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  • Donna Hanson

Finding Your Tribe

Updated: Aug 29


It's 8:04 and the Clubhouse chat session that I frequent just ended. I didn't tune in today and I'm not sure I will in the future. They're just not my tribe.


I completed the first draft of my first novel during NaNoWriMo, a community write-a-thon that challenges each individual writer to complete a novel during the month of November. I've actually been working on the novel since NaNo last year, but since I write historic fiction, the research needed to make the subject believable was, in fact, its own mountain to climb.

I'm not a new writer by any means, but in the past I wrote to meet a goal or deadline (this blog site being the exception): a term paper, a test abstract, a professional journal article, or a presentation, each with specific due dates and format specifications.


When I was a young engineer, I worked for aerospace companies and each presentation was reviewed by my management before I presented to senior staff. We conducted dry runs over coffee at lunch and hammered one another like a high-school debate team until the presentation was perfect. My managers not only had my best interest in mind, but the best interest of the company I represented.


In college, I welcomed the sea of highlighted phrases and red-circled grammatical errors from my professors which indicated they'd actually read my work and endeavored to make me a better writer. I took that process for granted and have naively expected the same support from my fellow writing community. I dared to bare my soft underbelly in the company of strangers and was reminded of lessons learned as a teenager: choose your tribe carefully.


I've found that when your audience is abrasive, condescending, or aggressive, it's more a reflection of the individual and his or her current struggles than it is about you and your presentation or your questions. In other words, it's typically them, not you. Having said that, we all share a need to be accepted and oftentimes, I find myself either withdrawing from that group, or unconsciously making myself smaller to fit in. And that makes me itch.


I spent almost two hours with a dear friend from high school on the phone yesterday going page-by-page through my manuscript, my pen barely keeping up with her comments. When she loved a particular phrase or image, I beamed. When she pointed out a grammatical error, I blushed and reminded myself that a sloppy draft is disrespectful to the reader and my characters. We only covered the first half of the manuscript, but I left the call feeling whole--validated in my worth as a writer, loved as a friend, and ready to dive in and make my work better. I was reminded of the importance of surrounding yourself with those who will push you to be your best and forgive your transgressions as you grow, regardless if that be as a writer, a partner, a co-worker, or parent.

I was reminded of the importance of your tribe.

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