It has taken you years, but you've finally become the writer you wanted to be. Where you are standing today is the result of your passionate persistence, your hard work, your devotion, your ever-lasting belief in a dream. But is it really all a result of your personal efforts only? Before setting out, you had made sure you had a GPS with you or some handy maps (and you probably bought some more of them during the journey). Also, all along the roads, and on crossroads too, there were sign posts and traffic lights to inform and guide you. Your maps, GPS, sign posts and traffic lights were the people who helped you succeed, including the community of your fellow writers. This article is about showing gratitude to other writers, and the writing community in general, who helped you achieve what you've achieved.
Showing your gratitude benefits all -- you (as a person and a professional writer), and the writing community as well -- in the following ways:
There are two ways to show gratitude to other writers and the writing community: "Paying it back" and "Paying it Forward."
We "pay back" a good deed someone has done to us: skills we have learned, knowledge or experiences we have acquired, empowerment and encouragement we have been offered, interesting social contacts we have had, etc, due to the help of a particular writer or a team/group of writers. In the case of an individual, it could be a writer of the past (not alive any more) or a living writer. It could also be a writer who is active in the craft or a retired one.
We "pay forward" a good deed to an individual writer or a team or group of writers, by offering to support and help them out. We can do good to writers whom we may or may not be acquainted with, who have not supported or helped us in the past, and who may or may not support or help us later on in the future. Obviously, you can "pay forward" only to living writers!
The first thing to do is make a list of those to whom you would like to "give back" to or "pay it forward." Then, write down a plan on how to do it. There are various ways of showing your gratitude to your fellow writers (and writers of the past), and you'll have to make decisions on what suits you best.
If it is a writer of the past, the best way to show gratitude is to keep his/her memory alive by teaching the value of his/her works to new writers. However it is not only new writers who would benefit from your showing gratitude to a past writer. In a way, you are "paying it back" to a writer of the past by "paying it forward" to new writers. Get creative and show experienced fellow writers the connections that could be made between the appreciated writer's works and modern issues. Perhaps there is room for innovative writing ideas in such an approach. Follow the same route if there is more than one past writer to whom you believe you owe part of your successful writing career, or a community of historical writers (e.g. Greek philosophers) that you have been influenced by.
If you would like to show your appreciation for the help of a living writer, or a community of living writers, one of the best ways is through a donation. You might choose to donate part of your income, give away some of your products (e.g., offer some ebooks that you sell on your website), or offer part of your time (by providing a free service). Of course, it could be all or a combination of the above! Your final choices also depend on your personality and character, as well as your knowledge, skills and expertise in other fields outside the writing craft.
Some ways to show your gratitude by donating your time and expertise include the following:
You could certainly find a bunch of other ideas too. However, perhaps you are short of money to donate, or have not made your own products yet, or have no other knowledge, skills, or expertise. Or, perhaps you may be a new writer benefiting from the wealth of knowledge and help offered by experienced fellow writers, online or offline, but you cannot think of a service you could offer them to express your gratitude. Send a simple email of appreciation to them, praising the writers for their great work and thanking them for their generosity and kindness.
Giving is an act of a big heart. However, do not perceive it as a one-way communication act. There is a receiver: the writer or the writing community you are showing your gratitude to. It takes an equally big heart, at the other end, to receive graciously. Not all people are good receivers and it is not always their fault for not being ready to respond graciously to your offer -- there may be other factors at play, like bad timing.
If you stumble upon an unwilling (or poorly timed) recipient, do not let your disappointment discourage you. Move on to the next person (or group) on your list. If you really care about showing your appreciation to the previous person or group with whom you didn't get a chance to connect, prepare yourself to come back to that person (or group) with another offer to donate your time and expertise in the future. Remember, however, never to attempt to "force" your gift upon anyone -- just as you have a choice as to what to offer, others have a choice about whether they wish to receive. The desire to give should never be considered an obligation upon the recipient, or worse, to make them feel indebted to you!
Always make sure you are contributing the right service to the right place (whether it is to an individual writer or a community of writers). An offer to donate an article or two may be welcome and much appreciated by a website for writers, but it is not the best choice for a writing forum. Similarly, offering to write a book with beginner tips for a community of established only writers is also useless. So make sure you offer what is actually needed and could be put to good use.
Finally, whatever it is you do to "pay it back" or "pay it forward", put your heart in it. Make it a meaningful offer, one that matters -- do work of quality for those you are indebted to.
The world expects writers to achieve greatness and leave a legacy. The first step towards achieving this is to show your gratitude to other writers whose writings have had an impact on your work and who helped you get where you are standing today.
Editor's Note: This article is Maria's gift to the Writing-World.com community in appreciation of the knowledge she has gained from this newsletter and website.
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