An Open Letter: 14 April 2019

This is your weekly open letter from me, Berin Kinsman. It’s not technically a newsletter, but it’s a little bit different from a normal blog post. I publish one of these every Sunday at around 3pm EST.

An Open Letter: 14 April 2019

Today is Election Day in Finland. Nearly everything will be closed, or only open limited hours, so people can go and vote. Early voting has been going on for a couple of weeks. Everyone who is eligible is automatically registered — all you need to do is update your address if you move. In a functional democracy, the government makes it easy for people to participate.

An Unusual Interlude

I don’t like to talk about my day job here. You won’t find me hyping my latest book or discussing the state of the industry. It’s part of my journey, though. Everything that I’m applying here, seeking simple living and loving kindness, has to be applied there as well. So without getting too deeply into the specifics, I want to discuss some epiphanies I had about my work this week. This isn’t  geek story, I assure you. It’s a human story.

I’ve stopped looking for community within my industry.

My business Twitter has gone back to broadcast-only. Once a day I check and respond to messages there. I deleted the RSS feed that brought me industry news and showed me what bloggers, podcasters, and YouTubers in the field, both fans and pros and that huge overlap in between, had to say.

That sounds strange, I know. Who runs a business and doesn’t follow what’s going on in their industry? It’s taken me a while to wrap my head around it, to be honest. I spent a lot of time with data, doing a cost/benefit analysis, and just meditating on my feelings about it before I decided to consciously create a distance.

One factor was the realization that there is no single cohesive tribe. There are overlapping communities who gather in the same spaces, but that doesn’t mean it’s one big happy group. I don’t neatly fit in with any of those smaller tribes. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt welcome in any of those tribes. To be honest, it might be more accurate to describe them as cliques than tribes, except a clique implies a small, intimate group and not something on the scale of these sub-communities.

It might be more accurate to describe the leaders of these groups as cliques of self-appointed gatekeepers. This truly fits when you look at the problematic and toxic people that have been allowed to remain within the industry and its fandom for over a decade. Many of them were gatekeepers. Others were protected and defended by the gatekeepers. Anyone who pointed out that these individuals were problematic was summarily ejected from the tribe.

This led to some skirmishes between tribes. The focus of some of the tribes became less about the industry, the hobby, or the needs of the community, and more about how they could take down the other tribes and the terrible people they were sheltering. That’s not the business I’m in.

I sell directly to my customers, more or less. I don’t go through the gatekeepers or the established outposts of the mythical larger community. When something new comes out, I tell my customers. I can’t characterize them as a tribe, because they don’t really talk to me. They don’t leave reviews or comments. But they buy my books, and for that I’m grateful. Maybe they’re introverts like me. Maybe they’re drama-adverse, and just want to read and use the book without getting swept up in the nonsense of the larger ecosystem of the industry.

Since I reopened me personal Twitter account, I have found community there. It’s heavily filtered and carefully curated. I pretty much only follow old friends, Buddhists, and authors. My work is what I do, and I love it and continue to try to find ways to slip my values into it. But community is where I get to be who I am.

On the Blog

I’m taking a break from the blog this coming week. I need to focus on some other projects and deadlines. If I get a chance I might still drop a post or two, but nothing is planned.

If there was a theme running through this week’s posts, it was seeking peace.

Thanks and Gratitude

Even though I’m writing this mainly for my own purposes, it means a lot to have people make the effort to read it and leave comments. Thank you.

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