Another writer helped me with something this morning, which reminded me that a couple of months ago, I offered to do something for a fellow writer (friend of a Facebook friend). It was something she was finding complicated, confusing, and time-consuming to do herself, but would have taken me very little in the way of time or resources. I offered because I remember being in her exact situation once.
I never heard back from this writer, and then we ran into one another (in person). I asked if she'd gotten that task done and she sheepishly said no. When I asked why she hadn't followed up with my offer, she said, "I figured you were only being polite."
I'm not that polite. I am not polite to the point that I will offer my time, resources, mental energy unless I mean it.
But I know what she means. We sometimes assume that other writers who offer to help us are too busy, or were not really sincere (and maybe even count on us not following up), or only offered because they felt cornered or owed a mutual friend a favor. I once thought this too, and while it may be so sometimes, mostly I discovered I was wrong.
I've discovered that most writers (maybe most people, for that matter), no matter how busy, will only promise away time, resources, and/or energy when they mean it. Most of the time, offers of help are extended because that writer wants to help.
The other thing I've learned is that people in general are looking for ways to make a contribution to others' well-being, to do something nice, something another will value.
Not to get too touchy-feely about it, but when we accept an offer of help, we are actually also helping -- giving someone an opportunity to give, to offer a hand up. When we let people help us, we build stronger, more reciprocal relationships, and acknowledge everyone's need for occasional assistance, reinforcing our humanity all around.
Maybe especially among writers, whose budgets are usually very tight, the desire to help in ways that don't cost money exerts a strong pull. Every time a natural disaster occurs, I see, usually within two days or so, an auction site go up, hosted by writers, filled with offers from other writers to perform a service (editing, consultation, manuscript evaluation, etc.), in return for a donation to disaster relief.
Even when the need is small though, in my experience, writers come through for other writers. It's one way we build a writing community.
Need help? Ask. Received an offer of help? Take it. Then, when it's your turn and you want to help? Offer.
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