I’m the kind who will look for signs. A huge fan of omens, I’m always looking for a burst of neon to flash, “Yes! You are on the right path!” Sometimes, you just need that little cosmic hint. It could be something as simple as a Rhode Island license plate (a long story I’ll spare you here) or Journey shouting, “Don’t Stop! Be-lee-ee-vin’!” randomly while having a conversation.
There are times when it comes in the form of a dinner with a friend you’ve had for what seems forever, though you only met once a decade before, finally seeing each other for an overdue dinner that plants the seedlings of a collaboration. Or a stranger who sends an Instagram DM and a few days later you aren’t strangers anymore. A last-minute movie viewing ends up introducing you to two kindreds. All of these things, these signs, those omens, the little twists of fate that curve the road carefully so you can meet up with members of what is, and will be, your tribe. It’s rather a beautiful thing.
Tribes are important to have. They go beyond just your circle of friends to include colleagues, compadres and brutally honest mentors. These are your ride-or-dies and then some.
The month of June, so far, has been generous — despite its horrible losses. In the first ten days, I met nearly twenty new friends, three of whom are authors of the smart, funny, generous and open variety. All, but one, of these friends are women. My dance card has been full and I am wonderfully exhausted.
This came at a moment when I was somewhat frustrated in my attempts to get too many projects off the ground and feeling little support. (Trust me, I know I’m not alone in that.) They say writing is a lonely and isolating endeavor, but the times when writers tend to feel most lonely and isolated is when we are promoting our work. Not all of us enjoy that. Pushing your project and, in essence, yourself on other people isn’t fun. It’s Sisyphean at best. Friends are fantastically supportive, but even they can fall victim to battle fatigue when you are the kind who’s constantly writing a book while promoting another with a side project to piece together and plans for a podcast, and maybe — just maybe — starting a writers’ group or retreat. These good friends, who make up the heart of your tribe, try to figure out which part to champion because they can’t do it all, either. (Writers will wear you out.)
This is why it’s important to have a diverse tribe that includes creative natives who get the endless push, the mental lethargy and emotional exhaustion that comes with filling up a blank page. You need those who are also paddling upstream while juggling grenades to help assure you that you are not alone, not even close. And that maybe — just maybe — you can get it (all) done.
“It’s nice to meet another writer who’s happy for other writers. So rare,” one new friend wrote.
That made me smile, but it also made me sad. There are still too many creative types who see it as competition. And that’s bullshit. (Allow me to point out that the two more successful writing genres are Romance and Mystery; those authors embrace each other in big ways.) Collaboration is much more fruitful than competition. There is room for everyone, so I say pry open the door, get your foot in and don’t be afraid to let someone enter before you. But, once you get in, reach back and grab someone else to lift up and through. That’s the best recipe for success. There is an unlimited supply of opportunity as long as we are willing to create more of it. Too often, though, folks close the door behind them. They don’t bother looking back, even to give a nod of thanks. They are greedy souls and no amount of success will fulfill them. While they might fight the urge to glance over their shoulders to see where their competition lies, they should really keep an eye out for karma instead. (And I know this behavior is not limited to writing/creative industries.)
“We have to stick together and support each other,” I told her.
“Totally agree with you!!!” she replied, followed by a series of empowered emojis. Yep. She’s in my tribe.
She has written an amazing memoir and is in the midst of getting a television series off the ground. I couldn’t be happier for her. That is an incredibly hard feat and an emotionally arduous process. It’s like winning the lottery, but having to actually build everything you want — house, car, plane — all by yourself while other people stand around and watch, wondering why you aren’t enjoying it more. It’s not something you can simply celebrate until it’s actually on the air because, like playing Jenga on a fault line, without doing anything at all, it can simply fall apart (shout out to the writers of “House of Cards” for having to deal with that last minute jolt, and those hoping to revamp the reboot of “Roseanne”). I want this deal to come together for her, pray that the pilot is picked up and it goes for at least five seasons on a premium network. I want her to succeed and do so epically. Not only is she a nice person who has gone through a lot and deserves good things, her to success is a success for all female authors and every writer in that writers’ room. Any time a woman gets a TV series made, it’s a big fucking deal, people. Score one for the tribe, baby!
As the “likes” and follows, DMs and texts rolled in with these new friends/collaborators/colleagues/sisters, I felt more centered. It was nice to hear them extend their support for my projects. There was a sincerity in the, “Let’s get together soon!” exchanges rather than the breeze of polite blow-offs known to happen in L.A. Believe me, I’m not putting down my hometown, which I love more than I can express. Sometimes the best of intentions fall flat — it’s called traffic, something that doesn’t blend well with overpacked schedules. (You know I love you if I get on the 10 for you. Even more so if I hit the 101.) We are short on time, spread thin on effort. We are doing everything we can to get our own stuff done. We need some forgiveness if it takes a little longer to set a playdate…or we haven’t finished your book just yet. We are working on it. We are working on a lot.
I am fortunate in the tribe that I have, the OGs who have been there through the ups and downs of the Sisyphean hustle I’ve been dancing for so long. I am grateful for their support, which is instant and unquestioning. But few are writers and, by their own admissions, they don’t understand the process or the never-ending aspect of it.
“I don’t know how you do it,” one bestie said. “But you keep doing it and I’m so impressed by that.” This was said while I was sitting in her backyard sobbing over how everything was so fucking hard and I just needed one thing to be easy.
And then, that evening, one thing was. Like some weird magic. And it was all because of my wonderful and ever-growing tribe.
June is only half over and I have lots to get done before it goes. There are dinners to schedule, world domination to plan, side projects of friends to champion and potential collaborations to plot. Next month, my second novel will be in its first book club. That came about by another twist of fate — a Little Lending Library and an Instagram DM. The readers aren’t my typical demographic, which makes it even more fun. The door opens wider and the sisterhood of the tribe swells again.
Real work needs to be accomplished as summer begins, though. I’m only on chapter two of Novel Three, and I’m feeling the weight of not getting more done there. The rock is about to roll down the hill again and another big push is set to start. But those little omens keep dropping hints, lighting my path as I step through it. I see there are a few more members of the tribe to roll with me, others are there to cheer us on, more to give advice and warnings, some to provide opportunities. We all take turns playing the roles, giving support when it’s needed, taking it when we must. The best part is that we all want the best for each other — in it to win it, pushing the door open as far as we can and pulling others through it. The more the merrier. This is the tribe I have been wanting, the one I have been creating, and now the one I have. I’m so glad to have found them, and for them to have found me.