If you read my post yesterday, you saw that I was struggling with some things that occurred in a writing group I am involved with. I am a better writer because of the teaching and community in this group, but I felt constricted over certain events.
So I did what any writer does – I wrote about it. Sometimes I don’t know how I feel until I write about it. In part, this was my way of trying to process through the difficult emotions I was feeling.
If I’m honest though, I was also looking for some encouragement and direction from friends and fellow writers. The responses overwhelmed me and drew me to this recognition:
Of course community isn’t safe. But it’s good.
If that sounds familiar, it is because I hijacked this quote from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Lewis was talking about the great lion Aslan, but it is equally true of any good community.
I wanted my writing community to be completely safe. I thought I deserved a safe environment to practice my art. Until one of my fellow writers Lauren Huss asked me this:
If there was a completely safe environment to share our hearts, would we receive the same satisfaction?
Her question brought me up short. Like an open-handed slap to the face. I realized I was not entitled to a completely safe environment.
Indeed, a cocoon of safety would limit my growth. Part of writing is risk. If risk is removed, then the process of hitting publish on your work is somehow lessened. I lost sight of this reality because I let fear have too large a place in my heart.
There is no such thing as completely safe. This is true of any community, writers or otherwise. There is always risk in bearing our hearts and sharing our stories. We must all make a choice. Keep our story to ourselves and stay safe. Or share our story and risk rejection.
If the community is comprised of like-minded individuals, the risk is worth it. We will be challenged to not stay the same. Forced to grow up. There is always the chance that our risk will result in pain, but we can grow from that as well.
So many people responded to this post, here and in other forums, reminding me of how good our group of writer is, for me and for them. They encouraged me to stay the course, and keep risking.
Jeff Goins is the fearless leader of our community. He told me this:
You can’t really be a friend with someone until you have a fight.Conflict creates friction, which causes us to grow.
This friction is good, though it will likely hurt. Think back to when you were a kid, playing carefree on a playground. All was bliss and happiness, until you went down the twisty slide in your shorts.
Halfway down the slide, this horrible screeching noise started. As you began to wonder what the sound was, you realized it was coming from YOU. At the same time, you felt pain on your legs. Your legs didn’t agree to going down the slide apparently.
Conflict between your legs and the slide created friction. Then came the pain, immediately followed by questions.
Why did that hurt? What happened? I wasn’t expected that at all!
Then came the learning. Whether you asked your parents why it hurt or not, you learned not to do it again. So it is with community. Friction can cause momentary pain, but we can grow from it. Or, we can avoid the twisty slides for the rest of our lives.
So I choose to reject fear. I choose community. I like twisty slides. Even in shorts. Even when it hurts.
Yes, community, even when it hurts. Well said.
Thanks, Pamela. It took me a while to come to grips with this truth. But walking away just rang hollow in my heart after more thought, and the encouragement of so many friends and fellow writers.
Good one! I’m glad you took the time to think/write it through, and that you are growing as a writer. I think better on paper too.
Sharon Rose Gibson
Very good Chris. Once again, I needed to hear this. I want safe but I recognize safe does not always produce growth. So I’ll choose the discomfort of growth. Thanks for writing this.
So glad to be a source of encouragement for you. I am still learning how to be comfortable with the growth process myself.
Excellent, Chris!!! I love the way you have processed this whole thing out loud. I absolutely LOVE the slide analogy!! I bet everyone has learned that lesson!!
We all hear the cliche “love hurts”. But I think this is a case of just that. With any type of community, there is a need for acceptance…acceptance takes love…love takes vulnerability…vulnerability is risky and we can often end up exposing ourselves to pain.
But I have found, that when you are fortunate to find a few that accept you as you are and take the time to get to know each other and encourage each other with love and not for selfish gain, then being part of that community is not only a blessing, but vital!
It’s funny, because I used to think that I processed verbally. Until I started writing. Then I realized that I never knew how to think clearly. 🙂
For the record, this was terrifying for me. I am much more comfortable walking through history with my readers than current events, real-time processing. At the same time, there was a freedom that came when I ‘shipped.’
I have learned a lot about working through pain in community in other areas of my life — marriage, church life, in-laws, etc. It felt brand new for me in this venue, because of my lingering insecurity as a writer.
In the short time I have been a part of this group, I have already made several very meaningful connections. It would cost too much to walk away.
Love this, Chris – and I’m so glad you decided to stay. Yes, life is risky. Writing is risky. Building a community is risky. But when we perservere – the rewards are great.
Look at what we would have missed had you left. Look at what you would have missed. LOVED this post. The honesty, the transparency. I can see your heart. Thanks, Chris.
So true Joan
This post and the last were pretty tough for me to write. I am glad I shared though.
Great post! Fear, fears community!
And experienced shorts-wearing kids…fear slides 🙂
Thanks for stopping by David, and for the encouragement!