When I first started writing, I had goals: start a blog, be published, build a platform. Sure as writers, we are focused on our latest or next project—the book we want to complete, the idea that is tumbling in our heads finding its polish, or the article we want to query. But it’s not all about us, all the time. Many writers I know are also very aware of giving back. They believe there is a way to use their words--their gift--to help others.
A few writers I know have donated short stories or articles to anthologies where the proceeds go towards a cause. One such example, Overcoming Adversity: An Anthology for Andrew, is a collection of short stories, poems, and essays all about facing life’s struggles. The proceeds were donated to the college fund of a fellow writer whose son struggled with the devastating effects of cerebral palsy. Unfortunately although the young man lost his battle, the sales will continue to help others.
Another example is the anthology, Beyond the Binding: Composers for Relief Companion Collection, a collection of stories written by 29 writers across the globe. This time the money generated is all donated to the ongoing relief efforts in the Philippines.
I am fortunate to know many of the writers in both collections. No one had to twist their arms to donate their time, talents, and words. They gave because they knew their ability and love of writing were gifts to be shared, not just horded for their own gain.
Over the past several weeks, I have been donating my time towards a local literary journal. It will never see a web page in Amazon or raise money towards a cause. It’s just a small magazine, put together by local artists in my small, mountain town. This year, the journal partnered with our local headwaters grassroots organization to promote the value of water conservation. I contributed a short essay, but more important to me, I had the honor of helping with the editing tasks.
It was such a fantastic experience. Instead of just reading dry reports on the water levels of our valley or attending a lecture on the issues of declining rainfall and increasing population and irrigation needs, readers will get to experience and feel the importance and beauty of the rivers, lakes, and irrigation needs of our valley and beyond. Gorgeous, lush photographs captured rafters, kayaks, fly fishing, icy rivers snaking through snow, a sunset glancing off the mountains and mirrored in a lake. Poems described the soul-renewing value of the river, the joy of catch and release, the music and magic of rushing water. Essays spoke of farmers, boaters, dogs splashing in water, fly fishing metaphors, and silently paddling through still waters.
Art does more than inform: it engages emotions, thoughts, and imagination. This is why it is such a vital ingredient to change.
Not all the writing was professional, but it didn’t matter. We did our best to include at least one selection from everyone who contributed. The end product will be a loving collection by local talent. Not only did I get first glance at submissions, but the experience taught me a lot about pulling a layout like this together and allowed me to hone my sorely lacking editing skills (yes, I flipped through my Strunk and White more than once).
There’s an old Sunday School song about shining our light. One of the verses says:
Hide it under a bushel, no!I’m going to let it shine!
So my writing friends, in the midst of making sure you’re getting down your 3000 words for the day, editing for the umpteenth time those stubborn chapters, or crafting a carefully worded query, I challenge you to think about how writers have the power and influence to change thoughts, events, and to truly make a difference.
Let your talent shine.
Note: This post will also be published on She Writes.