I spent an amazing weekend with this group! The goal? To get in touch with the genius that we all have and to use that genius for good (actually, we are all writers, so the real goal was to use that genius to write something considered, well…genius!).
The power of community is something I did not understand until much later in life. I’m not sure why. I have always been somewhat of a loner. Not necessarily socially. I love being out among people. In fact, I am at Starbucks right now simply because I like being around people. But when it comes to work, I have always been more of a “do it myself” kind of girl. And I’ve always been proud of that too. I now cringe at the thought of how many times I have bragged about not needing anyone. Not ever asking for help. Being able to figure things out myself. Installing ceiling fans and toilets – all by myself. You know the type, I am sure. We re all over the place, usually struggling and overwhelmed!
As a writer, I have spent most of my career honing my craft alone, but doing so to such a degree that when I used to submit articles to newspapers and magazines, nearly everything I submitted was not only purchased, but also praised for needing little to no editing. Editors loved me! I am only saying that to convey how good I got at working alone. I never showed anyone a single word I had written. I never asked for feedback or bounced ideas off anyone. I did it all myself. Yay!
Of course, despite what I would consider success in that realm, you have probably never heard of me, right? That’s because there is a limit to how far one can get without the advice, guidance, wisdom, and feedback from others, especially others with more expertise. It is simply impossible for me to know and see everything I need to find success at a higher level.
But now that I am tackling this screenplay, I find that I am at a severe disadvantage. Oh sure. I can spend the next twenty years, if I survive them, perfecting this new skill at my corner table in Starbucks. But I now understand that there is a better way. The problem is that I have to learn a whole new outlook, but old habits die hard.
I do not have a community of writers who have gone through the ranks with each other and who provide honest constructive feedback. In fact, I don’t hang out with any writers. I have been navigating this world on my own.
The thing is, I understand how that lack of community has held me back in so many areas of my life. And it has actually cost me untold amounts of money, believe it or not. I have done everything by myself. And guess what?? I am not an expert in all of these things I have tried to do by myself. I do my own taxes, I file my own legal papers (divorce, wills – nothing too complicated, but still!), I invest in stocks, I handle the college financial aid process for my children, I construct all my own lesson plans as a teacher. I think you get the idea.
This worked for me for a long time. I’m pretty scrappy! But the problem is that at some point, you get in over your head. As long as things remain simple, and as long as I am content being average, this is a great plan. However, it would be impossible for me to be an expert in all of these different areas. In fact, as I now realize, it is a waste of time to try to be an expert in all of these areas. All of that time spent trying to figure out my taxes (yeah, the tax laws in this country are absolutely ridiculous) is time that I should have spent perfecting my strength and passion – my writing. I should have sent the other tasks off to experts who have studied the tax code and work with it on a daily basis. I certainly could have used a tax accountant’s help.
But as I get older, things are not as simple as they once were. And I find that I have no one to turn to, no community of resources.
My 16-year-old son somehow understands the importance of a team better than I have. He and his two best friends have decided to study different fields in college – one law, one accounting, and one marketing – so that they can all work together when they graduate. Smart kids.
Actively seeking a community of writers, I literally stumbled on the group in the photo, led by author William Whitecloud (he wrote The Magician’s Way – great book for anyone looking to achieve seemingly hard-to-reach goals).
The weekend began with William explaining that the problem with most people is that we do not believe we have what it takes, that we don’t have “it” in us, to achieve our dreams, our goals. His job? To show us that we all, including you (yes, you!), have what it takes to achieve anything we want. I know, that often sounds like a cliche. You can do ANYTHING, blah, blah, blah. But he took us past the cliche and showed us just exactly how to tap into that genius. And once you get a taste of your own powers, it is difficult to go back to not believing anymore.
What I loved the most about the weekend though was probably the group of people. Everyone is a writer and values creativity. Everyone was open to hearing what William had to show us about ourselves. Everyone participated without hesitation or complaint. Everyone made it a point to scratch below the surface as we interacted with each other. I left craving this sort of community to support me in my writing. And not surprisingly, others clearly felt the same because we exchanged numbers, created a Facebook page, and have already planned future get-togethers.
And maybe that was the message in the end. Our genius comes from our ability to let go of everything that stops us or slows us down on a day-to-day basis. Our genius lies in our intuition, that intuition we have been taught to distrust or to suppress. Our genius lies in our ability to see other people, not for the facade they present to the world, either knowingly or unknowingly, but in their humanity, struggling with their pain and their distant dreams. For we all suffer, and we all long for more.
How do I know this? Just ask. One of the most powerful questions you can ask someone, stranger or intimate friend, is “If money were not an issue, what would you be doing with your life?” Many people have never thought about this, and others, filled with emotion, can’t wait to tell you. Both types of responses move me in unexpected ways.
For me? I would produce my screenplay, travel the world, visiting loved ones and collecting experiences and stories,. Plus I would write, write, and then write some more. Oh, and what I could not capture in words, I would capture in photographs, inspiring others to find their genius.
So how about it? I challenge you to ask someone in the next 24 hours about their dreams. It can be the barista at Starbucks, the bartender at happy hour, your sister, or the gentleman who sits next to you at work. I think you might learn something. Share with me the responses you get! I would love to hear.