The Season of Giving

The other day I was talking to my mom about the YA/children’s book community, and I mentioned how pretty much everyone I’ve met–from fellow writers to librarians to editors to readers–is awesome. People don’t tend to be snobby or petty or dismissive. Instead, the large majority of people I’ve met are warm and friendly and inclusive and generous. Maybe that’s because we’re writing for an audience that’s often not taken seriously and our work requires a little more sensitivity. Maybe that’s because other people in the literary world are easy to dismiss our work so we have to band together even more. Maybe that’s because we’ve found that it’s better to be supportive of each other than to knock each other down.

It’s especially evident online, where people will retweet friends’ exciting news or take a picture of a friend’s book in a bookstore. We read each other’s work and recommend it to our reading community. We share ideas for marketing, let each other vent, and remind each other that we’re not alone on this wild writing journey. It’s overall a very giving community, and one I’m so glad to be a part of.

I love cheering for my fellow writers. From best-selling authors to debut writers to writers who are still drafting their first novel, I love sharing my enthusiasm for their work and encouraging them and sharing writerly experiences with them.

I am, however, way less giving toward myself. If a writer friend is going through a hard time, I’d be quick to tell them, “It’s okay, take care of yourself, you don’t have to do all the work right now, the story will wait for you.” When it comes to myself, I’m way more likely to say “Dude, why can’t you get it together and finish the damn draft already? And why isn’t it perfect, it has to be perfect!” If a friend has exciting news to share, I will tweet and blog and Facebook all about it. Sharing my own exciting news feels weird and awkward and conceited. I think my friends are so smart and talented, but if someone asks me about writing, I say “Oh, well, this is just what works for me, what do I know?”

Sometimes it’s easier to be generous for others than it is to be generous for yourself. This quote by Marcia Hutchinson is about body image, but I think it totally applies to how we treat ourselves in general:

“If you talked to your friends the way you talk to your body, you’d have no friends left at all.”

Writing and publishing are hard and stressful and it’s easy to put pressure on yourself, especially about things you can’t control. But at the end of the day, you can’t write your best book if you’re not taking care of yourself. You’re a priority, too.

In this season of giving, let’s commit to talking to ourselves more like we talk to our friends. To supporting ourselves and taking care of ourselves and reminding ourselves that challenges are a part of life. To being enthusiastic for ourselves and our work. To being just as giving and kind and generous to yourself as you are to those around you.

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