Monday, October 29, 2012
The Radical Effects of a Writing Community
What I adore the most about Nanowrimo is the large, supportive community of writers. This last Saturday, all the Wrimos in Hattiesburg met at a local bookstore to chat about our projects. It was awesome.
Every time I meet with a group of writers in person, I get fired up. It's like all our creative juices are flowing together as one. I met some fascinating people (including a professional bagpipe player and the mother of a nun) and heard some amazing stories.
It was fun to describe my book and see a handful of people perk up and say, "Are you writing about Marie Laveau? That's awesome!"
I think my book made a better impression than I did. When I told them I lived in Oregon, then Utah, then Starkville, now Hattiesburg, they leaned in like I was about to tell an interesting story. One of them asked, "So what do you do?"
I waved my hand and said, "Oh, I don't do anything." I wasn't trying to be funny, but they all laughed.
Someone asked what we all wanted to get out of our meetings together. "I'm new to Nano," he explained, "and I'd like to know the value having this support from other writers."
I've always been a big believer in making both online an in-person connections with other writers. His question made me wonder why. Why is being a part of a writing community so important?
I had a sudden flash of brilliance. Bear with me:
I'm reading a lot about voodoo for my book, and one of the religion's main beliefs is you can allow a spirit to enter your body and take possession of it. It's supposed to be the greatest way to connect to the divine.
Other religions have similar beliefs. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that Pentecostals, Quakers, and Shakers all have experiences where the spirit of God takes over their faculties while they worship in a group, making them "speak in tongues" and whatnot.
In a book specifically about voodoo possession, the author hypothesized that when a group has the same goal and purpose, the individuals become more open to suggestion and lose their inhibitions. His theory was that a group expectation coupled with dancing and music can create an experience that a believer can interpret as possession.
Now, I hate it when people try to explain away spiritual experiences. It's disrespectful and unfair. But I do believe the author's point carries weight aside from religion; when people are in a group who have the same desires, a mob-mentality takes over. Everyone's willpower becomes multiplied.
(When I was trying to explain my thoughts to the Nano group, it was now that someone asked where I was going with this.)
Being in a group has a drastic influence on your thoughts and actions. Being in a writing group, specifically, makes you a better writer. If an angry mob can make people smash windows and overturn cars, a community of 300,000 writers can help you win Nano.
With enough support, you can do anything.