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.