Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Help someone you don't know just because you believe in them

by A.M. Khalifa, thriller writer, Google+

Pierre-Auguste Renoir [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Browsing the Twittersphere, I recently stumbled upon a young London-based singer-songwriter who had posted on YouTube some of her original songs and a few ingenious mash-ups of cover songs. She’s only twenty-one but has an amazing voice and presence. The sort of talent that screams “I’m the next big thing.”

Instinctively, I tweeted her and said something along the lines of, “Are you just doing your thing, or are you looking for a record deal?” She responded with humility saying she’s in her last year of college but was actively looking for contacts in the industry. Without thinking twice, I proceeded to connect her to a friend of mine who works as a senior talent manager at a Los Angeles-based entertainment company founded by Jay-Z and connected to Sony Music and Universal Music Group.

As it happened, my friend was in London the same time I wrote to him, so they met in person and so far things are looking extremely promising for her. Her life may change dramatically as a result of this serendipitous chain of events. All I asked of her is to pay it forward one day. And of course to send me front row seats to the Grammys when she’s accepting her award at some point in the not too distant future.

Why am I telling you this?

As a new writer, my focus is often to foster relationships that may somewhat benefit my writing career. There is nothing wrong with that mindset, but if that’s all I am doing it could ultimately harden my heart and turn me into a calculative self-serving machine. All the advice on the business side of indie publishing seems to say the same thing: To invest my time and energy in the activities and relationships that will pay off. There is an 80/20 rule out there that I’m still trying to get my head around. Even when I seemingly reach out to do selfless acts like promoting fellow writers I admire and respect, it’s often with the implicit expectation they will do the same for me. Again, it’s fair and symbiotic, but it can’t be the only outlook.

Sometimes it’s soul-quenching to support someone simply because I believe in them. To undertake a totally selfless act based on the desire to help a talented, hard-working person who deserves it. And to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to my commitment to support and enhance the arts. In this case, rather than lament the sorry state of music produced today, I wanted to actively play a role in helping someone with raw talent to get a fighting chance to prove it to the world.

Mind you, I am not confusing this with karma, because even that is not entirely altruistic. There is nothing wrong with helping someone expecting the universe to look out for me one day, but it doesn't taste quite as gratifying as helping someone simply because I believe in them.

I am still relatively obscure as a writer as I am only just getting started in this gig. But so far, I've been fortunate to have mostly come across people who sought to help me because they believed in me. Even within the realm of strictly professional relationships where money is exchanged for services, most of the people I have hired have ended up becoming solid friends and genuine supporters who look after my best interest because they think I merit it.

I therefore feel it’s incumbent upon me to repay this kindness with people who equally deserve it, in whatever line of work they may be.

Fellow writers, were you the recipients of selfless kindness along your career from someone who believed in your work, and how has that affected your life? Readers, do you actively promote your favorite writers because of your belief in their work, over and above buying and reading their books?

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A.M. Khalifa's debut novel, Terminal Rage, was recently described by Publishers Weekly as "dizzying, intricate, and entertaining." 

The ebook version of Terminal Rage is now on sale for $2.99 on Amazon.

21 comments:

  1. Unless I'm completely fooling myself, the only way I reach out and support others is without expectation of something in return. I support them because I'm compelled to do so by my heart.

    As a new author, I'm often surprised to receive amazing and positive energy from readers. As cliché as it is, they truly are the wind beneath my wings.

    Good luck with your newsletter, A.M.!

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    1. A cliché only became so because of how true it is.

      Positive energy goes a long way in this business. And it's the best garlic against metaphorical Vampires, which according to Seth Goldin, by way of you, are "people that feed on negativity, on shooting down ideas and most of all, on extinguishing your desire to make things better."

      :)

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  2. Kudos to you, A.M., for helping an aspiring musician get the notice she deserves!

    Since I only take on manuscripts that fire my passion, it's so easy and natural for me to promote the authors and books every chance I get, after they come out!

    And I love to promote books and blog posts that provide excellent tips for writers to write better stories!

    In general, it's so much easier and beneficial to everyone if we all spread positive, supportive vibes on social media and in our private lives - it's a no-brainer! Thanks for the reminder, A.M. :-)

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    1. I totally agree with you, Jodie. We support the things we appreciate and admire.

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  3. And judging by all the positive comments and emails I get, I help a lot of aspiring and even published authors hone their craft and produce more compelling books, through my free blog posts here and on The Kill Zone and elsewhere, so I feel good about that...

    Have a wonderful holiday, everyone! :-)

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    1. You are one of the most positive and supportive people I've come across in this business, Jodie!

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    2. Aww, shucks. Thanks, Aymen! It's a pleasure to support and promote authors whose books I love and know others will, too! :-)

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  4. It's an amazing feeling--helping others for no other reason but that we can. Way to go, dear friend! :) My mother said something thought provoking once that stuck with me. To paraphrase: "Eventually, when our time
    comes, I don't think we'll be given a pat on the back for the good that we did. It's expected from us--it's who and what and how we are supposed to be. Rather, I think we will be judged for all of those times we could have, but actively didn't." Keep on shining your light and helping others. The way we use our gifts to bless others is a beautiful example of faith in action, in my opinion. Looovvveee youuuu! :)

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    1. Your mama has it all figured out, Jen. I couldn't agree with her more.

      Something to really think about: "All the times we could have, but actively didn't"

      Happy holidays!

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    2. I don't even want to think about it! Lol! (I've dropped the ball on WAY too many occasions in this life of mine!) B-t-dubs, I just signed up for your newsletter. I will be expecting my unicorn to arrive any day now...

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    3. Have you checked your state law on one-horned mythical creatures? :) :)

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  5. Aymen -
    Great message!
    It occurs to me that helping others without expecting return and artistic creativity are two of the things that make us most human. You are fostering both with your support of the young musician. Bravo!

    Looking forward to your newsletter. Please have unicorn delivered to the front door. A Minnesota Yeti frequents my back lot and he does not play well with others!

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    1. Thank you, Tom! You are right, what an astute observation about the human condition.

      Trade you a unicorn for a Yeti, any day!

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  6. For all artists, not just for writers, the pay-it-forward attitude has to prevail. Both because of the nature of what we do as a rather poor business model, and the heart-centered soul of it, if we're not supporting each other in every way possible, what chance do we have?

    Excellent message, Mr. Khalifa.

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    1. Here, here JL. What chance do we have indeed.

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  7. Thank you, A.M. for such a wonderful, inspiring post!

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  8. Very inspiring! It's also my personal lifestyle. Helping and giving come naturally to me, which I give my mother a lot of credit for. But I also network with other writers under the mutual understanding that we'll both benefit...or at least have some fun.

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  9. Thanks, L.J.

    Guess which country was ranked as the most generous in the 2013 World Giving Index? http://www.cafamerica.org/wgi-2013/

    Yes, you guessed right. America. And not because of pure charitable donations, but largely because of all the countries surveyed in the world, Americans scored the highest in helping strangers.

    Whatever your mum taught you reflects the fundamental fabric of American society where selflessness can coexist with self actualization. Chasing your dreams does not mean you have to trample on others while you do it. And being empathetic doesn't preclude you from being entrepreneurial.

    In that survey, 77 percent of Americans surveyed said they helped a stranger - the highest score in the world.

    Happy holidays!

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  10. Helping others is just the right thing to do, no matter where you stand on the name-recognition echelon. Down here in obscures-ville, I'm always learning from others and so grateful for the time writers offer. Unicorns or no, it takes a while for anyone to succeed. I might not be doing it right, but I'm feeling good about my opportunities and my actions.

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    1. Thanks, Kari! I agree, but everything is just a little bit more fun with unicorns. Given the choice at least.

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