I read an article recently by Kamy Wicoff, the Founder of She Writes, an online writing community and press. She shares thoughts of attending the first OUT OF THE BINDERS Conference aka BinderCon.
Kamy Wicoff also shares key components focused on what has made her organization She Writes successful so far. What resonated with me was her message on humility and sharing. The humility in asking help from community, and the willingness to learn and share. Her words are empowering as well as affirming.
“I still have so much to learn about creating successful community, and am eager for inspiration and guidance as I contemplate She Writes’ path from here. But I’m also grateful for the opportunity to reflect on what I see as the key components to our success so far.
1) Create the community you need. They say we write the books we need–the ones we looked for on the shelf but couldn’t find, the stories we eventually ensure are in the world by writing them ourselves. I certainly felt like that about my first book, I Do But I Don’t, which I wrote mostly because it was the book I wish I could have read during the months between my engagement and my wedding. With She Writes, Deborah Siegel and I set out to create the community–and resource–we needed as two published authors trying to navigate a rapidly changing publishing landscape. We started by asking ourselves what WE needed, and the answers came quickly and urgently: 1) a place to ask questions, and post answers, about the increasing and unprecedented pressures of promotion and platform on writers; 2) a place to honor the art of writing and reconnect with our craft, promotion and platform be damned, and; 3) a place to address the unique challenges faced by women who write, with the aim of empowering and educating women writers through community. The bottom line: don’t create what you think other people want. Build what you need, and they will come.
2) Consciously push beyond your networks. When Debbie and I opened our virtual doors, we had already seeded the community with colleagues and friends. In the months and years that followed, we had to make a conscious, constant effort to expand the community beyond our inner circles by doing our homework and reaching out to existing organizations and communities. If we hadn’t, She Writes would never have expanded beyond our friends, and friends of friends. The bottom line: Push yourself to be inclusive and expansive. The ones you really need–the ones you don’t know yet–will not come if you don’t find them and invite them in.
3) Be humble. Be helpful. It is easy, when starting something new, to get caught up in the brilliance of it all: We are going to change the world! Nobody has ever done this before! Nobody is doing it right! There is a place for these feelings, of course (see #1); without them, it would be hard to summon the energy required to start something new. At the same time, your new thing–whatever it is–will not exist in a vacuum. You are probably not the only person to ever have your idea. It is crucial to educate yourself about others in the space, and, when appropriate, to reach out to them with humility, to say, “I’d love to learn from you,” rather than, “Look what I’m doing!” In our early years my mantra was: Ask not what another organization can do for us, but what we can do for them. As I’ve said before, generosity is the new currency, particularly online. And I have never regretted leading with the question, “How can I help?” as a way to start a relationship with a person or an organization. Bottom line: Give, and you shall receive.
4) Invest others in whatever you build. I think for writerly undertakings, in particular, this is key. Attempting to make yourself the center of a community, a literary publication, or a publisher (like She Writes Press), undermines the whole enterprise, because these things exist in order to provide a platform for writers, and writing, you love. Whenever I run into or correspond with a She Writes member who has a book or an article coming out, I always say, “Remember, She Writes is YOURS!” And as long as she understands that she should invest others in what she’s doing by teaching or inspiring, rather than by just promoting, the platform is hers to use. Bottom line: Build a house for we, not a vehicle for me.
5) Wear the shirt. I have Gloria Feldt to thank for this one. In her practical and powerful book “No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power,” Power Tool #6 is “Wear the Shirt,” which, as Gloria puts it, is a metaphor for sharing your convictions with others. When you start something like She Writes, however, it is no metaphor. You are wearing the shirt for all to see, online and in real life–and it is very, very hard to take it off. Sometimes I have hated this. Sometimes I have wished so much that I could lose the shirt, take a break, be invisible, call the whole thing off! But I am so grateful for the reminder of my commitment, and my convictions, that wearing the shirt so publicly gives me. Great things–namely She Writes Press–have come of the fact that at times, I have kept on simply because I have been too embarrassed to quit. Bottom line: If you build it, you are stuck with it, and that can be a beautiful (or at least a worthwhile) thing.” Kamy Wicoff, Founder She Writes
Thank you, Kamy Wicoff for sharing with our readers.