In Your Own Words: Darcy Wiley – Generosity

gen·er·os·i·ty – noun \ˌje-nə-ˈrä-sə-tē, -ˈräs-tē\

: the quality of being kind, understanding, and not selfish
: the quality of being generous; especially 
: willingness to give money and other valuable things to others

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“Jealousy is one of the occupational hazards of being a writer,” Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird*. She says we see others out there doing their thing, and it seems it’s always someone else’s turn.

Jealousy is no respecter of position. I’ve gathered from listening to the struggles of some very well-known writers that this condition is not reserved for those of us who put “aspiring” as a caveat to our creative dreams. People with tens of thousands of followers feel it. People who’ve published fifteen books feel it. People with household names feel it.

You know who didn’t feel it (at least not for long)? Mary Tyler Moore*. In watching a recent interview featuring the sitcom star and her cast of friends, writer and blogger Stacey Thacker was struck by Moore’s all-too-rare selflessness. Looking back on Moore’s legacy in the normally dog-eat-dog entertainment industry, her friends said, “She was so generous with lines. She would say, ‘You take this line, it sounds more like what your character would say.’”

Generosity begets gratitude and gratitude begets solidarity. Just watch those ladies on camera together all these years later. They cooperate and care for one another, competition aside. All this got Stacey thinking, “Who am I being generous with? What other mom, writer, blogger or friend am I pushing to the front and saying, ‘You take this one’? I want to be generous like that.”

Founder of The Write Practice and Story Cartel, Joe Bunting says generosity is the best way to grow a flourishing writing community, or any vibrant collective. When you ask “What does this writer need?” and “How can I help?”, when you give more than you receive, you watch a stranger first become a friend, and finally, an ally. And suddenly, you’re not on the outside looking in anymore.

But let’s get real–it’s easiest to feel generous when another writer is paying attention in return. There is this fear deep down that we’ll invest time and energy in someone who will take and take and take, watching us build their kingdom, and never show reciprocal interest in our work.

Or is that just me?

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In a speech to a hall full of students at King’s College in 1944, C.S. Lewis spoke on the concept of jealous striving and the good that comes when you finally focus on the work itself instead of the prestige surrounding it.

“The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain.”

Lewis experienced this kind of creative energy in working with his fellow Inklings to improve on epic works like his own Chronicles of Narnia* and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings*. They left their desks and met around a table in a pub to read and tell jokes and write together. They turned from their own projects to give insight to their fellow storytellers. They prodded each other to keep going with the writing and eventually to put it in a publisher’s hands. They could have hoarded their attention and affection for their own pursuits. Instead, they chose to be generous.

This winter as I’m leading The Story Circle with (in)couragers, I want my writer friends to experience what I crave for myself. We are putting our energy into cheering each other on by reflecting and commenting on each other’s work and sharing it with friends who may enjoy it or benefit from it.

One Friday evening recently, I started a game of electronic tag. I visited a few of my writers’ online spaces, commenting and then sharing their work. I tagged them, and then those friends sought out someone else to encourage and tag. By Monday, all had been pulled into the conversation and many reported that they themselves had come away with a new perspective on important issues because of what they had read.

When we focus on the message and on being happy when the right person communicates each part of it, we can cease striving. We can stop grabbing for our own line or byline. We can feel grateful for the craft itself.

Our gifts are just that, gifts. We didn’t make them. We don’t own them. We got them from the Giver of all good gifts to begin with. The surest way to go stale in our own work is to hold tight to our gift as if it were for our own benefit.

But when we pass along the beauty and wisdom we’ve received, and then give the gift of attention to others as they use their own gifts, we set in motion a refreshing cycle of creative camaraderie. And something as rare as that is sure to get attention.

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WORD COUNT: 933

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Darcy Wiley thinks creativity is a team sport. She spends a good deal of time perfecting proposals for her husband’s literary agency clients. She has tons of fun interacting with the very generous writers in her (in)couragers writing group, The Story Circle. And she will drive through a half a foot of snow to see Charity and other Plume writer friends in person as they meet each month. She’s currently working on her first novel. You can find her at Message in a Mason Jar where she writes about finding the loveliest things in the most ordinary containers. She’d love to connect at her blog and on Twitter.


In Your Own Words

An important part of bringing words to life is encouraging other writers with their words. In this regular feature, I invite other writers to write about one word that captures where they are in life at that moment, much like my own #wordoftheweek writing discipline. What is your one word?


Photo by Nate Embry. Used with permission.

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Guest User

Occasionally, I host other writers to share a little bit of their stories about growing in faith and experiencing true hope.


  • Nancy@ThereIsGrace ,

    Beautiful words and such an inspirational message, Darcy! Thanks for being such a generous writer (and group leader)! ~Nancy

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      Charity Singleton Craig ,

      Nancy – Thanks for stopping by. Darcy exudes generosity in her writing and in her life, doesn’t she? It was a fitting post.

    • Joe ,

      Thanks for sharing my new favorite quote, Darcy. This was beautiful, of course, but more importantly, it stretches me to live a little more generously than I feel comfortable with. Thank you for inspiring us, Darcy.

      • Darcy Wiley ,

        The online world needs people who make a big deal of generosity and collaboration like you do. Thanks, Joe.

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          Charity Singleton Craig ,

          Joe – Thanks for stopping by to comment and for your generosity in the writing community. I just signed up for The Write Practice newsletter and I received a copy of your 14 prompts. That kind of generosity is what Darcy has captured well in this piece, the kind you and many others are living out. Thank you.

        • Ann Kroeker ,

          A good word. And that is how I want to live and read and comment and write and edit and coach writers, Darcy: with generosity. Thank you for that Mary Tyler Moore mention, too. I loved that show, and now I love her even more.

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            Charity Singleton Craig ,

            Ann – I think you are already there, full of generosity towards clients, colleagues, and friends.

            • Darcy Wiley ,

              The people I like most are people like Mary Tyler Moore and others who are lavish with attention and care. Why wouldn’t I want to be the kind of person that I like most? 😉 P.S. I think Charity is right about you.

            • Juliette ,

              Yes, three cheers for high fives! Spurring one another on has been such a helpful thing, both as a giver and a receiver.

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                Charity Singleton Craig ,

                Juliette – Thanks for stopping by! What are a couple of things that other writers have done that you have found especially helpful? And what are your favorite ways to invest in the lives of other writers?

                • Darcy Wiley ,

                  So good to see you here, Juliette. It was a happy day when you waltzed into the Story Circle. A couple of things you are really good at: taking initiative to start conversations about the writing crafts and being brave in asking for perspectives on your work. Thanks for the enthusiasm you bring to our shared writing life.

                • Amber ,

                  “If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it”

                  Very good advice. Working at excellence in a few life areas so this rang true with me.

                  • Darcy Wiley ,

                    So much more satisfaction in good solid work than there is in the “look at me” frenzy. Why do we forget this so often?!

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                      Charity Singleton Craig ,

                      I love the element of C.S. Lewis’s quote that implies focusing on the work invariably lands a writer in good company. The “look at me” approach garners attention for a while, but likely from others who are also seeking attention. Focusing on the work, however, draws others who are similarly committed.

                      Such a great post, Darcy.

                      • Darcy Wiley ,

                        Thank you, Charity. You said that so well. Great point about the type of attention and the longevity of it.

                  • Darcy Wiley ,

                    Patricia, how neat that you were the winner of The Write Practice’s first story contest. I really like Joe’s innovation and sense of community as illustrated in him bringing you alongside to judge contests for the next year. I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of The Story Cartel’s course and challenges in recent months. I’ve been set at ease by the spirit of humility there and motivated by the interaction/conversation among members. Going to look up your story now….

                    • Patricia @ Pollywog Creek ,

                      Such a beautiful and encouraging exhortation, Darcy. And I can testify that Joe Bunting walks the talk. As the winner of his first story contest, I was blessed to work with him for a year – judging future contests and benefiting from his creativity and writing wisdom. He’s the most generous writer I know.

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                        Charity Singleton Craig ,

                        Patricia – I didn’t know about your prize winning story. I’m going to try to go find it, too. What a great movement to be part of!