Paying it Forward On-Line

Some lessons are learned once. With speed and finality, the light bulb blinks on and – just like that – we know something new. Other lessons take longer to process. We learn them in bits and pieces, gradually building up our understanding until finally we move from 1) knowledge to 2) taking action to 3) making a new habit.

The ease and importance of supporting people’s efforts on-line has been the latter type of lesson for me, and I write about it because right now, I’m grateful to be the recipient of a lot of enthusiasm and support, and people have no idea how much it means to me. Each and every person who has taken the time to “like” the Fat Kid movie page, or to share one of my links on their own profile page, or to retweet a post has truly made my day. I’ve looked through Facebook’s list of Friends Who Like This Page and smiled to see so many familiar faces, touched that they took a few minutes out of their day to show their solidarity with something I’m passionate about promoting.

Sometimes we learn from our mistakes, but other times we’re privileged to learn from the kindness of others. As an author, this has been my journey. Before I had anything of my own to promote, my attitude towards supporting the work of others – especially people I might have deemed as famous, even if just marginally so – was that it wouldn’t really matter to them. I’d never written fan letters, for example, not because I hadn’t been touched and impressed by people’s work, but because I always assumed other people were already writing them in droves. What would one more anonymous fan letter matter to a published author, or a talented actor, or a brilliant artist? It wasn’t until I started receiving my own fan letters that I realized how much each and every one truly makes a difference. Every letter I receive, whether by snail mail or e-mail, touches my life and encourages me in what can otherwise be a solitary job.

I’ve had the same experience with Amazon reviews. A lot of times, people are motivated to action when something bothers them. If they’re angry or agitated, they want to respond. It’s easy to write a complaint or a criticism because it satiates our desire to smooth out our negative feelings, but to take the time to write something positive has no benefit for ourselves. It’s a selfless act that has huge meaning for the recipient.

People’s reviews of my books, whether on Amazon, Goodreads, blogs, or any other source, truly matter to me. I put my heart and soul into my books – they are my surrogate children – and when people have taken the time to share kind thoughts publicly, I’m so touched. And it’s rare. My books have sold many thousands of copies, and out of all those readers only a handful have posted reviews. In fact, for one anthology, my husband and I noticed that only one person – him! – had taken the time to write a review. Surely each and every author represented in that book has friends and family and fans, but no one else had taken the time to post a review even though reviews have the power to sway a potential buyer who might be wavering about their purchase.

And now we have a whole new world of on-line interactions with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. At first, my attitude was not to do anything too complicated. Ha. Who knew what consequences there might be for hitting the “like” button?! But ever since my movie experience began, I’ve understood the importance of supporting the things other people are putting their hearts into. When I read someone’s post with their attached link, I realize how hard they’re working to get the word out, and let’s face it, there’s a lot of competition.

Now, I hit that “like” button freely. I try to share links that others put up on their profiles and as often as I can I try to retweet other people’s posts if I like them too. I’m trying to be more active about seeking out charities to “like” and sharing my thoughts about books, movies, and art that I care about. And you know what? It’s transformed my on-line experience. Now I take joy in showing my support, and I’m astounded that, sometimes, it can be as easy as hitting a button. I’ve finally moved from stage 2) taking action to stage 3) making a new habit.

The on-line world can be overwhelming at times. There’s so much information vying for our attention. It can be fun and frustrating, appalling and appealing, but don’t forget that it can also be rewarding. It’s so easy to become a cheerleader for other people’s work, a supporter of great causes, and a megaphone for news you care about. Remember that the people behind each and every post are real, and your response absolutely will matter to them. You have the power to make someone’s day a little brighter.

Trust me on that.

Here are a just a few pages that I like, and you might like too!

iHug (I Help Uganda Grow)

Room to Read

The Highlights Foundation

Smile Train

Paige’s Butterfly Run

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Find Madeleine Campaign

Whitewater Films

Whippany Park Productions

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