I spend a lot of time in my own head…entirely too much, really. And starting a blog isn’t helping. I’ve found myself asking if this thing or that experience could be turned into an interesting post. This morning I was unloading the dishwasher and I actually asked myself—out loud inside my head—if I could turn that mundane activity into an essay on the philosophical dilemma of housework, or of choosing not to do housework. Seriously. I have a problem.Yet, on the other end of the spectrum, a Retweet this morning pointed me to an interesting article in Writer Unboxed. Porter Anderson makes a cogent case for why writers should beware the “fellowship of the virtual gathering.” His point is that most writers put fingers to keyboard for a reason: to have their work consumed by a wide audience, an audience composed not just of other writers. The risk of immersing in a community, he says, is that writers can forget to turn outward, to address their true audience. The reader.
In many ways, he’s right, but writing is a lonely endeavor and so, finding a community, whether it be the Algonquin Round Table or the Absolute Write Water Cooler, is quite magical. While working on my novel, I needed to be bumped outside of my head. So against my norm, I joined a community, and within that larger community I found a smaller cadre. We support each other in our writing at every phase, from sounding boards on the clarity of a single sentence to help getting the word out about an impending book release. I don’t think we’re an echo chamber, but then, when inside the echo chamber, one rarely acknowledges it as such. Still, we come at writing from very different directions, and, interestingly, none of us write the same genre. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t feel so echo-y. Maybe.
As with all things, I think moderation is the key. Participating in a community, whether it’s the PTA or a writing organization or a political movement, requires balance and, I believe, a bit of risk/reward thinking. For someone needing to be knocked out of a comfort zone, joining a new community can provide a cozy, soft landing place. The key is not to snuggle down under the covers too far.
Now, back to the dirty dishes. But first I’ll turn on the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament and join the community of bracketeers. That oughta keep me from strange, existentialist thoughts about dusting and vacuuming, right?