In the epic poem the Iliad, Telemachus father Odysseus was absent twenty years; first at war and then wandering on his long route home. Meanwhile his Telemachus grew to an adulthood without a father. Having pity on the youth, the goddess Athena disguised herself as an old man, took on the pseudonym “Mentor” and became his guide. For the novice in writing finding an appropriate mentor with seems almost essential, but most of us are not as lucky as Telemachus.
Often an aspiring author seeks to further their experience and searches for someone of standing to help them. But, mentors are real people, not deities with immortality and powers. A voluntary mentorship takes time away from an author’s own productive work. Why would they want to enter into this kind of relationship? One obvious answer is for the ego boost. It is a great self-esteem builder to have someone select you as their role model, especially in a field where success is based on subjective judgment. The second reason is that the mentor desires to maintain quality work in their area. However, this kind of relationship is not widespread.
Some mentorships are organized programs in upper levels of education. In many educational creative writing programs the instructor to essentially performs the duty of a mentor among a small hand-picked group who are paying nicely for this privilege. Mentors unlike instructors, can only work with a few individuals, making this kind of relationship very elite (Churchman). This also leads to marginalizing individuals that differ from the instructor. The Iowa Writers Workshops were initially promoted as collaborative. But by members own accounts, these workshops were male dominated and majority of praise and criticism was based on the precepts of the instructor (Bishop).
So what does the poor novice writer do? There seems to be no option other than shelling out the money. The more you pay for the succession of conferences, workshops and courses, the more you are likely to actually meet a successful writer and receive individual attention. These connections are as important as learning the craft of writing if anyone else is ever going to see your work.