All humans have a drive to belong: to a tribe, a family, or these days especially, to a like-minded group, whether it be about a sport, hobby, or general interest (such as pottery or quilting). I recently wrote a blog about needing a team to get a book to market. But that’s not the same as the type of group I want to address today. I’m referring to groups like the one I joined Sunday for our monthly meeting – the Heart of Texas Sisters in Crime (HOTSINC). The Austin chapter is just one of many members of the international Sisters in Crime organization. This is from their About page:
We are 3600 members in 50 chapters world-wide, offering networking, advice and support to mystery authors. We are authors, readers, publishers, agents, booksellers and librarians bound by our affection for the mystery genre and our support of women who write mysteries. Sisters in Crime was founded by Sara Paretsky and a group of women at the 1986 Bouchercon in Baltimore.
I have belonged to HOTSINC since 1995 and served as President in 2003. It’s a wonderful organization, full of women (and even men) who have the same goals. The monthly presentations are always interesting, and the dinner gathering after the meeting is a lovely opportunity to network and just get to know other members. And to get a sense of belonging.
Like many other artistic/creative endeavors, writing is an isolated activity. Belonging to a group like Sisters in Crime offers a chance to be with others who also spend much of their lives alone with a keyboard. In fact, there is nothing like the camaraderie of hanging with others who are interested in the same things we are. Sometimes they can help us succeed, other times they simply provide emotional support and encouragement. Both are equally valuable.
Another great thing about groups are field trips. Visiting a place that has special meaning in relation to an interest or hobby is always fun, but visiting with a group is a wonderful experience, indeed. We see more, learn more, have more fun, and make more powerful memories. Perhaps this goes all the way back to our nomadic days, when groups set out with a goal (finding food, finding shelter, discovering a new land), knowing that accomplishing the goal was more likely to be successful thanks to the group. Granted, that success may have been because even with overwhelming odds and disasters, at least a few members were likely to survive. Still, that “let’s all go” instead of “I’ll go” mindset seems to have remained.
Over the years, I’ve belonged to many groups as my interests and hobbies came and went. I was a member of the Austin Pond Society when I was into koi and backyard ponds, first as a hobbyist and later as a professional pond builder. And because I always go full-out when I join a group, I served as APS president for a couple of years, too.
I’ve even founded a couple of groups and started a couple of local chapters of existing groups when I discovered one didn’t already exist in my region. I’ve been told by people they’d love to be a member of a critique group, for example, except there’s none near them. START ONE! I can guarantee there are at least a few others pining for the same group. And imagine the joy and excitement of starting a group and making it be exactly what you envisioned joining. And the group will likely remain after your interests have changed and you’ve moved on. Others will reap the benefits of your having created the group. What an amazing legacy.
I’ve also been a member of many other groups: pottery, other writing, animal rescue, Thunderbird owners, and a variety of local organizations dedicated to various civic improvement projects and goals. Each was valuable and rewarding. Each offered that powerful sense of belonging we humans all seem to crave. Many of the members of groups I used to belong to are still friends, although most are not. And that’s okay. We are attracted to people who are interested in the same things. When our interests change, it’s only natural that at least some of our friends would change along with it.
I now belong to a handful of groups. All are quite different, but almost all have one thing in common – a strong tie to creativity and celebration of words, whether spoken or written. The “live” groups include: the aforementioned Sisters in Crime, the Sassy Ladies Book Club book discussion group, my wonderful and amazing Lockhart Writers critique group, and the Gaslight-Baker Theatre (in fact, I’m on the board). I belong to a number of Facebook groups, as well, most still related to writing. My favorite is the Fiction Writers Group, where no self-promotion is allowed. Instead, we discuss the craft of writing. I’ve helped mentor some of the newer writers. Some more experienced writers have mentored me. It may be online only, but I still have that sense of belonging and consider a number of members to be friends.
Even if you’re an introvert (which I am) consider finding a group or two that shares an interest you love. You won’t be sorry. And if you already belong to one or more groups, please take a minute and post a comment about your favorite group and what you love about it.