Archive for February 5th, 2011

Saturday, February 5th, 2011 by Ken Scholes
On the Importance of Paying it Forward (And Five Ways You Can, Too)

Last week, I talked a bit about goals as a writer and shared that one of my values that I actively set goals for is paying it forward.  I thought that I might expand on that a bit further this week.

For me, the concept of paying it forward as a writer is built on a foundational understanding that there is plenty of Publishing Pie to go around for everyone.  And I believe that what we do is special enough that I want as many voices as possible in the Great Library we’re building.

As I look back on my career so far, there have been many, many people who paid it forward to me, showing me what they knew and pointing me towards what I needed to know.  English teachers, writing friends, pros at conventions.  In my case, it took something more than a village.  It took a city.  But their generosity and kindness made a difference and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

So here are some simple ways you can pay it forward.  I hope you will.

1)  Schools.  This has become one of my favorites.  Young eager brains excited about writing is…well…exciting.  If you’re not quite established, you can still volunteer to help a teacher out.  And if you’re getting established, you may even find them calling on you.  Paying it forward to the younger folks behind us leaves a mark they’ll not forget.

2)  Conventions.  These are great for paying it forward.  If you’re established, you can sit on panels about writing and even meet up with new writers afterwards in the bar.  If you’re not established, you can meet pros and other new writers in the same places.  And when you’re out at conventions, if you go, take the time to introduce people around.  It takes nothing and that simple act could pay huge dividends for one or both people. 

3)  Critique Groups.  I attended one exactly twice and though I took little away from the vast majority of the critiquers, I met one of the best friends I’ve ever had (and my first ever writing friend).  John “J.A.” Pitts and I were pretty close to neck-and-neck in our development as new writers but he knew stuff I needed to know and he paid forward to me.  I suspect he’d say I did the same for him.  And it’s been a lifechanging friendship.  For others, they’ve sworn by their crit groups as having given them what they need to move to the next place…and they’ve shared what they learned in helping the folks just a nudge behind them on the trail by offering insight into the stories that are workshopped.  

4)  Blogging.  These days, you can reach an entire world of people.  Share what you learned yesterday.  Someone out there is bound to find it useful tomorrow. 

5)  Books.  I think we all have favorite writing books that gave us a bit more of the puzzle.  Other people’s mileage may vary but it never hurts to recommend or pass over a book that helped you along the way.

So what other ways have you paid it forward?  And how have others paid it forward to you??