The Writing Journey: Giving Back

by Laura Drake

Tis the season.  Bell ringers with kettles stand outside stores, vying for territory with candy sale fund-raisers. We’re receiving charity requests every day in the mail, and at work, we’re adopting needy families for the Holidays.

Sometimes it seems easier to shut the door and close yourself in a nice quiet writing room. But when you do that, you also shut out everything you need to become a great writer and a better person.

This time of year especially, I count my blessings, and ask myself how I can give back. I make my  goals for volunteerism for the coming year.

I was suspicious if this was even a valid word, so I looked it up in Dictionary.com:

vol·un·teer·ism
vɒl ənˈtɪərɪzəm/ [vol-uhn-teer-iz-uhm] noun
The policy or practice of volunteering one’s time or talents for charitable, educational, or other worthwhile activities, especially in one’s community.

I’m NOT here to preach – everyone has different life circumstances and schedules to keep. But I’d like to make a suggestion in regards to your writing life…volunteer.

  • If you belong to RWA or another writing group, volunteer to be on the board of directors, join a committee, or help at meetings.
  • Befriend the newbie writers in your world. Mentor them: critique, give advice, refer good articles, blogs, etc to them.
  • Even if your time is limited to tweeting good craft, market, or agent advice, it really does help. You never know when something will spark a flame in a reader.

Aside from obvious altruistic motives, there’s a selfish reason as well: When you give, you benefit twice over. I know, that’s an old saw – but those old saws exist because at their heart, they’re true.

I’m in the submission process with editors. It’s been a huge emotional roller coaster, and without the tight-knit community I’ve developed in several different places, I shudder to think where I’d be. If I only had my crit group to burden with all that whining (no, seriously) they’d have gagged me and tied me to a chair by now.

This journey is fraught with disappointment, and it’s not easy to pick yourself up and move on when you get knocked on your butt. But my efforts to help others over the past several years means I have gained many friends — in cheerleading skirts.  They scoop me up, dust me off, and pat me on the back as I soldier on.

While giving is great, it’s good to remember to say thank you too. So please consider this a big kiss, and thank you all my amazing friends. Bottom line, to quote a stupid commercial, “I love you, man!”

I’ll leave you with my home chapter’s (OCCRWA) motto:

“One hand reaching forward,
one hand reaching back, in a continuing chain.”

 

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29 Responses to The Writing Journey: Giving Back

  1. Liz Flaherty says:

    Very nice post, and I really love that motto.

    • Laura Drake says:

      Thanks so much, Liz – What’s even cooler about that motto is, that the members of the group truly espouse it. I have been the benefactor of their knowledge and experience.

      If anyone reading this is anywhere close to Southern California, check out the Orange County Chapter http://occrwa.org. Amazing people!

  2. Stacy Green says:

    Lovely post and inspiring motto. Thanks for sharing the ideas, and good luck with your submissions!

  3. Laura, as someone you have reached back to help more than one time, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for the times you have stopped to carry me along. You have also enlisted my help with a group I might have given up … nagged me to become Pro with RWA (yes it goes in the mail today) and you have been a cheerleader in my worst moments.

    My humble efforts are to help my CP and cheer her on when she gets down, I became involved with two great blogger/writer/moms and the end result is a planned collaboration. I also encourage as many writers as I can, take the time to read their books and love to buy the anthologies that are for donation. I can do more and with you as inspiration, I’ve learned I can always spare the time to help someone else.

    Since everyone here knows my penchant for looooong responses, I will take another few words to say thanks to everyone at WITS. You are one of the best groups of writers I have ever met. I can only hope that one day we will all meet at a conference and I can give each of you a real hug … until then I borrow from my kids … xoxo to all of you and a special hug for you Laura Drake … my origninal biker gal🙂

    • Laura Drake says:

      Awww, thanks so much, Florence – you’re such a great writer, and so driven that there’s no doubt in my mind you’ll get there! I’ll try not to nag too much, but as my WITS buds can verify, I haven’t done real well with that in the past….

      Hugs to you too, Sweetie!

  4. What a lovely comment, Florence. I can only say that when I started writing I found an unbelievable body of support just waiting for me from other writers. Everyone is SO willing to lend advice, help out, say “yay” when something good happens. Selfish is a trait I have never encountered. THAT in itself is awesome.
    So, to mimic the above words, thank you anyone and everyone who is reading this blog for being there for all of us!
    Patti

    • Laura Drake says:

      You’re so right, Patti. I’ve been lucky enough to meet several NYT bestselling authors. Without exception, they’ve been kind, approachable, and sweet women!

  5. Great post, inspiring to say the least.

  6. Rlynn Wilson says:

    Lovely post!
    I let myself get swallowed up by the doldrums last week, and chastising myself was having little effect, so I elevated to a strongly worded scolding, and decided to quit worrying about what I could not do, and to figure out what I could do. Then I discovered Operation eBook Drop. It’s a program facilitated by Mark Coker of Smashwords that allows deployed soldiers to download eBooks for free. This gave me an opportunity to make Maggie’s Fall available to over 500 soldiers who have signed up for the program. This also inspired me to go one step further. I am donating half of my Maggie’s Fall royalties to the Veterans Administration for the rest of the year – miniscule offerings compared to what our soldiers and former soldiers deserve.
    While my struggle to be recognized as an author is not going as well as I’d hoped, being an author is allowing me to give something back to a group of people I care about deeply. I can never afford much, but I always send something to the VA every Christmas. This year, because of Maggie’s Fall, I can do a tiny bit more. That’s reward enough to banish the blues.
    Happy Writing, and Best of Luck to All!

    • Laura Drake says:

      Rlynn, what a wonderful thing to do! One of the most rewarding things about writing (and my ultimate goal) is to make a difference in a person’s life. You may never know if a soldier read your book and found comfort…but I’ll bet several will.

      Thank you — your post made my day.

  7. Great post Laura. I just joined the Board of Directors of LARA. I worry about the time involved, but know somehow I’ll get through it.

    • Laura Drake says:

      Oh, very cool, Kathy! And I saw you guest posting on a blog today — you’re everywhere!
      You and I HAVE to meet in person someday, feel like I know you already! Maybe Nationals? Congrats on being on the Board of LARA, I know they must be excited to have you!

  8. Jenny Hansen says:

    Laura,

    I jumped into the volunteering fray toward the beginning of my writing journey and it has gained me more writing insight and friends than I could ever measure. Plus, now I write guilt-free, knowing that I served for 6-7 years.

  9. Judy says:

    Thanks for the timely reminder. I know I’d not have made it this far without the help of so many wonderful people. And it’s so helpful to read about what others are doing! I appreciate the help I’ve found on this blog.

  10. Angelyn says:

    so true–so true. Thanks for posting.

  11. You are so right. I will help someone this year with their writing. I even know who it will be. Thank you for the great idea.

  12. When I first started a small group of us banded together to form our own kind of support loop, before we really knew anything about other writer’s resources. Now nearly everyone we started out with is published or nearly there and I know I can count on them when I need them and I hope they think the same of me. I agree it’s extremely important to support our fellow writers. Sometimes we are all that keeps each other going.

  13. I belong to a great support group, also. Whether we have things to cheer about, or whine about, we’re all there for each other. We even had a critique group going for a while, which helped me a great deal, not only getting critiques to tighten up my writing, but I learned a lot by giving them. The main thing is, when the inevitable bad thing happens, like rejections, publishers canceling and such, I know I have other writers who understand and support me as I support them and we can cheer each other through the victories.

  14. Chris Devlin says:

    Excellent thoughts, Laura. It’s true of writers, maybe more than a lot of professions, that it’s just too hard to do it alone. Helping others along the way, and turning back with a helping hand if you’ve made it, is the only way to survive, or at least to enjoy your survival.

    Thanks for this.

  15. I totally agree. I have gained so much from my volunteer efforts with writers’ organizations it’s unbelievable. It’s a great way to give back.

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