I did some editing/beta-reading for a friend today. It was on an article that was only 5,000 words long, but it's the first time I've done this in quite a while.
That's a slightly ironic feeling, since people have been reading for me for the better part of a year.
The whole thing took me a little over an hour. I had the time to set aside as soon as I received the piece in question, which was fortunate. But I had forgotten what an involved process it is. How hard, how challenging, it is to not just read something and be able to identify what works or not, but then to come back and explain, to make editorial suggestions, to not just be critical but constructive.
It's the difference between saying "This didn't work for me" and "I know how to make this better".
I felt out of breath by the time I finished. Editing those 5,000 words for my friend was almost as challenging as if I'd had to write 5,000 new words on my own story.
And I'm so, so glad I did it. I have a few more things on my plate now, more work by more people that I've committed myself to. And even though it's daunting, and challenging, and time-consuming, it's one of the best ways I can think of to give back to the friends and the community that has been so supportive - and so willing to go out of its way to help me, when I am nobody.
I can't do this for everybody. I'll never have that kind of time. But I no longer feel like I am just taking and taking, accepting generous favor after favor without anything to contribute in turn. The community of writers is an extraordinarily gracious and giving one, and it's important to pay it forward; to keep that momentum going.
There are a million ways to do that. But for now, this is mine.
Who has helped you along your writing journey - and what are you doing to pay it forward?