What I Learned From A Community Of Thieves

There is honor among thieves; I experienced it this week. I was among a peculiar brand of thieves called “writers" at a three-day conference in Salt Lake City. You may have heard of this particular kind of criminal — moody, fearful, honest, insightful. They are a menace to respectable, anesthetized society. Get 50 of them together and it’s almost organized crime.  

The thing that hit me like a mobster bag man this week was the shared but unspoken honor among these bandits. We copped to stealing material, to killing our darlings, to laundering the truth, and to holding readers hostage. And there was no judgement for our crimes. We were all the same kind of outlaw. 

Bono mused, “Every artist is a cannibal. Every poet is a thief. They all kill for inspiration and then sing about their grief.” We didn’t try to hide or deny our skullduggery, and that made for much better parties. We started at an open-air dinner, and with openness and the fragrance of truth, we made space for one another’s stories, fears, and failures. We didn’t veer off into the ditches that often sidetrack conversations: politics, church leadership, weather. We got each other.  

Have you done the same? Have you found the particular gang of miscreants where you can speak freely, drink deeply, and trust that their crimes won’t target you? Have you found a gang where the unwritten rules make sense and the unspoken requests come naturally? I pray that you will find such fellowship, because settling for less would be criminal.