Philanthropy and Writer's Block or Escaping the Mental Funk Zone

An article in a magazine catering to upscale readers advised its audience “to be philanthropic in these times.”  It suggested recruiting friends to join in giving, and meeting with financial advisers to see how and where to best make a gift (e.g.., $30,000,000 to build build a new residential college at Yale or $1.2 billion to the first scientist who can find a cure for stupidity). I’d like to add that there’s another vital reason to be philanthropic and this mode of philanthropy won’t cost a penny.

Last week, our postal service sent postcards requesting the donation of cans which workers would pick up and distribute to the needy. My neighbor stated that, regrettably, she could only afford to donate six cans this year because of the times we live in. I explained to her that philanthropy means, literally, “the love of humankind.” Throwing money around is certainly a delightful, helpful way to show some love, but there are other, pro bono ways to demonstrate charity that provides the additional boost of making one feel instantly uplifted.

There are organizations (animal shelters, hospitals, schools, to name a few) that could use volunteer help. And, if you don’t have the time to volunteer, there are even simpler ways.

I waited in a long line at a grocery store when I noticed the sullen cashier. He barely looked up at customers, nor did they acknowledge him when he muttered some sort of unintelligible greeting (at least I think it was a greeting).

I was self-absorbed in a killer mood, as I’d spent the day on writing my second book and managed to pound out a whole paragraph. And it wasn’t even a good paragraph. However, watching the cashier snapped me out of my funk.

I greeted the cashier like a long lost friend, and the next thing I knew he told me about two barbecues he was invited to that weekend and invited me to join his family at either one or both. He also made sure I had assistance with carrying my goods to the car. I noticed that he greeted the next customer in a more friendly, happy fashion.

My point is that kindness is a powerful form of philanthropy, one that can be easily and readily practiced with little effort, and could be mind and mood altering, which is a particularly good thing when one is experiencing a writing funk. It’s a wonderful experience to help others and to help oneself at the same time.

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8 years ago


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