Friday, December 5, 2014

How Do You Give Back?

Writers giving back - in a perfect world, I'd like to think we're all giving back by writing the stories we write. I doubt any of us would be putting in the hours at the keyboard if we hadn't been inspired by the writers whose stories impacted us. In a way, everything I write is part of an ongoing conversation between me and the books that move me. Pretty sentiment, maybe, but the giving shouldn't stop there. Most of us, when we talk about giving back think in terms of giving back to the community, by which, we mean 1. the world at large or 2. our special interest community. Let's cover all the bases.

Giving back to the world at large:
Give - money, time, goods. Said it last week. 10% of what I make goes to charity. I am not the world's greatest volunteer since introversion precludes me from saying, "Oh! PICK ME! PICK ME!" However, I have offered to proof and copy edit material for local community orgs. At more than one point, it's possible non-writer skills have been tapped in the service of the local Boys and Girls Club. Donating books and promo materials (like tee shirts with book covers on them) for fund raisers is also legit. Even if it is a bit self-serving.

Giving back to other writers:
Share what you know. Teach. Recognize that you have a unique set of skills. It is not presumptuous to teach. Fact: There will always be people farther along the ole author trail than you. You aren't necessarily teaching to them. You're offering up your experience, your filter on the process, whatever it is you have to offer, to those who are coming up behind you. And I don't necessarily mean that in a creepy 'coming up behind you' way. Unless that makes you write more. Then I totally do.

Serve your writer orgs. Volunteer to chair a thing. Serve on the board. There's a self serving reason to do this. You meet people - people you can learn from. People who may have just the piece of knowledge you needed but didn't know you needed.

Critique if it works for you. Some people can't handle other people's input on their writing - it feels too much like diluting the process. Intellectually, I get that. I, however, am far too insecure to send something no one else has ever laid eyes upon to my editor. Good critique partners are hard to find, but they are worth their weight in gold. Harder still to BE a good critique partner. The pay off is 100% worth it. I learn as much reading other people's drafts as I do having my drafts read and suggestions made thereupon.

Find a thing you love on Kickstarter and support it. This may not be another author. Maybe you prefer to support the gaming company that wants to build a steampunk zombie shooter. Or you love the thought of a plaid rabbit tarot deck. Whatever! You get to support another artist. Remind me, sometime, to show you my $15 piece of the Tesla museum. (The Oatmeal is raising funds to turn Tesla's lab into a museum. He did a tee shirt. Among other things.) The point is to support something you love in a fashion that won't break your bank.

Specific for helping new writers:
Judge contests that allow feedback - this lets you give constructive, limited critique to someone who may have just worked up the courage to send work out into the world. Also, there is no more fun in the world than finding an entry that takes your breath away and getting to write on it 'SUBMIT THIS BEFORE I HUNT YOU DOWN'.

Sharing what you know goes here, too. So does serving your writer orgs. The other thing I like to do is hook new writers up with writers orgs. Not everyone is going to want to join Romance Writers of America. There's still (in my area) Pacific Northwest Writers Association and a bunch of other genre specific groups. If I can, when someone tells me they'd really like to write a novel, I start laying out their writer group options. So far, exactly one person has taken me up on a writer's group invite. The rest all kind of edged away from me. Does that make me a mean writer?

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