Tuesday, December 11, 2012

One True Thing from Angela Ackerman: Kindness is Contagious

Angela Ackerman is steeped in writerly wisdom--but she is also steeped in life wisdom. The marriage of these two attributes is a blessing to her readers--those who follow her and partner Becca Puglisi's incredible blog The Bookshelf Muse, and those readers of their highly valuable and elucidating book The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression. Angela spreads warmth and generosity wherever she goes--both in person and with her words. So I am so overjoyed to share One True Thing from Angela here today on kindness and paying it forward.

Kindness is Contagious
By Angela Ackerman

I really only have one moral belief that I follow in life: if you can help, do. This mantra guides me as I interact with people, make decisions, and plan my future. I like to be there for others, and contribute to their happiness and success if I can.

It doesn't always work out of course. Like the time a crazy hell cat ran into a neighbor’s house because I had called on her to inquire if a lost cat I’d found was hers (It wasn't  But to be fair, they looked almost identical). And then there was the time my other security conscious neighbor drove off, leaving her garage door wide open, so I closed it for her. (And then subsequently had to help her break into her own house when she returned because her garage door had malfunction and wouldn't open.) Hmm. I see a pattern here: Me. Neighbors. Kindness backfiring.  Perhaps I should think twice about anything involving neighbors?

But back to the meat and potatoes. Why do people proactively do things for others? The small things. Simple gestures. Bits of kindness that aren’t necessary, but people do anyway.

I think it’s because deep down we hope that kindness will inspire kindness.

When it came time for our Emotion Thesaurus book launch, Becca and I knew one thing: we were not comfortable waving our book and asking people to buy it. That’s just wasn't us. So we decided to do something we could get very excited about, something we believed in: proving that kindness will pay forward.  

Our launch initiative involved convincing one hundred writer/bloggers, in secret, to do a Random Act Of Kindness for another writer and post about it on their blog on the same day (our release date). We created a week-long event for this, with prizes each day that people could try to win, prizes donated by industry professionals like Scrivener and Writer’s Digest who believed in what we were trying to do.

The first day was amazing. One hundred Acts of Kindness hit the WWW, things that included small gifts, shout outs, offers to read work and more. The people who were on the receiving end were blown away that someone they knew in the writing community would single them out so thoughtfully. Words of gratitude swam across the internet.  It was great!

When day two came along, Becca and I held our breath.  Would the kindness roll forward as we believed? Would people be inspired by our Kindness Blitz?

And you know what? By the end of the week, we estimate that over 200 bloggers joined Random Acts of Kindness for Writers. So my one true thing is simply this: Kindness not only brings about amazing things...it is also contagious!

Angela Ackerman is one half of The Bookshelf Muse blogging duo, and co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression. Listing the body language, visceral reactions and thoughts associated with seventy-five different emotions, this brainstorming guide is a valuable tool for showing, not telling, emotion.