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Decentralized Writing Circles

How we bring an end to the hard limits of writing in a vacuum

I am bullish on Web3, largely because I’ve made genuine friendships online. I discussed this here recently, and in scores of articles on Medium prior to that. Online is not terribly different from offline: it requires real work. This work will become easier if we do it together.

Growing Pains

We all have our own experience of the intoxicating possibilities offered by decentralization. However, we are often guilty of allowing this legitimate enthusiasm to overshadow the fact that the waters have been muddied by the bad habits we’ve carried over from default, dominant paradigm. This is no one’s fault: it’s challenging to see through one’s own conditioning. I acknowledge my own blindspots and find that it’s often helpful to rely on intuition, or a felt sense of what is unfolding, i.e. ask myself what doesn’t feel supportive about our current landscape, vs./ blaming the real, but elusive, sociocultural power struggle we continue to brush up against in so many aspects of our daily lives. 

What seems clear, is that if we fail to be diligent about building this amorphous, decentralized reality from the ground up, the path of least resistance will lead us to a familiar place of separation, driven by the the same old arbitrary rules of privilege that we love to point out but somehow struggle to eradicate. We have the opportunity to imagine the space we want to inhabit and co-create, right down to the finer details. First, we ought to get to know each other better as a community. This feels important if we want to create a kinder, more equitable and safer place, where creativity can flourish

Poetry Is Everywhere, Everyone Is a Poet and Practice Is Everything

I am adamant that we are all artists and poets. I’ve written about this here and will not spend more time articulating my profound conviction that (i) we all have a voice deserving to be heard,  (ii) there is room for everyone, and (iii) no, for the last time, it is not too late!

This position is different from saying that everyone has the same talent, or, perhaps more importantly, the same degree of commitment to their craft in terms of their practice. I will not expound on this further, as I’ve also already written extensively about personal practice. So much of my artwork, in particular through the metadata of the visual meditations collection and the tantric orbs collection on Tezos, addresses the challenges and the gifts of personal practice, regardless of the form the practice takes.

Building Community

Wherever we are on the creative path, we all need community. I am wary of beliefs but cannot shake the opinion that both the individual and the collective work of poets minting on blockchain will improve significantly if the community takes on the role of offering constructive criticism to those members of the community who are open to receiving and offering feedback.

If I wasn’t desperately trying to make a point, this is where I would pause and wax lyrical about Virginia Woolf and The Bloomsbury Group in 1920’s London. Instead, I will venture on boldly, and posit that the difference between today’s Virginia Woolfs (wolves?!) and most of us, including myself, is that the more established poets in our community rely not only on their practice and their education, like many of us, but also on their long standing, multi-layered networks of communities and friends, which they began building years ago, IRL. In other words, established poets are typically not writing poetry in a vacuum: they know their peers, have relationships with editors and publishers, galleries and art institutions, they have old school friends to compare notes with, talk shop, ask for feedback and advice, etc.

Self-publishing is hard. No one should have to do this without having had a second, and ideally a third, set of eyes on their text. In the absence of editors, we would benefit greatly, individually and collectively, from decentralized writing circles and workshops.

Writing Circles and the Art of Holding Space

From time to time I get caught up in self-defeating cycles where I doubt my work so much that I mint something and burn it almost immediately, before even listing it. I then typically trash the file. On those occasions, having an unbiased sounding board would be invaluable.

As relates to form, it's often precious to have a fresh gaze on one's work. I've seen mints with typos and glaring grammatical errors that do not fall under any kind of poetic license. If I've seen this in the work of others, I do not doubt that I may have overseen similar mistakes in my own work. I would love nothing more than to have the human resources and friendships that might preempt such occurrences. Whenever I see such errors in work that has been minted, I feel saddened and think that it is our embryonic community that has failed the poet, rather than the other way around. The community's diversity and complementarity can allow individuals to move through their own restrictions and overcome self-doubt, particularly when they are feeling stuck, or simply unable to get out of their own way. Similarly, the community can offer writing and language support, keeping in mind that many poets are not writing in their native language.

Holding space for others is a skill. Offering genuine, constructive and benevolent criticism is a labor of love. Both require deep listening skills and qualities of trust. This is so much more difficult than offering well meaning, but often hollow praise on Twitter, which creates all kinds of distortion. Receiving well-intentioned criticism in a safe place is not only a (necessary) privilege, it is the ticket to significant creative and personal growth, not to mention the joy of belonging to a community beyond the transactional mindset of “I’ll buy yours, if you buy mine”.

I trust that my words will not be interpreted through a cynical or judgmental lens. This comes entirely from a place of wanting to develop supportive friendships with poetically inclined Web3 folks. The gist of this short article is that the world needs (even) better poetry, not better poets. And poets, to hone their skills, need friends and community.

This piece is intended as a conversation starter. If you read this and it resonates, please reach out!

#writing circles#writing workshops#peer critique #poetry#blockchain#community