I AM A WRITER! Or so I tell myself, almost every day.
That doesn’t sound like a problem, but it is. My dilemma is I don’t always write every day. Sometimes, I can go a week or two, without writing a single word of any real relevance to my current work-in-progress. Instead, I’m using my spare time to help other writers in a very unique way, by making decisions, by composing emails of encouragement, by pumping up the writers and getting them excited. You see, I volunteer as the Muskoka Novel Marathon Writer Liaison, and if that’s not enough, I also do all their social media postings and tweets, plus take care of their website for the whole year. I encourage the 40 participating writers to fundraise for the YMCA Literacy Programs, because I believe strongly that everyone should be able to experience the Magical World of Reading. This year, we raised over $29,000 for these programs that help people who are struggling with basic reading, writing, math and computer skills. This makes me feel pretty good. That’s over $6000 more than last year’s amount. I’m definitely smiling.
This past weekend, we finally experienced the moment, where all 40 writers gathered to spend 72-hours straight in one room… TOGETHER! Seriously, it is one of the best writing weekends of the year for me. It is an experience like no other adventure that I’ve ever taken part in. 40 people that range from quiet and non-social, to wacked out crazy people, who will light their hair on fire, just to get a few laughs (see picture above). Besides writing, we hug, we cry, we laugh, we walk barefoot, we sing, we dance, we scream, we whisper… and most of all, we have fun together. What’s not to love?
This kind of volunteering looks great on a resume, but unfortunately for me, I don’t need a resume. Why do I do it? Why do I give so much time unselfishly to an organization, when I could be writing? That’s a good question. I’m not sure I have a specific answer, but I’m going to try and explain it.
One woman I know, who is both a wife and a mother of two teenagers, was struggling with life in general. When her kids asked her for Math help, she just shrugged. She didn’t have any idea what the textbook was asking, because she couldn’t read it, nor comprehend it when the kids read it to her. She bravely pushed herself to attend the YMCA Literacy Program, graduated and is now a writer for the third year in a row at the Muskoka Novel Marathon. She is writing her own novel. That’s amazing! This woman thanked me for helping her do this. She thanked me for talking with her about her story, and where to take it next and she thanked me for listening to her. We have become incredible good friends. I smile every time I say her name, as I am so damn proud of her.
If that answer is not enough, I have one more:
During this year’s marathon, I received an email from a marathon participant, who was also struggling with life when I met him virtually for the first time. Not because he couldn’t read or write, but because he was going through many personal problems at home, including a nasty divorce in progress and being separated from his kids. He had originally signed up for the Muskoka Novel Marathon, but wanted to quit before he even got started. After many emails back and forth, I talked him into coming anyway. I went as far as guaranteeing him that he would love it or I’d give him his $100 registration fee back myself. Of course, I was a little worried, as not everyone loves being elbow to elbow with 39 strangers for 72-hours, but I didn’t need to be. All went well.
Out of the blue, a little bit over the halfway mark during the marathon, I received an email. It was from him. Every paragraph (and there were many) started with “Thank you”. He thanked me for pushing him, for not letting him quit, and for the promise he would have fun. He thanked me for showing him that it’s okay not to write at a writer’s retreat/marathon because he was terrified and, so that he could learn how to write at a writer’s retreat/marathon on his own time and how not to be terrified. He thanked me for all of it, for everything, for making him feel like he belonged somewhere in this world, for letting him feel like he could just walk away and be alone if he needed to, but have friends waiting for him when he returned and he thanked me for having one of the best times of his life. He said he hadn’t been that content with his life in years and he was so happy. Bottom line, he thanked me.
I’ve got to tell you, I cried when I read his poetic prose. If you know me at all, I’m a strong tough girl who doesn’t cry, and anyone who sees me crying, pretty much has to die before anyone else finds out, but damn if he didn’t get the tears streaming down my face that day. The words “Thank You” are powerful words… and this is why I volunteer to do the things I do, because this man, reminded me that one person can make a difference, and I could smile, knowing that I had accomplished this.
So, next time, if you are wondering if you should sacrifice a little writing time to help someone else… maybe you should? Whether they say thank you or not, you can walk away knowing you have made a difference in the World to someone.