Discipline requires me to reflect on my own need for improvement while maintaining my part in community.
Once in a great while, I think it might be nice to live in a vacuum. A space entirely void of matter. No sound. Nothing. Almost like being timeless. It seems so peaceful. Being in a vacuum seems like the ultimate in rest therapy. Especially this year.
The problem with vacuum living is that it is entirely void of matter. And everything that matters. It’s a suffocating, airless existence that wouldn’t be as restful as I would want it to be unless I get a whole lot better at stasis and lack of oxygen.
I joined Twitter back in 2011 and it was oxygen. Suddenly, I had access to people all over creation with all kinds of perspectives. I followed publishers and editors, agents and book bloggers. I followed writers and artists. The flow of information washed over me in welcome waves. People linked to all sorts of resources, most of which I’d never have happened upon myself. For lots of folks, finding community online probably happened way before 2011.
I was late to pretty much every aspect of computing and ye olde internets. I grew up in small town, rural Oklahoma. My family had no game system or PC before I left for college. School computers were only used for keyboarding class. As a college freshman in 1995, I had to learn how to use a floppy disk. Very often, I demagnetized them…simply by being myself. I had a cell phone and a laptop in 2001, used pretty much exclusively for phone calls and word processing. Fast forward to 2010, when my nephew fell ill. He turned 18, ran a five-minute-mile, and then had a blast crisis (leukemia) – all while at basic combat training away from home. That summer, I sent my first text message. Because I needed connection. And I wished I had sent them earlier and often. I also joined Facebook. But then, THEN I found Twitter.
Twitter felt like being expelled from the vacuum of my life and into a wider, brighter world. I learned so much by listening.
This year, much has been made of so-called toxic book Twitter. It’s not book Twitter or YA Twitter that is toxic but specific uses and users within all communities. I’ve been known to call social media antisocial a time or two. There, too, it’s a matter of use.
Recently, when I announced my 2018 theme, I took a vacation from Facebook and Twitter through the end of next year. Not because it’s toxic but because of my ambitious theme. The choice felt like both versions of the vacuum: quiet rest and cold void.
Thing is, regardless of the toxic people or uses of Twitter, I continued to learn through the day I left for vacation.
I need to improve. As a human, as an artist, as a writer. I need to learn more about differing perspectives. I need more and better tools to grow into the artist I want to become. I need to learn the business of writing. I need to improve as a conveyor of ideas. My voice, my message, my future livelihood – all depend on my improvement.
Living in Oklahoma with no resources for attending conferences, and now choosing to be away from social media, I wonder how best to maintain a sense of community. I can involve myself with local art and writing events, SCBWI meetings, and volunteer opportunities. I can seek out blogs and all that great information Twitter brought my way, and maybe even find things when I need them rather than in the out-of-sync stream of social media. I can entrench myself in the resources I know about, like SCBWI, SVS, and Manuscript Academy.
Unsurprisingly, my artistic life isn’t my only area rife with opportunities to improve. The discipline is essentially the same. Step 1: Reflect on areas for self-improvement. Step 2: Maintain a part in the community (including subcommunities).
If we all keep noticing our need to improve and reaching into our communities, the world will keep getting bigger and brighter and better. And maybe the pull of the vacuum will calm down and leave us to our breath.