Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Butterfy Effect


You probably know that the butterfly effect is, very simply, a small happening or alteration that can result in larger changes. For example, a butterfly flaps its wings which leads to the creation or absence of a hurricane. Bruce Coville opened the SCBWI conference in L.A. with an inspiring keynote address in which he talked about how what writers and illustrators do often ripples out and affects others. I love this idea, especially since it’s not exclusive to being published.


What we do, whether it be writing, illustrating, bagging groceries, or even driving down a road, can make a difference when there is an opportunity to offer support, kindness, or some form of grace. I know someone who stops his car when he sees a turtle inching across a road. He gives the critter a lift (literally) to the side. I love this. Simple acts of kindness can be respites of relief in a world that is often too harsh. Sometimes just a smile can make a difference, even between strangers.


Maybe I’m biased, but I do believe that writing and illustrating gives those of us who indulge in one or the other or both a special opportunity to send out ripples. Consider the people who share their time and creativity for the benefit of others. Maybe by blogging, tweeting, or posting on Facebook; maybe by supporting the blogs of others; maybe by sharing guidance and wisdom in critique groups; maybe by sharing knowledge with a new writer. We creative sorts tend to be sensitive by nature. Having the support of kindred souls makes a huge difference, I think.


So, cheers to those who act with a good heart and a desire to make a difference in a positive way. Great things can and do result. As Bruce Coville said, we can start a ripple with even the smallest gesture.


What do you think? Have you seen the butterfly effect in action? Do tell! : )

34 comments:

  1. I truly believe in the butterfly effect. Actually the butterfly is my icon. :)

    But I love what you had to say about how writers and illustrators do make ripples. I think about the authors that I read that have affected me in such positive ways.

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  2. I love your photo. This is so true. Several writers have made a huge difference in my life. And I thank them all.

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  3. I also think that little things can make a big impact on people. You never know what act of kindness or word of encouragement or, as you said, a smile might do. Years ago, I worked at a fast food place and rush hour was always horrendous, but I will always remember that ONE person--and only one person--during the lunch rush looked at me and said, "Have a good day." And it totally made my day.

    I've been affected by plenty of books and words and hope that my words can have a positive effect on people, too.

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  4. Small things do matter. Everyone should try to something nice for someone else every day. Just a little thing. I know when I do something kind for a stranger (or friend) I feel good about it, so win-win!

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  5. So true, Karen and Carol. An author's work can have such a great impact, from bringing on a laugh or a smile to really making us think.

    Laura, I love your fast food customer story! Doesn't that just show what a difference a nice comment can make? I mean, you still remember that one customer.

    Absolutely, Kelly. I should have titled this post "Win-Win" : )

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  6. Love, love, love this post!! So true. I personally believe in encouraging others every chance I get. It bothers me on the odd occasion I find an author doing the opposite. Luckily though, this is an overwhelmingly positive community and that rarely happens!

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  7. This is amazing! This community absolutely blows me away.

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  8. Hi Cynthia, this is a lovely post. And so true. Unexpected kindnesses have amazing consequences. It's like those 'pass it on' commercials. They do a good job of illustrating that. It starts off with one man picking up a dropped package. Someone sees the act of kindness and passes it on... and at the other end of the line, someone reaches out and prevents a man from being hit by a truck. We don't know where our actions lead. I'm astounded by the support of this online blogging community. It's sending out some powerful ripples.

    I love that last line of Coville's - we can start a ripple with even the smallest gesture. So true.

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  9. Thanks, Lisa! I am completely with you about encouraging others at every opportunity. I remember well the encouragement that I've been given. It meant and still means so much.

    I agree, Julie. I love the writing, of course, but the community is ever amazing in it's caring and generosity and support.

    Thank you, Doralynn! I love Bruce Coville's line, as well. Words to live by.

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  10. Cynthia,

    I've seen that butterfly effect in the writing community where I'm a member. I'm published because better writer took the time to critique the mess I had on the site at that time. In turn, I've tried to help newer writers find their legs. And you know what? Bloggers who write are just wonderful at reaching out a hand of welcome/friendship/support and encouragement to others. Thought-provoking post. Thanks.

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  11. I love this! From the writerly community I've made friends and found priceless critique partners. Little things turn into big supports and/or big changes. One blog post can improve a novel, get a writer's gears going. One well-timed Tweet can give a writer with sagging confidence a boost at the right time. It's so cool!

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  12. I have definitely felt the breeze of butterfly wings and have learned so much from this blogging community that I'm humbled, because you know I like thought I knew it all....

    I hope in some small way I am able to give back, but I don't know that I'm very good at it. (I do rescue turtles.)

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  13. J.L., what a lovely comment. Thank you! I love how much credit you give to that "better writer" who critiqued your work. I am sure that other writers could say the same about you, as well.

    You are so right, Carol. And what you wrote about a well-timed tweet boosting another's confidence is absolutely true. It IS cool! : )

    Bish, I read your blog, so I can tell you that you do give back and you are good at it. Trust me. Plus, you also rescue turtles! So big.

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  14. The butterfly effect. I had never heard of that, but I don't think I'll ever forget it now. I do believe that a simple random act of kindness can completely change someone's day. It certainly has for me, and I so admire those people who always send a bit of positivity out into the universe. Perhaps I'm biased, but I think writers/artists have more of a tendency to appreciate each other.

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  15. Lovely post, dearie! I was actually just thinking about this on my drive home today... how every single decision we make in life has drastic effects on the future. I found myself wondering "well what if I had done X instead of X?" Of course, there are no answers to that, which is why it is such a delicious question to wonder about!!

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  16. I have to believe that small acts of kindness ripple through our lives and make bigger waves. I really hope goodness is contagious like that.

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  17. I love this idea. And yes I see it all the time in blogging and on Twitter. Social networking has created an awesome community for that. :)

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  18. so true. what we do matters and influences the world around us. yes, this is a great reminder.

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  19. It is a cool concept, isn't it, Julie? The butterfly effect has always intrigued me.

    Thanks, Julie! Such questions are great to turn over and over, especially during boring drives home. : )

    I hope ripples turn into waves, too, Lydia. Contagious is the perfect word.

    I couldn't agree more, Stina! With all the negative commentary about social networking, it's nice to consider the positive side of it, too.

    Absolutely, Tess. I imagine you are feeing this especially with your novel about to debut! : )

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  20. "What we do, whether it be writing, illustrating, bagging groceries, or even driving down a road, can make a difference when there is an opportunity to offer support, kindness, or some form of grace."

    I love this statement. Nothing that we do needs to be insignificant! All of it can be service on many levels. And that is an absolutely gorgeous picture.

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  21. I'm sure the butterfly effect has happened to me at some point. Either I can't remember or was oblivious. Things like this often happen under our noses. Excellent post, Cynthia! I wish I had been at that conference.

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  22. Cynthia - I love the photo and the post! So true. I love the concept. You always have such an inspiring post to share. Thanks again, Maeve

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  23. Thanks, Marcia!!! : )

    So true, David. Being oblivious can be part of the whole process, I think, as often a person doesn't know the final outcome or ripple effect of a simple gesture or deed.

    Thank you, Maeve! : )

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  24. This is so true. Many people have changed me, even with small gestures and acts, and I'm told I've done the same. Those flaps of a butterfly's wings go a long way.

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  25. What a great comment, Medeia. I love the line--"Those flaps of a butterfly's wings go a long way." So true. : )

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  26. Such a lovely thought. And we do have the ability to influence/support others when we don't even realize it.

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  27. Absolutely fantastic blog!!! Glad I found it! Love it!!!

    Lola x
    http://lola-x.blogspot.com

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  28. I know what a difference a simple smile can make.

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  29. Thanks, Donna and Lola!

    I hear you, Lynda. I can be in a rotten mood, but a smile can make all the difference. It sounds a little Hallmark, but it really is true.

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  30. What an amazing way to open! I'm a big believer in the butterfly effect. So big that I started my own non-profit with a friend hoping to be big monarch butterflies and we've seen small changes that are huge in the lives of kids and animals in the years we've been doing this!

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  31. I have a couple of wonderful writer friends, (you being one), who help me evaluate editor comments, cheer when I have some measure of success, and commiserate when things don't go my way. It makes all the difference to surviving the ups and downs of writing for publication.

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  32. I think if we all think about these ripples, and paying it forward, together we can accomplish anything :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  33. Awww! I love the thought of sending out ripples! And I have definitely been the recipient of many.

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  34. Jennie, from reading your blog, I know a little bit about what you have done and do with kids and animals. It is amazing! You are definitely a monarch butterfly.

    Aww, thanks Shannon! Where would we bit without our writer pals?

    Absolutely, Angela! Very empowering!

    And that's the way it should work, Peggy. : )

    Thanks for the great comments, everyone!

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