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:
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.”