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

Do you know how John Lennon fell in love with Yoko Ono? Joan GelfandLennon was visiting an art gallery—he 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. Ono was 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 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.”

We know that not all actions are immediately followed by fabulously positive outcomes. But haven’t you found that taking positive action—on balance—has benefited you in some way?

The Big, Scary “Yes”

In 2004, I had been on my own for four years. I had quit my corporate job to write a novel, had a setback, and was just starting to establish myself as a poet. As with 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 decided to take 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. In fact, it’s the opposite.

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 these 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 firing on all burners. Winning writers are building community, working on craft, staying committed, and moving forward with confidence.

A note on teams: Remember that you don’t always 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.

Joan will be next week’s speaker at our weekly Wednesday teleseminar! She will be speaking on this topic: Learn the Four C’s for Successful Authors: Craft, Commitment, Community, and Confidence. Click here for the event page for further details!

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