Tag Archives | Creating from the Spirit

How Judy Collins Found a Mentor

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Kurt Vonnegut often asked people, at the end of his talks, to turn to the person next to them and say the name of some teacher from your time in grade school, high school or college, who in some way made you feel better about yourself, gave you a good memory of your time in school, encouraged you to do better in your work, or simply brightened your day.

While writing a book on creativity (Creating from the Spirit), I interviewed the singer-songwriter Judy Collins, and learned that she often found mentors in books, in authors whose work she liked and identified with. She liked to do “dialogues” with people who had written about their lives or whose lives had been written about in histories or biographies. She’d imagined dialogues with Socrates, and with Picasso, among many others.

In high school she had worked very hard on a paper in English class and the teacher had accused her of plagiarism. This was so hurtful and discouraging, she thought for a long time she “couldn’t write.” Years after, her friend and fellow songwriter Leonard Cohen read some of her journals and said “I see you’re writing songs.” Collins said “No, I can’t write.” Cohen pointed out that if she set some of the words in her journal to music, she’d have a song! This began her songwriting career. Leonard Cohen was a true mentor!

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Dan Wakefield

Dan Wakefield