I’m fresh off The Habit Writers’ Weekend, a retreats for members of The Habit that we held at North Wind Manor in Nashville. It was a vivid reminder—an in-the-flesh-not-virtual reminder—of the power of friendship and mutual good will as a creative force. As these writers shared their work with one another, shared meals, talked, wrote together and played together (the theme of the weekend was the relationship between play and creativity), it was easy to see that they were truly giving one another a little more courage and spurring one another on to love and good deeds.
As I have said before in this space, If you are trying to do good work, everybody else who is trying to do good work is your ally, not your competitor.
One of the retreat-goers wrote,
I told my husband before the retreat that I was fully expecting to leave feeling shame (“Everyone’s so much more talented than I am! I’l never write again!”–very dramatically ) But by the time I left town on Sunday, all I could think was, “There are so many talented writers in the Habit–some much more skilled than I am…and they make me want to become the very best writer I can be! I can’t wait to keep writing!”).
I love that. Comparison is the thief of joy, the old saying goes. This writer didn’t shut off comparison altogether; but in the frame of creative friendship and ally-ship, even comparison can be a source of joy and courage.
Another Habitué reflecting on the weekend wrote,
Groups like this simply go against human reason. It is not natural for people to seek one another’s good above their own; to glory in each other’s successes; to lovingly affirm the heart of another person’s flawed work. It is not natural for creative people to stand so strongly together in their work, rather than eyeing each other with jealousy and suspicion. A community like this is simply unnatural—beautifully unnatural.
All true friendship, of course, seeks another’s good and glories in another’s success. But a) true friendship can be hard to find, and b) we too often think of creative work (even unconsciously) as a way of establishing our place in a hierarchy. It makes a big difference when you think of yourself as facing in the same direction as other writers and artists—and not climbing the same ladder.
I’ll end with one more note from one retreat-goer to her fellow writers:
The steady drumbeat of reality that we all live with is: The world is too wonderful for us. We all have to take some posture toward that–daily, or hourly even. Sometimes our posture is fear, and we end up hurting the people around us–shutting down what we don’t understand to make the world feel smaller and safer. I’m glad for those of you who play in the face of a world too wonderful–who don’t need it to feel small, but are glad for the vastness of it. You told me stories and made me glad too.
I hope you have friends and allies in your life who give you more courage to do the work you’re called to, who give you courage to live in a bigger world, and not shrink the world down to something you can manage. If you don’t, I hope you’ll get some.