I've not had a formal mentor since childhood. One of the more profound mentoring experiences from my parents' teaching was hard-won accomplishments are their own reward. Mastering the easy stuff is like picking carnival novelty prizes from a zirconium bedazzled tray. The easy way rarely is genuinely easy. It was a hard lesson to learn that the hard way is easier than the easy way.
My writing mentors haven't been formally my mentors. They've been teachers and professors and writers and fellow poets and others not directly engaged in writing coincidentally providing insights from sharing their learning and accomplishments and failures. I remember years after any one said or showed something that stood out that stuck with me. A high school writing, literature, and publishing teacher showed me the difference between a tension building plot and a defusing tension plot, though it would be years later before I fully grasped the concepts of tension, causation, and antagonsism. He also gave me some insight into the difference between an awkward metaphor and an estranging one, again, decades later I'd finally grasp what he tried to say succintly but I couldn't quite grasp.
I've done hundreds of hours of writing coursework, had many ancilliary mentoring experiences as a consequence, and taken a lot of time to grasp the full ramifications of the unintended, insightful, ancilliary bits. Mentors learn from their mentees because they learn by teaching. It's a dialogue.
Perhaps not too terrribly odd, some of my better mentoring experiences came from studying writing-related topics that have little immediate connection to writing. Social sciences, physical sciences, math, foreign languages, for example. Social sciences like sociology, political geography, psychology, and anthropology have significant influences on writing, and are themselves influenced by writing. Freud began his investigations into psychoanalysis with the literature available to his times. Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles 400 BCE playing large in Freud's emerging theories of psychoanalysis. One recently vogue area of literary theory and interpretation revolves around lay psychoanalysis of literature.
I'm disinclined to having or being a formal mentor. The relationship dynamics of formal mentorship become complicated by power struggles. I don't want to wind up a clone of someone else's viewpoints and attitudes nor impose my vision on someone else's. On the other hand, I prefer a dialogue relationship, where I give and take, locate a trail head, but leave trail blazing to the traveller. Have a trail head located for me. Then the journey is the traveller's, fresh, new, and vital because it belongs to the traveller.
The most profound mentoring experience I've had, started by my parents and early childhood teachers, continued by others throughout the journey of life, journey of a poet's progress, was the hardest won and most rewarding. I learned without being told or shown that the journey is the reward. The hardships, the sorrows, the all too few joys are the prizes. Reaching the destination is reaching the end of the journey. Even the most trying obstacles have been fun and rewarding to surmount. It's been too much fun to give any of it up.
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