Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Thoughtful Tuesday: Dangerous Tribe Talk

I've been noticing a trend with writers and bloggers online. Lots of people are talking about finding their tribe. In an interview over at Copyblogger, author Jeff Goins says, "I write nonfiction books and share what I learn with my tribe." He's referring to a core group of stalwart fans as his tribe.

Lissa Rankin shares another definition of tribe. She refers to that group of people where you are totally comfortable--where everything clicks and you are understood. Lissa writes, "I tried to find my tribe, but no matter what I tried, I always felt like the odd duck swimming with swans, who all seemed to enjoy a sense of belonging I never quite felt." She also gives her tips for finding your tribe.

As a writer, I think there's a cross between these two definitions. There are those fans who just get you--your "people," as Jenny Lawson would say. Professionals in the book marketing sphere probably call this your "target audience." Which is a lot less personal. And also, sounds much safer.

Because let's face it: based on my research, finding your tribe is fraught with danger.

What if you finally locate your tribe, and the village has been destroyed by famine, pestilence or war. What if you're too late? I'm often late with trends and fads--what if the same thing happens here? In the writing world, that would be like working for a year on a novel, then having an agent or an editor say "that genre is burned out/so last year/no longer selling." That would be heartbreaking.

What if you find your tribe and they hate each other? Who wants to be responsible for causing a civil war? I'm not talking Team Jacob verses Team Edward here. Be honest; that was less a civil war and more a genius marketing ploy. But what if you want to be able to work in two genres, discuss multiple ideas, or grow over time? Are you limited by your tribe, or can you have more than one?

Finally, what if your tribe steals your heart? You know, like in Indiana Jones. Or, what if they all turn out to be cannibals? Does anyone else remember that movie where the natives tried to make soup out of Richard Chamberlain and his lady friend? These are the risks you face when you go hunting for a tribe.

Sometimes, I feel like it's better to stay at home and hide behind the notebook. But then I realize that'll only fill so many pages, so I put on the proverbial safari hat and venture forth. Who wants to come along with me? Let's create a tribe. Only admission requirements: Swear not to eat people or steal body parts.

Tweetable: It's dangerous to go alone--take a tribe via @sestasik [Tweet this!]


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Kate :) Welcome...aboard? Or perhaps "welcome to crazy village, where we love weird stuff and try not to bite each other..." (This tribe is totally gonna sell itself...)

  2. Oh, I totally feel you. Finding a tribe is much harder than it looks on paper. I have always felt like I was a day late to the party, and blogging is no exception. It definitely helps to have the support of other like-minded bloggers, but I keep waiting to find my "people" in terms of readers...

    1. Perhaps our tribe is all the people that are a day late to the party? How do we round them up?

      I think one of the issues I have is that I don't have a specific, targeted message. And I don't really intend to...but that makes it hard for people to identify immediately as part of the "tribe." Unless they recognize the confusion displayed as part of themselves.

  3. I don't really like the tribe metaphor, because I think you can only belong to one tribe. I prefer to think that I belong in several overlapping groups.

  4. It's all Seth Godin's fault. He wrote a book that all the hipsters read (or claimed to read) called "Tribes". Pro bloggers like Darren Rowse then ate the damn book, and have been regurgitating it ever since.