Read any blog catered toward students, entrepreneurs, or professional artists, and you’ll come across an article advising you to get a mentor to help guide you through the trouble spots, boost your confidence, yadda yadda yadda.
Great! Simply approach someone and ask them to not only impart their exclusive wisdom to you, but also be a shoulder to cry on, review all your crappy first drafts, and constantly wave pom-poms for you.
Well, no. Finding a mentor should happen organically, as you form bonds with professors, fellow entrepreneurs and artists, or experienced professionals who might even be outside your field but still able to give you helpful guidance.
But what do you do if that doesn’t happen?
I never had a mentor throughout my college years, nor did I have any sort of mentor for my entrepreneurial or artistic endeavors. I did my research and obtained feedback from colleagues, and I made it through, but I always wished that I had someone I could count on to run things by, someone who would tell me when one of my ideas is crazy, someone who could relate and comfort me when I felt like a failure.
If you’re like me and you haven’t found a mentor (yet), there are some things you can do to keep yourself sane.
Learn to Review Your Own Work
People are in two different camps when it comes to creating and editing: create in one fell swoop, then clean up, or create and clean as you go. Whether you’re writing a novel or a business plan, whether you’re choreographing a dance or creating a painting, you likely swing between the two camps. Perhaps you feel very inspired or “in the flow,” or you find that you take a more incremental approach.
Either way is fine, but the key is to look at your work with fresh eyes. Some creators need only a few hours to “reset” — some need a few days. Returning to your work after some time has passed can help you spot new errors or things that you’d like to improve.
Use the Six Thinking Hats Method to Mimic External Feedback
One of the chief reasons to have a mentor is to have someone to tell you when you’re nuts. I jest, but seriously, we creatives do tend to get caught up in our ideas and sometimes lose sight of the big picture. We might also forget to implement a strategy or ask the “what ifs” that can help us better execute the project.
That’s where the Six Thinking Hats Method comes in. You mentally wear different hats and write out what you’d say about the project or idea.
White Hat: Ask yourself, what are the basic facts? Time, duration, structure, materials, location… Keep it clinical.
Yellow Hat: Take a hyper-optimistic approach. What could go well? What’s great about this idea? What could it lead to?
Black Hat: Take a hyper-pessimistic approach. What could go wrong? What’s awful about this idea? What negative consequences could happen?
Red Hat: Ask yourself, how do you feel about the idea? Are you excited? Nervous? Scared? Thrilled? Confused?
Green Hat: Take a creative approach. Think about variations, additional projects, different ways you could execute the idea…
Blue Hat: Take a managerial approach. How will you manage the project? How much will it cost? Who do you need to help you?
The Six Thinking Hats are a great way to fully explore an idea or map out a project by mimicking external input.
Motivate Yourself with the Creative Juices 3-Step Method
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Hopefully, you now feel better empowered to evaluate your own work and motivate yourself to pursue your dreams. Remember, you are the best source of motivation. And in time, you’ll find a mentor. Until then, I’ll be here to tell you that you’re nuts.