Start Your Week Off Write: Writing Tribes and Where You Fit In

my cat tribe

My current mini-obsession started with an organizing streak. Have you ever gotten in one of those organizing moods? You look at something and decide it needs to be better organized, so you begin tweaking this and that. I’m a manic organizer, so I end up doing this a lot. I aimed my organizing radar at my blog this weekend. Hey, let’s pep up the wording of my RSS feed subscription button, I thought. I wanted to make folks feel included, to encourage them to join in on the topics I talk about here. Without other people giving their two cents, you’re just committing verbal bulimia.

How to word it was the question: Join the discussion. A lot of people who read my blog are writers, since I talk about writing. We have a common interest. Join the community. I ended up picking a social media-darling-type word, but I’m not sure I’m satisfied with it. Join the tribe. Seth Godin made this term popular, even writing a book about it ‘Tribes’, and the term is regularly bantered about all over the social media landscape.

Tribes are groups of people who gather together to accomplish something, espouse a belief system or support one another to a common goal. Tribes usually have leaders, someone who is moving the group towards reaching the goal or vision. Questions abound on whether you have a tribe and the quantity and quality of your influence over said tribe.

We’ve always been members of groups in our real life, starting with those cliques in the eighth grade. Family is a tribe we have no choice in; friends are a tribe we choose. Neighborhoods are tribes we live in. Church membership, professional associations, volunteer charity associations and writing critique groups are all tribes as well. Add to this the social media tribes: ‘circles’ ‘followers’ ‘fans’ and ‘lists’. It makes me think of the old playground game of ‘Red Rover’: one line eventually had all the kids who could ‘break through’ on it, holding hands, taunting you to ‘come over’. If you couldn’t ‘break through’, too bad, so sad, it was back to the weak line for you.

Ingolfson, Creative Commons

Maybe I’m still bitter about being sent back too many times. Do we want to include or exclude? Do we want people in our circle, or to make sure certain people stay out? I understand that people enjoy being part of something bigger than themselves, but mostly they just want to have interaction.

Do you know what people want more than anything? They want to be missed. – Seth Godin

People want to know other people care.

I was watching the ducks at the ponds up the street in my tribe where I live (neighborhood). There are a group of about five black domesticated ducks that gather together and move from one pond to another en masse. At the beginning of the summer, three wild mallards, one green-headed male and two brown females, joined them. I saw a dust-up between one of the mallards and a much bigger Canadian goose. All eight of the group joined in to shoo off the goose bully. The mallards had found their ‘tribe’ who supported them in their time of trouble.

discover your tribe

I’m now leaning toward the old-fashioned word ‘fellowship’ as it makes me think of the movie ‘Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’. The members of the fellowship came from different backgrounds and even had suspicions about one another, being unfamiliar with the others’ culture. But they had a common goal and as they got to know one another they were not only supporting the goal, but supporting one another as individuals. That’s what I would like to happen here on my blog. People discussing common issues and supporting one another in their writing journey.

As I am wont to do, I have completely overanalyzed this situation. I encourage you to find the tribe/group/fellowship/team where you can participate, be encouraged, grow in your writing and make a difference in the world. Here are some great links on the subject of tribes in social media:

Tell me what you think: Are social media terms for groups inclusive or exclusive? Or does it even matter? What term can you come up with to describe a group of writers? A flock, a gaggle, a herd? Give me your most creative or crazy idea – I might use it on my blog!

8 thoughts on “Start Your Week Off Write: Writing Tribes and Where You Fit In

  1. I just checked out his bio on Wikipedia. Wow, talk about a visionary – electronic tribes, global village, web technology – I will have to read some more about him. Much more conceptual than ducks. LOL Thanks Jeff! 🙂


  2. Those are some great animal pictures! They don’t have to work for tribes at all!

    You bring up a lot of good points here. It’s true that support communities can get clicky just like people in real life. I think it doesn’t matter as long as you’re getting what you need: feedback, ideas, fun…whatever. Sometimes we might have to adjust our expectations to benefit from social media tribes. So in that sense I suppose the answer to your question is no, it doesn’t really matter how inclusive/exclusive groups can get.


  3. Thanks for stopping by, Sara. I agree with you about adjusting our social media tribe expectation. Unless we make our expectations clear to our tribe and they choose to reciprocate the inclusion/exclusion idea is probably a moot point. That’s both a plus and a minus with social media – how much we choose to interact/not interact is totally up to us. You don’t always have such leeway with relationships in ‘real’ daily life. Checked out your blog: me likey! I subscribed! Thanks again for your comment.


  4. Hmmm…what to call a group of writers. A “pod” maybe? Or maybe we could come up with our own term entirely. Perhaps a “looney” :D. A looney of writers. I like it. LOL

    One of the things that constantly amazes me is the community I’ve found in the blogosphere and the twitterverse. So many amazing, supportive people. And so many people who’ve taught me so much. Love it. Thank goodness for the internet. 😀


    • I love a “looney”! LOL It’s true there are a lot of wonderfully generous people hanging out in Twitter and on blogs. Writers are particularly gregarious, and I think part of that is the people themselves, part a desire to learn and discuss our craft and part is that writing is a lone profession that can be lonely. When we need encouragement, support or a kick in the butt, it’s now only a click away. Thanks for stopping by and ‘connecting’.


  5. My Scottish blood votes for clan.
    Wonderful insight–you’ve put far more thought into this than I have. One advantage to social media groups is that one’s economic and physical presence isn’t usually a contributing factor. The exchange of words and thoughts are what matter the most.


  6. It is more of an equalizer to have your words be what transmits to others who you are instead of your socio-economic status, age, race, looks, etc. Certain words or phrases on parts of in the internet can get a lot of pre-judgment, though. I like to be thought-provoking but not really controversial in a provoking manner myself. Most bloggers and Tweeps are the open-minded sort, they want to hear what people have to say.
    Scottish, cool! On hubby’s side the ancestors have been traced back to famous American Scotsman Patrick Henry, but we’re mostly a big melting pot. 🙂


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