Years ago, for your birthday I took you to a writers’ conference. We were walking around before the first session, checking out the bookstore and getting cold drinks. Posted on a wall was a hand written announcement about an upcoming workshop titled “Comming Soon…How To Improve Your Writting.” Yes, coming and writing were misspelled. And it’s was misused for its, plus some other mistakes. You were so embarrassed for whoever had made the poster. I agreed, but I also didn’t want to point it out in front of others. So we waited, standing in front of it and blocking the mistakes. Finally a lady came by and asked if we had questions. When we learned it was her poster, we quietly pointed out the errors so she could correct them. You even offered to help.
She laughed. It had been a prop, and we were the only ones who responded. We received our choices of journals from the bookstore. The title of her speech later was “Why Are Writers Afraid to Help Each Other?”
You could have given that speech, Mom. One of the many things I learned from you is that helping someone else succeed does not take away from our own success. I watched you help children work on their spelling, teens write essays, peers work on poems and short stories. You could write beautiful passages, but you were also practical and succinct when that was called for. If you were stranded on an island (see above) you definitely would have used stones to write the short, clear, effective message–HELP–and then gone in search of firewood and food.
April is National Poetry Month. Last week you shared your poem, “In God We Trust,” with our blog friends. Next week, on April 10th is Encourage A Young Writer Day. If you were still able, you’d be the first one offering to help. But since you aren’t able, maybe some of the rest of us will step up in your place!
I love you, Mom.
67 responses to “WHAT–AND HOW–WE WRITE”
” helping someone else succeed does not take away from our own success.”—So true. In fact, I would add that it further builds upon our own success.
Absolutely, Carrie. Except in the Final Four Basketball playoffs. You don’t dare even imagine helping the other team succeed.
Lovely post Marylin! It’s funny because I literally just finished a Power Point slide I’m using to teach a photography workshop this month. So true how we only win by helping others. Blessings to you, and your dear mother. Robyn
You are so right, Robyn, and thank your for your thoughtful comments for my mother.
Loving and lovely – as usual!
When I cleared out Mom and Dad’s house about 7 years ago to sell it, I found a journal in a briefcase. I’m not absolutely sure it was the Mom chose at the conference, and all she’d written in it were addresses and writing ideas…and one comment: Who needs my help today?
Oh how sad!
Beautifully said about “help”. Thank you so much, Marylin.
You’re welcome, Amy.
I just love this – and the message it gives
It doesn’t work in competitive arenas like sports (unless it’s to help your teammates, which is a given), but for writers helping each other it’s amazing.
What a lovely post! Nice that you’ve honoured your mother this way. We’re both lucky to have such generous and wise women as our teachers. Mine is now gone but forever in my heart.
What a wonderful woman your mother is. In every post you share with us, her sense of ladylike grace and goodwill toward others shines through. I love being reminded of a time when good manners and kindness were valued….and passed along to the next generation.
Oh, so do I. And writing these memories about things she did while I was growing up, and how she treated others, is a reminder for me. Maybe the next generation will read these and move to the side of manners and kindness, too.
I think you’re right. I know my boys feel VERY strongly against divorce and absentee-fathers based on personal experience and what they’ve seen in most of their friends’ homes. If they learn something good from a negative, it follows they might also learn by positive examples, too. Let’s hope, anyway. 🙂
How lovely that you’ve honoured your mother this way. My mother was also a generous and wise woman. We are both lucky.
I love your mom. If you got it, share it. Feels good.
Absolutely, Julia. And she would love the picture of you feeding the orphaned calf. On the farm she was all about helping the animals.
Good to remind writers to help each other. I have found a few to be closed, self-interested groups. But overall, the writers I have meet are very helpful and sharing. Oh, and I love Poetry Month…although it does seem to lack some supporters! Thanks for following it too.
Claudia, the beautiful poem you posted by Jane Kenyon, “Let Evening Come,” reflects so gently my mother’s response to accepting the end of a day…or life. It was a wonderful poem for Natl. Poetry Month, and every month. Thank you for posting it.
That is a wonderful reminder that helping someone else doesn’t diminish our own success. I picture a crowded beach–there is always enough sunshine to go around!
The imagery is perfect, Diana. And on a crowded beach, my mother would never set up an umbrella or stand in the way and block anyone’s sunshine, just as she would never walk past a situation or person she could help.
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You do well to remind us helping others does not take away our success only makes us better
Thank you. That was my mother’s personal philosophy, and she passed it on to others.
Talk about young writers — I love having little chats with the several students at my school (K-4) who have expressed interest in becoming writers. I’ll be sure to spread some extra encouragement to them on Wednesday, and I’ll do it in your mom’s name.
Oh, bless your heart, Darla. What a beautiful thing to do in my mother’s name. She would be thrilled if she could understand.
I think it is so wonderful that your mother is still helping people today through your blog. For example, I am imagining how wonderfully enriched my life would be if I started the day with “Who needs my help today?” and closed it with “Who did I help today and who helped me today?”
Beautifully stated. It’s almost a meditation, “who needs my help today?” as well as an evening prayer, “who did I help today and who helped me today?” Thanks for sharing this.
You are right; a great meditation. Now to fix it in my mind!
I actually did a copy/paste of it and taped it inside my morning-pages journal.
How funny that it was a prop and you were the only ones to respond. Very clever idea indeed. How wonderful that your mother was always willing to help others.
Actually, it was a clever idea. I’m sure others noticed it, too, but maybe they realized it was a set up. As a high school English teacher, I didn’t want to come on too strong about all the errors. My mother just wanted to help make it better. She had a very gentle and supportive way of doing that.
It is a touching anecdote. I am wary of ‘Days’, but hope the month will do a lot of good to authors.
I know. Some of the “Days” assigned to the calendar–where do they come up with these ideas?–but the one about Encourage A Young Writer would have been perfect for my mom. But she wouldn’t need a specific day…she would do it whenever she saw a young struggling writer.
I don’t recall you or Grandma telling this story when you came back from the conference….BUT that really doesn’t surprise me! Grandma was never one to “toot her own horn”….not that you are either. I love all the deeper meanings that this “story” can teach or reinforce.
Great writing, and wonderful pictures AS USUAL!
Love you, too, sweetie. You were probably 5 or 6 when Grandma and I went to that one-day conference in Kansas City, so I’m surprised if you remember it at all. To Grandma, it wasn’t a big deal…she was just trying to help.
Some of the gentle, funny, helpful things your grandmother used to do…I see repeating in you, Grace and Gannon. It’s one of the things I hate about her dementia, that she can’t see this connection repeating itself.
Proper editing is important, but more so how the message is conveyed on how to correct what’s written. Kudos to you and your Mom for your tactful diplomacy and hurrah for the score on the freebies. Very nice, Marilyn.
Thanks, Judy. My mom has always been so nonthreatening and helpful that it’s been second nature for her to be kind and diplomatic. I have maybe half of her strength in that area. Okay, even less than half…
I wish I had known your mother. Your tact and diplomacy deserves a round of applause.
Is that Gannon’s artwork at the top of the post? It’s delightful.
And I see he enjoys scrabble. 🙂
Now I’m embarrassed, Tracy. That was my stick-figure art, drawn quickly yesterday so I could post the blog. If it had been Gannon’s or Grace’s, the art would have been sooo much better.
They are getting such a kick out of having their Picasso portraits posted on your blog. You make up in spades for the art teacher who was in to crushing children’s artistic expressions. Thank you.
You make me laugh, Marylin. I love your stick-figure art.
And again, I’m so happy Grace and Gannon are getting a kick out of having had their Pcasso self-portraits displayed. 🙂
How sweet and gracious.
What a wonderful story. Hope I would be as helpful.
Truthfully, I’m not sure if I’d have waited so long to offer help if it hadn’t been for my mother. But since then, every time I think of that day I am more aware of times when I should at least try.
I feel you have more of your lovely Mum in you than you realise…you reach out in this blog Marylin, more than you realise…. ❤ x
Thank you, Jane. That’s very nice of your to say, and I hope you’re right.
What a great post! I can’t believe nobody pointed out the typos besides you and your mom. I wonder if people were embarassed to do it, or wanted that person who made the sign to be embarassed. That’s sad. Having worked in marketing for many years, I’ve seen my share of typos. I once went to a tradeshow and saw a very large sign in an exhibitor booth with a very obvious typo in large print. As a fellow exhibitor, I felt compelled to point it out to the guy in the booth, who sighed and said he was getting a sign the next morning as they found the typo the night before. Poor guy!
Oh, I know. Poor guy is right.
And we all make mistakes. There are times when I’m sure I’ve carefully proofread everything, but AFTER it is printed I find more errors. I’m glad when someone points out my mistakes early on so I can correct them, so I build from there and return the favor.
Like my mom, I try to help others, but sometimes the help definitely isn’t appreciated!
Isn’t that the weirdest thing? I can’t believe how many people are unappreciative when you try to help them. As if they assume you have an underlying mean purpose. It’s crazy the world has become so ungrateful.
But you have to admit, in some settings writers can be kind of snarky with each other. Sometimes there’s an underlying edge of competition at conferences and in writing groups. And you never know who’s been stung by a criticism disguised as help. But my mom always just quietly stepped forward and offered to help.
Ah, competition… Even writers are not immune to it.
Grace and Gannon (my grandchildren…my mother’s great-grandchildren) are featured in Tracy Campbell’s emerging art post. Please visit their Picasso-style portraits (with their art instructions) and have a smile at http://tracycampbell.net/blog/
Your posts always warm my heart … and this one is no exception … ‘helping someone else succeed does not take away from our own success’ is truth we would do well to always keep in mind. As only love and knowledge multiply by division.
Thank you, Daniela. It is a lesson my mother taught by example.
Your posts always touch me in such gentle ways. You’re so kind and loving and patient, and you tell a great story!
I liked this one very much!
Thank you so much.
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