April 26, 2012
In Search of My Bloomsbury
I’ll be boarding a plane to New York City when this lands in your inbox. I’m going for the annual American Society of Journalists & Authors conference. Although I’ve been to this conference many times, I’m going this year with very different intentions than in years past. I’m sure that there will be valuable sessions and panel discussions (I’m on one of them), but that’s not the draw for me right now. I’m not trying to pitch ideas to editors anymore, or learn about new markets looking for content.
I’m going because I’m looking for my Bloomsbury group.
If you’re not familiar, the Bloomsbury group was a group of smart and creative people that lived, worked, and met in the Bloomsbury area of London (the neighborhood of the British Museum) in the 19-teens and 1920s. They got together to talk about art, writing, politics, culture, and the big questions of life. It was people like Virginia Woolf (yes, I am writing about her again. I can’t help it: she’s taken up real estate in my head this year), and her sister Vanessa (a painter), but also economist John Maynard Keynes and a bunch of other people (I won’t bore you with names; you can look it up if you’re interested). It was basically a space for intellectual and creative discussion, for ideas that challenged status quo. These folks weren’t just watching modernity happen—they were forcing it.
And let me tell you, I want that space in my life right now. I need that. I’ve got to find that.
The Flipside of Self-Reliance
I’ve been talking a lot lately about being in action mode, versus “someday” mode, about creating and believing your own story, finding your voice, and creating remarkable things. You need to have the power and wherewithal to act within you. I’ve always believed that. Self-reliance: I’ve read the essay, I’ve lived the life. I’m on board.
So here’s the weird contradiction: you’re not nearly enough. I’m not nearly enough. Being in action happens a lot more organically (and is a lot more fun) when you’re part of a circle of people who influence, challenge, and inspire you. Even semi-introverted, self-reliant people like me need that. A lot.
I don’t know about you, but I’m coming to the realization that there’s no magic formula, brilliant package, or big fish that’s going to get me where I really want to be (like, giving a talk at TED).
It’s like this: there’s my life and career on paper, which stems from what goes on in my head.
And then, there’s my life and career in the world, and that needs people to grow. It needs a Bloomsbury group. I’ve got the beginnings of one, but I want to meet and form bonds with more writers, designers, business owners, thinkers, and doers who aren’t just watching the industry—they’re forcing it. And they’re looking for a circle to be part of, too. I’m excited to see who I might meet in New York this week, having this as my focus (instead of having a focus of finding work). I’m equally as excited to see who I might meet next month when I head back to the city for Seth Godin’s event. I’m dying to meet him and hear him speak in person, of course. But the real draw is the potential for Bloomsbury. It’s the people quotient, and it’s my smartest investment right now.
The summer after I graduated from college, I traipsed all over London thinking about this Bloomsbury business—and of course, I visited Virginia Woolf’s house in Bloomsbury. But at 22, it was just a cool thing to learn about and write papers about. It didn’t have that much to do with my life—mostly because in my self-reliance, I thought my own brain was enough. I mean, it’s pretty good. But collective brain energy and being in the world of people is way, way better. So I’m off to see who I might find—virtually and literally.
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