Everyone who has set a personal or professional goal needs a tribe. “Tribe” as it’s used these days refers to a group of people who are connected, have a leader, are passionate about a common cause or idea, and use specific communication tools to keep their members focused on their shared goal. This idea of non-familial tribes came from a book called Tribes: We Need you to Lead Us by Seth Godin. Godin says the leader is the one who starts the ball rolling. These days, Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media are the tools that unite the members of a tribe and enable them to share strategies and, collectively, follow their passion.
I remembered having skimmed this book when the last speaker at the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Conference asked, “Have all of you found your tribe?” When she said that I thought, I’m so lucky. I didn’t have to attend this conference to find a tribe. My tribe consists of my classmates from “Popular Fiction 1” and most of us are here today. Our leader is University of Washington instructor and novelist Pam Binder. We have a shared passion for creating stories and getting published. Admittedly, our communication tools are a bit twentieth century. We send emails and, even though the class ended in May, we continue to meet in person to read to each other and critique.
Yes, writing is an individual and independent activity, but having a writers’ tribe still make sense. If it hadn’t been for the others I probably wouldn’t have done a pitch to an agent. We encouraged each other, rehearsed our pitches and gave helpful feedback. The results show our efforts paid off: everyone left with agent and/or editor requests for more.
The popular fiction writers are not my only tribe. The Medalists have been a tribe of smart and creative friends since nearly the beginning of time. I also have a tribe of friends I worked with who are passionate about equity and social justice issues. And another tribe whose members want to share their culture with a broader audience and change immigration laws.
The book, Tribes,” is about finding the leader within and stepping up to lead in a loosely organized, but focused, cause-oriented environment. But thinking more broadly, all of us need some form of tribe, whether familial or contemporary urban, and the key to success of any tribe are the relationships upon which it is built.