© 2011, Vicki Hinze
WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
As writers, we run into times when we need help—in the writing, with the business, in making sense of our crazy writing lives. And when we do, we typically seek out the advice of others who write, know the business, and also live a crazy writing life. They’re usually ahead of us on the career ladder, which means they’ve likely experienced or observed another writer experiencing what we’re experiencing and they can counsel us on what they did or saw done in our situation, what they wished now they’d done then, and how they or the writer they observed went about doing what was done or would go about doing it now.
They can advise us on what was successful or unsuccessful, but also offer us things of greater value: understanding, educated insight from where they are now and empathy.
We recognize when we seek their assistance that we’re infringing on their time, and we know that time is a precious commodity. When they agree to assist, whether help is in the form of offering advice, suggestions, recommendations or things like endorsing our books, we are well aware that while they’re aiding us they’re neglecting their own work or forfeiting their precious leisure time. Every writer knows leisure time is rare, so this is no small thing.
If we have any sense at all, we recognize their assistance is a gift. Actually, an experience treasure, and we’re grateful. Where we run into trouble—and our characters in their situations often do too—is in expressing our gratitude.
We are grateful, and we mind our manners and say thank you. But we want to do something special to let them know that we know they sacrificed for us. That’s easier said than done to those who are higher up on the ladder. What, we wonder, can we possibly do that would make any difference at all to this counselor who shared the gift of experience and wisdom?
That’s where we writers get mired down. Everything seems insufficient. We seek stuff; look for special things we think they’ll like. But often we don’t know much about them personally—at least not well enough to feel confident that whatever stuff we settle on will be anything more than fattening or a dust catcher.
If we keep seeking, what we sometimes discover is that treasures like time and them taking a personal interest and investing in us can’t be repaid. It must be humbly accepted and appreciated in the vein it is given.
That doesn’t mean there is nothing the receiver can do. S/he can remember the kindness and not forget it. S/he can pay the giver perhaps the greatest compliment of all: that of mimicking his/her generous behavior. The receiver can emulate the giver by paying it forward.
Watch for opportunities where someone comes across your path and do a kindness for that person, remembering the kindness done for you by that mentor higher up on the career ladder who reached down and extended a hand to help lift you up. Do this kindness in your mentor’s name, not your own. If you give or get any credit for it whatsoever, you’ve missed the point.
Remembering and paying it forward is your gift to your generous giver and to your receiver in need. And, in due time, that receiver well might remember a kindness done and reach back to help lift another, too.
As writers and people, we might only be as strong as our weakest link. But if we are aware, we grasp that in seeking wise counselors, we gain strength. We grasp that when we help another, we help elevate the whole. Informed writers/people make better decisions. Better decisions help all writers, all people. We grasp that small benefits yield great gains in making us all wiser and stronger and more able. Our personal weak link becomes stronger. That makes our collective weak link stronger.
And that, we understand, is a gift that pays back and forward. It is wisdom, and that is a treasure far more valuable than stuff or things.