WHERE HAVE ALL THE MENTORS GONE?
AMBER LOVE 04-AUG-2016 Enjoy this post for FREE, but please consider becoming a supporter at Patreon.com/amberunmasked.
I’ve been facing a lot of emotions watching all my (younger) friends surpass me and feeling like my older friends have left me in the dust and don’t have time nor interest in me.
Here’s the thing about how individualized the geek world is: generally, we think we have the same backstory (not a lot of friends you could truly call friends, felt weird and outcast, etc.). Yet, the spectrum is much bigger than perception. There are geeks who are rich, those who are poor; those who have geeky jobs and those who don’t get to be creative until their own time. All different ages, ethnicities, and lots in life.
I hate the feeling I have which is that I’m still an outsider even among the other bookish, creative nerds. So few older/mentor level friends have shared the links to my books when I post them (in fact, only two I can think of). The best one deserves a shout out, Stephen Blackmoore who lives in LA and writes about zombies and shit. Every week, his tweets are filled with recommendations of other people’s books, even unknowns like me once in a while.
I’m not snubbing my peers (folks at my level still arting and getting out work when possible without a massive “big break”). That’s like a hug through the internet when that happens. We need to keep each other going! Seriously, if the people you’ve chosen to identify with as your herd/horde/pack don’t support you, then something is quite wrong. Maybe you’re an asshole. (Maybe I am?)
I feel like there are no mentors once you reach the “magical” age where you’re expected to already be one yourself. People reboot themselves though. They start new careers in middle age. They have life-altering things that happen and recalculate their trajectory. Do those people lose the need for mentors? I didn’t think so, but I personally have yet to find one who cares, supports my work, and sticks around more than a short while. Thankfully, I have a few close peers and friends where we can mutually vent and encourage each other.
Here’s why I’m even more annoyed about this and not simply being annoyed in silence: there are so damn many professionals in every field of art that get interviewed and talk about how great their mentors were for their own careers.
If you’re new to something and you’re reading this, my advice is that you need to start young because trying to break into something in your 40s fucking blows. You need to be energetic and rife with ambition and confidence. You need to get published by age 25 to get on any radar at all. The Rowlings and Christies of this world are RARE. Fucking black lotus rare, my friend.
There are no more Algonquin Round Tables. The best we have are conventions and social media. Getting to cons is cost prohibitive yet you’ll hear everyone say that they are vital for getting to know other people in the business.
So now my advice to those who have already found some success or a lot of it, part of your job is to be a farmer to the next wave of talent. Find those talented little seeds. Cultivate them. Harvest them. That means doing things like reading/critiquing for free when you can. It means introducing people to those key figures like literary agents, editors, publishers, other comic team creators, and even convention programming staff.
Think of it like unwanted solicitation versus a personal recommendation. Do you want someone you don’t know coming to your door, calling your private line, or emailing you out of the blue? I bet you don’t. You’d prefer someone you know saying, “Hey, there’s this writer who I think is pretty good and I’d like to introduce you.” Your job is not over once you’ve reached success.