April 07, 2016

Help, I need Somebody! – Ramona Heikel

What do bakers, dog-trainers, doctors, cooks, crane operators and The Beetles have in common?  They need somebody to help. To come alongside, as in…an apprenticeship!  So what about us writers, how about an apprenticeship for us?

I have run across a few instances of writing apprenticeships, but they are random and rare.  Some schools consider an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) to be an apprenticeship. (Have you had experience with an MFA?)

An apprentice is one who is learning by practical experience under a master, and I haven’t had a master author walk with me through these many years, guiding my writing. However, my writing apprenticeship has consisted of a variety of helpers: mentors in writing courses I’ve taken, successful authors in writing and critique groups I attended each month, and authors who write books and blogs devoted to writing skills.

Last fall I signed up for an online spiritual writing retreat with author Vinita Hampton Wright. Through this group “mentorship” and one of the exercises, I made a discovery; it was good news and bad news. I realized I have a tendency to write when I'm excited, but when the excitement wears off I stop working. I love the enthusiastic part of the idea process and that initial burst of putting my original thoughts and explorations down on a page. But often, when I go back to it, the novelty has worn off and I have lost momentum and motivation.  Because of this bad habit, I have many pieces I have started and abandoned.  I am ashamed to admit this because it seems rather childish and undisciplined, but I have to hope that simply realizing this after so many years of writing is a step forward!

My advice to a new writer, especially one who is juggling many other responsibilities, would be that your apprenticeship very realistically could take 10 years or even more. During this time, you shouldn’t assume you are going to write a best-seller, or even anything publishable.  Seriously consider getting a writing coach, which may be the closest thing to an apprenticeship. This is the route that I would have taken, had I realized that I would be spinning my wheels and wasting a lot of valuable time by trying to "do it myself."  (And it’s not too late. I am looking for one, so if any of you readers are coaches, or can recommend one, let me know.)


As I think about having help along the writing journey, it makes me think about how much help we have on our life journey.  Jesus is the Master who walked alongside his apprentices, allowed them to get to know him and watch him work, and demonstrated how to live life.  And after he finished his work on earth, he left another helper, our own one-on-one mentor, the Holy Spirit.  He knew we'd "need somebody, not just anybody."  I marvel that we are so important to him, that we “merit” his constant companionship!

Posted by Ramona

Photo credits:
A shoe repairman and his young apprentice, Apprenticeship, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apprenticeship; Road to Emmaus, Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship,  https://bloorlansdownechristianfellowship.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/road_to_emmaus.jpg


  1. You said that a writing 'apprenticeship'could, "very realistically... take 10 years or even more." This is so true, Ramona.I've been writing for about thirty years and still feel like i am learning from others and grwoing as a writer. It took 16 years before i even shared my writing and then many more of painful rejection and critique. (A writing course would have been easier i think...) Thank you for your contribution to this blog. I think that writing consistently here is also an apprenticeship, in a way.

  2. Thank you for your thoughts on a writing coach or mentor. We all need one. I didn't know Vinita Hampton Wright had an online spiritual writing retreat. It would be good for us to look into!

  3. I looked online to find out more about Vinita Hampton Wright and her online writing retreats, but I didn't find out anything about current dates for retreats. Rather than a coach or even another course, I think most of all I just need the time and the discipline to write consistently. Thanks for your thoughts on apprenticeship.

  4. I sound smug in my comment above, which isn't what I meant to say or the way I wanted to sound. Of course, I can use coaching, but you can tell I am frustrated some times by lack of time to write. We do serious critiquing at our Women Word Weaver meetings, and we are comfortable calling one another for advice when we need help. Just recently, my colleagues helped me with my "Reflections on Lent" that I wrote for Offerings. I wrote about this in my blog.

  5. Thanks, everybody! I agree, Tracy, this blog is an an apprenticeship for me, too. And yes, not-smug-Sharon, I know that what I need most to succeed in writing is, as you say, the time and the discipline to write consistently. Sandy and all, it looks like Vinita Hampton Wright no longer offers retreats consistently.

    However, here is the link to the Vinita Hampton Wright's last writing retreat, the one I did (which was in 2014, not 2015!), called Writing for the Soul: Online Writing Retreat. http://deepeningfriendship.loyolapress.com/2014/09/19/writing-for-the-soul-online-writing-retreat/

    Although the author no longer posts there, all the 5 days of retreat materials are still available for use (the only difference being there are no interactions through comments). Elsewhere on the "Days of Deepening Friendship" blog are some Advent Retreats as well as many other inspiring posts. She has many books available on Amazon, including The Art of Spiritual Writing, which I bought and which you can read entirely at http://deepeningfriendship.loyolapress.com/my-books/. Some options in case anybody's interested!

  6. How beautiful Ramona--that reminder that we are so important to God that we "merit" a constant companion. Thanks.


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