There is a really wonderful book out called Imagine by Jonah Lehrer. Lehrer explores exactly how creativity works. What colors spark imagination? What routines kill it? Can drugs make us more creative? Or do drugs do the opposite? Are we most creative when we are well-rested or sleep-deprived? Are there different forms of creativity and imagination? The answers will surprise you, and I strongly recommend this book.
I read Imagine back early in the spring, and there was a certain chapter that really stuck with me. This one particular section inspired the idea to build a new kind of social network just for creative professionals, WANATribe. WANATribe started with a seed named “Q.” We all need the perfect about of Q for creativity to thrive. But what is it?
Different Tools for a Different Age
Modern society is growing more complex, and so are the problems. All of the low-hanging fruit is gone. The age of the lone genius has passed, and, these days, most fields require that we get better at teamwork. Even the modern day author is required to do so much more in order to survive, let alone be successful. The largest mistake I see writers and people in publishing make, is they assign writers to do all of this work alone, which is a formula for stress and burnout and rarely yields much that is remarkable
This is one of the reasons the WANA methods work. WANA is founded upon working as a team, and being part of a team holds unique advantages, namely an increase in Q. What is Q?
Patience, Grasshopper. We’ll get there.
But what its the best way to work together?
Brian Uzzi, a sociologist at Northwestern University has spent his career wanting to understand the how groups function, and, better still, how they function optimally. Why do some groups seem to fizzle? Why do others take off and push all boundaries of imagination?
Uzzi decided that the best way to understand groups was to study Broadway musicals. Why? Well, no one can do a musical alone. Musicals require perfect creative collaboration and cooperation in order to be successful. Musicians, dancers, choreographers, etc. all working together. No easy task. Uzzi quickly discovered that, “people on Broadway were part of an extremely interconnected network; it didn’t take many links to get from the librettist of Guys and Dolls to the choreographer of Cats (Lehrer, pg.141)”.
Sound familiar? *cough* Writers. The world of publishing is a small one, which is why we must be kind and professional at all times (aside from it being the right thing to do). Publishing is a small world and we are all connected. Now, the density of the connection will all differ and this is known as Q.
Low Q? No one knows each other very well. High Q? We all know each other like we know ourselves. We might even finish each other’s sentences and we know all the little quirks and habits.
What Uzzi noticed was that, in the 1920s, there were all these collaborations from some of the greatest minds in the business, and yet they produced a string of tired, mediocre musicals. What happened?
What Uzzi soon discovered was that, for maximum creativity, we needed to maintain Ideal Q. If the Q is too low? Everyone is afraid to talk to each other, there is little exchange of ideas and so nothing happens. Ah, but if the Q is too high, we get groupthink and there is no fresh innovation. I feel this has been one of the biggest problems in all the creative industries that have fallen under the tidal wave of digital.
The music business and the film business were stuffed full of people who had all worked in the same industry for years, with the same people, and so they couldn’t see the forest for the trees. The Big Six has yet to learn from music and film. Why? Because they have too high of Q. They have too many people who’ve been in the same industry with the same business model and they are suffering because of groupthink. To remain relevant, they will need to up their Q.
People will always want paper.
So what does this have to do with WANA?
WANATribe and Perfect Q
When I teach my blogging classes, I don’t teach writers how to blog and then throw them out in the digital ocean to sink or swim. I know that to survive in this Brave New World we must work together or fail alone. Yet, I watched this Q component time and time again. I would put together a blogging class into a private Facebook group where they could get to know one another, follow each other, and trade ideas, assistance and recipes for Kamakazis.
At first, there would be very little interaction and nothing would happen. *insert sound of crickets* Low Q. Ah, but then the Chatty Cathys would start getting people to talk, and then there would be this BOOM! of creativity. Some of the best ideas always came from this phase of Ideal Q.
But then what would happen?
The group would get comfortable in their tribe. They would hang out in the private Facebook group instead of getting out and mingling with new people, and this is when I would start seeing people hit a wall. The creativity would taper off and with it, the ideas and enthusiasm. This presented a challenge.
How could I create an environment where we could always maintain Ideal Q?
Then it hit me. We needed our own social network. So long as we were on Facebook or Twitter, it was too easy to just get comfortable with our own peeps. It wasn’t very easy to get out and meet people with enough in common to form instant rapport. Face it, when we sign up for Facebook what does it ask us to do? Invite existing friends. Import our e-mail addresses and invite people we already know.
But how do we meet the ones we don’t know? THAT has always been the problem.
Yet, in WANATribe, we are surrounded by people we might not know, but with whom we have common interests. We at WANATribe are working to perfect the group. We go beyond the group to the TRIBE—the original social network. Start a tribe, join a tribe or even drift between tribes.
Writers are more than all-writing-all-the-time, so there are even some tribes based off interest like Patrick Thunstrom’s WANA Nerdfighters. If you don’t see a tribe that suits your needs? Start one. Invite friends. Tribes change how we connect. It means we can get to know each other, but yet always have an infusion of fresh ideas, new people with new insight. Thus, the odds we will keep Ideal Q greatly improve.
“We need structure, or everything falls apart. But we also need spaces that surprise us. Because it is the exchanges we don’t expect, with the people we just met, that will change the way we think about everything.” Lehrer, Pg, 156.
WANATribe offers that environment that isn’t fully predictable nor fully chaotic, either. We strive to offer the structure, yet the space for surprise.
Write Woman’s Fiction? Pop into a Historical Fiction tribe. Write Historical Romance? Pop into the Paranormal Club. Get out of the comfort zone. Bring new ideas to them and gain new ideas and perspectives in return. Want to collaborate? Create a private tribe. The possibilities are endless. Now you don’t have to live in a major city to find the perfect writing group. Create one. Want to learn about the industry? Join an industry tribe. We have an Indie Tribe and a Self-Publishing Tribe. We have a Writing While Parenting Tribe. Or go mingle with other types of artists and join a Photography Tribe or a Cartooning Tribe.
WANATribe is one giant digital playground for creative people. Grab your Crayons and glue sticks. Bring your GI Joes and Barbies and we’ll all hang out until the streetlights come on. There is a good reason why children have such active imaginations. They play. They always meet new kids. So come on! What are you waiting for? I look forward to seeing all of you at WANATribe. Bring your peeps. The more the weirder…um, merrier. Come get your Q on! Here is an invitation.
So what are your thoughts? Do you find your trusted critique group gets in a rut? Do you find it is hard to meet new people? What have been your biggest challenges with staying creative? Do you find being around other creative people inspires you?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
***Changing the contest.
It is a lot of work to pick the winners each week. Not that you guys aren’t totally worth it, but with the launch of WANA International and WANATribe I need to streamline. So I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners will now have one business week (5 days) to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of June I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.