Why Bother Being a Protege?
How is it that the seemingly impossible becomes possible? How is it that a pile of jumbled words and phrases written down in journals over the course of many years, turns into a complete and orderly book? Left to myself, that stack of journals that holds dozens of run-on sentences, incomplete thoughts and raw emotions would have been tossed into a burn barrel by the unfortunate relative left to deal with my personal effects after my death. But instead, I wrote a book.
From Disorder to Order
It was only by becoming a protege that I could be mentored, advised, and guided by a mentor. I knew I was a novice writer. But, who could I ask to come along beside me and show me the way to writing and publishing a book?
I don’t remember how many years ago I first met Jenny, but I do remember the circumstances. I’d been invited to visit a writer’s group and Jenny was one of the members. This particular group of women met monthly for the purpose of critiquing each other’s writing. Everyone wrote something. Some wrote cozy mysteries, others penned stories for young adults, and still others preferred to write historical fiction. The one thing we all had in common was our passion to write.
I remember how I felt among all those real writers: intimidated, vulnerable and exposed. Yet, I made the commitment to attend those monthly meetings and submitted pieces of my writing for the group to critique. Back then I was trying my hand at inspirational pieces and short magazine articles. Everyone was kind with their comments, but Jenny’s words were the most helpful. She had a knack of finding my subtle grammatical errors and also encouraged me to use better, and more descriptive words to convey my thoughts. Just sitting beside Jenny boosted my confidence and my drive to become a better writer.
After a few years my thoughts wandered to the journals I’d kept. Between those pages I’d recorded my raw emotions, and my stilted effort to process the events of my dad’s suicide. Was this material book worthy?
With great timidity, I approached Jenny. Writing a book was uncharted territory for me, but not for her. She’d written and published more than a few historical fiction novels. I knew she had the skills to take a manuscript and turn it into a marketable book, but would she be willing to guide me? All I could do was to ask and thankfully she said yes.
Our relationship changed rapidly after that. It went from casual to intimate to committed. She edited the chapters I emailed to her and then we met to discuss the changes I needed to make.
Revising my writing according to her professional, reliable and accurate suggestions was an arduous and time consuming task. Yet, our time together proved to be pleasant and productive.
On warm afternoons, we’d sit on my back deck, drinking sun tea and in cooler weather we huddled over cups of hot tea at my kitchen table. Over time, my private thoughts from the pages of my journals turned into cohesive sentences, paragraphs and polished chapters. The safety I felt with Jenny set me free to write what I never thought would ever leave the confines of my private chronicles.
Jenny’s comments were always kind and constructive. She’d point out where I left out an emotion I surely must have felt. And when I failed to use descriptive language, she would insert a suggestion. In the places where I’d disregarded the correct punctuation, she’d remind me. Though I sometimes felt I should have known better, Jenny never reprimanded my ignorance. She only fanned my flame. She relates to the passion that motivates any writer to tell a story.
Why bother being a protege? Without conforming to my position as someone in training, Jenny, my mentor would never have been to make the impossible, possible for me.