Many of you reading this probably live in the United States, like me, and have grown up with the idea of free market, pull-yourself- up-from-your-bootstraps, get yours while you can. I’ve been as washed in the advertising waters as the rest of you, and I know that it’s incredibly difficult to pull yourself out of the mindset of holding onto what knowledge you’ve because you earned it, it’s yours and they’ll have to wrest it from your cold, dead hands.
So, you will either keep reading, or you’ll walk away after I say: Hoarding your knowledge, your skills and your talent is a mistake. Particularly as writers.
Why? Because anything a new writer needs to know he or she will learn. If they come to you asking for help and you turn them away because you feel they need to learn from the school of hard knocks, they’ll remember you for that. I’m not saying you can individually give time to everyone, but I’m betting you could write a really great blog post or essay about your publishing journey, your most challenging lessons, and give that to those who come to you with genuine need. Or you could make a human connection with a new writer, and just possibly discover you still have something to learn.
More than that, can you honestly say you got where you are without ANY help along the way? Did you have no champions, investors, people who believed in you and gave you a leg up, a referral or a secret back entrance that you might not have found yourself?
There’s a culture of competition fostered between writers—I’m not sure if it comes from MFA culture (I went through an MFA program and competition is definitely rife), or if it’s just the nature of the beast that when you perceive there to be a limited number of slots for publication, you don’t want to give away any intel that might sway someone else into favor ahead of you.
But here is what I’ve found over the twenty years I’ve actively pursued a writing practice and career: Every time I’ve ever helped someone, it has repaid me in kind or more. Those writers have remembered me, recognized me and even rewarded me. And trust me, I did not help with any such expectations. And the people I was too stingy to help? They went on to be successful anyway, but were left with a negative flavor, I’m sure. You actually have nothing to lose by helping others; you have far more to gain.
This feeling of competition is driven by scarcity, by fear that there isn’t enough to go around, and it’s just not accurate. When you hew to your own vision, write by your own authentic code, you aren’t really in competition with anyone else—you’re weaving your own tapestry. Anyone along the path with you is a collaborator, not a competitor. When you listen to the signs, you are given information about what is right for YOU, what avenues, paths, opportunities and people align with your unique vision. Nobody stands in the way of that.
So next time someone comes to you seeking guidance, consider what it will really cost you to give it, and where you’d be without others like you ushering you patiently along the path.
If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe to this blog or sign up for my newsletter. Also check out my books: Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time and the suspense novel, Forged in Grace. And check out my Plot & Scene Writing Retreat with Martha Alderson at the Mt. Madonna Retreat Center in May.