The Value of Volunteering ~ by Aedyn Brooks

My journey to story writing isn’t unique. I was a voracious reader—anything on medieval history to the Victorian Age grabbed my fancy. Then one day, I read a historical romance based in the Wild West. From that moment on I was hooked on the romance genre. I joined three book clubs and began feeding my new addiction. The endings are my favorite part when the hero and heroine finally achieve their happily ever after. Sigh. Yes, I’m sappy that way.

For years I researched my ancestral roots. I don’t have any family, except for my three kids and their growing families. My way of connecting with relatives was researching where I came from. As I discovered each new generation, I’d make up stories in my head on why my ancestors decided to leave all they knew and venture so far off lands. Oh, what tangled webs I’d weave. Lies, the lot of them, but it was fun nonetheless. I mean, it could’ve happened, right?

Then the day I thought why not write some of my made-up family stories? I whipped through a few chapters; the creative juices flowed like Niagara Falls. I promptly printed them and showed my best friend.

She stared at the pages. Then at me. Back to the pages. “Why is this in block form? Is it a business letter?”

That’s when reality rose from the depths and took hold, my friends. Even after reading hundreds, if not thousands, of books, I wrote what I knew, all right. Factual, lifeless, data-driven nothingness in block form. Jack Squat knew more than me about crafting a compelling story. 

Back then, I worked in Human Resources for a Fortune 500 company. When writing investigative reports, the investigator has zero emotion. They report the facts and only the facts. Observations can be added, but lifeless dribble was what I was great at writing. No detail was too small to record, and to my credit, I’d helped my company win court battles. 

Then I read a multi-award-winning author’s third book in a series. For the first time, I read a book with an analytical mind. How she set up the scene, how she wove introspection, deception, and intrigue into a beautiful story that still remains one of my favorites today. I was so excited that I could go back and devour the entire series and all of her other books. Once I’m hooked on a writer, I have to read every book they’ve ever written. Did I mention I’m a little obsessive-compulsive?

My eyes were opened. The rose-colored glasses chucked aside. I needed to learn how to write. I wanted to write stories like so many of my favorite authors and I wanted to be good at it. This led to my internet search for writing organizations: Sisters of Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Writer’s Inc., but the one I found and wound up joining was Romance Writers of America (RWA). A non-profit organization where thousands of writers from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors, along with budding novices like myself, belonged. One-stop-shopping rubbing elbows with people who were excellent at the very thing I needed to learn how to do. I’d found proverbial gold. It was July, my birthday month, and I decided the present I was gifting myself was an RWA membership. Then I searched for local writing chapters and found Greater Seattle RWA. The following Saturday I headed out to my first meeting. Terrified to the bone, yes, but I was going to meet real writers, and I was going to learn writey stuff.

I’ve long forgotten what that first meeting was about. I’m sure a great deal of the instructor’s wisdom went right over my head and very little stuck to my gray matter. What I quickly surmised is that ten meetings a year wasn’t going to be enough. I needed more. Lots more. Ah-ha! The best thing I could do for me was volunteer. I had some skills and they had volunteer opportunities. Match made in heaven.

I’ve always been a data-driven ninja. I love Excel. Nothing makes me happier than copious spreadsheets with pivot tables and formulas all magically calculating to my heart’s content. It’s more comfortable than a worn pair of fuzzy pink bunny slippers. (Yes, I plot with Excel.) With skills in hand, I offered to help with registration for the Emerald City Writers Conference (ECWC), sponsored by Greater Seattle RWA; 2019 marks their thirtieth year. Since I was a newbie, I was the assistant registration chair. I got to meet writers who shared their journey of what classes they took and what tools they found valuable. It was like the keys to the kingdom were given to me and it was up to me to listen, take notes, and follow through on their suggestions.

 Volunteering connects you with people you may never have met otherwise. By sharing yourself with others, you get that delicious warm feeling that you’re leaving the world a wee bit better than when you started. I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t have any skills.” “I wouldn’t know what to do.” The beauty of volunteering is that most of the time, you don’t have to have skills. I truly mean that. A willing body, a smile, and kindness is all you need. If you’re trainable, you’re volunteer material.

Before I knew it, I was the conference chair for the ECWC, and because I love challenges, I also managed our writing contest, which I still manage today. It’s a way to give back to our writing community in a way that also doesn’t absorb a great deal of my time. 

Let’s say you don’t have a lot of time to give. You’re managing kids, soccer practice, ballet lessons, tae kwon-do, not to mention taking care of your aging parents, and loving partner, oh, and there’s that need to get words on a page, too. You’re divided more ways than a fractal on steroids. Look into short-term volunteer stints such as handing out registration packets at a conference for a couple of hours, or moderating an online class you want to take (and bonus, you may get to take the class for free). Little things that help you connect with writers that share that nugget that unlocks everything you’ve wanted to know about the wonderful world of writing, or whatever drives your passion.

I’ve learned a great deal with making connections all over the world and it all began with volunteering. It began with one, “Yes, I can help,” “Yes, I can do that.” “Yes, but can someone teach me?” When you raise your hand and put yourself out there, you’re taking a risk, but trust me, the reward is worth it. 

Even the Mayo Clinic has an article on why volunteering helps decrease the risk of depression. It can give us a sense of purpose, learn valuable skills, maybe live longer, and make new friends. Connections matter and the best way to start making connections is volunteering a little here or there to start. Baby steps.

If you’re still not sure, then let me share something very personal. When my youngest son left the US Navy, he returned home a broken man. He was depressed and very suicidal. We’d connected him with a mentor and counselor, but it wasn’t enough. He wasn’t able to reconnect with us or society, and he had no desire to live. He truly felt the world would be better without him. As a mom, it was heart-wrenching to see my baby giving up on life because that’s not the man I knew. One day, I asked him to give back to the world. If he could go anywhere or do anything, what would he do? He wanted to live in Australia. Shortly thereafter, he was on a plane and beginning the adventure of his life. He joined a volunteer organization that helped him learn how to build latrines and wells in Australia, then he moved to Vietnam, and later Cambodia, helping communities dig freshwater wells and latrines. It was the best year of his life. He returned home renewed and energized to complete college, and go onto being a strong contributor of society. Volunteering not only changed his life, it saved his life.

Giving of ourselves heals.

One final word. Remember to grant yourself, and others, grace. None of us are perfect. You are a culmination of a lifetime of experiences. One life lesson piled on top of another. Life throws curves and sometimes lobs volcanic ash. All of those moments make you valuable. It makes you resilient. It makes you worth knowing. Your nugget may be the one thing someone else needs to learn. So, go ahead and say, “Yes,” next time someone needs a volunteer. The world needs you.

To learn more about Aedyn you can find her here:


  1. Welcome, Aedyn! Thank you for sharing this inspiring post with us.

  2. What an honor having you with us today. Thank you for sharing your wise words. Volunteering is most rewarding for both 5he giver and receiver. I'm so glad you pushed yourself to learn more about writing through volunteering.

  3. Welcome Aedyn. Thank you for sharing a very personal story.



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