This time of year there is much talk about being grateful. Authors are grateful for their contracts, their agents, their critique partners, their long-suffering and patient families. Readers are grateful for back to back releases, and extra time to be curled up with a favorite book.
Instead of focusing on the 'thanks' part of Thanksgiving, I want to talk about the 'giving'. Last night I was voted onto the Board of Directors of my local Romance Writers of America chapter. Whether you look at it as a great honor or a voluntary year of indentured servitude to the organization (I'm hoping it is the former!), it is my way of giving back to a group that supports me year round. The beautiful part of this is that no matter how much of my time I give to others, I receive (almost) as much back. New frienships, strengthened existing friendships, unbelievable networking, and so much more. Writing is a particularly solitary occupation, so seize every opportunity to mix and mingle with your peers.
Getting on the Board of any organization to which you belong is a great idea. There are positions for people with loads of experience, as well as positions that relative newcomers can snap up. It is a wonderful training ground, and a great way to immerse yourself (otherwise known as trial by fire!).
Now, to be more engaged, you certainly don't need to commit yourself to a leadership position (although I highly recommend it). As a more low-key example, we recently wrapped up a contest. Participation as a judge meant critiquing four 20 page-long entries; you could knock them off in an afternoon, or spread out over four weeks. In other words, the time committment was negligible. But you always improve as a writer by reading other works, not to mention that you are helping out each entrant to grow, and pursue their dream. Think about that for a minute - being a stepping stone along the path to realizing a lifelong dream. That is HUGE! Talk about good karma. And who couldn't use some good karma?
Give of yourself. Becoming more engaged simultaneously gives to others while the experience is a gift to you.