Do you want to work and create out of a sense of abundance rather than scarcity? Here’s a good thing to remember: If you are doing good work, everybody else who is doing good work is your ally, not your competitor. To that end, a true story…
Earlier this spring, a friend of mine asked me to contribute a story to a collection he was putting together. I look forward to telling you more about that story collection when the publication date gets closer, but that’s not the point of this letter. The point of this letter is to tell you about something that happened over in the Habit Membership that gave me a lot of hope and served as a reminder of what it means to create in community.
The aforementioned collection was still short three or four stories, so I put out a call for stories to the writers at the Habit Membership. The writers started writing, then they started posting their stories in the membership forum. Then they started giving one another helpful feedback and encouragement, and that emboldened other writers in the group to write and post their own stories, and a virtuous cycle developed, of creativity and courage and excellence.
In the end, Habit members didn’t just contribute three or four stories to the collection: THIRTEEN of their stories were selected, showering the Habit Membership in glory.
But even that triumph isn’t the real point of this letter. Here’s the real point: the writers of the Habit Membership found themselves in a situation that one could easily interpret as competitive.Something like two dozen writers were hoping that their story would be one of three or four selected. Encouraging fellow writers to write and submit their own stories—that doesn’t seem like a move calculated to improve one’s chances. Actively helping those writers to improve their submissions to the same “competition” you’re submitting to? That’s not a strategic move either. But that’s exactly what happened. As the writers of the Habit Membership went back and forth, the stories got better and the writers got braver. And the editors of the collection found room for so much excellence. It turned out that all that un-strategic generosity did improve the writers’ chances of getting selected. Three or four slots became thirteen slots.
I know it doesn’t usually work out that way. Most of the time, three or four slots are just three or four slots, and most of the work that exceeds the threshold of excellence still doesn’t get selected. Even in this situation, stories that were more than good enough didn’t get selected, for reasons that were entirely out of the writers’ control.
Perhaps some of those unselected stories, simply weren’t good enough. But thanks to the generosity and collegiality of the writers of the Habit Membership, even those stories were better than they would have been. And those writers (some of whom wouldn’t have written or submitted a story at all, if not for the encouragement of their colleagues) are a little further down the path.
Some of the best encouragement and most insightful feedback came from writers whose stories ended up not being selected. One of those writers, after congratulating her colleagues whose work was selected, had this to say to her colleagues whose work was not:
Well done being faithful to the hard work of writing. Just because it goes unseen (or less seen) doesn’t make it any less fruitful. Keep taking the risk of your own discovery.
I will be toasting ALL of you this week. A while back I promised [a colleague] I’d celebrate my writer’s courage with her regardless of the result. I am continually a better writer because of this membership. What a tremendous delight it is to share your company – to learn with, commiserate with, rejoice with, and persevere with.
Yes and amen. I gladly join in that toast. Salut!
The following is a commercial message…
This seems like a good time to invite you to become part of the Habit Membership. As I often say, people tend to come for the content (about a hundred hours of video, monthly webinars, office hours, all of my six-week “Writing with…” classes, past and present)—but they stay for the community.
In the forum for the recently-completed Writing with Jane Austen class, a participant who was considering joining the membership asked, “What do you love about the Habit Membership?” Talk about a tee-up for endorsement quotes! Here’s what a few members said:
What I have noticed is that the other writers are extremely supportive and helpful. Also, they are crazy-smart and talented! I’ve already been encouraged to write and submit a great deal more than I was before…Many people will review your work for you just out of kindness, and give genuinely helpful and supportive suggestions before you submit.
The monthly webinar and office hours are GOLD- they have helped me SO much in my writing… As far as value goes, the fact that ALL the “Reading With” workshops are included in the membership just makes it a great deal. I don’t think I can live without the Habit Membership in my life. – Sandy Hughes
Some things are taxing in life, and some things are renewing. The taxing stuff can be definitely worth the fight, but it’s always wonderful to find something that is renewing. I find the Habit renewing. The writing discussions here brighten my day and “fill my bucket” as a storyteller. I’ve learned a lot through the classes, office hours, writing prompts, and the comments/discussions from other members. This community has definitely encouraged me and challenged me to grow.
I’ve definitely grown as a writer here in the Habit. The people here are great. I recommend it. – Bethany Sanders
Most of all, I love the Habit membership for the community. I live in a rural setting and the locals surrounding me are many wonderful things besides writers. I would probably have given up writing long ago if it weren’t for the encouragement given and friendships made through this membership. The interaction through the forums, zooms, and ever-deepening connections have had the most impact on my confidence and commitment to keep writing. – Reagan Dregge
I joined because I’d been listening to the podcast for a while and I thought Jonathan would be a good teacher and the resources you get with the membership would be good. I wasn’t really here for the community – I find online interactions weird and often difficult, even with people I know in real life! But, I’ve been amazed at how kind and generous the other members of the Habit are and how much I’ve learnt from them – from people’s contributions in class and writing assignments, and from their feedback on writing assignments (mine and other people’s).
I’m still trying to figure out if I have ideas that are worth other people taking the time to read and the Habit has already been really helpful in that process…
The tagline that’s always on the podcast talks about the Habit membership being “a hub of community for like-minded writers” who “give each other a little more courage”. Since I’ve heard that now almost a hundred times, I guess I should’ve believed it, but I was still surprised to realise the other day that that is how I feel – I do have a little more courage from being part of the Habit membership. – Lucy Higson
There’s room for you too in this incredible community. I hope you’ll jump in. You can find out more here.