One lesson seems to ring out louder and clearer and more annoyingly than any other in my graduate studies: build a community of writer friends who will help, scold, encourage, and promote your work as long as you do the same for them. Skill will grow as you practice, but a community needs to be fostered and loved and taken out for drinks every once in a while.
This is an idea I’ve taken to heart, and something I’ve apparently been accidentally living by my entire life. I love working with people who love working with people. Call is “networking” or “social engineering” or just “being a nice guy.” We weird bags of meat are social creatures (even if we try to pretend we’re not) and having a community gives us purpose and drive beyond scratching that internal, artistic itch.
You can tell yourself you write only for you, and that may very well be true, but I’m sure you’re not part of the majority. We write to tell stories, express ourselves, put a tiny bit of our soul into some words for someone else to see. If we have no readers (read: no community) what’s the point?
Since I am a bad liar, I won’t lie. This is a thinly veiled attempt to say thank you for all of the “blog award” nominations that I have been receiving, while simultaneously not sending out any myself. I suck, I know. I know!
It’s a logistics issue really. I received seven (7!) “One Lovely Blog Awards,” which were very, very flattering and I truly thank everyone who was kind enough to think of me when they received theirs. The “rules” of the award are tricky though; I’m supposed to link to 15 other blogs that I think should receive this award and say seven random things about myself. By my writer-math, that’s (7×15) 105 blogs I need to plug. That also means I need to say 49 random things. That’s a lot of stuff do to, and I’m not sure I’m up to the task!
Disclaimer: I will never speak ill of reading. Ever. I am of the opinion that it is one of (if not the) best thing you can do to improve yourself as a person. I encourage you to read. Read often, and with passion.
But I openly admit that I do not follow 105 blogs. Sure, I may have read several articles on that many (or more) blogs over my storied years on the internet, but I just don’t have time to read so much. I actively follow maybe eight (maybe). I read a lot of other stuff (news, books, articles, shampoo bottles, SharePoint administrator guides), but as of the past three or four years, it has taken a back seat to my writing.
If I read that much, I’d never actually write anything, which kind of defeats the purpose for me.
Which brings me to my advice: a writing community is great! It is also an easy way to avoid doing any actual writing. If you find yourself reading significantly more than you are writing, you might need to reevaluate your creative habits. Reading is great, but it isn’t a direct substitute for writing.
If you’re reading, you’re a reader. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. It doesn’t work when flipped around.
You should build a community of people you can talk to, who will help you with your craft, and who understand your work. They should be a catalyst for your creativity, not an escape from duty. I want everyone to write, so we all have something to read. If we all just read, there would be nothing to read, right?
Anyway, to keep in some spirit of these blog awards and not be a total flake, here are seven things you probably didn’t know (or want to know) about me:
1. I am an IT nerd. I was a network engineer for a few years, and now spend my working hours scrutinizing technical documentation. I also customized all of the CSS on this here blog and love web design.
2. I’m not a vegetarian, but I don’t eat very much meat. It just doesn’t sit well with me, and I really enjoy vegetables. Avocados are my favorite.
3. I have severely limited range of motion in my left elbow from an injury in 2010. I am considering full joint replacement surgery, but my orthopedist worries that I am too young for something so drastic.
4. I (very occasionally) smoke a tobacco pipe. I like sweet tobacco blends like English Black Cavendish and Royal Vanilla.
5. I don’t know how to tie a neck tie, mainly because I don’t like to wear them. They seem (and have always seemed) like a silly piece of clothing to me.
6. My wife and I are known to go to the Maryland Renaissance Festival in full costume. I have a large brimmed black hat with a huge feather in it that I wear around the house for fun.
7. I play the mandolin. I’m not in a band and I’m not very good. I can, however, play the theme from Star Wars and am working on the Mos Eisley Cantina song.
Thank you again all for the nominations. I’m not ignoring any of you or trying to be disrespectful, I just wanted to be honest as to why I wasn’t reciprocating.
Ultimately, you guys rock. Without you reading and commenting, I’d still be soliciting feedback from my mom each week. Not that her feedback is bad. She’s just a bit biased.