Water can support a boat or overturn it.--William Shakespeare
Actually, Shakespeare was referring to leaders being overturned by people in this passage. But, on its own, this part of the verse is profound, and it applies to the thought on my mind today. Powerfully so.
Support. Mentoring. Sharing wisdom. Teaching the ropes. Paying it forward.
I have to start by saying that I’ve been blessed with exposure to some of the most supportive people imaginable in the writing community. A list of who they are and what they’ve done would is too long to ever itemize.
The list includes some who’ve been unselfish enough to beta read for me, to offer valuable feedback—some of this feedback in the form of detailed critiques and edits.
I’ve been blessed with the offerings of others and their artistic skills.
A talented woman with a beautiful, artistic soul designed my blog and my website. Somehow, without any particulars from me, she homed in on ME and crafted these gorgeous sites. She GOT me, and managed to create ME in these designs. I didn’t ask her to do this. She just gave of herself. To support me. She believes in me.
Once, when I needed motivation, another fellow writer who is a cover artist designed a mock cover for the book I was writing. To this day, I swell with pride when I look at that cover, and I still show it off. To this person, that cover was probably easy as pie, no biggie. But, to ME, it was equal to honoring me with a gold medal, a trophy—a symbol that said someone BELIEVED in me and my talent. A medallion to carry with me at all times so that I would believe in myself as well. A carrot dangled in front of me to push me to finish the damn book.
As I said, I’ve been uncommonly blessed with support.
So what’s with the you’ll shoot your eye out, kid? I’ll tell you what.
I came across that picture of Ralphie from A ChristmasStory—that scene where he struggled, clawed his way back up the slide to tell Santa that he wanted a Red Ryder BB gun. And the caustic Santa nudged a boot toe to Ralphie’s forehead and sent him spiraling back to the bottom, smirking to the dazed child, You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.
Well, it hit me that if I offer support, even if it’s just a cheer or a congratulations on finishing a chapter, of a pat on the shoulder, a moment to read a manuscript for someone, anything—I’m helping a beginning fellow writer who’s just like myself to realize THEIR dream. I have that in my power, no matter how far along in the writing experience I am. On the other hand, I could use that power to do just the opposite. To say one word—one carefully crafted word—of discouragement, to be the pin that pricks a hopeful writer’s bubble. It only takes one word. One word can put hope in a heart or be the boot—the you’ll shoot your eye out, kid—that sends the writer zooming to the bottom in a big pile of discouragement.
I have the power to be the water that supports the boat or the water that overturns it. And the beauty of that is that it takes no time at all, doesn’t interrupt me from anything. I’d be willing to bet every successful writer can remember back to their beginnings and recall some other writer who reached out to them, offered support, an encouraging word, a kind gesture. And, like me, grinned from ear to ear that somebody who was so successful took a moment to remember their own past.
My dream? Sure, to be a successful writer. But, oh, I can just see myself in some mountain cabin, surrounded by art and pottery and glass wind chimes, with my cute little straw hat on. And young writers would come to have tea with me and we could talk about writing, and I could encourage them and lift them up. And those kids could tell other kids, Hey, that C.Zampa is cool. She’s just a regular guy.