ama guidance

“how to people” disclaimer

I’ve been staring at a blank screen for about 15 minutes now, watching the cursor blink.

To me, this is blogging.

The bones of it.

Oh, there are other aspects.  There’s the ideas in the shower and the constant alerts on the phone.  There’s the endless list of titles that are too good to keep, and too difficult to actually write about.  There’s media files with a thousand images.   There’s the blog buddies, the readers– the people of blogging are the meat of it, and without them, it’s just bones….

A skeleton of thoughts that could have once danced.  A blank page that would have been brilliant.  A blinking cursor that precedes a story that should have been told.

Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, and if done right–  blogging does.  But, like most social media platforms, it continually needs to refuel itself on social influence.  It fattens itself on the lifeforce of people.

Our bones are different, but our meat is basically the same.

I’ve been staring at that cursor longer than normal today, because I recently asked you all to ask me anything.  I expected questions about prison, and questions about marriage or widowhood.  I expected oddball questions about my lifetime career in the center of the art-technology-business venn diagram.  I expected a few riddles and absurdities, and one or two about my family.  I received all of that through the form, the comments, and emails– thank you, participation is the blood of such projects.

What I didn’t expect were all the questions about connecting to other people.  How to do it right.  What to say.  When to say it.  How to find, forge, and foster friendships.  How to build a community online.  How to take it offline.

How to belong.

Monkey-hugging-dinosaur-300x231

I guess I didn’t expect it because… I feel so very connected to you.  If you’re a regular reader here, and you’re connected to me through your blog, or Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook– then I know you.   You didn’t dig up my email to send the question for the AMA, you have it.  You probably have the old one, too– the one I had before prison, before losing my husband, before, before, before…

And that’s when I realized why you asked.  I belong here.  I’m very much connected to my community.  I’ve taken online friends and made them offline friends, and I’ve had mostly good experiences with people everywhere I go.

But here’s the thing… I don’t know why, or how.  I don’t know what magical word I said, or what simple thing I did, that inspired 900+ letters from my online community through my 438 days of incarceration.  I don’t know how I’ve kept an online bestfriend for 16 years.  I don’t know why strangers show up to my birthday party, or how they become friends.  I don’t even know why I end up friendly with most of your spouses and children.

I just don’t know.

But this is blogging, and responding to you, is part of the shape of me.  It’s part of my bones.  It’s why I watch the cursor blink before typing willynilly.  It was humbling when I was speaking to an audience of 100.   A recent social media site calculated my audience influence, based on everything ever, and it spewed out the number 37,000.   When you speak, the shining template robot said, 37,000 people listen.  It’s an expensive little robot, owned by a company that needed to assess my number before considering my work.

I stared at that number for fifteen minutes, thinking– this is what people think blogging is.  A number’s game.

Meanwhile, I was wondering how you can round off an audience.  Who is number 36,998?  Does he have a cat?  Is she named after her grandmother?  Would they like some sweet tea?  Did the shiny robot take into consideration the idea that 36,000 or so of those people are just the same 5 who are loyal everywhere?

All of that is irrelevant.  It only goes to explain the pause before the write, the calm before the furious flurry of clacking keys.

There’s a blank page after my blinking cursor, but it isn’t blank.  It’s filled with you.  Your sound.  Your substance.  Your feedback.

To me, that is blogging.

Because blogging is a social platform and social platforms are about community, and no community outside of apocalypse scenarios has ever just been about the headcount.

That said, our bones are different.  The villages we need to sustain us are different.  People are different.  The important thing is to be able to find the people you can connect to, connect to them, and then keep them in your life.

When you wake up in the morning, what do you want to look forward to?  Who needs to be involved for that to happen?  When you’re upset, what items catch your eye?  Who made those items?  When you are feeling lost, how do you bring yourself back to yourself?

Who are the people behind your whats and whys and hows?

Find them.  Don’t wait for them to find you.

Blogging is a wonderful platform to do so, but the internet is filled with communities waiting to be born.

Birth one.

It’s worth the labor and the stretch marks, because how you spend your days is how you spend your life.  And it’s good to know that you stretched, and you created, and you packed your life with so many connections and threads that you nearly-literally wove your own safety net.

It’s a safety net worth weaving.  Mine is beautiful.  It caught me when I fell, so very far, so very hard, so very publicly.

But you know that.  You’re built into it.  You’re the meat and moment of this place.  The substance and the life-force.  The reason I don’t break, can’t break, won’t break.

And I want you to have that feeling, too.  So, even though I really don’t think I’m qualified to write on this topic, I’m going to write on this topic.  I sat down and wrote thousands of words about “how to people”.

Please consider this the longest disclaimer you’ve ever read.  I don’t know what I’m doing.   I have no idea where most of these beliefs or ideas sourced.  I have no secret magic tips, but I’m going to churn out advice for you…

Just in case something I do is the reason I’ve had a life blessed with an abundance of good people.  Just in case my methodologies of dealing with an online community are why mine is safe and joyous.  Just in case it helps.  Just because you are loved.

Just because you asked.

I love you,
Ra

P.s. I’ll post my guidance in pieces, all through December.  You’ll find it all linked up under “How to People” in the top toolbar sometime tomorrow.

_______________

Also, congrats to the Tiny Peppers.  Over 2000 posts in 30 days.  I think we pretty much won the internet.  And thank you, thank you, thank you– to the cheer peppers who saw us through it all.  We love you all.

NanoPoblano, NaBloPoMo

_______________

Do you have trouble peopling? Do you have anything that people ask you for advice on– stuff that you don’t actually know anything about?

36 comments

  1. Yaaay! We conquered the Internet!

    I’m terrible around people – mostly because I am scared of them. Which is why I write and when I read what I write, I can’t help but think it’s a completely different person. So I sort of have trouble with understanding my own dual personality. Did that make sense?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We pretty much owned the internet. *high five*

      And yep. That makes perfect sense. Your writer-self is fearless. Your regular self is fascinated by people despite the fear. The two selves fascinate each other. Perfect sense. 🙂

      But you’re not terrible with people. We’ve been friends since the get go!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! I’m so sorry for the extra spam lately. It’ll slow. I’ve given up on brining back old posts because it keeps emailing them out! Silly WP. Made worse by my 36 real post month, ha. 😀

      I’m excited to figure out peopling with you. If anybody can get it, it’s this community. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m better at saying the right thing than giving advice which is why this’ll became group effort project. Like every project that happens here. 🙂

      Congrats by the way!!! *high five*

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have the “problem” of getting too close to people…or wanting to…too soon. I’m the mom in the group…in any group. I tend to do things and say things that a mom would. I want to hover around people and help them when they need it and cheer them when they need it and high five them when they deserve it. The problem is that sometimes people think that’s weird. They think I”m after something. The only thing I’m after is friends and helping people. Sometimes I let that “problem” keep me from being me so that others don’t think I’m strange. I try not to let that keep me from being me, but sometimes I do, to protect my feelings which can be hurt from time to time.

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  3. I’m not great peopling. Instinct for me, is solitude. But when I People, I tend to know what to say and how to say it, what advice to give and how to give it. Interesting post, because I’ve never been interested in numbers, but comments, I LOVE comments on my blog. And for all the questions I could ask you, that would be the last on my list.

    Speaking of that. It was on my mind – you asked me to write a question in an open book, and I didn’t know what to ask. My very first thought was my best thought, but I never asked it because I thought I knew the answer. It never hurts to check…

    Are you okay?

    Like

    1. Yours was the most fun… And, not gonna lie, half the reason I was so desperate to open up my computer. I happen to have a picture of a hotdog wrapped in a tortilla in there….

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        1. Nope. You didn’t. I’d have linked you. You’re like my very own Perry White… Pushing me to do the hard hitting stuff like using ThatsSoRaven memes to prove a point about turkeys… 🙂

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            1. Ha! She brings the numbers, I’m tellin’ you. Though if you really do want to promot me… Or if you want the hotdog post on your blog, you’re welcome to it… Uh, once I write it. Though fair warning, I’m rusty on being a good guest blogger. 🙂

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  4. I’ve always been great with people. It’s easy for me to meet them, laugh with them, love them. At least, it was. The older I become, the more difficult it is for me to find true connection. I’ve been wondering about that lately. Was it only easy for me to connect in college, in churches, as a parent, or in the military because I was constantly surrounded with people like me? Was it easier to connect when I was younger because people’s lives were not so full of life yet that they couldn’t fit one more relationship into it? Is connection a function of likemindedness or being in the right place at the right time? What if I’m never in the ‘right’ place again?

    These are the questions I have about connection at (almost) 52, recently separated and relocated. It’s a lonely world out there at the moment. Thanks for this post, Ra. I may write a little something of my own in response. Peace, C

    Like

  5. I don’t think I’m horrible at peopling. I have many good moments, and I’m much better than I used to be. It’s the bad moments that destroy me. Every time. Every time I let someone’s opinion push me off centre, every time I argue just for the need to be right, every time I get irritated or angry because people aren’t behaving the way I think they should. Online it’s pretty easy – I get to think before I ‘speak’. In RL it get’s devastating at times. You seem to genuinely love everyone. How does that happen?
    Alison

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  6. My grammy used to say of my father that he never met a stranger, and you remind of him in that respect. You don’t meet people you don’t know; you just meet new friends. That’s how you people. I’m a lot crankier than you, so I have trouble letting people I don’t already know well in. Part of me is fine with that, part of me wishes I could remember what it was like to make friends as a child. But even as I type that, I remember that I was always shy, always in the background. I didn’t make friends; my friends made friends with me. I’m the one being reached out to, not the one reaching out. I don’t know if I want to change that, because the people who have reached out to me and stayed, they’re the ones I like the best.

    Wow. Thanks for the mini-therapy session. I guess that’s what happens when I comment right after I meditate.

    Like

  7. Congrats Peppers!
    I also never thought I would connect to such great writers and people when I started blogging less than a year ago. I thought I would just write, I don’t know, stuff.

    Like

  8. When my sister and I were both unemployed for longer than comfortable, we made up rules for “How to be a real person.” It included things like, take a shower every day, leave the house for at least 30 minutes, don’t eat your food from the same container it came in: use a plate! It was silly, but it made us feel better and more productive. Your series sounds just as helpful.

    Like

  9. I am very curious to see what you churn out on this topic. I love people and I love isolation. i am midway on the the introversion extroversion scale so I vaccinate between interaction and quiet time.
    This is why blogging suits me so well. Self expression and community without leaving my house.

    I think the main reason you are so “peopley” and popular is that you exude authenticity and charisma. I do not know you long, but very quickly I became hooked on your words and taken with your humongous heart. You are so real and generous and true. Editing my FB picture may have been a small task, but it brightened my day and gifted me with a new perspective on my inner glow. A glorious ripple effect is powerful beyond measure. You are a peopley rippler. This title may not roll off the tongue, but it is an aspect of your brilliance.

    people on with love, Linda

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  10. Hey Ra, dear dear Ra (Almost sounds like a chant now!)

    This particular stranger right here ::points to self:: came to your birthday party because she loves you. There is no “list-worthy” reason. There is just is.

    I enjoy your writing style, but I didn’t know that *before* I came to your birthday party, or did I? That’s not a rhetorical question, is just curiosity: why ?

    On your title:
    I think back to my anthropology days and a publication by a professor of mine called, “Peopling the New World.”

    Who doesn’t love a *verb* like “peopling”? (That was a gerund – but you likely get what I mean.) People. And relationships being a verb. And the former not being an actual sentence, at all. But, grammar for good reason is good grammar. So is tossing it.

    Good fun.

    Creating a safe place for one’s voice and community. I think if a person doesn’t have a numerical value on blogging that’s a helpful perspective, especially for me it is. I’m not interested in being very public, at all, but I like to write, interact, and I need to know I am being effective and becoming a better artist, in general. There’s a blogger, Brad, whose blog url says it all, http://writingtofreedom.com
    Blogging is a spiritual calling as much as anything else is.

    Miss you Ra, I look forward to more free time to blog (which I likely won’t have) but maybe I’ll get cleverererer, like you 😉

    Hugs and lots of Love,
    Ka

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  11. This is beautiful, Ra. I love this.

    I did think though, in the beginning when you said people were asking you about this, I wondered, “But that’s like asking Ra how to be Ra. Only Ra can be Ra!” It’s just you – you’re a people person and it’s instinctive with you, you’re an extrovert. Us innies are pretty clueless I guess, which is part of why we blog. So we can connect with others, but you know, at a distance. 😀

    Like

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