Where's the humanity?
I wrote this headline and immediately gave myself pause, because I think my answer is no, I'm not. There's a big difference between connections (social media followers) and strong connections (selfless relationships). As entrepreneurs, we place a huge emphasis on gaining a following in the hopes of earning clients, but first, we have to earn our community's selfless trust. That being said, I want to try something here.
Are you with me?
One of many things I've learned managing online communities is that in the internet space, we can easily forget one another's humanity, how we're all people trying to do well and do good. In the spirit of the latter, I want to do some good with an old-fashioned cheer up. I regularly sent snail mail letters to community members in the past and have fallen off the wagon. With no strings attached, I want to mail you a card, handwritten and personalized. Admittedly, it makes me feel good, so, sorry, but you're helping my soul, too.
In the field below, let me know who you are, a little something about you (huge Beatles fan? want a pet sloth? attend a chili pepper festival every year? working your bum off so you can go full-time with your passion?) and ... that's it. I won't email you, share your address or hang onto any personal information other than the warm, fuzzy feeling you're giving me by letting me take time to share a single, one-to-one connection with you, away from the social bots.
It feels odd, right? Anonymously sparring with a stranger online over our differing political views has us jumping in the ring, feeling scrappy, but the thought of a tangible moment in hand? Why does benevolence scare us?
Think of a moment you've been offered kindness, how rosy and loved it made you feel, and imagine the supreme gift of giving that feeling to someone else. That's the effect of a selfless connection. I had a college professor for creative non-fiction who recommended gifting someone a piece of your writing. What if the piece you work on today were only for a loved one's pleasure, with no aims to publish it? What if it isn't absolutely perfect or your character's dialect is all wrong? It doesn't lessen the offering.
For me, I'm thinking about the times someone further along in their career has given me a gift:
- A magazine editor who, instead of rejecting a piece I submitted, took time to help me edit it until it was at its strongest, then she bought it. It's being published this spring.
- Or when I was first starting in journalism, and a newspaper editor took a chance on a college kid who'd pasted her portfolio clippings to construction paper. I still write for him, 10 years later.
- Most personally, my husband was on board when I took the leap into my writing and editing work full time -- a gift of trust and support.
If you're looking to strengthen your connection to the creative community -- and hey, if you're a creative, you're already part of this community, so don't dally; we miss you -- four of my favorite beginner's bridge-building tips are:
- Include a Twitter handle field in your email signup form, if you have one, and then follow the folks who share their handle with you.
- Always tweet back at someone who has tweeted at you and respond to those who reply to your blog posts. It's simply good manners.
- Use personalization in your emails. Gone are the days of Dear Sir or Madam. If you know someone's name, use it!
- Listen to and consider every idea coming from a place of desired improvement. We want people to be their best, and so if someone suggests a different way you might structure your story and it feels incongruent with who you are, step back and reread your story from that person's eyes. It doesn't mean you have to follow their advice, but if they took the time to suggest a way you might improve, the least you can do is consider their recommendation before discarding it.
Stop and think: How does your community feel you're treating them?
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