When I became a mom, I discovered there were factions. Working moms vs. stay-at-home moms. Breast feeding moms vs. formula. Disposable diapering moms vs. cloth. Vaxers vs. non-vaxers. I'd just thought when you were a mom you were part of the Mom Club, and that you minded your own business, and all was well.
I was mistaken.
This was my first big introduction to the fact that cliques form in high school because humans need to feel like a part of a group in order to figure out their own identities, and that this continues long into adulthood. It may take a different form than the infamous high school clique, but it's really all the same thing. Feeling like a part of a group apparently means you have to feel like you are somehow better than another group. We see this in religion and politics all the time, but it certainly doesn't stop there.
When I became part of the writing world, I found it there, too. I'd been writing for a long time, but I was not part of the Writing World before. I once again found myself embroiled in factions. Indie vs. traditional publishing. Genre vs. genre. Oxford comma vs. skipping the Oxford comma. Short stories vs. flash fiction vs. novels vs. poems. I discovered some groups look down on other groups. Horror is often seen as less than the rest of speculative fiction, and there are those that say the writers of horror must be terrible people, lacking in empathy and remorse. Romance writers are treated as if they're unintelligent or lack writing ability. Poets and other types of authors glare at each other over a wide divide.
Writers of certain genres are often stereotyped in these ways, and it isn't limited to romance and horror. Is it true you can sometimes tell what a person writes before they tell you? Yes, this does happen. And it's not a bad thing, but when it reaches the next level, it takes a dark turn.
Why do we do this? Looking at the reason for the formation of cliques, people need to feel accepted. I don't think anyone sets out to be part of a clique. They identify with a group of people, gravitate toward that group, and subconsciously work to prove they deserve to be there. Sadly, this can take the form of putting down other groups. Then you get your factions. It happens in prison. It happens in the business world. It's everywhere.
Of course genre writers are going to be pulled toward each other. If you write romance, you're going to enjoy talking to other romance writers, because you can compare notes, bat around ideas, relish the intricacies you're intimately familiar with. Mystery writers can discuss the best places and ways to hide bodies and plant clues. Historical writers can point out the best places for research. There is support, comfort, and safety in being around like minded people. Moving toward those you identify with doesn't make you a bad person.
But putting down other people to raise your status does.
I see this way too often. College educated folks putting down those who did not go to college. Moms putting down other moms. Traditional and Indie published authors at each others' throats. Genre vs. genre vs. literary vs. poet.
It's seemed amplified to me lately, and I don't know if that's because tensions are so high in the States with such a contentious presidential election going on or if it's symptomatic of a growing sense of helplessness, but I wish everyone could remember that, no matter your faction, we're all people. No one's better than anyone else. No method of doing something is better than any other. If we all did everything the same way and liked the same things, life would be incredibly dull.
Instead of putting someone else down, talk to them and find out why they enjoy the things they do, why they do things a certain way. Understand a different viewpoint. Settle your empathy in place and learn about other people. All it can do is enrich your own experience.
To be clear, I'm not just talking about writers here. Humans are given empathy for a reason. We're given the ability to use logic and reasoning, and we should use it. You can maintain your status and your own individual personality without ripping someone else apart to do it. That, at least, should be where adults grow out of their high school ignorance without losing the person they created and got to know during that time.
Edited to add a note: This post was written before the shooting this weekend. There was also an issue of a racist comment one author left on another author's Facebook yesterday, which has blown up. While I did not write this post about homophobia and racism, it certainly applies. I wish we could spend less time splitting ourselves into groups, and more time working together and caring about each other.
Now for links. Bear in mind that I'm not endorsing any of these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting to a market or contest.
Outlook Springs is seeking fiction, nonfiction, and poetry "tinged with the strange." Pays between $10 and $25, depending upon submission type. Deadline July 15.
Helios Quarterly Magazine is seeking fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art. Current theme "Miscommunication." Pay varies by type of submission. Deadline June 30.
Bad Apple Zine is seeking YA fiction with a taste of the fantastical. They want at least one story per issue written by someone between ages 16 and 21. Pays £15.
Winter Tangerine Review is holding the Winter Tangerine Awards. Only those who have not published a collection or novel may enter. $250 cash prize, plus publication. No entry fee. Deadline July 1.
FutureScapes Writing Contest asks you to envision a certain world and write about it. Up to 8000 words. Cash prizes, $2000 for first; publication. No entry fee. Deadline July 15.
What factions have you noticed as an adult? What cliques did you discover hovering around that you hadn't been aware of before? Have you inadvertently found yourself as part of a clique? What did you do about it? Are any of these links of interest to you? Anything to share?
May you find your Muse.
*Cat Fight Silhouette, by OCAL, clker.com
*Cartoon Ninjas, by Kelly, clker.com
*Closed Fist, by OCAL, clker.com
*Boxing Bears, by OCAL, clker.com
*Fighting Cat Bandaged, by Ruth, clker.com