When I started hanging out in writers circles, going to conventions and stuff, I had it in my head that there was a cool kids table. I distinctly remember at the World Horror Convention in New York City, a time when I was standing around while Gary Braunbeck, Lucy Snyder, Linda Addison, Gerard Houarner, Tom Piccirilli and his wife Michelle were talking. They were planning on going out to dinner then they turned and invited me to join them. “Are you sure it’s okay?” I asked as I was filled with all kinds of “do you know who you are?” type thoughts as I was “just a nobody.” My big take home lesson was that while I was busy thinking that maybe I had graduated to the adults table at Thanksgiving, they had the attitude of “all you had to do to earn a place at the table was to scoot to the table.”
The thing is, too much of our lives, and by “lives” I mean social traumas and scars, can be traced back to high school. We envision a cool kids tables, those kids who defined who was in and who was out. We live with this sense that there is a community that we’re being excluded from, that there are cliques not open spaces. That certain people can marshal people around them while you toil away alone, unwanted, and unappreciated, all of which touches on older wounds of feeling unloved.
This feeling of exclusion speaks to our longing for community. We want to connect, we want to be accepted. We want to be noticed by “them”: the successful, the cool, the people who are where we want to be. We lose sight of the people already in our lives and spheres who have been supporting us all along.
Few people want to be the outsiders. Even the self-labeled outsiders often seek the community of like-minded outsiders. So while we may feel like we’re the ones always reaching out only to be left on the outside looking in, we need to be careful to not internalize that feeling of being excluded to the point where we become bitter and neurotic about it. We need to be mindful of the friends and community that we already have in our lives. And keep in mind that so many of us writers are SO good in social situations/socially adjusted in the first place. (I’m stunned that there’s any sense of community at all not that we don’t do it especially well.)
There are no gatekeepers to relationship building. No social ladders to climb. Only people. Yes, there are climbers out there and people just out to mercenary network who WILL name-badge people, count you as a “nobody”, and move on. More times than not, however, the community at large is filled with people who can never have too many friends. So I need to stop being shocked that people in the genre community are so welcoming and nice when approached, after all, they know. Growing up geek, they’ve been excluded, been on the outside looking in, and had been given a helping and welcoming hand as they were rising. And they are just as shocked to find out they now sit at the cool kids table.
File under: The emotional life of writing