I’m sure that there are several others out there who are going to read this next post and say something along the lines of: “well that’s obvious”. For me it was a new experience so I wanted to share some of my observations.
I recently attended my very first meeting of the NC Writers Network, a local group of like-minded individuals who are engaged in the business or hobby of writing. I don’t think I have ever been in a peer group setting before like this. Yes, I have been in professional peer groups, but generally I have been in groups where if one person is successful the next person may be less successful. This is because professionally, I was always involved in sales, usually with overlapping territories. So we were In some way, shape or form in competition with each other. Even if our territory didn’t overlap we were competing for focus and attention, or for potential future favor or promotions from the powers that be. This idea of competition is one of the recurring themes of this blog and my longer form writing. This competition always colored my involvement in the groups.
One of the things that made the writers group so rare in my personal experience was that we could have all be massively successful simultaneously. One member of the groups prosperity did not mean that another one’s potential success may be limited. Additionally we all defined success differently. I found this to be very interesting and freeing.
I know that this is a very old concept, the idea that being a part of community helps develop your work. But community is very different today. Today a group of like minded people meeting regularly at the local brew pub seems almost quaint. Actually I have that wrong, it’s not like minded people it’s people with a common interest area but with different ideas and priorities about that interest area that makes the so incredibly dynamic. Generally speaking this is the underpinning of everything we are trying to do with social media, the concept of creating a community through all of these online venues. But there’s something very different about a group of people that you see online that are communicating in 140 characters vs. all of the nuances you get when your face to face.
What made this group different was the human element. For example the entire conversation centered around questions and answers and unlike an online search, the answers didn’t exist instantly. You could see the answers develop through the conversation which lead to a more complex or nuanced answer. Sometimes I already thought of myself as an expert in a conversation topic, but when a question was asked and answered by someone else, the way it was explained either refreshed my engagement with the concept or in some cases it slightly altered my view of whatever was being discussed. Social norms require us to be polite and listen, these norms exist to a much lesser extent online where you can just scroll through a list of comments or a vBulletin forum.
As I move forward with this blog and as I move forward with my larger scale writing project I think this group may be able to help me in several different ways so i’m going to continue going to these meetings.
Even if attending doesn’t help my projects at least I have an excuse to have some cold beer from a Brewpub on a Saturday afternoon once a month. If nothing else, that will get my creative juices flowing.