Yesterday my friend Cat posted the following on her Facebook status: Handmade 2011: I promise to send something handmade to the first 5 people who comment here. In return, they must post this to their status, offering the same thing to 5 other people. The rules are, it must be made by hand by you and it must... be sent to your 5 people sometime in 2011. Ready, set, GO.
Even though I'm craft-challenged, I signed up. Mostly because of all the fun and inspiration I've enjoyed in the past couple of years participating in the Poetry Postcard Project. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's a list of people's snail-mail addresses, and each person on the list commits to sending original poems (written for the occasion, not pre-existing poems) on postcards to a certain number of people on the list within a certain time frame. I have participated twice in year-long projects, in which a poem a week was sent out as well as received, and once in the August project, in which a poem is sent out and received daily for a month (guess which one!). The projects I have participated in were started by poets Lana Ayers and Paul Nelson, and for more information, you can check the Poetry Postcard blog.
Living in Japan, I suffer from a lack of creative community in which English is the first language. I belong to a lovely online group of women each with a connection to Japan who are all writing in English, but we work in such diverse fields that the support is mostly moral as opposed to craft-oriented. For awhile I was part of a group that met once every month or so here in the Kansai area, but we had to travel so far for gatherings that it died a natural death. When my husband was doing his post-doc in Florida, I belonged to a terrific community writing group that I still miss some seven years later, but other than that, I've never had much of a community of creativity.
I used to think it didn't matter, not having a community of poets or writers around me, but then I read in a book about writing groups that their primary purpose is to save each writer time. The book argued that you would eventually discover your own strengths and weaknesses, writing alone, but that what it might take you 10 years to figure out someone in a writing group could tell you today. Having enjoyed such insight from my Florida group, I've fully come to adopt that opinion as my own. And besides, it's so much fun to spend time with creative people.
Luckily, in the age of the internet, I can make my own community out of groups like the Poetry Postcad Projects, and can further feel a part of something larger by reading and engaging in the blogosphere, and by availing myself of podcasts (which I will post about in more detail another time). And I can respond to invitations like Cat's, even though I'm about as crafty as a box of macaroni and cheese. (Don't ask me what that means, I don't know.)
As a person living abroad, I praise the internet!