I didn’t really have a chance of success as a writer until about five years ago.
That’s when a friend of mine asked me and a few other moms if we wanted to form a writer’s group.
These women have become my tribe.
When I joined them, I had a one-year-old, and I wasn’t sure if my passion for writing would survive motherhood. I thought it would. I hoped it would. But I didn’t know how.
These women were how. They asked me how writing was going, even when it wasn’t. They read my drafts when it was. They shared their own exciting projects. They were honest when poor sleep or other stresses made it impossible for them to write.
The group was kind of happenstance, and kind of not. I signed up for an MFA program with the express desire for community of local writers. Two of the people I met there are in the group now. But I didn’t plan my way into the group–it involved chance meetings, friends of friends, and a lot of good “luck.”
Also patience. A lot of patience.
I waited eight years for my tribe. While I waited, I signed up for writing classes, writing groups, workshops, retreats–you name it. And then I finally found the people who kept me going when I needed it most. Honestly, I don’t think I found the writing group until I was ready to take advantage of it. Funny how that happens.
Here are a few ways to start on the road to real collaboration:
- Pray. Trust that God can connect you with the right people at the right time. Or, if you prefer, shout your need for collaborators to the stars. Be bold in admitting your desire.
- Reach out even if you’re an introvert. This was a hard one for me. Every cell in my body wants to avoid risk. This is (ironically) more true if I’m passionate about something. But if you are going to create, you must learn to take risks. Start with connections. The long, often-fruitless search for collaborators made me more patient with the long, often fruitless pursuit of my craft.
- If serendipity hasn’t happened yet, try Craigslist. I limped along with various resources before I found the one that worked for me. Even the ones that didn’t work taught me something. I started with a lunchtime writing prompt group, connected with two fiction-writers groups, and finally got an MFA. I didn’t find a tribe, but I did learn my craft, and that was enough to keep me going.
- Ask for help. You may not know anyone that is passionate about stop-frame animation, if that’s your thing. But you might know someone who knows about video editing, cameras, YouTube, social media, or some tool that will help you bring your gifts to the world. Ask to meet with that person. Ask for their expert advice. Then share that knowledge with others. More connections mean more room for serendipity.
- Don’t invest in everybody–just in the right people. If you find someone you have a good fit with, be intentional with that person. Speak out loud your desire to meet regularly. Seriously invest in that relationship, even to the exclusion of others, at least at first.
Early on in our writing group, we decided collectively not to open our group to others. We hated saying no to people wanting to join us, but looking back, we could have diluted the group so much that it no longer was a quiet, safe place to share ideas.
- Talk through problems and protect your gifts. Our group has had its ups and downs. It’s hard to admit sometimes I’ve been the cause. I have a bad habit of focusing on what’s wrong when critiquing, rather than what works. I’m lucky that my collaborators have shared with me when that’s happened so I didn’t destroy working relationships permanently. Be honest if the critique is not working. Talk intentionally about ground rules, or what’s most helpful for you as a creator. Make sure you’re honoring your gifts by not exposing them to people who hurt you or make you less excited to create.
It may seem odd to tell you to hurry up and be patient for the right people to come your way. But isn’t that the story of all of our creative endeavors? Every day, we put our urgent message to the universe into a hand-blown bottle, firmly cork the opening, and launch it into the waves, trusting that with enough perseverance, the right person will find it and hear what we have to say.