I’m always struck by how generous some people are when it comes to mentoring young writers. There are those people out there, the ones who kindly give their time and experience, who are eager to help, to mentor, to make a difference in the life of an artist who is just starting out. Interestingly enough, I’ve found that the most generous ones are many times those who carry the most success. The ones at the top of their game. I’ve reached out to many writers I respect and it is always the ones who have the least time to give who give the most. They are open to sharing their process, willing to divulge some publishing secrets, and they stand ready to recommend your story or novel to a journal or agent when your work is ready to go. They want to see others succeed. I hope you get even better than me one day, a writer once said to me!
On the flip side, there are those who hold on tight to these things, to their secrets, their tales of success. Perhaps they simply don’t want to share or perhaps they are scared to let go of some of their energy, their power. When you ask these people what their process is, they shake their heads and say, Well, I can’t explain it. Or when you ask to hear the story of how they got their agent, they change the subject. Why is this? My writer friend once wrote an email to a budding writer she was connected to through a friend. It was someone who was just starting to “make it,” and my friend was hoping for some advice. And so she penned out a long, respectful email. And the email she received back was short and curt. It didn’t even contain a salutation. She didn’t even address me! my friend said, surprised and hurt.
Believe me, I know that time is a valuable thing. One of the most valuable of all things. And some people don’t always have a lot of it. More importantly--you never know what is going on in someone’s life, that battle they may be fighting. And so I try not to take short emails or cold conversations personally. I am always surprised and excited by generosity when I bump into it. My friend Jessica and I always toast to these people and then, after sipping our drinks, make a promise to each other that one day when we have the experience and advice to give, we will give it freely. I thanked a teacher once for her time and advice and she said to me: Well, I love to do it. And besides, good energy always seems to come back to me. How true. You give and you receive. When you share your secrets, more power comes back to you. After all, aren’t all secrets, in some way, universal? The world isn’t too small. The publishing industry can be big enough for all of us. We must champion each other on.
I found an appropriate passage in a book called IT’S NOT HOW GOOD YOU ARE, IT’S HOW GOOD YOU WANT TO BE, by Paul Arden. The section is titled:
DO NOT COVET YOUR IDEAS
Give away everything you know, and more will come back to you
You will remember from school other students preventing you from seeing their answers by placing their arm around their exercise book or exam paper.
It is the same at work, people are secretive about their ideas. “Don’t tell them that, they’ll take credit for it.”
The problem with hoarding is you end up living off your reserves. Eventually you’ll become stale.
If you give away everything you have, you are left with nothing. This forces you to look, to be aware, to replenish.
Somehow the more you give away the more comes back to you.
Ideas are open knowledge. Don’t claim ownership.
They’re not your ideas anyway, they’re someone else’s. They are out there floating by on the ether.
You just have to put yourself in a frame of mind to pick them up.
Here’s to opening up and to giving. To helping out someone who truly needs help, someone who needs a lift.
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."