They Also Serve

John Milton said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Seems like a strange thing to say. Isn’t it the movers and shakers who make all the difference in this world?

Sometimes we get to thinking that way, but is that correct? Where would Julia Roberts be if there weren’t someone on the other side of the camera filming her? Someone making sure her hair and makeup looked right?

Where would George Strait be if someone didn’t drive his bus to get him and his band to their appearances? Someone to see that the proper wardrobe was ready?

Buddy Holly was an overnight sensation back in the late 1950s. In fact, many consider him to be as big an icon of Rock and Roll music as Elvis Presley. One of the guys who stood behind him on the stage attracting little or no attention was Waylon Jennings. Waylon didn’t soar like Buddy, but he’s entering his sixth decade as a fixture in country music.

One of my favorite items in the comic pages is “Pluggers” by Gary Brookins. A plugger never jets straight to the top, but he plugs along doing his thing and working himself toward his goals.

Some people cast very visible shadows, and others live in those shadows supporting the visible ones. Both types have their parts to play.

If your writing hasn’t brought you the level of success one of your peers has achieved, or if it hasn’t improved as rapidly as you thought it would, don’t despair. Just keep plugging along, learning all you can about your craft and incorporating it into your writing.

Those of you who read my entry last week, “My First Blog,” are aware that Kristen Lamb (http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/) and I co-founded Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp. We met numerous times discussing whether or not to step away from the comfort of an existing writers’ group.

As is human nature, we both had a certain fear of venturing out. Sure, there were things about the group we were in that we both thought kept us from progressing as writers and leading others to progress, but the group was familiar. We frequently hold onto our own darkness rather than venture out into an unknown light.

Kristen would tell you I had to push her and stand behind her and prop her up before she was ready to take that step into the unknown. Once we made the decision to do so, we began meeting to discuss what we would do, how we would go about accomplishing what we wanted to accomplish. I don’t even know how many hours we spent and how many cups of coffee we drank working up our agenda.

In retrospect, a lot of our agonizing over what to do and how to do it proved pointless, because we soon began to junk parts of our agenda and replace them with newer and better thoughts that came along only as we got our feet wet. Before long, we hardly recognized the baby we’d created.

Somewhere along the way as the group began to jell, the ideas for what we should be doing began to crystallize in her mind, while my mind seemed to hang back where we began. She seemed to know instinctively—actually, it had a lot more to do with how much she read and her contacts with Bob Mayer (http://writeitforward.wordpress.com/) than with instincts—what we needed to do and where we needed to go.

Before long, I found myself a follower rather than a co-leader. I began to feel like a non-contributing failure. I should have been helping Kristen teach our group, but instead I found myself not even understanding or at least being very slow to apply what she was teaching.

Every time I said something about how I’d lagged behind her, she would remind me that there would be no Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp—and likely no We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media if I hadn’t pushed her and supported her in the beginning. I still sometimes feel like a dunce compared to the progress she’s made in the last two years.

Last summer I wrote a few blogs which were read by about three members of my own family. I didn’t understand Twitter—still barely do—and I didn’t understand putting tags in my blogs so someone could actually find them. With no one reading what I’d written, I just quit writing. I’ve remained an active part of WWBC, attending meetings regularly and adding what I can, but no writing.

It wasn’t until Kristen sent me the manuscript for Are You There – It’s Me, Writer, her followup to We Are Not Alone . . . that I began to put some things into perspective with regard to my own writing. I made up my mind that I would begin blogging regularly and effectively. I’m even determined to learn how to use Twitter effectively. After all, I have a true expert available for help.

You may have a young and nimble mind that immediately grasps these things. Like Kristen, you may grow in your craft by leaps and bounds. But there are also some out there like me who were born far too long ago to pick up, adapt to, and use all the new things available to writers.

The good news is that there’s a place for us, too. We may not be the stars who shoot to the top of the best-seller lists, but we can plug along and work at our craft and become good at it. In time, we may even be able to join our more fleet-footed acquaintances on that best-seller list.

Meanwhile, we can learn from and support those around us. I don’t kid myself that I’m responsible for Kristen’s success, but I do take joy in her success—and maybe just a tiny bit of pride. I’d love to see every member of our group become a successful, best-selling author. Some of it might rub off on me, but even if it doesn’t, I can rejoice in the success of others I love and care about.

Ø Are you the rock star soaring to success or the plugger trudging along the way?

Ø What do you do when you get discouraged with the pace of your progress?

Ø How does your writers’ group help you or intimidate you?

 

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About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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19 Responses to They Also Serve

  1. DM says:

    I like to trudge. I find the neatest stuff along the way, and the journey is the fun part.
    When I get discouraged, I walk away from it for awhile. The pace fits my mood of the day anyway.
    My writers’ group is the best. We encourage and support each other.

    Like

  2. susielindau says:

    So far I am plugging away! I only just started at WordPress and can see that site is dependent on Twitter and tags. I am still learning the ropes. I am not a quitter, but depend on seeing progress for encouragement. It does get frustrating especially balancing working on a book and the need to build a following by writing posts for my blog, so I will just keep plugging along!
    Great post!

    Like

  3. Barb Estinson says:

    Oops, I meant your writing SKILL, not sill. Silly me.

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  4. Barb Estinson says:

    David, I like this one a lot. It brings to mind the song “Wind Beneath My
    Wings.” I am so glad that you and Kristen have worked so hard developing your group and your skills and have supported and challenged each other. Your writing sill is obvious and growing. Hat’s off to you, Bro.

    Like

    • Thanks, sis. Guess you’re working on your typing sill.

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      • Cari says:

        I’d like to second what Barb said as I truly believe, regardless of the profession in which someone is doing great, there seems to always be an inspiration behind the scenes supporting them, believing in them, pushing them out of the nest or ‘safe zone’, & urging them on even when they feel like giving up. The song “Wind Beneath My Wings” says it perfectly. That ‘wind’ or ‘person(s) in the shadow’, is/are just as vital as that proverbial ‘rock star’ & should never be taken for granted or discounted. David, I’m still shaking my head in utter disbelief that you ever discounted yourself.

        Ø I’m still the fledgling who just got the gentle nudge out of the nest to blog from some very supportive family members & friends 3 months ago. Where this journey will lead remains to be seen. Whether I decide to write a book someday or stick to blogging, for now I’m trudging, trying to find my footing, & learning the ropes while hoping I can be a good cheerleader to others at the same time. Definitely not a rock star yet.

        Ø When I get discouraged in anything, not just writing, I pull away from all the information bombardment that goes hand-in-hand with technology these days into a kind of quiet zone & take a step back in order to switch my perspective to assess things more objectively.

        Ø My ‘writer’s group’ consists of the incredible folks I’ve met so far on Twitter. Funny that it’s emblem is a bird & how fitting Barb’s mention of “Wind Beneath My Wings” really is. I’m still uncertain as to whether a blogger is even considered a writer, but these wonderful people in the TwitterVerse have welcomed me regardless & I’m very grateful for that. I’ve never felt intimidated by any of these truly amazing people–only support or the helpful gentle nudge back into the ‘nest’ to take that moment to assess my flight plan lest they see me make a blind crash landing.

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  5. You know what David? The last couple of weeks while I was floundering around on Twitter and you tweeted that I needed more followers, I thought wow, here’s this nice man trying to help me who obviously knows what he’s doing. I’d say you’ve mastered Twitter David. Cross that one off your list.

    When I get down about my progress I just tell myself it isn’t my time yet and that everything happens for a reason. I’m plugging along too.

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  6. shelleykoon says:

    Awesome from the heart post David! Thank you so much for sharing your journey thus far with us, it is nice to see that we are not alone in learning how navigate this world of writing.

    In answer to your questions:

    I think I start out a plugger and then along the way morph into rock star. I have a tendency to become a go-to person in anything I involve myself in, probably because I am a sponge for information and want to know how everything works, so I spend a lot of time sitting back and gathering and then when I feel comfortable I start sharing.

    When I get discouraged with my WIP, I give myself permission to step away, for 5 mins, an hour, even an evening, as long s I do something else writing related, be it read a book, work on my blog or read others blogs. Most of my discouragement comes from being so focused on the task at hand that I start nit picking and second guessing, stepping away allows me some needed distance.

    I love the people in my writer’s group, they are a diverse fun loving bunch who give great feedback but we only meet once a month and I am finding that to be a bit too restrictive for me. I’m moving at a faster pace and my goal is to have my novel done by year end, so it’s tough to stick to that one chapter per month schedule. Luckily, a couple of folks in the group have offered to read my work outside of the group and I am going to start working with a writing coach in a couple of months, so I am thinking that will help out quite a bit in keeping me on track.

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  7. Texanne says:

    David–

    Without rubbing the least bit of shine from those who only stand and wait, I encourage you to find your own inner rock star. Speed isn’t the entire deal. Kristen has her song, her tempo–and you have yours, too.

    It’s good to support others, but it’s not the only thing in life. Shake off the injury and get back in the game. What genre do you write?

    Like

    • Thank you, Texanne. After sitting on the sidelines too long, I’ve gotten into the game in the last few months. Up to 1600 followers now, and beginning to develop a blog readership. Long way to go, but I feel like I’m gaining momentum. Working on a detective drama.

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  8. David, I think so many of us have functioned well…and poorly…in both positions — as leader and as follower. I have a friend who says when he needs a leader for a new project, he begins the leading of it, and a leader always rises out of the group, and then his job as leader is to step out of the way and let the inspired one lead. You probably exhibited a trait that many leaders are unwilling to recognize…you’re willing to recognize that moment when a leader rises. Sometimes we’re the catalyst, sometimes we’re the crystallized energy that bursts up the ladder of success, and with our eyes and hearts open, we’ll know when it’s our job to act, and when it’s our job to step out of the way.

    Part two of this is that in stepping out of the way, our energy and time are freed for the thing that we’re truly meant to do.

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  9. Thanks, Amber. I take what you say very seriously. Well – except for the sushi. I’d say a lifetime without sushi.

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  10. Catie Rhodes says:

    Good blog, David. I don’t know if I’m the rock star or the plugger, but I do know this: It’s hard, hard work either way you go. Writing takes both commitment and stubbornness. And a biiiig dose of crazy.

    I get most discouraged when I have taken on too many added extras. I find myself doing only added extra stuff and writing. It makes for a great deal of frustration. My writer’s group helps me put things back into perspective. If I’m not writing fiction, why am I doing all the other stuff?

    Thanks again for such a thought provoking blog. 😀

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