Monday, March 31, 2014

Us Versus Them

We're taught from an early age to split into groups, find those we have something in common with, to find strength in a certain kind of solidarity. Sports teams are an example of this. There's something to be said about strength in numbers, which is maybe why we have this mentality, but it can be an issue, too.

Middle and high school have us splitting into groups. Raise your hand if you haven't seen Breakfast Club. That movie accentuated cliques, showing that, when thrown together, kids are just kids, no matter what clique they belong to. But when not put in a situation like that, we once again form packs. Before Breakfast Club, we had The Outsiders, and probably five billion other books and movies I'm not mentioning. Soc's vs. Greasers. Preppies vs. Geeks vs. Weirdos.

We like to pretend that we've escaped that pack mentality of cliques when we're "all grown up," but we really haven't. There are still sports teams, town/state/country rivalries, etc. But I was horrified when I became a mom and discovered how cliquish grown women could be. There were working moms vs. SAHM's (stay-at-home-moms). Breast feeders vs. bottle feeders. Pro-circumcisers vs. anti-. Any little decision that might be applied to any possible child was something that could rankle one side against another.

And I won't even go into political and religious rivalries on here...

Now I've taken the step into writerdom, only to discover similar battles here. Are you a pantser or a plotter? Traditional or Indie published? Horror vs. Mystery vs. Fantasy vs. Romance vs. Literary vs. Yadda, Yadda, Yadda. While for most it's just a topic of discussion, not a full blown battle, there are those who take it too far, those who see themselves as better than the other side. That's when it becomes an issue.

Fence by OCAL,
Personally, I don't care what you do. I'm interested in your writing and your journey, not whether you're on the same side of the fence as me. And I know most people sit in that same place. So why all the hate and separatism for some? Why must there always be a side, a clique, a fight to stand behind? Can we learn to just respect others' choices while feeling validated with our own decisions? Or is that what the problem is? We feel insecure about the choice we've made, so attack the other side. For example, if I say I'm interested in Indie publishing, but I'm not 100% confident, perhaps it will make me feel better if I can find reasons to nitpick at those who traditionally publish (or vice versa). By finding those holes, worrying at them, I make myself feel I've made the right decision. Is that what it's about? Or is it something completely different?

What I'm trying to say is...can't we all just get along?

What do you think causes this pack behavior? Do you think it's just good, clean, healthy competition, or can it be detrimental? Are there any particular battles you've fallen victim to or been a part of?

Good luck to those of you doing the A-to-Z, starting tomorrow!

May you find your Muse.


  1. Well said, Shannon. When it comes down to it, we're all just writers. And ultimately, we're all just people.
    With the Challenge starting tomorrow, just wanted to let you know I miss you on the co-host team this year.

  2. Amen. And it's not just the cliques, it's this idea that we're all "against" each other. Like, for some reason if I were to push you down I'd be more likely to rise to the top, since we're all "competing against" each other for sales. Except... we're not. People aren't only going to buy 1 book in their lifetimes. We as writers are all in this together, and we should be helping each other, not trying to play king of the mountain.

  3. Marketing idealogy makes us think of all others as either on our team, client or competition. The push is for success, for a bigger piece of the pie. . .

    I see more writers coalesce into groups. Safety in numbers, perhaps?

    Even those who manage our countries have trouble avoiding the 'us or them' philosophy. . .

  4. The Denver Broncos logo brought back memories :)
    I don't think there's anything basically wrong w/ flocking to ppl w/ similar interests, ideologies, thoughts etc. The problem arises when we become too fixed in our classifications. Honestly, I've been lucky enough not to really run into this 'group' problem in the writing world yet. Everyone I've met so far is horribly friendly and supportive. I can only hope this trend doesn't change.

  5. I've had to take break from certain groups on FB, LinkedIn, and Goodreads because of this. Love your post. Who needs drama?

    Hugs and chocolate,

  6. I want to be all scientific in my response and talk about how the brain organizes things, which is all true. From that perspective, it makes it difficult for people to "get along" because they can't understand other boxes.

    However, I was actually just thinking about this kind of thing (and tweeted my conclusion just prior to opening your post) and it's this:
    Limited people (which is not to say that not all people are limited) impose those limitations on others, because it creates... not just envy but, like, an imbalance of sorts... to see people going beyond where they can go. It's a "not fair" mentality.

    And just to say it, I have nothing against people who choose to traditionally publish. I understand that motivation. I do, however, have something against traditional publishers and the advantages they take over people who feel like they have no choice.

  7. I hated high school, really and truly hated it. Wasn't part of the rich kid group. The farmer group. the cheerleader group. I hovered between the smart girl group and the future teacher group.

    I could not wait to graduate.

  8. I feel so blessed with my writer friends. They support me even though I write nonfiction and most of them are fiction writers. I must have lucked out!

    As for high school...

    In my 9th grade year, we were all together, just one grade, in one building. Talk about intense competition for Top Dog and labeling. You were either a hood (Druggie type) or jock. Didn't matter if you played sports or did drugs or not!

  9. I think it's because we don't want to feel alone. I mean, we all want to feel like we belong, right? And it makes perfect sense this would happen as we move from childhood into adulthood because that's when we're making the break from our parents/family. So we cleave to the tribe or clique so that someone will have our backs. Safety in numbers.

    What's too bad is that we pit our tribe against others. Why can't we get along? Why do we hate different? Do we really want everyone to be the same?

    Good post.

  10. And this is how bullying begins. When I was in first grade, my teacher sat three boys on one side of the room. They were the kids who were always in time out or getting scolded for talking or whatever reason. The entire class attacked them for being "stupid" and "bad". Naturally, they fought back and got so much worse. That was when they stopped just being fun kids seeking attention to bullies, which only had them attacked more. It was a never ending cycle. But one of the boys was my neighbor. His mother threw raging parties with new men in the middle of the afternoon and would kick him out of the house until he saw the men leave. It was no wonder he acted out in class to find some sort of attention, but instead of helping hi, my teacher classified him as a bad kid who would only cause trouble and it became him against the world. I'm not sure I can ever forgive her for that.

  11. Great post Shannon. It's a mystery to me why there seems to be a need to put the other, the different, aside from ourselves.
    All the responses to this are broad and excellent ...
    good luck with A-Z!
    Garden of Eden Blog

  12. It's human nature to divide those around us, but one day we'll get past it and live in unity. U.N.I.T.Y as Queen Latifah says.

  13. I have always been much of a loner but yes, on occasion I have been caught in group rivalries. I don't think this penchant of humans to highlight differences instead of common grounds is healthy.

  14. I see no reason all of us can't agree to enjoy the writing for what it is and not what kind it is. As to those groups. . . yes, I remember those well from my school days.

  15. Fabulous post - I'm with you, I'm always inspired and happy for everyone when I see wonderful news and enjoy each others journey's and root for people during their ups and support them when their down. Life's too short not to be happy and support others in the best way I can. :)

  16. Hi, Shannon. Thanks for posting. I'm just sorry it's taken me so long to visit...
    I love The Breakfast Club, by the way. I haven't seen it lately, but back then I didn't stop watching it. #just sayin ;)
    Seriously, though, it would be a terrible thing if we writers separated ourselves in groups like that. We need each other! No one else understands us - not our families or friends. No one! We need each other to celebrate those achievements, and more importantly to help us through those low moments. I really don't see how we'd survive without the writer community.