Heroes Vs. Mentors

Just a random thought while catching up on The Voice about the established creators whom younger artists choose as mentors. Some of the time the young singers will pick their hero – I notice most of the time this happens it’s a young girl who idolizes either Shakira or Christina – but generally the people who walk in acknowledging being a huge fan of one of the coaches end up picking someone else to be their coach…often to their own surprise.

I have thought about this for a couple seasons now, and I have a theory: when you’re actually faced with your hero, do you really want them to see you in all your flaws?

This is actually something that has crossed my mind before. There is a SFF book conference that takes place in the town I went to college, which one of my all-time favorite writers – perhaps my very all-time favorite – attends almost every year and regularly participates in the writing mentor section for as one of the judges/mentors for the sessions. I attended the conference once right after I graduated and moved away, specifically to meet her (it was awesome) and considered going back the next for the writing portion. I even emailed the coordinator to ask if I could request placement in a particular mentor’s group, thinking of course I would want to be in hers. And then I thought about it some more. Did I really want my hero to be the one to tell me my work was awful? Did I want to be placed under the microscope by one of the writers I was, at the time, essentially trying to emulate, who might just think me a milquetoast impersonator? Did I really want to blur the lines between being a fan and being a colleague like that?

For me the answer was no – no, I didn’t want any of those things with my hero. I wanted her to remain my hero, and I would find a mentor elsewhere, if I needed one. (And in the end I decided not to go back and do the writing portion, because my absolute fear of writing groups was not going to be overcome by anything less compelling than a desire to form a mentoring relationship with a writer I have looked up to since I was 13.)

I think a lot of the singers who audition end up in that place. It’s gratifying to have your hero say “I want you on my team,” but in the end you can probably learn more from someone whom you can regard as a more experienced artist but immediately as a colleague/peer, because you have never put them on a pedestal, than someone you idolize.

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5 responses to “Heroes Vs. Mentors

  1. Makes sense to pick the coach who you think can best give you what you need, including self-confidence (or whatever will induce self-confidence in you), rather than the one you idolize. It means the singers are thinking things through – under pressure. Good for them.

    • I think that’s the way to look at it – who’s actually going to be the mentor you need. A mentor type relationship really relies on multiple types of trust, and the only one that has anything in common with idolizing someone is trust in their ability to do well whatever it is that you’re aspiring to learn.

  2. I used the services of a coach last year, and I chose her because she’s so different from me! There were definitely things about her that I liked and blog posts I’d resonated with, but there are many things about her life and beliefs that are the polar opposite of my views. I figure that kind of process is meant to be challenging, its meant to change you, so do it properly!

    • Huh. What an interesting approach to take! I hadn’t consciously thought about trying to find someone with a different point of view than I already have but that’s probably the fastest way to expand your horizon, at least if the new point of view is one you see validity in. It may or may not change your mind but there is a lot to be said for having explored another side and still come back to your original one vs. keeping it by default bc you never explore alternatives.

      • Yes! That’s exactly it! There were a few things last year that I’d gotten to a “making the same mistakes over” stage with but I wasn’t really sure how to get started changing things. So someone different to me seemed like the best place to get ideas! And yes, even if all you get is a confirmation of your view, it can still help in feeling confident in your decision or action.

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