The Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Innocent

I’ve just started a 6 month mentoring programme that has grown out of both my literature devlopment work and my interests as a writer. I’m going to make a few posts about it here on the Don’t Look Down blog as a way of recording my progress and I thought it might also be of interest to others.

My mentoring programe has been organised by NALD , the National Association for Literature Development. Lit.Dev is a somewhat unusual career path, it is both problematic for being quite insecure but also very useful in terms of flexibility and developing experience. Literature Workers often move on to freelance work, writing or into other cultural sectors – theatre, film or even TV. Navigating this complex career path can be quite a challenge, so giving workers the chance to tap into the skills and knowledge of more experienced people in the field seems like a very good idea.

I was a little skeptical about how well I would personaly engage with a mentoring process when it was first suggested. The term itself is quite off putting, probably as much for the ‘mentor’ as the ‘mentee’. In popular parlance its only one step away from Guru or even worse Life Coach. In practice however the mentoring process is about gaining an outside viewpoint on your own situation. It’s also a chance to avoid a few wrongs turns on the path ahead, or at least get them flagged as wrong turns before you go plunging on down them regardless.

The first mentoring session gave me an opportunity to talk through a whole bunch of issues realating to my work and my writing. The last six months have been an incredibly active time on both fronts, and having the opportunity to just talk through each of the things I was involved in and getting an outside perspective on how they might fit together was tremendously useful.

I’d given the mentor a portfolio of my writing in advance of the meeting. The mentors key criticism was that I was avoiding writing scenes, which in turn was strangling the characters voices and replacing them with my own. To get over this I’ve set about a new short story that I’m trying to write at least 70% ‘in scene’ rather than stepping back to a broader narrative viewpoint. So far its going well, and its also pushing me into a third person narrative where previously I’d been stuck in 1st person, which is where I’m naturaly more confident.

An unexpected aspect of the mentoring process has been the level of self-reflection its incited me to engage both in preparing for each session and then in thinking them over afterwards. The mentoring itself has acted like a catalyst, which has sparked off a number of other processes of thought and activity. With one session gone its already started to have an impact on what I’m doing, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the programme unfolds. I’ll post regular updates about it here, so if you are interested please check back.

Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

2 thoughts on “The Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Innocent

  1. Thanks for writing this up Damien.
    Gives a real insight as to how something like this can work, and spark of new ideas. But also give a person some support – which we all need in the field of writing or literature development!



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