A literary manager who needs to be a bit more selfish and find time for her own writing too, a serial novelist who is great at picking titles and knows her genre, (Hanna Rhys Barnes, author of The Scorpion Moon Trilogy), and someone who understands that even cancer should be laughed at, (Cancer is a Funny Thing by Marie de Haan). I met them all and a dozen others this week. Sleepy islands tend to be inhabited by very busy creative people. The island just seems sleepy because it’s quiet. It’s quiet because everyone is working on something. I’m sure that we’re not the only ones, and we don’t always do it alone.
I love to talk. Public speaking isn’t hard for me, except for the first three minutes. That’s why I have more of a problem standing up for “Just give us a quick few sentences Tom” than I do for “We’d love to hear you give your slideshow. Will an hour be enough?” For many people, talking to an audience for an hour would be a torture that begins days before the event. I’ve taught kids karate classes. No group of adults has been more intimidating that three dozen twelve year olds who are looking forward to punching and kicking. Good thing there were mirrors in that room so I could see behind me.
Andrea Hurst is a writer and literary manager, who doesn’t let the word “agent” appear anywhere on her business card, who also hosts a writer’s group in Coupeville. She does a lot more, but I was introduced to her and her group by accepting an invitation to talk to them for about twenty minutes or so. Of course I said yes. Besides, they meet over my current photo essay. They get together at a coffee shop (Local Grown) at the end of a wharf that sits over the waters of Penn Cove. Nice place to sit.
In a time when many feel malaise from economic and environmental concerns, she gathered fifteen people so they could support and encourage each other. Some support groups are group hugs with kind words. These folks do that, and also bring their notepads, computers, advice, and reports of progress. Maybe the shop’s caffeine powers them along, but I suspect they would be busy no matter where they met. And I suspect that because they meet, they are busier than they would be alone.
Humans are social creatures. Our current society emphasizes the individual, which I applaud, but it can be taken too far. Independence is powerful. A lot can get done when it isn’t necessary to negotiate. A singular vision, pursued without distraction, can be manifested more quickly than by any committee. But much of what needs to be accomplished benefits from collaboration.
I donate my time and effort to two organizations: Whidbey Camano Land Trust and The New Road Map Foundation. I do more than that, but those are the only two official positions. For the Land Trust I am a site steward, which means I help tend one of the properties. I use it as an excuse to kill invasive plants like blackberries. They seem to appreciate it. Besides, what else is there to do? It isn’t like anyone is going to steal the land. For New Road Map, I am on the board and the Secretary, so I lend a hand by typing furiously during our meetings and speaking up on occasion. Evidently, everyone else that doesn’t want to take notes is very appreciative of the fact that I will do it for them.
Writers can write alone. I finished five books that way, but even then I had a little help here and there. I appreciated the folks who checked my manuscripts: brave souls willing to wade through typos and bad punctuation. But I couldn’t take on the Land Trust’s job on my own, not even if I had millions. I couldn’t take on New Road Map’s financial literacy campaign as effectively as an organization can. They’ve pulled together a wiki, lists of speakers, online study guides, and are reaching out to forums and larger community. A group of writers accomplishes more together, even though most projects only need one writer.
We’ve got problems, global, economic, and environmental; and while the pundits and the politicians posture, the rest of us, or at least many of us, are working at making things better. Individual efforts count. So do the collaborative ones. We’re coming up on Christmas and I think we, the great unheralded us, are giving ourselves the greatest gifts to ourselves, each other, and the planet. It may seem like nothing is going on, like everyone else is asleep, but I think it’s quiet because so many people are as busy as Santa’s elves.