Ask what you can do for your chapter.
I'm busy. We're all busy. We juggle family, friends, jobs, spouses, and I know many writers who admit that housework drops to the bottom of the priority list most of the time. It definitely has for me. We're told to research, read, and most importantly ... WRITE!
One of the most important things we can do as writers is volunteer our time to our chapter. A real commitment. It’s only a year. Little tasks you do here and there. You'll build friendships. You'll learn more about the industry than you ever will by just attending meetings. And you can feel good knowing you'll be giving back to your chapter.
I joined RWA what feels like a hundred years ago. I didn’t have a local chapter at the time, and even though I had RWA, I accomplished very little other than writing books that never sold. My membership expired. I began talking more about writing than I spent actually writing. It started to sound more like a dream I once had than a burning desire I lived with daily.
But I was overwhelmed. Life was difficult. I procrastinated. I gave up.
For a while...
Years later, I moved. My schedule was still insane, but I had grown tired of talking about writing all the time. I wanted to write. I wanted to take charge of my life. So, I found a local writing chapter, joined RWA again, and joined Southern Magic.
Okay, I’ll admit I didn’t get involved right away. It was intimidating. People were talking about quorums and by-laws, for petesake. Sounded so … legal. I was there to write.
I don't know why I volunteered one day. I hadn't attended a meeting in five months. But I had hit a wall. I couldn't kid myself any longer. I needed to jump in with both feet. Make myself do it. What better way than to force myself to attend every meeting by becoming a Board member. So one day I did it. We needed a Membership Chair. How hard could it be? The most difficult part of it was climbing out of my shell and meeting people. On email. Seriously, how difficult is that? Well, it wasn’t. I actually started to like it. I was chatting with the Board online and we were putting great minds together to come up with ideas to improve the chapter. It became a challenge and a joy.
The following year I re-upped. And again the next year. Then one day I was VP. Somewhere in there I became a contest coordinator. I had judged numerous contests for years. Of course being a coordinator would be cake, right?
BUT, it’s a lot of fun, and again, you learn so much. If nothing else, you get a great perspective of the ins and outs of contests. The pains and complaints. The work involved. You'll respect others who volunteer their time on contests and you'll never complain about another contest again. It's worth it, trust me.
Then I think I was stretching one day during a meeting, my arm was in the air, and I was suddenly in charge of a massive, annual luncheon. Holy cow, how did that happen? Seriously, getting ideas and people together isn’t always the easiest thing. But once you get the hang of it and get a routine, it’s not difficult at all. From there I became a PAN Co-Liaison, because hey, I needed yet another job, right? I'll say right now I’ve made a wonderful friend in my co-liaison, and I love working with her to offer our published authors as much support as possible. Plus, I’m learning tons I’ll use in my own career once I get published.
Okay, that was it! I had too much to do. I wasn’t reading as much as I used to, and finding time to write was more difficult than ever. Something just had to go. So I gave up being a contest coordinator for the chapter's unpublished contest. Whew. I’d have free time now … to … become the main coordinator of the published contest.
Yes, I think I have a volunteering syndrome of some sort.
I can tell you that I’ve learned so much from volunteering. It's empowering, for one. I had no idea I could make a difference in someone's day with a simple email. I’ve received so many thank-you notes from published authors, unpublished authors, editors, readers—and countless others … people I’ve never met. You send a postcard to thank someone for donating books. Maybe an email to thank a librarian for judging your contest the third year in a row. Or my personal favorite ... you make a phone call to tell someone they're a double-finalist in your published contest. You hear the squee on the other end of the phone, the sudden silence, then the barely audible, "Really?"
Seriously, are you smiling yet? It's just that cool.
Volunteering is a rewarding experience. Trust me, you’ll get something out of it. I have more energy and write more with even less time than I ever did before I became a volunteer. It's worth it. You’ll make friendships. You'll network. You'll make a difference. And you’ll learn more about this business than you will by just sitting back and observing.
Support your chapter.
And as always, we’ll be here to support you.