Actually, I like doing both, on a well-balanced and reciprocal basis and I’m not just talking Christmas presents here (although thanks for the handbag Steve) I’m talking editorial criticism.
For years and years I’ve written in the literary equivalent of solitary confinement, firing off the occasional draft to my agent or editor and waiting anxiously for their response. Until, one day, a novelist friend of mine suggested that we should act as mentors to each other.
Why didn’t we do this years earlier?
I suspect some kind of diffidence, or a professional circumspection, held us back, but now that we have overcome our reticence, the difference to my writing life is incalculable. My friend’s insightful, unsparing (but always tactful) comments have helped me to pinpoint weaknesses in my work that I was simply unaware of and her criticisms spring from her own considerable talent as a writer as well as her knowledge of me as a person. She knows my taste in reading, my emotional history and is able to bridge the gap between the rough draft of a work in progress and my literary aspirations. Her help has been incalculable, and generously given.
In return, I have been reading chunks of a book that she has been working on for a couple of years now and sharing various thoughts with her, enjoying the process of seeing her novel rise like a cake, light and golden. It is cooking nicely now and I can’t wait to read the final chapters.
We’ve challenged and supported each other through all the well-documented highs and lows of a writer’s life and it’s been an immeasurable benefit to both of us – tea and talk on a Sunday afternoon, what could be nicer?
It’s filled me with a kind of zealot’s enthusiasm and the reason I’m writing this post is to encourage you not to be bashful: if you know someone who is interested in writing too, don’t let valuable years slip by like we did, but be bold and suggest that you mentor each other. You’ll never look back