Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Kindness Project: On Mentoring

Too often kindness is relegated to a random act performed only when we’re feeling good. But an even greater kindness (to ourselves and others) occurs when we reach out even when we aren't feeling entirely whole. It’s not easy, and no one is perfect. But we’ve decided it’s not impossible to brighten the world one smile, one kind word, one blog post at a time. To that end, a few of us writers have established The Kindness Project, starting with a series of inspirational posts. We post the second Wednesday of every month. 


So I mentioned this a little last week and was actually worried that it wasn't the best choice in radical kindness but over the last few days, I have been proven way wrong. Let me back up. When I first started to really think about RADICAL KINDNESS, I had to think what I could possibly offer in kindness. Not that I'm not a kind person, but it's not like I'm a good cook so I can feed home-bound neighbors, I am not the most timely at writing cards to the people I love, I haven't knit a scarf or hat for anyone in over a year. So what was I going to bring to the table?


Then it occurred to me that one of the best things that ever happened to me as a writer was for someone to do a VERY critical analysis of my writing and tell me all the bad first time writer habits I was doing. It changed everything for me. And since I wasn't bogged down in bad writing, I was able to find my voice. 


And I realized that many of the folks participating in the Kindness Project do these wonderful and supportive things for other writers ALL THE TIME. So I thought...well, I *am* an editor in my day job and I *do* know a few basic things that might help new writers get out of their own way and actually write so maybe, maybe, maybe...


And then I met a woman who asked me to mentor her. And then I met a teenager who was frustrated and feeling defeated by her book. So I offered to help both of them. And I didn't really know how it would go because sometimes people seem to want help, but then when you really tell them some concrete things that need to be changed about their writing, they get kind of prickly about it. BUT, it turned out okay. Better than okay, actually. And now I've helped the teenager with her query (and steered her to Matt and Elana as experts in this area). And I'm also working on going through the woman's book for a second pass edit.


This might all mean nothing. It might not help at all. But if it can encourage people to keep trying, help them get a little better, and make them feel like they aren't doomed to fail, I think it's a win. What about you all? Have you ever considered mentoring newer writers? 



The Kindness Project

Sophia Chang                         Sara Larson
Erica Chapman                      Matthew MacNish
Jessica Corra                         Sara McClung
Elizabeth Davis                       Leigh Moore
Christa Desir                          Tracey Neithercott
Sarah Fine                              Katharine Owen
Claire Hennessy                     Elizabeth Poole
Elana Johnson                        Lola Sharp
Amie Kaufman                        Michele Shaw
Liza Kane                                Meagan Spooner                      
Alina Klein                               Carolina Valdez Miller






21 comments:

Sara McClung said...

Christa, what a great way to cultivate kindness. I wish I'd had someone like you when I first started out :)

I would definitely consider mentoring a newer writer!

Ruth Schiffmann said...

Those sounds like great kindnesses. I'm sure the recipients have been blessed by your efforts.

Claire Hennessy said...

What a great way to 'pay it forward'. I consider myself in the 'first time bad writer' category so I wouldn't dream of mentoring anybody. In fact, I would be putting my hand up to BE mentored LOL

Lola Sharp said...

What a truly kind gift you've given. I know how time consuming giving a detailed and thoughtful critique can be, especially to new writers. Way to go. :)

But, please, let me assure you, you are a bright light in many ways. From the beginning of you popping on my radar, you've stuck out. Your humor shines, yes, because, dude, you IS FUNNY. But, also your willingness to give a compliment, to reach out and say something nice. You notice small things and remember them, and when you mention them months later, well, a person knows you took notice, you cared, you're genuine. And, love, that is kindness, pure magical kindness.

Thank you for being in my world. <3

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

It means everything, Christa. It's a true kindness, one that can only really ever be repaid by paying it forward. The best kind of kindness, I think. This is wonderful. It makes me want to do the same thing.

Alina said...

Christa, that is a wonderful gift and an amazing way to pay it forward. I'm not sure I would know how to be a mentor, but I guess I'll have no idea if I'm any good at it until I try. :)

Sara B. Larson said...

That is a such a great way to show radical kindness! It'll make all the difference to those people you are helping, it really takes a lot of effort on your part to do something like that. You've inspired me. Thank you!!

Elodie said...

Such a wonderful idea, Christa! And I think you show kindness in so many of your projects...Yep. You´re just awesome like that!

Sophia Chang said...

I've ALWAYS craved a mentor my entire life but never knew how to get one. Mentors seem to fall into all these other people's lives but not mine. I had no idea you could just ASK someone to be yours! I try to unofficially mentor a former student that I'm close with and that's been gratifying to be on the other side.

Melodie Wright said...

Love this idea. Also love that your mentee is able to receive your advice w/o getting feelings hurt. It takes a gift for mentoring to foster a gift for writing...sounds like you have both. ;)

Matthew MacNish said...

Dude. Paying it forward is one of the kindest and most important things you can do. And who was this teen? Is it somebody I've already helped? If not, I look forward to hearing from her!

KO: The Insect Collector said...

Lovely. It means so much, and I think one of the BEST thing about the writing community is how willing people are to give of their time. It makes a huge difference. :0)

Sarah said...

There is something amazing about being invested in, being shown that you are worth someone else's time and thought. It's priceless. I've never mentored another writer because I consider myself quite new to the profession, but I've supervised and mentored other clinicians and psychologist-trainees, and it's one of my favorite parts of the job.

Rebecca Kiel said...

What a great idea! Kindness, is whatever form, is always a good way to go.

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

Awesome, Krista! Yes, I mentor a teen writer, too. There are times, though, when I feel like she's way ahead of me! :)

Rida said...

You know, Christa, as one of your teen betas, I feel as though I learn something every time I talk to you, or read your stories. You're one of the people I look up to, without you ever realizing it. I write too, so there's even more looking-up-to-the-awesome-Christa stuff going on. So, well, thanks! :)

Elizabeth said...

I like the idea of mentoring new writers, but I also think I would really suck at mentoring. It truly takes a special person to be a mentor--as anyone who's ever had a rotten mentor can attest. The people you're helping are so, so lucky to have you.

erica m. chapman said...

What a great message! I often try to help every writer I can. I'm judging a contest right now and giving detailed critiques on each of the 30 entries. I figure, if I can help even one of them get an agent, or fix that spot in their query, I'm doing some good. Plus if I see any good ones i'll pass them along to the agent I intern for. It feels good to help ;o) I think it's wonderful what you're doing for those people!!

Medeia Sharif said...

I haven't been a mentor yet, but someday I'm sure I'll get that chance. Throughout the years I've had people give me advice when they didn't have to give me the time of day.

Tracey Neithercott said...

What a great example of using your talents in kindness. I would have been beside myself if someone had done that for me as a new writer. It's a good reminder that we should think outside the box when we're thinking of ways to help others.

LisaAnn said...

This is such a great idea for a blogfest, and I will definitely be checking out your posts. I also agree with everyone here: I would have killed for a mentor like you!