Wednesday Workshop: Tribes, Doubts, and Traps

Don't walk into traps.

It sounds like sound advice, but we often just walk into them willingly or without knowing better. Here's a hateful post, let's call it out or pile on. Here's a negative way of looking at the book market, calling it hopeless. Here's to telling ourselves our writing will never get any better or anyone will even care or notice. Here's to thinking we have to write in one genre, or there aren't incredible opportunities elsewhere.

They are traps because this is you, or someone else, telling you how to think. It's like a magical unreasonable godmother shows up and gives you a list of reasons to down on yourself, quit, or take a view of something that is one way of thinking straight to defeats-ville.

Part of this is the culture nowadays. We live in a strange time, between a media-driven world and one driven by online tribalism. Change-the-subject click-bait agitators live in our culture in every form of media, from gaming to sports and they cause dissent by distraction. We used to be told what to watch and what to think by this same oft-careless and completely off-subject pop-culture media, but now our opinions are being mostly formed by groups or 'tribes' online. We join a tribe for some particular belief, or form one ourselves, and we help spread the word. We may join multiple tribes for multiple causes, and we wrap ourselves in a particular way of looking at the world.

Members of the media, not just 'real' news but on sites like gaming and movies, embed themselves in tribes and use their supposedly objective and fact-based job to spread their tribe's message. It's not just about a game's merits or film's artistry anymore, but spreading a message unrelated to the basic facts of reviewing a game or putting a film in context of cinema. It is all political, right or left, these days and it comes at us from both sides.

I tire of it because now I sort my review sites into right-leaning and left-leaning and I can never get a straight answer of 'is this any good' from either of them.

All I get is their politics.

I was struck by one of the last presidential debates, and I went to read about it from both sides. I don't want to get today's politics into this, but a larger trend fascinated me.

Both sides, at the time, said they won.

How could that be? Spin, yes, but what else? There is always a measure of 'we won this' hype on both sides, but regardless of what you believe or who you support, step back and take a look at what is happening. People see what they want to believe. The opinion is formed before the event, and the tribe's view of the outcome is predisposed. Yes, we all like to think we are rational, reasonable people and events shape our beliefs; but in a larger sense we often go into a new experience with a predisposed notion of the outcome.

Politics is now over from this discussion, as I just wanted to use this as an example of how this tribal view happens. It is so hard to step out of one side or the other and see this happening, as emotions get in the way of reason and logic.

It is very rare something totally unexpected happens and we are taken by surprise and we change our views as a result. Think about that. Think about the most die-hard members of a tribe on either side and something happens, something incredible, that forces them to take a step back and rethink their world.

I don't see that happening, to tell you the truth. I fear both sides of many issues are too stuck in their ways to change.

Tribes spread views, and you could have one member say 'the book market sucks' and you (or a subset of the tribe) taking that as a truth. We tend to pick and choose the facts we use to make beliefs with that conform to the beliefs we already have. Well yes, of course, this is simple logic right? I am describing how rain is made or how a sunset works. Simple cause and effect is simple. What does it matter?

It matters when you talk yourself out of trying. It matters when you talk yourself out of success. A lot of life depends on being the last person left trying and working on the things you love - long after normal people would have quit. There are always those stories of the entrepreneur or artist trying and failing for years when everyone around them telling them what they were called to do was hopeless and pointless - and then all of a sudden, success.


What that person knew all along and tried in vain for years is finally proven to be something people wanted.

You need to set yourself up in that mode of thinking. You need to see yourself as a reclusive genius working on your next masterpiece, and the world just doesn't get you. Not yet. If people don't respond, it is just a matter of getting the word out. It's never your work. It is just a communication problem. What you do is unique, powerful, and special. Skill matters, message matters, but stamina and staying power matters more.

Without the will and energy to take that next step, you never will.

I fail at this many times, I do. I hurt only myself and those who love my work. I work on this as well, so there is my promise.

Talking yourself out of your future is probably the number one danger to the success waiting for you. You need to get there, so don't turn around or talk yourself out of the trip. If the trip sucks, don't assume the next one will.

You need to keep trying.

You also need to have a layer of bullshit protection, and also be a little careful about what you hear from tribes - especially the ones you are in. You come first, and your dream is valid and more important than everything else in the world that may be going on, distracting you, or possibly upsetting you. What happens every day really doesn't last or matter, but the things you believe in and love will last.

Don't let the everyday get in the way of your future.

Stay the course and believe.