I've gushed countless times about the community here at MSFV. Today I'd like to broaden that gushing to include All of Writerkind.
Well, perhaps not all. But it remains true, to a large extent, that writers as a group--as a community--are kind to and supportive of each other in a way you don't see in other industries, or even in other branches of the fine arts.
True, there's something about the geekiness of "all musicians/thespians/ballerinas/artists together" that creates a special kind of community for each of these. As a music major at a small, liberal arts college, I experienced the "small family-ness" that came with being a part of the music community there. We all KNEW each other. Those of us who were serious about our instruments were ALWAYS IN THE MUSIC HALL.
The doors to the practice rooms had tiny windows in them so you could peek in to see who was practicing (though, you usually knew, anyway, by the instrument and repetoire; the school was that small). When I wanted to have a serious, non-interrupted practice session on the piano, I would tape a piece of notebook paper over the window so nobody would bother me.
Of course, those who loved me most would barge in, anyway--they knew it was my Mozart or my Brahms or my Beethoven coming from behind that door. Once, a friend brought me a sandwich from the snack bar because he knew I wasn't going to stop practicing to eat supper (he was right).
It was my favorite kind of sandwich, too.
That kind of community, I think, dissolves when you move to higher levels. At a top-notch music school crammed with Very Talented People, the level of competition is going to be a lot higher. Cut-throat, even. The biggest competition at my school was getting the best piano in the practice wing (And boy, did I get angry when another piano major stole my room!)
The same goes for dance and theatre. At lower levels, there's more camaraderie than competition, except for those occasions when, for instance, two or more divas are vying for a coveted lead role in the high school musical. At a professional level, though, this competition becomes so fierce that, honestly, I don't know how people survive it. (Have you ever watched a documentary on professional ballet dancing? It's almost frightening.)
In the non-arts world, competitiveness often outweighs camaraderie, too. While there certainly exist those groups of people who are truly supportive and in it for the "us" instead of the "me", in the end it's an each-man-for-himself world. We all know this; many of us strive to swim upstream and not live life this way.
Yet you have this wonderful cross-segment called "Writers", who seem to instinctively and collectively live life this way. And it doesn't change as the writers morph from "newbie" to "on my way" to "agented" to "published". The support and encouragement and cheerleading and book-buying and back-patting continues.
And I believe it's sincere.
If we thought about it, we could create a you-against-me atmosphere pretty quickly. Both querying the same agent? She's mine! Both published by the same house? My book will sell more!
But it doesn't happen. It really doesn't.
Perhaps the journey itself creates this phenomenon. Aside from the occasional, overnight super-success story, we all slump our way through the valleys and over the hurdles together, and those who go before us help lead the way, even though our personal twists and turns will differ. Then, as we turn to look over our shoulders, we see those who are coming up behind us, so we offer our own brand of wisdom and help and you-can-do-it-ness.
It transcends everything, too. Gender, age, race, socioeconomics, religion. When we are together, we are, simply, writers.
What's your take on this? Why is it, do you think, that writers are so universally supportive of each other? Why does this community feel so much safer than a lot of what's out there?
If only we could bottle this and apply it to every other portion of our lives! I'm so thankful to simply be a writer. To simply be a part of all this.
Something tells me that you feel the same way.