New Year’s resolutions and toddlers—cute, but better when they belong to someone else.
This year, there’s one resolution I’m focused on, and that’s finding my invisible culture so that I have permission to be obsessive about my writing.
What does that mean?
Invisible culture: The intangible aspects of a group setting that reinforces good or bad behavior, not always through explicitly written rules, but through codes of conduct that a newcomer would need to interpret and learn, so they mightfit in comfortably.
A group of bank robbers will not act like bakers. They’ll probably look more like…well, more like writers, really.
For example, let’s get controversial. Church and clothes. Is there a doctrine that defines what clothes to wear in worship? EVERYONE MUST WEAR EARLY CHRISTIAN ROBES. 4th Peter 1:9. The end. Controversy over.
But one fellow goes to church topless. Dude. He’s getting looks from disapproval to lust. His attempt to bare his soul in worship falls too short, and we’re eager for him to show respect to God and to everyone else. But he’s from tribal Africa, where it’s hot, and clothes are hard to come by. Instead of everyone else in the church going topless (this example’s getting out of hand), we’re going to encourage him to dress up a bit.
Invisible culture makes us comfortable. But it’s more than that. As Angela Duckworth says in her book, Grit, “The culture in which we live, and which we identify, powerfully shapes just about every aspect of our being.” These are “invisible psychological boundaries separating us from them.”
Clothes in church are a vital part of worship—naked will simply not do. Swearing at the priest or pastor will be discouraged. Writing on the wall ‘Scrooge McDuck is My Homeboy’ at work will probably not put you in good graces with your boss.
But it’s not just negative fences invisible cultures build. Libraries encourage reading. Churches encourage spirituality. Good families encourage safety, openness, and love.
If you want to be a writer, find writers and join them.
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