Do Unto Others…

I’ve always tried to live by the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Last week I read a book by Barry Eisler, and I started thinking of how important it is as a writer to always think about how you treat, talk to, react to, and act around other people.

The first time I came into contact with Barry Eisler was at a mystery writers’ conference. He’s one of the big name suspense writers, but up until that conference I’d never heard of him. The printed conference program schedule had a short bio about him, and I liked that he’d worked for the CIA, had a black belt in Judo, and wrote about an assassin. I didn’t like that his talk was scheduled for a very early hour (I think it was 8:00 a.m.) on Sunday morning, but I talked myself into getting up even though I’d stayed up late the night before.

Several of us staggered into the room that morning and found Barry making Mimosas (Orange juice and champagne) for us. Yes, for all of us. We each received a small glass of the drink (at least all of us who wanted some) and once everyone was served, he began his talk. mimosas

I don’t remember what he said, but I’ll never forget that gesture. Then and there he turned me into a fan.

Of course it helps to be a best selling author if you’re going to put on parties for the masses (Lee Child has held one at every Bouchercon I’ve attended and Heather Graham held a marvelous one for attendees of the Sleuthfest I was at two years ago, and I see she’s doing so again this year), but I have fond memories of other writers I’ve met for the first time, writers who took time to talk, maybe spent some time with me, asked me how my day was going…any number of small gestures that make a person feel recognized. Sometimes this has led me to buy their books, other times its simply left me with a good impression of the person (so I’ll recommend their books to others).

On the other hand, I’ve had writers who have turned me off, who have acted as if they didn’t have time for me, made me feel as though I didn’t count. I’ve run into writers who see themselves as the next “greatest writer ever.” They brag about their sales, about the editors who are clamoring for their books, the movie deals that will be made. The key word here is “BRAG.” As I’m sure you’ve guessed, I don’t buy their books and I don’t recommend them to others.

Which probably means nothing to them, but their actions remind me of what I DON’T want to do. I don’t want to ignore others, belittle their efforts, or in any way make a person feel he or she is not important. I want to treat others as I like to be treated.

Do I always succeed? Probably not, but I try.

Fault LineBy the way, the Barry Eisler book I read last week was Fault Line. One thing I really loved about the book is it’s set in Silicon Valley with most of the action taking place along the Peninsula or in San Francisco. I grew up in the Bay Area and my parents moved to Los Altos in the 60s. Reading Fault Line was like taking a trip back to familiar territory.



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17 Responses to Do Unto Others…

  1. Janie Farmer says:

    Maris, whatever the profession (Dr., lawyer, minister,etc) if you’re dealing with the public first impressions are important. A cancer specialist I went to bragged about which hospital he came from, how many people he was in charge of and on and on ad nauseum. Humbleness is a great quality no matter what you do. You have succeeded in your goal of ‘Do unto others….’

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thanks, Janie. You’re right, everyone should be following the “Golden Rule.” It doesn’t matter what profession you’re in, what social class, economic class, etc. Sometimes I realize I do fail. I’d like to think I’m perfect, but I know I’m not.

  2. All true, Maris. Aren’t you glad you got up early that day?

  3. Sonya says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ve never heard of his books. I want to be the kind of author who always remembers to give back.

  4. Cheryl Peck says:

    Oddly enough, I don’t remember exactly where we met or what we were doing there: I do remember that you were very nice to me.

  5. Melissa Keir says:

    That’s a very important message and one most people don’t realize. Everyone is in the public eye. As a teacher, I’m always “on”. I’ve never been able to go out to dinner or shopping without running into someone I know. I love seeing my families and students but I have to remember that what I said can be heard and I might not know it….

    Thanks again!

  6. Diane Burton says:

    I remember two of my first RWA conferences where I went alone. At one, Patricia Ryan and her twin Pamela Burford invited me to join them & their friends for dinner. At another, the late Joan Shapiro gathered me into her fold and made me feel like I belonged. I’ll never forget their kindnesses.

  7. Good advice, Maris. It’s the small things we remember. Doesn’t need to be a grand gesture. Just some recognition of us being fellow human beings.

  8. Vanessa Kier says:

    Great post and so true. The authors I will always admire are those who have genuine, caring interactions with those around them. It doesn’t matter if we’re interacting with a fan or the waiter, we’re always being judged. As something of an introvert, I try really hard to overcome my shyness in public. I know some people will think me aloof and uncaring, when I’m just extremely self-conscious.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Vanessa, you are so right about including everyone from fan to waiter. In fact, I might be more forgiving to someone who was rude to a fan. There are very few reasons I can think of to be rude to waitstaff. And it is difficult to put yourself “on stage” if you’re shy. Truth is, many writers are inately shy. That’s one reason why they are writers; its a profession where you spend hours alone, with just your ideas and you pen and paper or computer.

  9. I had an unpleasant experience when I met a writer I admired. Prior to that meeting, I bought every one of her books as they came out. After that unpleasant meeting, she lost me as a reader. On the other hand, when I met you for the first time at a Mid-Michigan RWA meeting before I joined, you were very friendly and welcoming. I hadn’t read your books before then. After that meeting, I bought every one I could get my hands on–and enjoyed them all. Both experiences taught me a lot, and they also showed me which author I should emulate–you! 🙂

    • Maris Soule says:

      Wow, thank you, Jolana. It was a pleasure to welcome you to that meeting…and to every meeting. I’m so glad I did. You’ve been a fantastic asset to the chapter, and a wonderful person to know. I love your sense of humor.

  10. What a nice guy! I’ll be checking out his books, too! I had a nice experience with another “famous” writer, Laurie R. King. She was signing my book, but asked me questions and talked for a minute, which really impressed me. And of course, there’s Maris Soule, my MWA mentor, who keeps in touch and encourages me!