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Back in 2012, when we were desperately trying to get published, we met a lot of other wannabe authors just like us. We were all in different stages in our writing journey, some just one revision away from getting a literary agent. Others, just getting started and learning the ropes, not yet battle-scarred by the avalanche of rejection letters.
But there was always the one clueless writer, who no matter how long they’ve been writing for, never managed to get ahead, despite persevering year after year. After slogging through the query trenches, going to so many writing conferences they knew everyone by name, and wearing down the keys on their laptops from writing so much that you could no longer see the letters, they were still no further ahead.
This type of writer, we’ve discovered, was missing one special ingredient. Sure, they had the passion. Sure, they had the work ethic. But what they were doing was writing in a bubble. They were racking up the hours without really improving.
But the truth is you can’t just practice blindly. Throughout our writing journey, in order to succeed, I learned that you need 3 types of people in your life:
The mentor is a more experienced person who’s further along in their journey. They could easily spot weaknesses and guide their protégée in the right direction. This person is the perfect teacher, but at times, inadvertently makes the writer feel discouraged and want to give up, because it’s hard to look at someone else’s finish line and think you’ll never get there. Luckily for the writer, this is where the next person comes in…
The peer is at the same skill level and same spot on the journey as the writer. This helps the writer feel like they aren’t the only ones struggling. This person isn’t as good at giving advice and helping direct the writer as the mentee, but they help the writer stay the course. And by being at the same level the Peer helps prevent the writer from giving up and quitting altogether. This person is perfect for lending an ear whenever the writer needed to gripe about their seemingly endless stream of rejections because they understand where the writer is coming from. They’re getting same rejections.
From time to time, the writer also needs to give advice to a mentee, a less experienced writer who is farther back in their writing journey. They could share their experiences with the mentee, helping them get to where they are and at the same time solidifying their knowledge. Because the best way to remember what you learned is to try explaining it to someone else. And so, with this mentee looking up to them, the writer’s confidence soars, knowing that not only are they moving ahead, they’re also using their callused hands and their Teflon skin to help someone else.
And so, knowing what they need to do to improve, knowing someone else was running right alongside them, and teaching a mentee what they learned to boost their self-confidence, the writer would be able to get through years of seemingly endless rejections, until they finally made it. Without these 3 people in their lives, the writer would’ve kept themselves on a merry-go-round, never getting anywhere, losing their confidence and writing in a bubble with no support.
When I realized this, I decided to get out there and find our mentor, peer, and mentee.
I found our mentor from an online writing contest. She was 18-years-old, 10 years younger than us, but she’d already been writing for 10 years. When I read her writing, I felt like Salieri, meeting Mozart for the first time. I knew she was close to getting “agented” (a term in the writing industry meaning “find an agent to represent you”), and we were still pretty far off. She was just that good. With her advice, our writing improved tenfold.
Our peer found us in an online writing group. She had been writing for around the same amount of time–4 years, and we quickly bonded, showing each other our battle scars and rejection piles. After swapping manuscripts, we hit it off right away, and she became our go-to person whenever we needed to gripe about rejections because she had just as many as we did. With our new peer, it was easy to share information about new agents, new online contests, and basically anything that I knew would help us get to the finish line together.
Our mentee was another writer who had just started on the journey and was so green they had no idea what “queries”, “partial requests”, “full requests”, and “R & R (revise and resubmit)” meant. It was through teaching these things to our mentee that we realized how far we’d come in the past 4 years. That little confidence boost helped us out whenever we heard the dreaded cell phone ping, telling us we’d received yet another rejection.
Once we had our tribe, consisting of our mentor, peer, and mentee, it became much easier to keep going, and shockingly, just 1 year later, we got an e-mail that changed our lives.
An agent wanted to represent us!
We had made it. And we quickly shared the news with the 3 people who were instrumental in making it happen. Because without them, we likely would’ve given up or still be stuck in the endless cycle of rejections without getting anywhere.
What I’ve learned from this experience is that this applies to anything difficult you’re trying to achieve, like, say, becoming FI. No one succeeds on their own. You NEED to build your tribe.
Find a mentor, peer, and mentee.
A mentor will guide you and teach you how to improve.
A peer will empathize with your struggles, because they have the same struggles too. They’re also a shoulder to cry on and an ear to gripe to when you’re drowning in rejection and failure.
A mentee will give you confidence. Because you know all the struggle is worth it. You’re using it to help someone else.
The next time you’re trying to slough through something difficult, make sure you have these 3 people in your corner.
Without them, you’re not going to get very far.
And guess what? I recently got this comment from our youngest reader/mentee and early retiree in the making, 12-year-old Faiqa:
Im the 12 yo my dad was talking about. He shared this article with me a little after he read it, and i thought it was super helpful! Not only does it help with early retirement, and saving money, but also just day-to-day wishes. (like learning a new sport, language ect.)
I find your articles and websites really helps (and you’re pretty witty too, a quality we all can appreciate) I would try to get my friends into it, but between you and me, they don’t really have their priorities sorted out.
And I have fun too while reading these articles, and I also learn a lot. (Schools should get better at that) Last time I checked, schools dont teach us about the never-ending anchor known as a mortgage, or how taxes even work, or how to not end up working for the rest of your life just to put food on the table.
So glad my dad found these articles“
When you can get a 12-year-old to be interesting in personal finance, you know all the time spent fighting trolls, writing posts, and answering e-mails was worth it.
Thank you, Faiqa, for reminding us why we write. And thank you, to all the Godfathers, fellow FI bloggers, and readers out there, for being our mentors, peers, and mentees. Without you, we would have never made it this far and you make this all worth while.