When I compiled the roundup of reader-submitted tips, stories and advice for our “Plan Your Own Write-a-Thon” feature in the November/December 2014 Writer’s Digest, one of my favorites was from a mother who was inspired to try NaNoWriMo because her daughter was doing it. Here’s a part of what Angela C. Lebovic, of North Barrington, Ill., wrote:
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. One day, I’d actually do it—write a complete story. I just hadn’t done it yet. I had plenty of ideas, and many starts, but no completion. Then one day my 10-year-old daughter was given an assignment to write a 15,000-word novel for NaNoWriMo. I was encouraging her, letting her know that she could accomplish anything if she set her mind to it, when I thought I should put my word count where my mouth is and join her. If she could write a book in one month, then why couldn’t I, a grown woman who has aspired to be a published author my whole life?
When you read that story, what’s your takeaway? Here’s mine:
1. In encouraging someone else to write—or read—you might just find that you encourage yourself.
One of our forthcoming issues of the magazine (stay tuned!) features an author by the name of Jeff Gunhus. In encouraging his 11-year-old reluctant reader son to read, he made up a story about a hero named Jack Templar Monster Hunter—and ended up launching an Amazon bestselling series for young readers in the process. (You can read more about his story—plus his 10 Tips for Reading Your Reluctant Reader—here.)
2. By encouraging someone else’s love of words and stories, you are cultivating an audience of more readers.
Neither of my parents are writers, but both of them always supported my love of books—and words. When I had to stay home sick from school, my mom would play Boggle with me for hours on end. When we went to the store and my brother begged for baseball cards, I was allowed to pick out a Nancy Drew. When I was on summer vacation, they signed me up for a writing day camp (I still have the “I Heart Writing” button that used to adorn my jean jacket). And when I was old enough to volunteer at the library but not yet old enough to drive, they took me to and from my shifts manning the public library’s Summer Reading Program table.
Today, I’m not just the writer in the family. Guess who also buys—and shares—the most books and magazines? Guess who everyone else buys the most books and magazines for on birthdays and holidays?
As a writer, you need an audience. As an aspiring writer, you’ll need future readers. People tell us everyday that the reading public is shrinking. Why not do your part to combat that? As bestseller Brad Meltzer is fond of saying: Ordinary people change the world.
3. Good stories connect people.
There’s a reason book clubs are so popular, and it’s not just that people want to have motivation to actually read the stuff on their wish lists. It’s that people want to have an excuse to get together, socialize for a few hours and talk about a common interest.
We moved to a new neighborhood over the summer. I was eager to meet our neighbors, hoping my kids would find playmates on our street. Of all the families we’ve met, one family of four has become our fastest friends—and it’s not because our kids are the same age (they’re not) or our backyards meet (they don’t). It’s because the mom is a school librarian and I’m an editor and when her e-reader hold on Gone Girl expired before she was done reading it, I had a copy on my shelf. It’s because the dad reads presidential biographies like they’re going out of style and my husband is addicted to history-themed podcasts. We have since discovered that none of us ever feel like cooking on Fridays. A win-win for everyone, including the pizza man.
4. Sharing makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
My 3-year-old is a ball of energy who almost never sits still—unless we’re reading a story. Every night, he gets to pick two. We snuggle up with his stuffed animals, and most nights, my baby girl listens in, too. It’s my favorite part of the day, and I think it’s theirs, too.
The other night, he asked me whose photo was on the back flap of a picture book we’d just read. I explained that that was the man who had written the book.
“I want to have my picture in a book one day,” my son said, sleepily.
Music to my ears.
5. Whatever has influenced your own love of words, it’s important to pay that forward.
How have others shared their love of reading or writing with you in memorable ways? How do you share it with the people in your life? How could you do more of that?
Share your story in the comments below to keep the conversation going. Who knows—you might inspire someone else right here!
And for those in the midst of NaNoWriMo, to learn more about how the support of the writing community can do wonders for your word count, don’t miss the November/December 2014 Writer’s Digest, all about Writing a Book in a Month, available online and on a newsstand near you.