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A Little Courtesy Goes a Long Way

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I like to keep a list of national “days” handy because it can be helpful when planning content for magazines, podcast episodes, and blog posts. For September, I noticed we have “National Courtesy Month” to celebrate. 

Here’s what the website has to say about the holiday:  

There are so many ways to show kindness to people through courtesy. Hold the door open for the people behind you! Mow your elderly neighbor’s lawn! Compliment that shy person you see every day on the subway! Above all, SMILE at everyone you meet! 

Because this is a blog for writers, I thought I’d talk to about the importance of being courteous to one another. If you’re anything like me, you have highs and lows with your writing. Sometimes you feel like you’ve produced the greatest essay, short story, novel etc. and then you send out a few submissions, and crickets. Or worse, a “thanks, but no thanks.” This can send us into a downward spiral where we feel like failures and can prevent us from continuing our craft or submitting. 

A woman in my writing accountability group recently shared a story with us. She has been working on a manuscript for several years, won a one-on-one pitch session with an agent, and received positive feedback and the invitation to submit her novel. As you can guess, she was jumping for joy at the opportunity. When the agent passed on her manuscript with a form letter a few weeks later, she was crushed. She began letting those feelings of self-doubt overwhelm her and shared those feelings in an Instagram post. She’s from Australia, and an author there reached out to her, offered to set up a Zoom call, and encouraged her to begin submitting her novel directly to publishers. This writer was so encouraged by this act of generosity from a writer she didn’t even know that she finally set up her website so publishers would have a place to see her writing online and it looks amazing! She could have wallowed for weeks, or even months, but a simple act of courtesy got her motivated again. 

Several months ago, I had a writer I connected with on Instagram send me a direct message. She had a pitch session with an agent lined up at a regional conference and asked me if I would be kind enough to read her elevator pitch and give her a few suggestions. Because she had been so kind in promoting my podcast for me, I told her no problem. I only sent her a few suggestions and wasn’t even sure I was helpful, but she sent me a card and a bookmark a few weeks later and told me she had received a request for her manuscript. A few weeks ago, when I was mulling over having to give up one of my editing gigs because of my workload, she happened to reach out me because she runs a staffing agency, and one of her clients was looking for a copywriter. She was looking for someone who could put in about 10 hours a week of copywriting, and that fit what I was looking for. If I hadn’t shown her a bit of courtesy when she asked form my help with her pitch, would she have thought of me for this other gig? Maybe, maybe not. I hope these stories of generosity have inspired you! You never know how much the smallest gesture of kindness can impact someone. 

Do you have any stories of other writers or editors helping you out that you’d like to share? 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and magazine editor who also produces a true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas.

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