The Power of YES: Why Community Matters in Your Writing Life

By Joan Gelfand, author of You Can Be a Winning Writer (July 2018)

Do you know how John Lennon fell in love with Yoko Ono?
While visiting an art gallery—Lennon himself was a sketch artist, had gone to art school and was a fixture on the London art scene as well as a famous Beatle – he saw Ono on a ladder installing her one woman art show: a huge sculpture of the word YES.

There is a children’s book called “Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You.” The book is an object lesson in teaching children the consequences of their actions with the help of a cast of lovable characters—Lowly Worm, Pig Will and Pig Won’t. Pig Will does what’s asked of him. Lo and behold, guess what? Pig Will gets the goodies. He gets to participate, have fun, and be an all-around happy guy. Pig Won’t, of course, always finds a reason to say no. You guessed it. Pig Won’t doesn’t get the goodies. Simple as this sounds, Pig Will has power.

When people see that you help out, not only because you want to build your reputation, but because you are a ‘team player,’ you are also cheerfully having a “Pig Will moment:” You are “paying it forward.”

Not all of our “Yes’s” or positive actions are immediately followed by fabulous outcomes. But haven’t you found that taking positive action—on balance—has benefited you?

The Big, Scary “Yes”
In 2004, I had quit my corporate job to write a novel, had a setback, and was just starting to establish myself as a poet. Like many writers, I was busy! I still had a daughter at home, I was running a small business, and my writing projects had projects. When a writer friend told me about WNBA, I was thrilled to meet colleagues and friends who were in the same boat! Soon after joining WNBA, members received an email. The current president was stepping down and, if someone didn’t take the reins, the chapter would fold. Wow. Okay. I was new to the group, but with the support of another member, we said “Yes,” and took on the presidency. Boy, did I get an education. I learned how to plan events, communicate to a group, and get things going. Together, we doubled our membership! Somehow, I found time in my busy life to help WNBA.

Two years later, I was asked to be the incoming National President’s Vice President. Now, that was a serious ask. It meant two years as VP, two years as President, and two years as Immediate Past President. I was loathe to take on a six year commitment. I wanted to get back to my novel. My husband strongly advised that I take the position.

Since that time, I’ve had five more books published, four of which were directly related to my leadership role in WNBA. The other one certainly took into account that I had a national platform. The point here is not about happy endings, it’s about why community matters in your writing life.

Community
Doesn’t it seem to happen that just when you are feeling stretched thin, crunched for time, and really not in the mood that opportunities to say YES! present themselves? What I want to say is that it isn’t always so obvious when the right time is to say “Yes.” Building your platform is not exactly like party planning. Sometimes you need to say YES! exactly when you would be inclined to say NO! Sometimes you make that extra effort to build your platform at exactly the time when you want to pull in your oars, hibernate, isolate and…. WRITE!

But winning writers, remember, are a breed apart. Winning writers who follow the “4 C’s” are firing on all burners; building community, working on craft, maintaining commitment, and moving forward with confidence.

A note on teams: Remember that you don’t have to go it alone. When I took on the Presidency of WNBA, I had mentors. Past presidents, executive board members, and chapter members were all sources of great inspiration and encouragement for me. YES! 

Joan’s new book, You Can Be a Winning Writer: The 4 C’s of Successful Authors: Craft, Commitment, Community and Confidence, newly published by Mango Press, is on Amazon’s #1 Hot New Releases. The author of three poetry collections and an award-winning book of short fiction, Joan is the recipient of numerous writing awards, commendations, nominations and honors. Joan can be found writing and coaching writers at Eco-Systm co-working space in SF. http://joangelfand.com

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