I don’t know any author who hasn’t been impacted by another author. Usually in profound ways. First, there’s the fact that if you write, it’s likely because someone inspired you through their storytelling. Even if you don’t write, most of us have those stories that have stayed with us always. That’s what every author wants—to have written one of those stories that just sticks with you.
The journey to get there can be a long one. Which is why it’s so incredibly important that you give back as a writer. The writing community is a beautiful, amazing, supportive thing that I am so proud to be a part of. That community may differ for everyone but, in my experience, it’s been full of gracious, kind people who wanted nothing more than to help me succeed.
As in life, what that does, when I’m surrounded by people like this, is, it makes me want to be part of it. To give what I can. Isn’t that the circle we hope exists everywhere? One person supporting another so they can support the next person? Pay it forward is alive and well within the writing world.
When I first started writing, I thought I had nothing to give. Some days, I still feel like that. Why would people want my advice/help/feedback? I’ve never made any lists, I’m not an expert on anything (except maybe Friends trivia). But you have to look past that because, as I’ve learned, there’s always someone trailing right behind you, trying to get through those steps you just mastered. At the same time, there’s someone in front of you who figured out that rocky cliff you’re just about to climb. Does that make sense?
Perspective is a really important thing in this business. It’s easy to feel lost and invisible—another reason why community is vital to your success. You have to remind yourself that, no matter what stage you’re at, there’s someone who can benefit from what you’ve just learned and there’s someone willing to help you do the next part.
One of my proudest moments as a writer, and I don’t know if she knows this, was when Amy Trueblood asked me to be a mentor in Sun vs. Snow, a Twitter pitch opportunity. She reached out to me and asked if I wanted to help others. All I could think was: ‘Amy Trueblood (who I admire a great deal) thinks I can help someone else’. Yes. Please. Sign me up. I was thrilled. I’d reached a point where someone on the outside looking in thought I had something to give. That’s a special kind of list no one talks about—not USA Today or NYT but one where someone else saw something in me that would help a fellow writer. What’s that commercial slogan? Priceless.
I do understand, even now, having written so many books, the feeling that you aren’t in a position to “do” anything. Here are a few things you can do, regardless of where you are in your own path, that will support someone and make a difference in their journey:
Answer your emails/messages.
The first time I got an email from a reader, I was floored. Someone reached out to me to say they liked something. It was amazing. I promptly emailed a response of thanks. The first email I got from someone who asked advice, I was equally floored. Someone thought I had knowledge to spare. I didn’t feel like I did, but I answered that question to the best of my ability. Because they took the chance and asked. Even if I didn’t give the right answer, I did my best. The connection matters.
I have someone help me with my social media. It’s a personal choice. Could I do it on my own? Probably…well, some of it. But my life is better because of her. She takes a lot of stress off my shoulders and builds me up in so many ways. Most importantly, she frees my time so I can interact and respond and be me on social media. You don’t have to have someone help you. But you do have to actively work to build an authentic community. One that is born from engaging and being you online. I worked at that for a long time—years— before I asked for help. Even if you’re busy, even if it stresses you out and you have to ask for some help, part of connecting and making an impact, like in life, is actually showing up.
Reach out to others.
There have been many times that I tentatively pressed reply on Twitter to a person’s request for “eyes on something”. Sometimes a person just needs some reassurance that yes, it sounds okay and no, you didn’t spell anything wrong. (Though, as my BFF would tell you, you probably don’t want me checking your grammar or capitals)
That small world theory? It’s a thing. Clichés are popular for a reason: we get what we give. So, read a book, leave a review, share a book, read something for someone, reassure someone (doesn’t even have to be writing related), respond to someone, give your time, share your thoughts. You’d be amazed how big an impact you can make on someone’s life by doing something small.