Photo by Casey McFarland,

I have been reading children’s literature all my life. It’s only been the last two years that I’ve started trying to write it. I consider myself an experienced reader and a beginning writer. Because of this, I’ve developed a mentor/protégé relationship…with myself. I imagine it’s a pretty common occurrence.

“You’re a genius!” says the mentor in me. “This book is destined to become a classic!” And the writer smiles and types furiously while the muse is still nearby.

But soon (sometimes within minutes), the mentor has changed her tune.

“This book is garbage. You’ll never amount to anything as a writer. Your time would be better spent cleaning the fridge.” [sympathetic “wah-wah” from a single trombone]

At times like this, the mentor would do well to remember words from her own hero, her great-uncle Wilbur Braithwaite. Wilbur was a writer of poetry and music who also happened to be veteran of World War II, a state-champion coach in multiple sports over a 50-year career, and a mentor to hundreds of high school athletes. In this article, he listed the following as one of his “Lessons Learned from a Lifetime of Coaching”:

“Your players tend to become what they believe you think they are.”

Ponder that for a minute. If I treat myself as a wannabe who is wasting her time, most likely I will remain a time-wasting wannabe. If, however, I can treat myself as a beginning writer who has great potential and promise, I will work harder and continue to improve, and I may just fulfill that potential and promise.

So the lesson, I think, is this: Be kind to yourself, believe in yourself, and then remember #10 from Wilbur’s list:

“Work hard to influence the outcome of important things within your control.”

That’s the advice I’m giving my protégé today.

7 thoughts on “Mentor/Protégé

  1. This is brilliant advice. I think I need it framed. Then when the mean NYC librarian with ugly glasses tells me I'll never amount to anything (I had to give a face to the voice), I can show her this and she will leave me alone.


  2. I love this. It reminds me of My Fair Lady, where Eliza tells the professor that if you treat a girl like a lady–she becomes a lady; if you treat her like a flower girl, she stays a flower girl.

    I especially like the idea of treating yourself as an author with potential, rather than judging yourself on the quality of a current work (which we're not always qualified to judge, anyway).


    Amen, amen, amen!
    We all have the 'great job'-'this is garbage' voices but the key is to focus more on the 'great jobs'. We have to visualize success. Now we have room to improve but garbage is too strong of a word to allow for improvement. We want to make 'great' sparkle until it's fabulous.
    I'm glad you found my blog so I could find yours 🙂


  4. Pingback: Mentor/Protégé | Thinking Through Our Fingers

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