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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Paying It Forward

Many years ago, I attended a friend's presentation of her Master's thesis at University of Washington, a large and complex collection of beautiful poetry. When I went to leave, I was trapped. UW used to have a parking lot that was easy to drive into, but you had to plug quarters into the machine to get back out. No attendant. All I had was a five dollar bill. So, I'm wandering around a remote parking lot asking if anyone can change a $5, so that I can pay my $0.50. A nice woman handed me the fifty cents and started to drive away. I asked how I could repay her? She called back, "Pay it forward."

That is when I first heard the phrase and I took it to heart. I plug parking meters, when I'm feeling flush and see a parking ticket, I slip a $10 bill under the ticket to brighten up someone's day. I have probably paid that fifty cents forward for $100 or more.

My being on the receiving end didn't stop with that fifty cents. One of the greatest joys of my writing life has been being on the receiving end of charity. Mentors have constantly arisen when and where needed. From my good friend Jim who leapt in repeatedly to shred one of my books, draft after draft, as I struggled to manage challenges far beyond a beginner's reach. Thanks to him, my learning curve was immense, and I (after expending 1.2million words to create 170,000) finally beat my science fiction works The Nara Threshold and The Nara Effect into a fair simulation of what I meant them to be.

When I was ready, I met a pair of writers with over a hundred novels and a kajillion short stories each who gave of their time in classes, discussions, lunches, and answering endless foolish e-mails. I'll get back to my writing mentors in a moment.

And just this week, I started working on my first audio recordings of my various books. A friend from 20 years ago, one with awe-inspiring audio recording credentials, helped me design and equip my studio and is helping me figure out how to engineer my tracks.

Each of these people, and many others besides, have stepped forward to give of their knowledge and their passion of which I am the thrilled recipient.

So back to my mentors. One day I sat with them and asked how I could give back to them...And they laughed. The reason they have given to me and other fortunate authors was because great writers have given to them and they wished to pay the debt forward.

That's what they asked, and that's what I do. I struggle, with every contact I make, to thank those who gave to me by giving to others. In the last week I have: taught a class in epublishing from InDesign, reviewed and provided feedback on cover designs, short stories, and proposals. I have offered advice to my kid and try every time I write to pay my debts forward by telling stories from my heart.

It is a thought that is so simple in statement, but so difficult to live by. I used to ask myself how I could possible pay these debts forward. I no longer have to ask, it is now a part of who I am. Each day, each word, each action, I do my best to live that dream.

I could ask no more of anyone I have ever helped. Don't pay me, pay it forward.
All the Best,
Matt

4 comments:

Judith Ashley said...

We don't get where we are in our lives without other people who mentor, inspire, encourage, and are 'there' in whatever capacity needed at that time.

I agree Paying Forward the blessings we've received is a simple concept that isn't always easy to incorporate into our daily lives. Thanks for reminding me that simple acts are as important as larger ones.

Sarah Raplee said...

Thank you, Matt, for helping me and countless other writers! I'm trying to follow your example and Pay It Forward, too.

Inspiring post!

Paty Jager said...

Matt, paying it forward is indeed what helps others and ourselves. I had many people who have helped me and I try to help others by giving workshops, critiquing, and helping in every way I can.

Congrats to you for being a wonderful example!

Barbara Rae Robinson said...

That's what I love about our chapter and RWA itself. Lots of mentoring! I've come across fantastic teachers at the times when I needed them. Thanks for reminding us, Matt.

Barb