One of the things I love about writing is the quiet of it. I love sitting in a room all by myself with words and ideas and thoughts. I love that the computer doesn’t reply when I type out a sentence, no matter how odd or poorly constructed or honest that sentence might be. I need the space that writing gives me to figure things out and find the right words and phrases without having to pause to explain myself or wonder what someone else thinks.
But writing is not meant to be just a quiet activity. Because writing is thinking and writing is living and writing is growing. And thinking and living and growing require people and conversation and feedback and community. Friends and love.
This one’s been a tough one for me to learn. I’m still learning.
And just like my littles, sometimes I learn slowly and seem to make no progress at all. And sometimes I grow quickly and climb steep hills in a single leap.
This past weekend was a single leap kind of moment.
This past weekend, I hopped in a car and headed north to a small college campus where friends, both those I knew and those I didn’t, were gathering. And my stomach threatened to revolt and my heart nearly beat itself away with nerves and anxiety. And more than once on Friday afternoon, I considered the option of just not going.
But I went. And within minutes of leaving my car, I saw Tamara. She was far off in the distance and the truth is, she could have been anyone. We all force familiarity onto the shapes that meet our eyes. My brain could have been tricking me into seeing what I wanted to see. But I was already taking a leap just by being there. So I waved. And she waved back and called out my name. And I called back. And that was that. We met. In person. We hugged. We created a group with some people I knew and some I didn’t and that didn’t matter. Because I know them now and now they are friends. We took many pictures. We talked about our kids and our work and our thoughts and ideas, picking up conversations we’d already started in other places and carrying them forward with the sounds of our voices. And on Friday night, it was a bit surreal. But by Saturday night, it was as normal and comfortable as any long friendship.
And there was more. There were women who stood in front of large groups of us and shared their experiences. Shared their work and ideas and successes and failures. They opened up about their fears and their triumphs. And they encouraged us. Reminded us that we need to use our voices and then they helped us learn how to use them better. They connected us and opened doors for us and I am forever grateful to them because those doors felt so very heavy when I tried pushing on my own.
The keynote of the BlogU14 was titled “Colleagues, Not Competition.” And the theme of working together followed me through every session and meeting and every interaction I had. At every turn I saw in real life that the Internet is big enough for all of us. There is more than enough space and opportunity.
Through every session, every conversation, the faculty of the conference embodied and reinforced that message. And I found that truth every time I regrouped with the ladies who surround me in the photo above. Writing, successful writing, requires people and conversation and feedback and community. Friends and love.
That is the single most important thing I learned at BlogU 2014. It was the push I needed to make that developmental leap. It was the lesson I needed to hear and see and experience.
So get ready, friends. I’m coming and I can’t wait to meet you and work with you and succeed in this world with you.