Monday, April 07, 2014

who's my tribe? an exercise

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I've been reading a lot lately about tribes. Not the Native American kind (I have one but we lost touch over the past few generations), but the kind that I belong to as a writer.

I don't want to write just for fun. I write for fun and satisfaction, true. But I also want to be read. I want to write about things that matter to other people, things they want to read. I want to influence people, make them think, make them laugh, make change in the world. To me, that is success. 

So I've been doing some soul searching, some reading, some serious research. How can I become more successful as a writer?

Seems the first step is to identify and build my platform by figuring out who my tribe is. 

We all have one or more platforms. Like it sounds, a platform is what you stand on, what is important to you. It doesn't have to be something complicated or profound. You just have to narrow it down and identify it. 

For example, maybe you love decorating cupcakes. You've developed techniques and recipes to make the most gorgeous cupcakes on the planet. You love to write about your experience, you take gobs of pictures, and you want to share all of this with the world.

That's a platform. 

However, before you can make the world a better place with cupcake love, you have to discover if there are other cupcake aficionados out there who are just waiting for someone to show them how to make prettier cupcakes, who will appreciate your knowledge and experience, and who want to learn from you. And you have to figure out where they are and how to connect with them.

That's a tribe. 

Most of us belong to one or more tribes. Obviously our families and friends are tribes. But these groups aren't necessarily our writer tribe. Your tribe as a writer is the group of people who care about the things you care about, who will share information with you, and who want to hear what you have to say. (You'll probably find some overlap between your tribes, but maybe not as much as you'd think. Or want.)

Sometimes it's hard for writers to identify or consider themselves part of a tribe. Like many artists, we writers practice our art in private and like to think we are unique, special, one in a million.

Ok, fine.  I'm one in a million. How special is that really?  

Let's do the math. There are over 7 billion people on the planet. If I am 1 in 1,000,000, that means there at least 7,000 other people in the world like me.

That's a pretty big tribe.

So, of the 7,000 (or so) people I might identify with, which ones are in my tribe? I write about a lot of different things. How do I focus on the main things and figure out where I fit? 

This post is an exercise, my attempt to identify the things that matter to me so I can narrow my focus, figure out who I am at the core, and identify where I fit.  I decided to start by making a quick, stream-of-consciousness list of things I feel passionate about:

I love being from the South.

I love to laugh.

I love Jesus.

I love my mother, my late father, and our large extended family.

I love my husband like a maniac. I love sex. Thankfully those two go together like ham and eggs.

I love our amazingly smart and tall 12 year old daughter.

I love our grown kids and two grandsons. I love being a mom, a step-mom, a grand-mom.

I love to travel.

I love hosting foreign exchange students.

I love reading inside when it’s cold and I love working in my garden and touching the earth when it’s warm.

I love to eat anything that doesn’t eat me first.

I love being creative, whether it’s writing, acting, singing, playing music, or redecorating random rooms to confuse my husband and our two dogs.

I love my two dogs.

I love my LGBT relatives and friends, and love that Jesus loves them too.

I love grace.

I hate abortion but believe it should be legal.

I hate injustice.

I hate depression.

I hate poverty and starvation.

I hate domestic abuse, child abuse, elder abuse, and sexual abuse.

I hate ugliness and sin.

I hate when people make my daughter cry.

I hate comma splices! bad punctuation! and the overuse of exclamation marks!

I hate the belly I gained after my hysterectomy.

I hate yelling.

I hate hearing profanity in Target but don’t mind using it alone in my car.

I hate licorice.

I hate exercises physical and mental, but I love growing so I need to just shut up and do it anyway.

This isn't an exhaustive list of passions and it's in no particular order, but it's a start. If it resonates with you, great. If it doesn't, or you think it's a ridiculous list, don't judge. 

On second thought, judge away. Because then we'll both know if we're in the same tribe.


Have something to add? Let me know what you think!