Balancing out your communities

  • Someday Lesson: Something that at first appears to be totally unproductive might just be the thing to get you unstuck.

(This post is a part of Confident Writing‘s group writing project on community)

Since moving to San Sebastian, I’ve pretty much let Raúl take control of our social life. After all, he’s from here and is the native Spanish speaker. Besides, I’ve been busy building my online community of bloggers, personal development types and writers.

Recently, however, that’s left me feeling unsatisfied and out of balance. I’m part of Raúl’s community, but I don’t have a community of my own. Yes, his friends are my friends, but we interact in a second degree kind of way.

So, I’ve started making an effort to turn off the computer and get out of the house. I now run with one friend which usually turns into a glass of wine and sometimes dinner after, and I have a weekly coffee with another friend. And when Raúl goes out of town (and my work schedule or budget don’t allow me to go with him), I don’t become a ‘Net hermit, hiding in my little English-only online bubble.

I’d been resisting building a face-to-face community here because I wanted to put all my energy and focus into writing and building my online community/business. But guess what? Surprise, surprise! My face-to-face connections here have actually helped my writing.

Take this week’s coffee with a friend for example. He’s training to be a coach and I’ve offered to be his guinea pig when he needs to do stuff with other people. On Wednesday, therefore, he led me through an exercise where we examined what I saw as a negative attitude in myself, specifically my inability to stay focused on my writing even though it’s what I love to do most.

After lots of discussion (in Spanish – ever tried to explain your emotions in a language that’s not your mother tongue? – it forces you to be very exact in the words you choose), we determined that I don’t let myself write with joy. Why? Because…

  • I walk away from it after ten minutes.
  • I put the objective (finishing a project) up on a pedestal.
  • I let rejections drag me down.
  • I don’t take my own advice.
  • I question how good my writing actually is.

Following on yesterday’s Lab Rat exercise, we then talked about what I could do to turn all of these negatives into positives that would allow me to write with joy? This what we came up with…

  • I am capable of staying focused.
  • I can live in the moment and focus on the act of writing instead of the outcome.
  • I can look for new opportunities when feeling discouraged.
  • I can go help someone and pay attention to the advice I give them.
  • I know that my writing rocks and that I’m the puta madre.

If I’d stayed at home and not made that face-to-face connection, I’d probably still be distracting myself with negative talk and random Internet surfing, aimless Twittering and many other non-activities that would just make me feel more guilty and more likely to continue avoiding my writing.

How has your community (either virtual or face-to-face) helped you overcome self-sabotaging beliefs and attitudes?

P.S. Want some more on motivation? Check out the Business Week article: Snap Out of that Self-Help Stupor and Get to Work by Nancy Price where I’m quoted talking about passion.

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15 thoughts on “Balancing out your communities

  1. It’s not self-sabotaging, but my community recently helped me when I found a tick on my son – I tweeted for help and received in short time some excellent suggestions.

    Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach´s last blog post..Why some online marketers hide the truth from you and what you can do about it

  2. Have you heard of the theories around how you become the average of your friends? Well, I’ve found as I make new friends who are go-getting and out there in the business world, I drop all my limiting beliefs without thinking about it. I think “If somebody else can do what I want to do THAT EASILY, then I can do it too.”

    I’ve found getting up in the morning, maybe when I’m feeling small and afraid or sad, connecting to people via Twitter means I get an instant boost of positivity. It beats caffeine.

    It has also helped me develop a stronger real-world community, too. That I’d never have expected.

    Joely Black (@TheCharmQuark on Twitter)´s last blog post..A post about spaces and places that inspired Amnar: The Awakening

  3. Joanna Young says:

    What a wonderful post Alex, on so many different levels – how you sought out different communities, but also how you turned your negatives into positives.

    thanks for the contribution to the project – going to add a wee reference and link so your readers know about it and maybe get tempted to join in themselves…?

    Joanna Young´s last blog post..Premio Dardos with a Community Twist

  4. I understand the feeling of writing without joy.

    I spent years writing with the deep feeling that I HAD to write and achieve some literary thingiemajig. This was my idea of success, and it was all consuming. It held me so tightly in it’s grip that I lost the love of story, which is precisely why I wanted to become a writer.

    That’s in the deep past now, but I still remember what that felt like… Congratulations, Alex! You’re back on the road. 🙂

    P.S. Congratulations x2 for being quoted in Business Week!

    Jamie Grove – How Not To Write´s last blog post..A Writer is Never Complete

  5. I just wrote about making friends in a new city! An especially difficult task if you don’t speak the language.

    Jacki Hollywood Brown´s last blog post..Making Friends

  6. Terry Heath says:


    The reasons you don’t write with joy resonated with me, especially “I put the objective (finishing a project) up on a pedestal.” I can see your answer will be very helpful as well: “I can live in the moment and focus on the act of writing instead of the outcome.”

    Love it!

    Terry Heath´s last blog post..Are You a Mozart or a Franklin?

  7. Andy hayes says:

    I can totally empathise with this topic, on many levels.

    When I lived in the Netherlands, I continuously hung out with the English speaking crowd, even though I spoke Dutch. Unfortunately, it was just easier and the locals certainly don’t make it easy to break into their circles. When I did manage, though, it was certainly worth the effort for the interesting people that I met.

    Here in the UK, it’s a bit of a different story. In Scotland, it’s not such a busy place so there are less social circles. So I find I spend a lot of time with my online community because it’s easier to find people who share your interest and values. Your post is a good reminder to keep things balanced as I’m sure with some effort I could find the more interesting people out in the “real world”. Meanwhile, I am thankful for events like Twestival, which bring the online crowd out of the shadows and into the daylight.

    Sorry for the long-winded reply 🙂

    Andy hayes´s last blog post..Cambodia – A Country of Extremes

  8. Paul D says:

    Its hard to say if the people around me affect me more than I affect some of them. A lot of my friends are bad influences but I can be the same fore them at times.

  9. Alex Fayle says:

    Awesome use of the Twitter network – faster than a phone call to the doctor’s, eh?

    I’ve never heard of that, but I do tend to notice that the people I talk to most are generally going through the same things I am, so we support each other – and that’s online and off.

    That’s what I love about coaching – it’s about taking negative attitudes and spinning them around until they look good.

    You understand completely. I get so caught up in being a Writer that I block myself from simply writing.

    I’ve felt very fortunate that I’ve had Raul to rely on. Life would have been a lot more lonely if I’d had to make all new friends on my own.

    Thanks! The trick for getting into the moment is to focus on a body part until you can feel it fully – or something silly like singing “99 Bottle of Beer on the Wall” until all other thoughts leave your head.

    The expat/English community in any new country is the easiest to gravitate to, eh? I would certainly have done that here if it hadn’t have been for Raul. And yay to getting out and getting to know people face-to-face! Woo hoo!

    @Paul D
    Bad influences are very fun – I’ve had many of those in my life (and been a bad influence on others). 😉

  10. […] realize that I’m in a negative place, I look for ways to turn the negative viewpoints around (as I did last week about my writing). I don’t suppress them – I welcome them because they teach me something new about […]

  11. Alex, you always find those subtle underlying topics that get people thinking. What a great reminder to step away from the computer and get out and connect with real people. When you live by yourself, and you work from home, it’s easy to get into an online rut without realizing it. Since I left the working office environment and because I travel between two homes, I’ve lost a lot of my previous community connections. Interacting with bright and ambitious people also raises one’s own level of aspiration and intrigue. I need to go sign up for a class or something.

    Denise Fisher´s last blog post..Wardrobe Organization By The Numbers – The 28-Outfit Seasonal Collection

  12. Alex Fayle says:

    Even when you live with someone else like I do, it’s too easy to let them take charge of the social life – which in the long run isn’t good for the relationship. Couples need their own things too.

    Enjoy whatever class you sign up for! Glad to have helped.

  13. […] Balancing Out Your Communities by Alex Fayle at Someday Syndrome I’d been resisting building a face-to-face community here because I wanted to put all my energy and focus into writing and building my online community/business. But guess what? Surprise, surprise! My face-to-face connections here have actually helped my writing. […]

  14. paul Merrill says:

    And I love it when the on-line community and I meet for the first time.

    SOBCon in Chicago (Apr 1-May 3) will provide some of those meet-ups. I can’t wait.

    paul Merrill´s last blog post..Now 13

  15. Alex Fayle says:

    Those blogging conventions offer great ways to connect the online and face-to-face communities and strengthen the ties we make.

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