Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Community of One

Note to Robynl: You won the signed book from Stephanie Rowe's backlist for posting on her interview! Please contact us with your information, and congratulations!

Maven Darcy BurkeEver wonder what writers did twenty years ago? RWA had been founded, but the Internet was still just a twinkle in Al Gore's eye (or had it started up by then - I admit I'm not particularly savvy on Internet history). Did some writers simply go quietly insane with their bunny slippers and stained heart-shaped coffee cup? (And how on earth did they live without an online thesauraus, Wikipedia, or E! News?)

I think there's a general belief that writers are solitary people, loners, even. But today's online communities in the form of chat rooms, email loops, and blogs perhaps argue against that. Given the number of writers I "see" online, I'd say writers are seeking to connect in a way that writing for publication prohibits. It's like doing theatre vs. a movie. Actors might say that theatre is much more gratifying because of the live audience and the instant gratification (I always thought it was, but then I've never done a movie). Participating in online communities might just offer the same rush for the writer - instead of waiting for your book/article/story to be published, you can write a blog, post to a critique loop, or chat for immediate results.

For me, online communities are great because I can take them or leave them. Some weeks I'm feeling chatty and curious, while other weeks I want to stay in my cave. In that respect, I guess I am my own community (well, you must count the Burkettes!) and I kind of like that. To be a writer, you have to exercise extreme self-discipline and, let's face it, you better like your own company. I'm fortunate in that I have the Burkettes around and even Mr. Burke since he often works from home, but since none of them are writers (currently, though Mr. Burke has aspirations, I believe), it's not the same as a community of like-minded/focused people.

How would you describe yourself? Do you like to fly solo or do you prefer a support group? Or maybe you like a little bit of each, which, really, makes the online community thing just about perfect.


lacey kaye said...


And to get email, there has to be someone out there.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Back when I was in college (almost 20 years ago), we had access to something called BitNet - which was like an early version of the internet. Or rather, like mail groups. I belonged to a coupple of those. We also had chat, but just campus wide, and only on the mainframe.

I'm what you'd call a both. I like networking and making new compadres online. I like sharing triumphs and I try to help console (and I appreciate when others try to console me). Living in the middle of nowhere, it's really something I can't get around town anywhere. Still, for the actual writing, I do it pretty much alone.

Carrie Ryan said...

The whole key to the internet is who else has access. So when I first joined RWA in 2000, there were a ton of aspiring authors, but not a ton of established (at least that I found). However, RWA had amazing loops back then that were brimming with authors. I remember the first time I walked into a bookstore and saw a book written by someone I "knew" -- it was awesome! Now, it feels like there are a ton more authors online and there's so much advice out there -- I'm constantly amazed at the people who get there without the online community!

Vicki said...

I love the internet and being able to reach out to other writers.

Although I'm a member of an amazing chapter TARA and our loop is great, I've met so many new friends through the net that I might see at Nationals once a year. Then there are some that I may never meet but that doesn't stop the friendships that we have. This would never happen without the net.

Bill Clark said...

Ever wonder what writers did twenty years ago? RWA had been founded, but the Internet was still just a twinkle in Al Gore's eye

Great opening! And yes, I often wonder how I managed to fuction before I got my first Mac 128K 20-odd years ago. To me, the personal computer (with printer and modem attached) was like a second Industrial Revolution - it enabled one person (moi) to do the work of many, to run my own consulting business without any staff help, and, most of all, to reinvent myself as a writer, in seven-page MacWrite files at a time.

Came then the Internet (Al Gore's eye can twinkle all it wants, but the one has nothing to do with the other, IMO), and lo! we had a third Industrial Revolution on our hands. Now we can be in touch with almost anyone anywhere in a few seconds, access almost all of human knowledge on our screen with the click of a mouse, and send manuscripts zinging hither and yon through cyberspace without having to enclose a SASE. Y'know, it makes Maven Erica's goal of world domination seem downright achievable - not that any of us would ever doubt her, of course! :-)

Great post!

robynl said...

wahoo, thanks so much for the win. Sent e-mail.

Jackie Barbosa said...

I'm so grateful for online communities of writers. For years, I wrote as a community of one, but I wasn't very successful at it. I didn't finish things and I never got any feedback on what I wrote because I was too embarrassed to share it with anyone I knew in real life. Finding people online I could share my writing with was such a blessing!

OTOH, I probably wrote more words per day when I was a community of one :)!

Leigh Russell said...

Likewise, Erica, I like to have both. Sometimes the world has to just go away and leave me alone to deal with the world in my head. But I do love the sense of community I feel with bloggers who visit my blog and keep coming back. They feel like friends. The anonymity of the screen seems to allow a direct kind of intimacy that might take a while to develop in the world on this side of the screen. I write as a reserved Brit, stiff upper lip and all that, what, what?

I'm really enjoying the discussion here on your blog. The sense of a community of like minded people is wonderful. I love it. But, like Jacqueline, my words-per-day count has plummeted since I discovered blogging!!!

One further point - Is it weird or normal not to feel lonely when writing? Do other writers feel the same? There are so many characters in my head, I can't feel lonely when I'm with them, although I wouldn't want to meet some of my fictitious characters in real life!!

Gillian Layne said...

Great post!

The internet brought me fanlit, and fanlit changed my life, so I guess I love it!

I can't imagine talking about my writing life with the people I work with; they would just keep saying "you're not quitting, are you?", so I love everyone of a "like mind" I meet on line.

lacey kaye said...

Gillian, FanLit's our next topic!

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