Monday, 22 April 2013

Special K



"I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." Ecclesiastes 9-11 

So there I was, over at the Strictly Writing blog, inspired to pen something after a brace of rejections. And yes, I went through the familiar cycle of scratching my head, reviewing my submissions and tearing out my hair (and believe me, given what little there is to start with, that's definitely a counter-intuitive move) while wondering what else I can do to get an agent.

And then I swapped some emails with Chloe Banks, who reminded me of the other side to writing. Yes, it's a way of life to those who either write professionally, or aspire to. And yes it's a way of organising and unjumbling the wheelbarrow of ideas we carry around with us. But...it's a choice we make. Hard as it is to admit, no one forces us to write. Indeed, I know of one or two very talented writers who expend a great deal of energy in order not to write.

I can remember the rush of exhilaration when I first completed written version of Covenant (then called The promise of a Rainbow). There was no rush to find an agent or a publisher back then (which, for a first written draft, was frankly a good thing). No, I was thrilled to have a completed story - because that was how I thought of it - in my hands. Something a friend or other interested party could read. Sometimes it's good to recapture that inner goal.

However, I digress. What Chloe and I actually talked about, in part, was the importance of kindness. It's a word that fell out of fashion and is now making a comeback. You see, as a writer, I know what other writers go through, at whatever stage of the process they're at. The highs, lows and bewilderments don't end just because we have a contract in our hands or when we see something of ours in print. Arguably, once you've hit pay-dirt once it all cranks up a notch for the next cycle. Can you do it again? Will people like it as much? Will someone now step in and say, "It's all a fraud and they can't really write!"? (Or, as most people know it these days, Amazon reviews...)

So what does kindness have to do with being a writer? A great deal, I think. Because kindness is about consideration to others, and not just on the printed page. 

Here are some of the ways we can show kindness to writers and readers:

- If you have the time and space, offer your fellow writers honest and constructive feedback. As much as writers might want to hear 'good things' about their work, anyone who plans on developing as a writer benefits hugely from the truth and some signposts.
- Consider retweeting other writers trying to promote their work. I sometimes select people at random, as well as those I interact with regularly. A little goes a long way.
- How about posting a link to someone's blog on your Facebook page? Fifteen seconds of your time might get a writer a new follower and maybe lead the follower into reading from a completely different genre.
- If you have bought a person's work, leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. If you want to be really kind, contact the author first so they know that something's coming.
- Support local bookshops where and when you can. Everyone's circumstances are different, but remember that a local bookshop might be in a better position to support and promote local authors. And every writer is local to somewhere.
- Attend readings when you can. Booksignings too. I remember co-signing books when we had four people in as many hours. And one of those people picked up The Little Book of Cynics (hey, it's out of print so it's not like I'm plugging it for personal gain), sniffed derisively, and said, "I could probably put something together like this myself." And then walked out empty handed. Nice.
- As a writer, only deliver your best work. And, when you add links, consider adding links to any writing that's available for free. Don't just go for the hard sell. (See Me for Free, coming soon at this blog!
- Consider helping other writers with advice, reference material or agents / publishers that they might want to consider submitting material to. Yes, the writing world can be competitive, but one person's success doesn't necessarily mean another person's failure. Strive to be bigger than that limited world view.

And finally: Let your writing and your reading be an extension of your highest values. There's a lot of mealiness out there with regards to books. Lots of people are quick to condemn bestsellers as sell-outs, and derive more pleasure from picking holes in other people's work than in producing their own.

Kindness doesn't guarantee anything. But you may just make a positive difference to someone else's day, or perhaps just boost their confidence a little. And, when you think about it, that's a pretty amazing thing.

My thanks to Chloe for the initial prompt.


3 comments:

  1. Thanks, Derek. Kindness is so important in every aspect of life. It's too easy to think we're in competition with other writers but - with the exception of actual competitions - we're not. Your success doesn't add to my failure or vice versa!

    I love that quote from Ecclesiastes. I also love that in the New Testament, nearly every list of virtues or instructions for life includes kindness and gentleness. That can often be left out of church teacing in favour of being radical or courageous - but I think kindness is mentioned more frequently.

    I've experienced so much kindness from other writers :)

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  2. Hello, I'm new here, I've wandered over from Strictly Writing, and your topic is heart warming.
    One of my personal mottos in life is 'Be nice to people' and I recently talked about the topic at my local writers group too. I don't understand writers being precious about sharing...

    However, some don't share news about opportunities and competitions, or industry news, as they fear their fellow writer may beat them to the post! Crazy! By sharing, and networking, you usually find the world expands. People share, maybe not immediately, but eventually, something comes good from your own kind acts.

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  3. Thank you both for your comments. I think, ultimately, we're talking about core values that we carry into many other aspects of our lives. Which is not to say that altruism is always easy, or viewed without suspicion! I believe most writers think the world (or at least their own world!) will be slightly better for having their words out there to be read and appreciated. Logically, then, it makes sense to offer a helping hand to other people with the same intention.

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