Today’s prompt brought on a bit of soul searching. What writers do I admire most? Who were/are my writing mentors? Hmmmmm…
Not sure I ever really had a mentor. I don’t remember any particular teachers in school giving me two thumbs up and encouraging me to become the next big thing. I was encouraged to write well at work when I got a paycheck, and then a raise. (Yes, back in the day, people actually got raises.) If I put together a successful campaign, my competitors would copy it. If I described the functionality of a software package well, users could do what they needed to do without frustration. If I designed an intranet correctly, employees could find answers to questions. If I wrote a letter oh-so-carefully, my mother wasn’t pissed at me, and I didn’t get one of those phone calls with the “Mom Voice”. So, I’m not sure I can say I actually had a mentor. Incentives, yes. Mentoring, no. Unless you consider an aversion to my mother giving me a lecture as a form of mentoring.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t had supporters. My husband has encouraged me a lot. He is my cheerleader. My children actually read what I write now, which I take to mean I’m getting better. My good friend Miss Mary gives me feedback and love, which keeps me strong. My dear friend Janet gives me alternating doses of encouragement and kicks in the backside to keep me in forward motion, preventing me from falling into what we call my “Eeyore Mode”. Are they my mentors? I guess so. At least, I can’t imagine doing any of this without them. Call them mentors, tormentors or guardian angels – it all works for me.
What writers do I admire? To be honest, on some level I admire most writers I read. I think anyone who can sit down and create a world on paper that I can see and smell and feel is a talented being, and I would be an idiot not to admire that kind of gift. Fiction, non-fiction, even churning through “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” causes me to stop and think about all the sheer work and capability it takes to birth a book or story. But particular writers who inspire me or capture my always fickle attention? I do have a couple who have withstood the test of time.
First, there is Anne McCaffrey. I have every book in her Dragon series. I love the world of Pern that she has created, and I never get tired of reading those stories. They are my friends that I turn to, over and over, when I need to take a timeout from reality. I can lose my stress and worries for a half hour or so, just being a watcher in their world. I have read them so many times that I have replaced copies held together by rubber bands, because I lost a page. I am in awe of the mind that could dream them all into life.
Another author I return to, again and again, is Ayn Rand. I don’t always agree with her, but I have always liked the way she forces me to think – not just read. Reading “Atlas Shrugged” for the umpteenth time will still make me ask new questions. That kind of talent is priceless. Not very restful. Not for those days when I need to escape the tick-tock of a hectic life. But such a help when I need to drag my brain back to a more structured and fruitful path by challenging my opinions and forcing me to ‘think it through’ once again.
However, my all-time favorite, the writer I most admire, the person I would most like to emulate, to learn from as an apprentice, is Andy Rooney. I have always loved his take on life, and how he described it to the rest of us. I never missed his segment on “60 Minutes” if I could help it. To take a common irritation, an everyday annoyance, and describe it in a way that we could all just sit there and go “Oh yeah, that’s exactly how I feel! He gets me!” was his gift to our generation, and to the world. He made the mundane glorious, and had a Puckish way of making us laugh at ourselves for our self-absorption while allowing us to feel good about it. He would shake that lion-like mane, scowl and growl, shrug his shoulders and end up giving us all a sense of being comfortable in our own irritable skins. Even when you didn’t agree with him, you had to appreciate his way of cutting to the chase, and pointing out that we were sweating the small stuff.
I’m not saying I want to be a curmudgeon. Although, since we are being honest here, I think that there is a lot of mudge in my personality. It just that, in my heart of hearts, I wish I could describe life as eloquently as Andy Rooney did. I would be proud to think that I could bring laughter and a spark of commonality, community, even humility to people facing everyday life, and make them laugh in the process. Humor has turned my life around and shown me what a really wonderful world we live in. To share that feeling, to give it like an unexpected present to others – while poking fun at the craziness we all deal with, day in and day out – it just couldn’t get any better than that!
If I were to define what kind of writer I want to be when I grow up, I would have to say that I want to be like Andy Rooney. A post-menopausal Andy Rooney.
Sandi Tuttle is the host of the Blog Talk Radio show “An Average Woman in a Superwoman World” (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/sandi-tuttle).