I recently attended the Willamette Writer’s Conference in Portland, Oregon. I stayed with my friend and fellow writer, Cindy Brown. I’ve been to writer’s conferences in Los Angeles, Santa Fe and Phoenix, but this event was truly outstanding – but not for the reasons one might suspect. I was inspired by many of my fellow writers who were attending this conference, including Cindy.
Cindy moved from Portland to Phoenix two years ago, and she was nice enough to introduce me to several of her writer friends. This was a welcome relief to me as I find it is much easier to enter unfamiliar territory if I know at least one or two people who are attending the same function.
In my interaction with Cindy’s friends, as well as several other authors that I met, I noticed the folks in the Pacific Northwest are a different breed of animal. They possess a collaborative spirit that I don’t run into in the other places I’ve lived or visited. People are happy to share notes, offer advice and sincerely wish you the best in your endeavors – even if you share the same occupation.
I enjoy this helpful attitude because I believe it’s important to live in a humanistic and compassionate manner. However, I’ve had some friends and family members chastise me for “helping the competition.” This always seemed odd advice to me. I’ve never felt life was a zero sum gain experience where there is only so much opportunity in the world and if you offer a bit of help to others that you will lose out on your share.
And while I do believe in karma, I don’t expect an equal amount of good things in direct proportion for any of my benevolent choices. Life is more complicated than that, and so is karma. If I only perform a kindness because I am looking for something in return, my intent is not generated out of compassion, it is emerging from a bartering perspective. It becomes a kind gesture in a tit for tat world and I don’t like keeping score.
My father used to tell me that if I could do a good deed for someone, and it didn’t hurt me to do so, then go ahead and do it. But he also cautioned me to not expect anything in return – not even gratitude. Kind actions are not always appreciated by the recipient. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it anyway. So I do. It’s a lesson that has served me well. I enjoy helping others, and it has become a way of life for me.
This same credo manifested in the spirit of many of the writers and teachers I met at the Willamette Writer’s Conference. Not only did they share information they learned about how to succeed as writers, they also practiced common courtesy at a higher level than I generally experience. People consistently gave up their seats to the elderly and disabled, they opened doors for one another, they drove courteously and they seemed genuinely friendly. It wasn’t an isolated case or two of interacting respectfully, it seemed to be an inherent part of the culture.
Unless someone is a hateful grouch, my guess is everyone has been kind to others on occasion. So I am asking myself (and you too, dear reader) why not extend this type of kindness and helpfulness to more people every day?
I plan on attending the Willamette Writer’s Conference next year. I learned a great deal about marketing, publishing and writing, but one of the most important lessons was not listed in the conference guide. It was the experience of being surrounded by so many people who live by the Golden Rule. And at the risk of being redundant, do unto others as you would have them do onto you, is one important lesson that bears repeating.