So many fabulous writers I know have this weird disconnect when it comes to their talents. They think they can’t serve their communities because they don’t have “real skills”. (Listen, writing is hard! If it’s not a “real skill” then I don’t know what is–we spend our entire lifetimes honing it!!) There’s almost a smidge of shame that goes along with that belief. Any time there’s a disaster or need, you don’t have to hang your head if you don’t know construction, first aid, or rescue. (Although, actually, first aid is pretty practical. Maybe we all should take a class on that once in a while…) Instead, remember these ways to help others with your writing:
Be a Voice
I’ll bet when you read this header, it caused someone to come to your mind. You know there are those who can’t or won’t speak for themselves. And you know a cause that pulls at your heart. Whether it’s an impoverished village in rural India, or an addiction recovery program in your own town, someone came to your mind. Offer to help write promotional copy, fund raising materials or even an article in your local newspaper. There are so many people who feel like they have no voice, that they won’t ever be heard. Speak for them!
Don’t forget how important freedom of speech is to our free-thinking society. Social media is wonderful, but it has many unfortunate side-effects. One of those is that we tend to surround ourselves with people who are similar to us. By taking time to write an essay or article on your values, you can communicate your stance to others in a sensitive, thoughtful way. In a time where slam-and-block insults are common, be the voice that explains and edifies.
Be a Helper
As difficult as writing is for writers, imagine how hard it can be for those who don’t *want* to write. If we spend hours agonizing over language, how much worse is it for those who have no desire or interest in prose, mechanics, or style? You can volunteer at your local library to help students with term papers, writing projects and homework. I love to watch students light up when I teach them how to write stories the fun way. They think it’s backwards to start with their favorite movies and tv shows (story theory/the Hero’s Journey) and outline from there. In fact, they get suspicious. Aren’t they supposed to sit and stare at a blinking cursor on a blank screen, waiting for inspiration to show up and leave them a gift? Sorry, this isn’t UPS; no story idea will show up on your doorstep. (Okay, that does happen occasionally, but you know what I mean.) Help them set up writing projects that excite them instead of the torturous drudgery they expected.
How many times have you heard someone say, “I’d love to put together a ____________, but I just don’t know where to start.” Whether it’s their family history, or a personal memoir, most people have a story they want to tell. Looking up how-to’s on the internet or sitting in craft workshops can be overwhelming for a beginner. They need someone like you to draw up alongside them and guide them through the process. They might get started and decide they’d rather hire someone to tell the story for them! But, with your help, they may discover they really *can* do it, one step at a time. You will have helped create a new author! Doesn’t it give you chills?
Be a Friend
Snail mail has become a rare and precious event. Let someone know you’ve been thinking about them by sending real, honest-to-goodness, paper correspondence. Go all out with stickers, nice stationery or cards, and a colored pen. (If your handwriting looks like rat-scratch, print out a letter using lovely, easy-to-read fonts. But sign it with your own signature!) You could even send a letter of encouragement to a stranger, maybe someone you read about in the paper or saw on the news, someone who’s doing positive work in your community.
A personal card will make the recipient’s month (especially if you tuck in a gift card or a little green)! Put your time where your heart is, and take a few minutes to tell someone what they mean to you.
Be a Donor
If you’ve already published, you can donate author’s copies of your book to charities, auctions and fund raising events. Be sure to autograph each one, and make a note of the occasion.
You can also publish an ebook online and donate the proceeds to a worthy cause. It can be any length. Even a short story priced at $.99 can add up over time. Depending on the cause, you could even weave promotional details into the piece (sort of like how I mentioned my favorite local cafes in Waiting for Jacob!) to raise awareness. Be creative; there are dozens of possibilities here, and the vast Internet is your testing grounds.
Don’t disrespect your gift!
You know you didn’t choose to be interested in writing. It’s a calling, or a compulsion, and sometimes an obsession. And if we don’t pick our interests, then our interests come from somewhere else. I don’t know what you believe, but I believe that makes writing a holy practice. The next time you find yourself feeling useless, remember this: you are driven to write for a greater purpose, and that purpose is to lift up others. Whether you write humorous stories that make readers laugh ’til their faces hurt, or counseling brochures to help grieving families, your writing makes the world better. And that’s not a thing to take lightly…
NOW YOU: Do you have more ideas on how to help others with your writing? Drop your suggestions in the comment section!