Thanks to a combination of the Internet and taking time to read my Writer’s Digest magazine, I recently met Caroline Leavitt. I asked her to write a guest blog for me, and she readily agreed. We decided what the world needs most right now is a little more kindness. So that is the theme of her blog.
Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You, as well as eight other novels. Her newest novel Cruel Beautiful World will be published by Algonquin in October 2016.
The kind of kindness that matters
By Caroline Leavitt
Maybe it’s because I was so bullied so much when I was young, that I believe so much in kindness. I was the one who was never chosen for teams, or who was mocked for my odd features, my skin so pale I couldn’t walk past a group of kids without hearing the “Caspar the Friendly Ghost” theme song. I didn’t know how to respond to any of it. So I either went silent, or laughed anxiously along with my abusers, or I went home and sobbed.
Now that I’m adult, I’ve learned that most people who are cruel, who mock, are really protecting themselves. To elevate themselves, you have to be demoted somehow. Writers can be really competitive. There are always gorgeous, meaningful books that don’t sell, and books that are not well written that do. Wonderful books make the Best of the Year lists. And even more wonderful books do not. If you pay too much attention to this, you will not only lose your joy of creating, but you will make yourself crazy.
I didn’t want to just be kind to people who had insulted me, in the hopes that they’d realize their mistake and start to change. I wanted to be the kindness. I wanted to give whatever I had and expect nothing in return except the joy of it.
When I first started my blog carolineleavittville—because you were supposed to have one—I wrote about all sorts of things that I was already writing about on Facebook and twitter. I began to feel a little depleted. So I decided that I would give my whole blog over to other writers, to let them shine. I review books for People, The New York Times (when I am lucky) and the San Francisco Chronicle, but ethically, I can’t review the books of the people I know or love, so I thought—well, I can talk about the books here and honestly admit that I know these people, that yes, I am probably biased, but not really, because a wonderful book is a wonderful book. I also wanted to do it to help writers, because getting any sort of publicity is harder and harder these days. I wanted to talk about the books I loved that no one else knew about. And truthfully, I wanted to know these writers myself! I wanted to build a writers’ community.
And I did.
I’ve found it brings me incredible joy. Writing is so hard, publishing is so difficult, that helping others is really a blessing. Sometimes it’s just answering someone’s email about how to write a query letter. Other times it’s showing up at a reading because the author is terrified only four people will fill the seats. Other times, it’s just saying, I love your work, and expecting nothing in return.
We are all swimming in the same sea, keeping one another afloat. And while we are at it, we might as well remember, that yes, below us might be sharks, but above us are the stars.