart wisdom and skill into those newer to the field.

Why is this important? While reading books on the craft, in a similar genre, or by authors you love can provide excellent opportunities for exposure and gaining new skills, applying the material can be difficult. A strong community provides chances to test new skills and feedback on how to improve, both of which are important for professional development.

2. A Writing Community or Mentor is Authentic

Every person has encountered an inauthentic person at one time or another. You can hear the phoniness in their tone, see it in their mannerisms, and feel it in your soul. Something about them just feels cringe-worthy. A strong mentoring program will be authentic.

How will they demonstrate their authenticity? Let’s look at some ways authenticity can show up in mentor-mentee relationships.

  • They will be authentic in their constructive feedback. It will be based on writing guidelines, not personal preference.
  • They will be authentic in their praise and provide a basis for high marks given.
  • They will be authentic and professional in their interactions with community members or mentees.
  • They will be authentic and transparent in community and mentor-mentee codes of conduct or guidelines.

3. A Writing Community or Mentor is Nurturing

A strong mentor will be supportive of your writing goals, hold you accountable, and provide proven strategies to help you reach your goals.

They will also support you in your career development and point you to resources when you need more specific help.

4. A Writing Community or Mentor is Thriving

Not all writing communities are created equal. A general search online will reveal several different options including groups hosted on social media platforms, local meetups, and one-on-one mentorships. You will find large groups with thousands of members and small groups with only a few. Some groups are focused on specific genres and others specialize in areas of the process. Look for a group that is growing.

Questions for Consideration as You Seek Support

As you are considering which is the best fit for you, ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Do I feel more comfortable posting in a large group or a small one?
  • Do I prefer a community on social media, local meetup, or something else?
  • What can I afford to invest (time, money, resources) in giving back to the group?
  • What goals do I have that a group can help me with?
  • How committed am I to making progress? Is this a desire or a passion? (A desire is a feeling and will fade quickly when you reach a roadblock. A passion comes from purpose and can weather any obstacles with proper supports in place.)

In considering communities and mentorships, you will find most of them allow both men and women members. I find this makes for a well-rounded tribe, for most purposes, and that each gender brings unique strengths to the group.

Final Encouragements & A Community I Love Sharing

Whether you are just getting started on your journey, or have been writing for years, being part of a vibrant community promotes your continued growth in so many ways.

  • Providing inspiration and motivation to keep progressing
  • Providing professional connections to the community for networking and resources
  • Providing like-minded people for conversation and the craft and life of a writer

Being plugged into an online, thriving community truly is a blessing to my career. I hope as you seek out support for your writing that you will share any communities or mentorships you’ve found that are particularly beneficial, as I’d love to pass them on to my audience.

One community that I love connecting with and recommending to any of my faith-based writing friends is the 540 Writers Community hosted by Becky Antkwoiak. This group hosts daily write-ins and weekly trainings via zoom. Check it out and see if it’s a good fit for you, and if it is, I can’t wait to see you there!

{Disclaimer: my only affiliation with the group is as a member and participant. I earn and receive nothing from sharing this thriving, supportive community with you.}



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