Words Vs. Plants

I recently joined a plant identification group while trying to identify a plant I found in the woods. There are currently, I believe, around four thousand international members of this group.

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Identified by friends and local conservation district – not by the online group. Daphne mezereum

I also belong to a writer’s group, which has thousands of international members.

It’s hard to avoid comparing the two. And it’s been a bit of a shock.

Within the plant group, a person can seek all sorts of help around identification, habitat, and so on. The members consist of those who can easily list off the latin names and those who know only the common names. But wow. The rudeness. And I’m not one of those types easily offended.

Recently a person posted a photo of a plant that looked suspiciously like blueberries. She found it in a raised bed where she had planted blueberries. She thought it was one of her plants. Who wouldn’t? But when she ate a berry, she realized it was different. She sought help identifying the plant, and instead was slammed with hundreds of people belittling her for eating something she didn’t know. Many of the responses were quite cruel.

Within the writer’s group, members run the gamut from experienced journalists and novelists to raw beginners.

Recently a person posted a question about her fear switching from freelance journalism to attempting a novel. She sought help and advice. She was slammed with hundreds of people offering help, listing resources, encouraging her to try something new, and excited on her behalf.

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Books on the craft of writing, waiting for tea and highlighters

Now don’t get me wrong. This isn’t one of those broad generalizations. There are rude responses in the writer’s group once in a while, and there are kind responses on the plant site. But the percentages are skewed. On the plant side, the kind responses are in a minority. It’s the opposite on the writer’s group.

This has me wondering what makes the difference. I don’t think it’s tied to ‘writing’ or ‘plants’.

Is it social media? The freedom the internet gives one to say things they wouldn’t to another’s face?  That’s simplistic and an overly used excuse.

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What my yard would look like without the guidance of friends

Is it art vs. science? The rude responses on the plant site seem to overwhelmingly be from those who can spout Latin names without typos. Is an artist more willing to share, and learn from sharing, where the science type leans to snobbery? I don’t believe this for an instant.

So what’s going on?

It’s the administrators. Those who do the writer’s group monitor things closely. If a comment is uncalled for, the person is called on it. I had many years as a facilitator of a writer’s group to understand the need for quick involvement. In the plant group, there are rules you agree to when you sign on, and supposedly there are administrators out there somewhere. Occasionally, like the thread about blueberries, these guys step in and put their foot down. But by the time they do, the thread has gone on way too long and the damage is done.

In other words, it seems we can’t be left alone in our play groups without our parents. Or at least some of us.

So I’m going to drop the plant group. Who needs that in our short lives? I bet there are other plant groups out there that are more professional, and that have members more like writers.

Then I’m going to go soak in the writer’s group for a while to clean off the plant group.

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In case you are wondering about identification, or want to describe it in a story – it’s a daylily (hermerocallis)

Writer’s Groups

I am feeling nostalgic for a former writer’s group I facilitated for over ten years. Missing that camaraderie and inspiration.

A friend who inspires for more than just writing.

A friend who inspires for more than just writing.

Unfortunately, over the years the group became stagnant. A few writers marked progress, as defined by simply writing for some, publishing for others, and for a few, just showing up. But others talked about the same things after ten years that they did at the beginning. And some, I believe, were there simply for social interaction as they never talked about anything remotely connected to writing.

Social interaction with friends or forced labor?

Social interaction with friends or forced labor?

In the end, worn down by the struggle to not allow a select few to ruin it for others, and having spectacularly failed in getting anyone to share facilitating, I ended the group.

I meet with one writer now and we accomplish a lot. Accomplishments include coffee and chocolate, lots of laughing, lots of talking about writing, kicking around ideas, critiquing each other’s work, and all the things that allow us to leave inspired. Everything a group should be.

At our last caffeine and sugar enhanced get together, we reminisced about the former group. I said how much I missed feeling excited to work afterwards.

I feel the urge to start another small group in a location closer to home for the selfish reason of missing that support, interaction, inspiration, and challenge from multiple writers. Then the roadblocks arise.

I already have work meetings four days a month.

I can’t make the monthly Sisters in Crime meeting now because of the long drive and dogs being cooped up too many hours.

Skywalker von Stowe (aka Luke)

Skywalker von Stowe (aka Luke)

To avoid past issues I’ll have to have rules of conduct and be prepared to enforce them.

Do I want all that again, for those moments of writing joy, not only for me, but for others? There are no writer’s groups in the area where I am. If I want to attend one, I have to create one.

Then of course there’s this – another evening taking up with a meeting equates to another evening not writing.

So where else can that much-needed interaction with writers come from? Online?

Where do you get your social interaction, your support and encouragement for art, the push to improve, the prod to stretch? If you attend a group, why? If you interact online, why? What makes the interaction work for you?

How do you balance providing all that for others and at the same time, not forgetting to provide for your own artistic health?

I would love to know.