We’ve arrived at the Winter Solstice, which is the holiday we celebrate at our house. We’re pretty tired of the dark by the time the sun gets to the end of its tether every year, and we’re pretty darn excited about sunlight coming back into our lives again. It takes its toll on us, this long night of the soul, and reminds us that things matter in this world, that the passing of the years is deeply significant. So we’ve been talking here for the last couple of weeks about how to find Joy & Fulfillment through Writing, how to find Gratitude through Writing.
We’ve also been remembering cause-&-effect, because that’s what everything is all about, and don’t let anybody tell you any different.
So let’s talk today about community among writers, all of us here in this hapless little rowboat on the high seas together, sharing the benches and taking turns at the oars and scratching our heads over the constellations and occasionally pulling someone back into the boat before the sharks get them.
This is where gratitude will always lead you—to human bonding.
Be in it for what you have to give.
I honestly, sincerely believe in the power of modeling behavior, so I’ve been here on this blog for six years now teaching for free what I know about writing fiction, hoping that you will take away not only craft but a sense of compassion for your companions in this writing life.
I’m not going to deliberately lose my house to the bank, but I am aware that writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme and that even the most experienced mentors are no better than writers have ever been at making more than a sort of transitory middle-class living at this work we love best. I wake up every single day and remind myself what it was like to be young and and broke and passionately in love with words and to have nowhere to go for help.
Give as generously as you can. Don’t be bossy, and don’t assume you know more than those with greater experience, but show compassion to your fellow writers and share the camaraderie with kindness and an open heart.
Serve your turn at the oars.
Be thoughtful about what you need to take.
Nobody’s an infinite well of resource. We all give, and we all take. We pass the torch from hand to hand, from experienced to innocent, from generation to generation. Where you stand now I once stood, and when you move up the ladder of knowledge tomorrow someone else will arrive to take your place.
I have learned what I know from some of the best, and I continue to read and study every blessed day the writers and mentors who have come before me in this parade of literature holding the lantern high. Right now I’m reading The Notebooks of Henry James. He will never know the unbelievable gift he has given this unknown editor, just a stranger born long after he died, but he would not want his wisdom to stop with me. So what I get from his notebooks I will share with you.
When it comes time to ask for what you need, know where you stand on the ladder and do not underestimate what you are asking of others. Above all, treat everyone with humility and great good humor.
Never be the one making it more difficult.
Be the one making it easier.
Respect the act of communing.
And when you have made that connection between yourself and other writers, when you have arrived here at the dock and found your seat in the rowboat, when you have said hello and shaken hands and asked politely where they keep the water and rowing gloves, take a moment to bow your head for the wonder of it all.
What goes on between human beings really cannot be explained.
I give everything I can to you because in giving it I’ve found myself.
And you have given me back your hearts.