On Finding Your Tribe

Writing

It’s always amazing to me how spending time with other writers, and learning more about writing, can leave me so incredibly invigorated.  This past weekend, I, along with some of the other borrowed solace editors, attended the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference (PPWC).  The very first blog post that I wrote on this site was inspired by the first PPWC that I attended, so now, after my third conference, it all really seems to have come full circle.

The theme of this year’s PPWC was “It Takes a Tribe.”  At first, I honestly did not get where this theme came from.  It seemed very different from the types of themes that the other conferences I attended had, and it didn’t make sense to me.  I am more familiar, I suppose, with the saying “It Takes a Village,” and so I think I associated these two sayings in my mind.  The thing that made this even more troublesome was that I had only really ever heard “It Takes a Village” in reference to child-rearing.  The mashup of both of these phrases in my muddled mind did not leave me with a clear idea of what this conference was going to be about.

I quickly learned, though, almost as much through just physically being at the conference as through all the different programming and keynote talks, what this theme means.  I have my own tribe.  I don’t always thing of it that way, but some of my best friends and trusted confidants have come to me through writing.  There are still friends who I met in a writing group or class four or five years ago who I talk to or see on a regular basis.  And these are the friends who critique my work and help me along on my many writing endeavors.  They are the ones who will talk to me about character arc or how to get into freelance editing for hours on end, and then pickup the conversation in the exact same spot we left off the next time I see them.

The thing that stuck out to me the most about this past weekend was that every single speaker and New York Times best selling author (there were many of them in attendance) had their own tribe.  I don’t yet have a tribe or fellow best selling authors, or well known agents, or editors at one of the big five publishing houses, but when each one of these now wildly successful authors was starting out, their tribe wasn’t there yet either.  Regardless, though, the common thread through each of these author’s stories was that their tribe helped them arrive to that spot.

One of the things that stuck out to me the most was from John Gilstrap’s keynote address.  He, like many writers, ebbed and flowed in and out of the writing sphere.  Life ended up taking him to lots of non-writing careers and stops along the journey that caused him to give up or stall on writing.  I think any writer on the planet can relate to this.  There are times when sometimes you simply do not want to write (see my last blog post, if you’re wondering if that has happened for me).  But then he mentioned how someone from a previous writing group/class, a member of his writing tribe, met with him after several years and said ‘how dare you not write?’

If we as writers have stories to share, gifts to give, words to writer, how dare we stop?  We should be so impassioned about writing that we can’t stop because our story is not over yet.

So take this as encouragement from my tribe to yours – keep going.  Writing isn’t just solitary, and it isn’t just something to do when you have time and space for it.  It’s a calling of sorts, somewhere to belong.  Don’t give up on that belonging, and if you ever need inspiration, just reach out to your tribe (or make one, by going to writing groups, events, and conferences).

I know I have been more inspired to write than ever since the conference.  Sure, it’s only been a few days, but as I’m on this journey of finding myself and excavating my love of writing from the grave it’s been in for the past year, I’ve come to a new realization that I am going to stick to this.  Writing is something that I come back to again, and again, and again.  It’s where my people live, and if that’s the case, how dare I not pursue it?

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On Finding Yourself

Beginnings, Writing

I am a firm believer in talking about what’s hard.  I think it is a disservice to everyone if we ignore what makes us uncomfortable or ashamed.  There are things I believe that are hard things to believe, and I think we should talk about that.  There are also things that I hesitate to share, and I think that means I should share them even more.  This is one of those things, but it is something that has deeply marked me, leaving beauty marks and scars, both equally important in the narrative of my life.

 

As someone who adores a good narrative, I know that the hard parts must be shared as well as the good parts.  My favorite stories don’t shy away from the dark, but ultimately focus on the light.  Because there is light that comes from any darkness we encounter.  If there is one thing I know for sure in this life, it is that the light is only dimmed when darkness seems to encompass us, but there is always something good that comes out of our time in the shadows of life. 

 

I guess you could say that for the past two years, I have been living in the shadows, and for the last half of 2018 up until about a month ago, I was in one of the darkest places I have ever walked through.  I was lost in this darkness, stumbling through the best I could and repeatedly reaching painful dead ends, and I am now finally finding myself again.  I have never understood what that meant more than I do now as I slowly undo what had left me disheartened and paralyzed for so long.

 

Like many things in life, I don’t think you realize what you had until it’s gone.  This goes for the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I had been shrouded in uncertainty and doubt for so long that I wasn’t even excited about creating or writing.  I’ve come to realize that those two things which, if I’m being honest, go hand in hand, make up the very core of who I am.  When you lose all urging to do the very things that make up who you are as a person, I think the fog starts to lift and reveal the harsh reality that you’ve lost yourself.  Over the course of the past year I slowly began to give excuses for my lack of motivation to embark on even the simplest of tasks.  It all started with some bad days that slowly morphed into bad weeks, then bad months, then, ultimately what I would describe as a bad year.

 

When you are living in this place of darkness, you start to expect only bad things to come around every turn.  Road blocks start to become the norm and dismay a space to live in, not just a stop on the journey.  Pretty soon not feeling is the only way to keep on keeping on, but I couldn’t even do that.  Instead my anxiety skyrocketed and panic attacks became something I expected, crippling me to the point where all I could do was lay on my bed waiting for my cheeks to dry as I slowly drew in raggedy breaths and counted to ten over and over again.

 

Worry about things that are so upsetting they trigger these types of reactions consume everything, so it is no wonder, then, that other, more important, more fruitful, more satisfying, tenets of your life get put on a shelf far out of sight and mind, left to gather dust while more pressing matters are literally pressing in and making it hard to breath under the pressure.  But despite all this, there is still also a dim flickering light.  A light that only grows brighter in hindsight knowing that I made it – and am still making it – out of the shadows.

As I move into a new, brighter chapter of my narrative, I am struck by my desire now to create — to try new things, to interact, and to start fresh. Human beings are resilient in that they are able to continuously pick themselves up and dust themselves off. I have seen it time and time again, and I have now experienced it myself. I know that creativity is what makes life worth living, and although I’ve been rejected and gone through shadowy spurts where writing was the last thing on my mind, I still know this to be true.

So use this as a bit of encouragement. Although there is darkness, there is always light. There is always purpose. There is always that knowing — an intrinsic part of the human soul — that you will find yourself again, in a new place, but better than ever.

 

“But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10