Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Personal vs. Community
It's no secret that so much of writing is holing up in a vacant space and zeroing in on a computer screen or a notebook and shutting the world out.
We have to shut you out, you see. It's the only way the work can get done.
And yet. And yet I have always had this inner calling to be a fixer in my community. That's a large part of why it took me 10 years to write my first novel.
I take on too many causes. Join too many committees. Tackle too many problems. Problems that, ultimately, are not solvable by just me and perhaps not even in my lifetime, such as racism.
I'm a die-hard anti-racist. I run themes of this in my novel and I plan to write my second book just on this topic. It is more than a passion. It's a lifestyle. Diversity and acceptance are our family values.
So when does a writer know when enough is enough? How do we walk that very fine line of shutting out the world and yet being a part of that bigger picture of making it better?
I do not have the answers.
I know for myself that by establishing very firm values, it's easier to pick and choose which committees (between work and personal volunteer time I sit on 15 committees plus two board of directors).
Sometimes, it takes being militant about your schedule. No, I can't go out tonight. No, I can't talk tonight. No, I won't clean tonight. (my favorite!)
It's not that writers aren't interested in their community or economic development or community, it's that their jobs can't be done with people yelling in their ear with complaints.
Which is why I choose to stay on a committee as long as the vibe is positive and gets things done as opposed to sitting around complaining and not doing anything. Being there takes up energy in my mind and that means it's taking time away from my personal goals, my family and my home.
No, writing is not a social act by any means. But, by being active socially in the community and looking at the larger problems, writing is enhanced. Writers have more images, people and situations to draw from for content or plot, depending on what genre they work in.
I might not ever be the perfect volunteer because I am a writer and I'm always putting a writing project (and my kids) first. But, I would not be a great writer if I didn't at least try to be something more in my community than just a writer.
Photo: That's actually me participating in my first 5K race in the Race Against Racism this past April.