Growing, growing, gone...or not - Jenny O'Connell

When I first learned of this month's theme - moments of growth or turning points for our characters or ourselves - I thought I knew what I'd write about. But then I received an email. Here is an excerpt:

I *doubt* you remember me, but...  I met you probably 8 years or so ago at a writers conference in Colorado Springs. You took the time to help me with a pitch I was working on for a book. I have yet to sell that book - BUT I did sell one! The point is, you believed in me at a time when I really needed that - and I just wanted to take a moment to thank you. Somebody asked me in an interview the other day why I kept going - after so many fails (haha). Today I was going through my shelves and found a copy of your book and it all just flooded back to me. Wow - you were a big part of why I didn't give up. So thank you. Thank you thank you thank you.

When I received that email I was shocked. I remember that conference in Colorado Springs, but it feels like another lifetime ago. I'd only published two books when I attended as a participant on a panel. Can you imagine what it was like to receive this email?

The thing is, I never thought that I was really helping this person, I was just doing what I would have hoped someone would have done for me. Be helpful and nice. I read that email and, if I didn't know it was about me, I would think that the writer she was referring to was "fully baked." Had her act together so much that she could share her experiences with someone starting out. But I know that back then I felt like I was just a beginner, too. Even if I had a few books published, I was still learning what it was like to be a writer.

Now, eight more books later and at least eight years later, I still feel like that. I write a chapter or a scene and I doubt myself. I think I suck. I question if I'll ever finish another book, or if I'll actually like what I'm writing. Almost a decade after I started writing my first book, I'm still growing. It doesn't stop. It actually gets harder, at least for me. Because with each book I want to get better, try something different, push myself. I want to keep growing as a writer.

And this email reminded that in order to grow we have to help others grow, too. We have to extend ourselves not just to help and maybe teach, but to also learn from others. Because now, when I start to doubt myself, I will read this email again and remind myself that this writer hung in there and it paid off. And now it's my turn to learn from her. And keep typing.


  1. Jenny, what a cool story! It's true that we never know how what we say and do may affect others. Writing is such a solitary activity, just you and the blank computer screen, that we sometimes forget how we can help each other.

  2. I really needed this post today, so thank you for that! I think the doubts are part of the growth, too. And cheers for that writer for seeking you out now to tell you!

  3. The thing I love most about our writing community is that we're there for each other. Your post is the perfect example of that. Who knows where your positive influence will go from here?

  4. Oh, man is that true: in order to grow, we have to help others grow. Yes, yes, yes...

  5. This is so true! I love this post! This is why I teach writing in addition to writing. I have been gifted with some amazing mentors in my life and I have to try to give that back! Lovely that this writer emailed you because that is such an important way to give back too!


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