It’s the number between 41 and 43.

It was Jackie Robinson’s number when he played ball.

It’s also the almighty answer to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.

42 is also how old I turned as of 8:11a eastern time, which is 7:11a in the time zone I was born. That may only be interesting to me, but there you have it.

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to wax poetic today, talk about how far I’ve come in life, where I want to be when I’m 52 or shit like that, but really, I don’t feel like doing any of that.

It’s been a quiet day here: I worked the corporate gig (which, really, was a bitch today because I hate when I can’t solve the problems set before me), got some cards with some stuff, had some coffee, had some dinner with the family (including the grandkids), and even had some perfectly off-tune strangers sing me a short version of “Happy Birthday” and that was okay, too.

I guess what I’m saying is this: I turned 42, it’s neither a big deal or a little deal, it just is. Or, you could look at it this way,  Robert Kennedy was assassinated at the age of 42, it’s the age Elvis overdosed and died on a bathroom floor, and hey, Ted Bundy was executed at the age of 42. Sure, those guys  were all famous and shit, they’d accomplished a lot by 42, but look where they are compared to me.

All things considered, I think I’m doing pretty good, and that’s good enough.

[As a side note… if I croak before I turn 43, somebody remember this post and make me famous. I don’t care how.]

Fivers for Supporting Your (local) Writing Community

This is one of those topics where it’s hard to find a starting point. Mostly, this is because I can’t imagine why any writer wouldn’t support their local community.

When I say local, I’m talking within an hour or two of where you live. If you’re in a big city, well, then your community is probably huge anyway. But, I live in a small town, where the community is tiny (like 3-4 of us). However, I’m fortunate enough to be stuck between two larger areas (Columbus, Ohio and *collectively* North Central Ohio, which is everything between Columbus and Cleveland), and I’ve done my best to bridge the gaps between them.

Here’s why…

  1. Professional support and diverse experiences that go beyond a writing group. Writing groups aren’t for everyone, obviously, and each group has its own goals, methods, and, of course, people. Usually, different groups don’t share members for various reasons: distance, genre, and type of group just being a few. Now, like mine, your local community is probably comprised of two or more groups, and while their composition is surely different, every writer has the same goals: to get better, to succeed, and to keep writing. The more people helping to do that, the easier and faster it’ll happen for everyone.
  2. Builds your “brand recognition” further than just a writing group. Everyone has friends and/or fans, even writers. When you help out, when you show up, when you’re present, people remember that. Then they talk about that experience, they talk about you, and now your name is in the ears of people it may never have been before.
  3. Exposes you to a wider variety of writers in different genres, exposes you to writers more successful than you, and to writers less successful than you. In other words, you become more empathetic to every writer’s plight and path, and that’s a very good thing.
  4. Lifelong friendships. Sure, you can forge these inside your writing group, and you probably will, but going from a writers’ group to the larger community is like going from middle school into high school: it’s a bigger, wider world and that’s where the magic happens. Your friends in middle school are great, but you’ll make even better ones in high school. As introverts by nature, it’s always easier to communicate with people who share our passions.
  5. Giving is always better than receiving. The more you give back to writers both below and above your own current level of success, the better you’ll feel. It’s a soul-deep feeling, at least for me, because I know I’m contributing to my tribe, I’m helping my people.

Bottom line here is that no writer is an island. We don’t get along by ourselves, we don’t exist in a vacuum. No, your significant other doesn’t count, nor do your kids, or your parents, not even your dogs. Sure, these connections are awesome, and they sustain us, but only for a time.

Your community, you support them, they’ll support you. That pendulum will sway both ways, sometimes further toward you and other times further away, but it will swing. And it has a force, a momentum, that regardless of the direction it’s going, you’ll want to be there, you’ll want to feel the wind it generates, let it propel you forward. You’ll want to smell the excitement, taste the brainstorming. There’s nothing quite like a good local community, and it’s something every writer should experience.