Recently I've had several occasions to mentally review a rather longish list of people who have been helpful to me in my writing life over the past ten years.
In either some rather large way, and/or in many smaller ways, folks have lent encouragement, provided helpful introductions to others, listened, read pages and offered feedback, and given me sound and thoughtful advice--including some of the hard-to-take kind of counsel that I almost certainly ignored for a while until, finally, I was truly ready to hear.
Lately, I'm simply feeling thankful. Lucky. And a lot more aware and comprehending of the genuine need and significant benefits of a true literary community, one that operates on mutual respect and reciprocity. I may not be able to "pay back" each kindness or bit of assistance in equal measure, and there are certainly some professional leg-ups and/or personal favors that aren't even in the category of possibly paying back anyway.
But I've come to accept that this is okay.
Because I realize that every time I try to help a writer in any small way I can, it acknowledges and honors those who've have helped me--sometimes in ways or at a time when I have wondered, why? Why is this eternally busy, extremely successful, definitely stretched-to-the-limit person--who surely has more important or inviting writing-world requests/tasks to attend to--inexplicably helping little old me?
As my father once explained long ago when I asked why he helped so many people--in business, in the neighborhood, in the extended family: you help because you can. Because you have been blessed with something you can share. Because you remember what it's like to need help. Because when you help someone, they'll help someone else. And so it goes.
Dad also taught me not to be afraid to ask for help. You may have to swallow hard and psych yourself up first, but ask. I've been asking a bunch lately, and trying not to feel guilty about it. Trying to remember that most people actually want to help others.
Sure, some folks will disappoint (I've heard a few No's recently). That's okay, too. That's why--as Mom once said--you need more than one friend, so that when you want to go to the pool and your bestie isn't around (or is temporarily mad at you), you won't have to sit in the hot backyard alone.
Some days you grumble about the stuff you don't have on your writing resume yet, the things may never get to publish or do, the writing world goals you are sure you can't possibly accomplish.
Other days--like today, for me--you look around and see nothing but blue sky. Because you're being held up.