Genius...tends to happen in community, not isolation.
~Jeff Goins in Real Artists Don't Starve,
discussing Michael Farrell's concept of "collaborative circles."
I'll admit it: the last month has been pretty rugged. Actually, make that the past half year. Granted, I did more traveling this year than I have in a long time, which is great—and promptly came down, after each trip, with whatever bug hitch-hiked a ride home with me in my ambient surroundings. Jamboree, at the beginning of June, was great—but no sooner had I arrived back home than I was smitten and banished to bed. The only non-essential excursions away from my sickbed station were to hoist myself up at my computer desk and write the next day's post.
Perhaps it was this less-than-stellar position which has brought on a longing to get together with like-minded people. I tend to think it was owing to more than just that, but relative isolation can, strangely, prompt a desire to be with people.
More than that, though, I think the desire is owing to a couple other occurrences. One has to do with a book. The other refers back to some blog posts.
First, the book. When I find myself banished from everyday life, my mainstay is often a book. Since I had just written about Jeff Goins' latest book, Real Artists Don't Starve, in my "Off the Shelf" post for June, that became my companion volume for a good part of the next week, followed by pulling one of his earlier books off the shelf to read again, as well.
I found myself gravitating to his chapter on collaboration, all the while seeing how it cross-applied with both the work I hope to achieve here in writing about my family history, and my efforts while serving on the board of our local genealogical society. Nothing significant, it seems, is accomplished by the lone wolf—not in the creative world, nor, as it certainly is borne out, in the organizational world.
Goins' observation about networking was concise—and a timely reminder:
A network is not made by just connecting with the right people, but by connecting those people to each other. It's not just who you know—it's who you help. As you make these contributions, what you will create is a group of relationships—a network—that you can take with you wherever you go.
That reminder—not just "connecting with the right people, but...connecting those people to each other"—is the key essence of networking that I think we tend to forget. Networking, in the business world, seems to have morphed into something that can be diagrammed, essentially, as spokes radiating out from the hub of a wheel—but missing that essential outer ring which makes a wheel the effective tool that it is. We miss that essential step of connecting our links to each other as well as to us, ourselves.
The second object I found myself reflecting on, after the fact, was a series of blog posts I had written just after returning from Jamboree. If you recall, they were partially prompted by Thomas MacEntee's announcement of the change in his blogging business model, and partially prompted by observing the changing dynamics in blogger Randy Seaver's customary Jamboree blog compendium.
What was interesting, in retrospect, about writing those two posts was the amount of commentary the posts generated. Readers I hadn't heard from in a long time—in some cases, had not heard from at all before that instance—felt it important to join in the conversation.
This, of course, is a wonderful dynamic. I really do feel blogging should be a dialog with readers, not a monologue presented from a far-isolated stage, and the experience reminded me of the rush that comes from being connected in such a tangible, albeit digital, way. And, based on Jeff Goins' observation about networks, it made me wish for a way to doubly reinforce those connections by linking each of the nodes in my network with each other.
Of course, that made me wish, in my fevered way that week, that we could all just get together for coffee. Or have lunch together and chat. We all share a common viewpoint—perhaps because we are all bloggers, or perhaps on account of our common fascination with genealogy—which can draw us together.
But meet-ups with people strewn across the globe is just not practical. Nor do online chats "in the ether" serve that longing to connect in quite the same way. Perhaps someone will come up with an ingenious substitute in the face of such a dilemma. Perhaps, in a way, that is what draws me to conferences—that hope to connect with someone I've heretofore only known like two ships passing in the digital night. It certainly is what drove the insanity of taking a chance at meeting a sheer stranger for coffee, like I did at my first face-to-face meeting with fellow geneabloggers Sheri Fenley (in my own hometown, of all places!) or Shelley Bishop (when I visited relatives back in Ohio).
Perhaps someone will come up with a brilliant answer to this wish to get together with like-minded people. Who knows? Perhaps you already have worked out a way to satisfy that yearning, yourself. Whatever the method, whatever underlying reason beckons, here's hoping the draw continues to pull us, and we are not deafened by the silence of our own computers as we try to reach out and touch someone, solely using the cyber-forces at our fingertips. The genius of our accomplishments will better be served by connecting with each other, in whatever way possible, to sharpen each other's efforts and urge each other on to see our goals and dreams take shape.