Therese here. I’m beyond happy to present today’s guest to you. Vaughn Roycroft has become a true pillar of the WU community, though if you’re not a part of the WU Facebook Group (easily remedied by clicking here), you may not know it. Vaughn heads up the moderator team there–an important aspect of the group, ensuring that shared links are valuable and not spamalots. When Jan, who was my number-one helper with the group for a long time (TY, Jan!), and I needed to break away for a while, Vaughn stepped up. And I knew I could trust him. He’s the sort of person who’ll pick up a brush, say “Where’s the can of paint?” More than that, his commitment to the WU community was unmistakable; he was one of us. When we kicked off the Reader Unboxed site–now on hiatus–we asked Vaughn if he wanted to contribute reviews for us. He did, and they’re fantastic (ex: his review of Jacqueline Carey’s Saints Astray). We’ve asked him to participate in some exciting new WU initiatives coming soon as well. The fact that Vaughn is with us today to talk about community and how he ended up here, is the best introduction for our dear friend that I can think of. Enjoy!
Community – What’s in it for me?
Finding My Way Home
Don’t surround yourself with yourself,
Move on back two squares;
Send an instant karma to me,
Initial it with loving care. ~Jon Anderson and Chris Squire (Yes)~
Do you know me? I don’t mean Know Me know me. Only a few reading this post have actually stayed up with me talking into the wee hours. I mean, does my name ring a bell? If so, it’s not because you’ve seen my book (I’m unpublished), or read my blog (I don’t blog). No, if you’ve seen my name, or feel like you know me at all, there’s a darn good chance it is because of community. Specifically, this community—Writer Unboxed.
You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here? ~David Byrne (Talking Heads)~
When I started writing, I was living an old-school fantasy—alone in my den, pouring myself onto the page, wresting from my very soul the document that would make me immortal. I’ll never forget the day I first stumbled across WU. I was nearing the end of my lengthy first draft, and it occurred to me that I had absolutely no idea what came next. Oh, I’d heard the stories—the legendary struggles to get published, the lucky breaks, the classics that almost weren’t published, and so on. I simply refused to consider it… until I did.
More Than a Feeling
Simply being with other people who are also seekers and who are involved in the same quest you are is very meaningful. ~Dan Wakefield~
The day I found WU I honestly didn’t even know what a query letter should look like. I spent hours absorbed in exploring the site. My neck pricked in discovering such a treasure trove. Maybe it was because of my innocence, and that I learned so much from this one spot, but I immediately felt a bond—a sense of comfort in reading each day, a connection to the people here.
I don’t recall exactly how long I lurked here before commenting (months? a year?), but I eventually felt strongly enough about something to venture speaking up. A few weeks later, it happened again. The time after that, the author of the post replied… positively. As I said, I’m an old-school guy, and this was before I’d signed on with Facebook or Twitter, so I was taken aback. Wow, I thought, this is pretty cool—it’s interactive. Who knew?
I’ve Seen All Good People
I am a part of all that I have met. ~Alfred Tennyson~
Between frequent commenting here and my role as a moderator of the WU facebook group, I feel like I’ve come to know so many of you. Scores of you—maybe even hundreds. It’s both virtual and viral. Virtual in that it’s online, but it feels real enough to me. As in real life, I know each of you to different degrees—some mere acquaintances, others fairly intimately—but we all have WU in common. Viral in that our communal connections expand our online worlds exponentially. More on that in a minute.
You may be a part of other communities, but if you’re reading this, it’s likely we have something in common—a shared interest. And, by most definitions, that is the essence of community. Our sense of belonging and depth of involvement varies, but we’re all here voluntarily, and presumably we all benefit by our association. If you take it a step further, the more you put into a community, the more you’ll take away in the form of that shared benefit. In light of increasing that benefit, we share a stake in making it the best it can be.
Reach Out and Touch
See how the heart reaches out instinctively,
For no reason but to touch. ~Kate Bush~
So if we have common cause and share a stake, how do we make our community better? It’s pretty simple. It’s something we are naturally inclined to do, but in doing it we must set aside some other online impulses. Reach out—send an instant karma to your fellow tribesmen. Really, that’s all it takes. But it requires openness and humility. Listen first. Talk less. Connect with what others have to say. Community is not about you, it’s about us.
Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. ~Rick Warren~
My friend and mentor Cathy Yardley (also met through WU) did a wonderful series of blog posts on finding your tribe, and contribution versus promotion. Do yourself a favor and go read them all. But if you only have time for one, read last year’s final installment. In it she offers the simplest tribe-building advice I’ve seen: do five nice things each day. She even gives examples. And it’s not only simple, it comes with the extra benefit of making you feel good.
In My Tribe
I dreamed of a circle round
and in that circle I had made
were all the worlds unformed and unborn yet,
a volume, a sphere
that was the earth, that was the moon
that did revolve around my room ~Natalie Merchant (10,000 Maniacs)~
We are all alone, many of us at this moment, working on projects that can only be manifested through great and solitary effort. And yet we are connected, and must be to succeed. Without our tribes we are a squeak amid a cacophony. Earlier I mentioned the viral nature of our connectivity. Through connection and community our voices gain power. It’s an overused metaphor, but the Confucian ripple effect is too apt to not use here. If each of us is a lone pebble dropped into a pond, we create one series of circular ripples. But a handful (or tribe-full) of flung pebbles striking at once creates a series of circles, some greater than others, overlapping and far-reaching. Together we can really stir things up. My voice resounds with the chorus of community. My imagination is expanded through the vision of my fellows.
What’s in community for you? For me, at the very least it offers a full heart. I feel good when I help my fellow community members, even in the little things—a pat on the back, a shared link, commiseration over a rejection. Better still is gaining the support of others—real advocacy from those who have come to know, trust, and respect you for your history of deeds, not just words. Best of all you gain true friendship. And that, my fellow tribe members, is priceless.
How about you? What other communities do you belong to, and what else have you gained? I’m always looking to make more overlapping circles.
Readers, you’ll learn more about Vaughn in the coming months. In the meanwhile, you can read his full bio here. Write on!