The Joy of Helping

Back in 2016, as UK politics started to become ever more divisive and Twitter seemed to have become a hate-filled void of people shouting extreme opinions at each other, I got fed up. Reading my feed became some masochistic game of seeing how much stress I could take before I logged-off again.

Why can’t people be nicer? I thought.

And then, I remembered that I am a person (I can prove it and everything). If I wanted people to be nicer online, I knew I had a responsibility to lead by example. I had to be the change I wanted to see in the world. So, I muted all they key words that were causing dissent in my feed, and simply typed: ‘Is there anything I can do to help anyone today?’

The response was heartening. I was asked questions about writing and publishing. One person wanted a virtual hug. Others wanted encouragement or a kick in the pants. In fact, it went so well, I kept doing it, and have been regularly posting offers of help for aspiring writers ever since. I stay away from the drama and concentrate instead on helping people where I can.

I answer questions about my writing process, daily word counts, approaching agents and publishers, using flashbacks, chapter length, and many other writing-related subjects. I have provided character names to people who needed them, cheered writers on as they made progress, and told others to sit their butts down and get to work.

I’m a big believer that you get back what you put out into the world, and these acts of kindness on my part have resulted in a lot of goodwill from the rest of the writing community. Whenever I attend conventions, I get people coming up to me and thanking me for some piece of advice or kindness, or just saying how much they enjoy the positivity.

Only this morning, someone called me “UK science fiction’s honorary, lovable Uncle.”

Helping people with their writing problems has also helped distract me from some of the stresses and strains in my personal life, meaning I’ve benefitted from these advice sessions at least as much as they have.

And although I didn’t set out to sell books this way, it seems to have had the added side effect that quite a few folks who appreciate the effort I put in for others go on to check out my novels, and recommend them to their friends.

So, if people tell you that Twitter isn’t a good place for selling books, they’re probably right. Hard sell tactics don’t really work. Nobody wants to follow a megaphone. But, Twitter is a great place for helping and encouraging people, and if that results in extra book sales, that’s fantastic–but you have to concentrate on the helping rather than the selling!

You can find me on Twitter here: @garethlpowell

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Author: Gareth L Powell


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