When you spend long enough doing a certain thing, no matter what it is, I think, you put down roots. You meet people. And you find things you might not have been looking for, but now would never, ever trade.
Blogging has been like that for me. I'm not sure why I started that first LiveJournal in 2004, exactly, except that I enjoyed writing, enjoyed being read, and thought making money off of blogging was a thing (uh, yeah). And while I haven't exactly hit the financial motherlode, I have discovered exquisite treasures that I never expected.
Story Sessions, an online community of writers run by Elora Ramirez, is one of those things. A few of my online friends had taken Elora's intro ecourse, Story 101, and I like what I saw of them and their writing enough to give it a try myself. I enrolled in 101 in the spring of 2013, and have never looked back. I went on to take Elora's next course, Story 201, and participate in online retreats and workshops.
The writing part of Story Sessions is good. It's really good. Like, really good. If you want help discovering your voice, discovering your why, pushing past fear, and finding your legs in the publishing industry, then Story Sessions is for you.
But that's not the greatest treasures that I've found here.
No, for me, it's the community itself, these amazing women, that are the unlookedfor diamond that fell, shining through the dust of excavation, into my lap.
So many people roll their eyes at me when I tell them that I met some of my best friends online. That's not real community, they think or say. Remote community can't ever compare to local community.
For a long time, I thought the same thing. I thought that online community was lesser, less than. I ached because I failed to find the in-person kindreds that I'd found in the women of Story Sessions. I thought there was something wrong with me.
This June, though, those digital hands and feet grew flesh and blood. I flew to Texas to take part in the annual Story Sessions retreat, and those women who were my "lesser" community, my "not as real because it's online" kindreds, stormed into my life and swept me off my feet with their unconditional love and caring.
I went into the retreat lonely, desperately lonely. My soul has been leading me on walkabout, as you know, and to my dismay I've had to abandon the local friendships and attempts at friendships that I'd been selling myself to. Not because there as anything wrong with those local people, not because they didn't or don't try hard to love me, but because (through no fault of their own) I felt wrong around them.
I went to Texas nursing this long-gaping wound of being different-in-a-bad-way, broken, of always being the outsider. When I got to the retreat, I expected to be disappointed, to find myself the outsider once again.
there were no outsiders.
These women, these women, they put their hands in my hands, rubbed my shoulders, pulled their fingers through my hair. They celebrated my newborn book, and my heathenry. They looked into my eyes and heard my words and found no fault there.
They saw me, and loved me -- as is.
No caveats. No conditions. No "I'm worried about you" or "you're on a slippery slope."
(Did you know that Story Sessions is a Christian community? Doesn't sound like the "Christian" communities I hear way too much yuck about way too often.)
This condition-less love and acceptance -- well, I didn't expect it. I hoped for it, but life had taught me that it was likely out of reach for me.
But it exists. It exists for me, and for you. It's out there, and it's powerful beyond the imagining.
In Texas, I found women who celebrate my quirks and eccentricities and odd little passions. I found women who run after me, literally, when I run away, who see my soul weeping when I hide my tears. I found women who reminded me of the sacred truths of my glorious soul, and who continue to remind me when I forget. I found women who tell me that I am beautiful-in-all-ways, and mean it. I found women who cry with me, who rage with me, who will not, cannot accept injustice. I found women who I can snuggle on the couch with without wondering if I'm doing the wrong thing, and who love how I don't love small talk. I found women who ask me to howl at the moon with them.
I found women that I'd bleed for. I found the women that would bleed for me.
I found the artists and renegades and lovers and world-changers. And because of them, I remembered that I am one myself.
So -- if you're looking for a writing community, well, Story Sessions is a good one. Story 101 is running for its final time, so this is your last chance to get in where it all began.
But be careful, because you're not only getting a writing education when you sign up. You just might find that you've found your courage, and the holiness in the darkest places of your soul, and some of the truest friends that you could ever have hoped for.
I hope that this is the case for you, no matter what digital hook you may hang your hat upon. It has been one of my greatest privileges and joys to discover it for myself.
If you're interested in the final run of the ecourse that started it all, you can learn more about Story 101 here.
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