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The Write Life: Giving Before We Take

Updated on September 30, 2014

“Happiness doesn't result from what we get, but from what we give.”

Ben Carson

Ben Carson was clearly aware of what he was saying when he mentioned what his source of happiness is. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work as Director of Neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital, work that requires more giving than receiving.

The man clearly gave of himself before he got.

Our reaction to this is understandably skeptical. Most of us would believe it altruistic or unrealistic to do give unconditionally because the person we give to is blissfully unaware of our efforts.

After all, we are human and need little pats on the back, at least occasionally. But our humanity aside, writers need to give, at least a little before we can take.


A. Understanding the meaning of giving

Perhaps we need a better perspective on what giving is.

For anyone, including writers, giving calls us to lose focus on ourselves. It calls us to suspend any notions of getting anything in return for what we do.

We tend to see it as a transaction because anything we do for others takes energy that needs replenishing. This is a human need, one that is completely understandable.

But, if we see giving as a chance to go beyond and to nurture ourselves as writers, giving is more palatable.

A. Why we should give before we take

1. The likelihood of reciprocity is higher

2. We should show an example of the treatment we expect for ourselves

3. It prompts others to give as well

4. Giving before we take builds bonds.

5. We lose our self-centered nature.6. It is important to thank.

7. If everyone offers their gifts, the world has much to.gain.

B. Why we should give before we take

All writers will empathize with how frustrating it is to comment and read other articles frantically without receiving any feedback on their own work. Believe me when I say that I shake my head nearly every day.

It is hard to feel that the likelihood of reciprocity is higher when we take the time to read another writer’s work, but it is. It takes time, but others do eventually return the favor if we show sincerity.

We should always show examples of the treatment we expect for ourselves. If we do not give a little, that expectation cannot sink into the minds of others.

Giving before taking builds bonds and trust. Most will trust a writer who takes the time to give honest feedback.

When we give, we lose our self-centred natures that make us insular. If everyone offers their gifts, the world becomes a huge buffet table from which everyone can take.


Pay it forward!

How to give before we receive as writers

1. Put aside expectations.

2. Think of it as self-expression.

3. Think about your own willingness to give.

C. How to give before we receive

We know that reading, feedback and interaction is a critical part of the writing process.

Giving as a writer means putting aside expectations of others commenting, reacting or bolstering us in any way in return.

We have to think of it as s chance to express ourselves. What better way to stretch ourselves than with a crafty, creative comment?

Then, we have to think of our own willingness to give as well. If we really cannot bring ourselves to comment, do not. It only breeds more frustration.


D. Reciprocate

We must also bear in mind those who have taken the time to give to us and leave generous comments behind, or we become guilty of not reciprocating ourselves.

A return comment on their work is a gesture of appreciation and a way to cherish the writing gifts that they offer as well.

To you, what part of giving has the most meaning?

See results

E. The Giving Tree

I leave you with my cinquain version of The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein’s well-known work. I do hope that you will enjoy it.

The Tree

That sheds its leaves

To cover other souls

So often stripped to its barest


F. Conclusion

What about you? How do you feel about giving as a writer?


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    • DaphneDL profile image

      Daphne D. Lewis 

      6 years ago from Saint Albans, West Virginia

      Giving has to be done without any expectation of reciprocity. My hope is always that as in the abovementioned, "Pay It Forward," that a kindness will be done for someone else. Giving is about who you are and has to be offered within that premise. I enjoyed reading your hub and look forward to more hubs from you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      This was well said and I know your sincerity, which is why I followed you in the first place. It has been a pleasure to learn about you through your work, and hope to glean more from you.

    • RaintreeAnnie profile image


      6 years ago from UK

      This is a really beautiful message and a powerful reminder. I loved reading this. Thank you.

    • MariaMontgomery profile image


      6 years ago from Coastal Alabama, USA

      Thank you for this reminder. We all need to hear it now and then, especially in a writing community. I promise to do more of that (when I get back home). I challenge mt fellow writers to do the same.

    • profile image

      Ruth Cox 

      6 years ago

      This article should be weekly required reading for writers and other creative individuals. All too often many of us take such a selfish approach to promoting ourselves and our work when all it takes is giving a bit of time and importance to the needs of others, especially when we are part of a community! A team or group or community is only as strong as its weakest member and it is up to each of us to strengthen the others. If nothing else, practice common courtesy. And if we can not make time for attending to others then maybe we should re-think why we are a member of a group--maybe we are the weak link.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub, giving has it's own joy and is very rewarding. Great points highlighted and a great poem. Voted up.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 

      6 years ago from Daytona Beach, Florida

      Voted up and awesome. Great hub as usual. Always fine something new and interesting. Passing this on.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      I like your idea of "stretching" ourselves. Our awareness of others and unknowingly helping them is certainly part of HP but the funny thing is it comes back to us in spades.

      This was a well written and interesting explanation of sharing our love and knowledge here on HP by simply leaving comments!

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • carter06 profile image


      6 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Such a great concept Michelle.. one which, once learned expands and enriches us and makes life just that little bit 'The Tree' love this powerful message..Cheers

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I never expect anything in return when helping someone it just makes me feel great. For that person to have smiled from my good deed is all I need to see.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      actually I agree with this 100%... and I just took the test.. and wow.. I agree with the last two ....don't expect anything just because you help someone.. plus it helps you grow as a person... I love this list and thank you for posting it in my poetry corner.. hugs dear soul


    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Wow. Just wow. Thanks, Brite Ideas. I hope that the little snippet is a good reminder!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Hey, Who!! Visiting in a bit!!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Bill!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Jhamman!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      You've got that right, Sha! Constructive feedback is always what we look for.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for the wonderful comment, esmonaco!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, The Stages of ME!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Oh yes! I loved that film!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, John. Kudos!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      That's true. I think the value of reciprocity is still lacking Bill, hence this hub!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Manatita!

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 

      6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      The Giving Tree Poem is beautiful, because I read your page about giving, you gave a beautiful poem to feature on our fridge for my men/boys to read - I plan to pin that up. There is Art in giving, and your message is a tremendous reminder for all of us.

    • whonunuwho profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      I'm a fan of yours and always enjoy and appreciate the message you convey, Thank you for sharing this work. whonu

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      6 years ago from Hollister, MO

      I totally agree. Thanks for some really great reminders! ;-)

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 

      6 years ago from Reno NV

      What a great message! I enjoyed the poem at the end, too. Jamie

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      Michelle, you hit the nail on the head. What comes around goes around. It's just human nature. We, as writers, depend on feedback to help us hone our craft. And the comments should be honestly and respectfully given. Criticism or pointing out errors should be left for private emails and is sometimes necessary. We don't all start out being good at what we do. Receiving empty praise can do more harm than good. The only way to grow is to learn from our mistakes and learn what works. Feedback is the best measuring tool for a writer.

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 

      6 years ago from Lakewood New York

      A very powerful message here. When I read something that moves me, or teaches me something new, I can't help but comment to the writer. We can all grow personally form a little more giving. Thanks :)

    • The Stages Of ME profile image

      Kathy Henderson 

      6 years ago from Pa

      Beautiful hub and a good reminder, I know for me I battle to do what I need in a day. I am forcing my way past the hindrance of health issues and time constraints to be better at life. I realize even when we don't feel well it is important to be giving. It is healing to share and healing to be poured into by others. Nice Job here with this hub :)

    • SAQIB6608 profile image


      6 years ago from HYDERABAD PAKISTAN

      Well written, Craft fully organised.

      Anyway the hub reminded me off a wonderful movie PAY IT FORWARD starring Kevin Spacey, It's a must watch movie of giving more and taking less and paying the good deeds no matter how small they are, Pay them forward.


    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      6 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Wonderful message Michelle. Every writer needs to read this. A lot of people on hub pages are generous with their making time to read other's writing and leave comments, but there are some who never even reply to comments or reciprocate. They are the ones who really need to see this hub. Well done, and I like the "The Giving Tree". Voted up.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm with you all the way, Michelle. There are a lot of HP writers who don't understand this concept, but all we can do is lead by example.

    • manatita44 profile image


      6 years ago from london

      Excellent as usual, Michelle. The video is quite touching. Salaam!


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