Mentorship should be as distant as possible ~ Jaiyeoba Amatesiro Dore



I learnt something very profound from my step dad as I was growing up as a writer and young man, it is very important to leave people to wander alone as they come up in life. Clap for them, let them have access to your resource materials/library if you live in close quarters. Feed their confidence by listening to their fears and let them find the solutions within themselves.

All that is required to do better in literature is continuous access to good literature, application to writing workshops and seminars, entering for competitions and prizes and simply jotting down whatever creative thoughts that comes to mind.

But it is very important never to enter into the personal space of an artist. Not to influence their styles with your own personal politics and syntax.

We are not just artists but also equal creators and humans. The best gift you can give an artist is a mind of his own.

Namwali Serpell met an inspiring writer at Harvard during her Ph.D programme and that singular experience cost her many years of creative output because she became distracted by the great writer's literary style and artistic expectations.

Lesley Nneka Arimah got into the Farafina Creative Writing Workshop many years ago but couldn't travel down to Nigeria for the workshop...and guess who wasn't a fan of speculative fiction? Chimamanda. That encounter would have killed her drive and that lost opportunity to meet the great Chimamanda and her non-speculative fiction opinion saved her imagination and freed her enough to acquire the confidence to keep writing as she could...guess who won the Caine Prize this year?

I believe, as a philosophy, that mentorship should be as distant as possible. Non-influencing...simply encouraging from a great distance...that I exist and that I write the way I do is enough mentorship. 

Mentors are needed to facilitate workshops, publicly relay writing opportunities to all young writers [without favouritism] and stay as far away from the personal and creative lives of their mentees as necessary.

Anything more is subject to abuse and undue influence.

What every writer needs to do better is to read more and widely, and to receive as much public commendation as possible.

*****
Amatesiro Dore is 2019 Writer-in-Residence and Fellow of the Wole Soyinka Foundation. He studied law at the Igbinedion University Okada and the Nigerian Law School. He was awarded the Reimagined Folktale Contest, the Saraba Manuscript (Nonfiction) Prize and was shortlisted for the 2017 Gerald Kraak Award. He’s also an alumnus of the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop and Fellow of the Ebedi International Writers Residency. His nonfiction, How I Became, was recently published in the Religion Issue 125 of Transition magazine.



Comments

  1. Quite an agreeable, even persuasive viewpoint, but it need not be a take-it-or-leave-it kind of proposition. 'From a distance' is fine, but a certain kind of closeness may not hurt either. Situations and environments vary widely. The Dumas literary lineage in France comes easily to mind

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