It’s all well and good for me to say I want to foster a community here at The Artist’s Road, but what does that really mean? And does an online community really matter?
I’ve reflected on these questions a fair amount lately. The community of blogging was the focus of my curriculum materials in Week 5 of “Writing Compelling Blog Posts,” a course I just wrapped up teaching at The Writer’s Center. But I’m living the questions now, as I work to maintain this blog’s momentum while faced with the challenge of new professional commitments.
I find myself thinking about a passage from Jared Diamond’s . Diamond is a scientist who spent years studying the independent communities scattered across the thick jungles Papua New Guinea. What he learned is that a community is built on trust. If a community is small enough for most people to know each other, and for an interdependency to form, then the community doesn’t really need a lot of laws, or police, or systems of punishment. The community is self-sustaining, and self-supporting.
In my class materials, I tell bloggers that in the world of social media, we as bloggers are villagers.
You can remain on your blogging island, and wait for readers to sail to your shore. If your blog is compelling enough, you’ll see regular arrivals. You’ll chart arithmetic growth. But when you think of your blog not as an island, but as a hut in a village, your readership will grow exponentially.
It’s not that simple, of course. But when I write a post like this, I imagine myself seated just outside my hut. I happily share whatever I’m pondering at that moment with whoever walks by. They are free to keep walking, but my hope is that one or two of them will stop, listen to my musings, and offer their own feedback. They give me their time, and their wisdom, and I am richer for it.
This particular post has two triggers. The first is my most recent guest post, by Melissa Crytzer Fry. She is a great example of a blogger who views her readers as a community. She welcomes you outside of her hut, but she is very good about visiting the huts of those who visit her. I am not as disciplined at that very important part of our community.
The other trigger was some kind words on Twitter about community and The Artist’s Road by two of my favorite creatives, Carole Jane Treggett (@cjtreggett) and Mari Pfeiffer (@mischief_mari). Like Melissa, I know Carole Jane and Mari solely through social media. I have gained great enjoyment and wisdom from interacting with them, and with others in my virtual community.
I fear that as I struggle with new pressures on my time, The Artist’s Road will become an island, a place a few brave souls seek but one I rarely leave, or even spend much time welcoming visitors. I am determined to build into my new schedule some time to sit outside my hut, and stroll about to see who else might be outside of their huts. I just wish I could articulate how much I truly value those visits, and this community. I am learning how central it is to staying on the path of an art-committed life.