Thinking Ahead 2: Mentoring

For the past several years, I have run a business called “Pen and Paper Mama Services.” For the main part, I have done tutoring and editing, plus some writing, workshops, author website consulting, and other similar activities. But as I reached the grand age of 65 in the summer of 2020, I am now considering how I can take on some new directions in my business and in my life. Over the next few blog posts, I will share the research I have been doing on various alternatives—and I’d be happy to have readers share their thoughts and input in the comments. Thank you! The following are the topics I’ll be covering:

  1. Coaching
  2. Mentoring
  3. Mentor writing and self-editing
  4. Mentor tutoring
  5. Specific services I am considering offering


In the previous post, we discussed coaching in general terms—from the viewpoints of both coach and client—and then went on to some specifics on coaching writing, self-editing, and publishing skills. In this post, we will discuss mentoring. You’ll see that while there are definite overlaps between coaching and mentoring, there are also some fairly distinct differences. Understanding these differences will help potential clients decide what kind of help they need.

A mentor helps students or clients:

– determine personal goals and dreams
– feel less alone and isolated; develop self-confidence; reach out to develop a team/community they can interact and work with
– realize and reach their potential
– figure out who and where they are at the moment and what they want to achieve in future; then learn to self-guide and self-develop: to forge their own path
– learn to self-analyze
– become a better communicator
– learn to recognize and develop their own best methods rather than depending on someone else’s path
– learn to identify the decision-making moments of their creative processes
– develop and use a personal, unique, introspective process
– figure out how to modify tools already being used in other projects to be useful to new projects
– recognize where they are sabotaging themselves and learn to overcome those issues
– learn to self-reflect and become more self-aware
– come up with a personal agenda and goals

General skills and experience a mentor can offer:

– offer encouragement, motivation, inspiration, and empowerment
– provide hope in situations of vulnerability and discouragement; empathize, support emotionally, counsel to some extent
– listen reflectively
– be an accountability partner
– provide personalized, adaptable suggestions and guidance
– offer alternative viewpoints
– ask questions and discuss goals and challenges to help the client move forward
– be reactive: answer questions, provide feedback, share experiences to guide decision-making, provide counsel or guidance but then encourage the clients to make their own decisions, to plan their own path, and take ownership of their journey
– provide questions to help writers discover and guide themselves
– be a role model, rather than focusing on direct teaching
– guide a client to develop their own talents and build upon skills they already have
– help clients explore future possibilities
– be trustworthy and confidential
– support the learner by looking for “teachable moments” rather than a more “curricular” approach
– introduce the client (aka “mentee”) to practices, trends, networks, and changes related to their personal needs and interests
– nurture a friendship role in an open, supportive manner; share victories and struggles
– be a problem-solving partner for the client; recognize skills and talents; work together to develop them
– give direction but always with the goal of encouraging the clients to find their own way and to develop their own skills
– make connections to other professionals in one’s field
– share knowledge, skills, and/or experience to help the client develop and grow in that field

Skills and experience directly related to writing/editing which a mentor may help writers with:

– learn to trust that writing is fluid, comes in waves, and is circuitous
– become authentic writers; write more honestly
– help writers learn to work on themselves as an author
– guide them to learn to make their writing more compelling
– help them dig into the emotional journey of writing
– point writers to relevant resources and materials for future self-help
– help writers build their “team” of writing helpers
– help writers build their “tribe” of reading followers and fans
– help writers figure out why they procrastinate (fear of disapproval, loneliness, scheduling problems, lack of focus, fear of marketing, lack of self-confidence, lack of responsibility, anxiety, lack of energy, doubts, lack of networking, emotional issues, boredom, distractions, busy life), and then help them find their personal best ways to overcome issues, make determined decisions, and become focused writers
– suggest routines and rituals to help a writer focus and get into a writing “flow”
– help a writer develop self-insight as the person behind the writing
– empower writers to improve their own writing instead of doing it for them

How does mentoring work?

– relationship-based communication in which knowledge, experience, and wisdom are transmitted (in a more informal way than with skill-building focused coaching), ideally face-to-face, over a sustained time period, through positive, personal interchanges
– like coaching, mentoring usually lasts for an extended time period. The mentor and client/mentee meet periodically (e.g. monthly or every 2 weeks).
– unlike coaching, in which “homework” tends to focus on skill-building, mentoring encourages “homework” that digs deep, with guiding questions, for the clients to determine their own needs and goals, work on them, and submit self-realizations with examples of how it is working for them. This type of homework may be presented as various forms of writing (long or short prose, poetry, etc.) but also in creative ways that reflect their own communication and learning approaches (drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, podcasts, music, science-type experiments, modeling, math, recipes, crafts, etc.). Then the mentor prepares questions, ideas, responses to help the client continue to redefine their goals and dreams and build their skills, until they feel ready to step out on their own.
– payment is usually spread over time, with a payment after each session; thus, it can be budgeted for
– less structured than coaching: the client/mentee is encouraged to come up with a personal agenda and goals, so it is self-development driven

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s