Monday, January 19, 2009

Wrting: A Lonely Life - NOT!!!!

When I was in college journalism classes, you learned to write by being herded into a typing (yes, I'm that old, and they were manual typewriters) room, given some facts for a news story, given a 30 minute deadline and set to work. Later working on newspapers and in radio stations, and eventually in academia, the collegiality of those social writing environments were both stimulating intellectually and comforting emotionally.

You could bounce ideas off each other, ask for help, or take a break and catch up on the office gossip, which sometimes was oddly refreshing. Just the knowledge of these other writers working around you made you feel not so much alone in this great endeavor to share words and ideas with the world.

I sometimes wonder why it is that I can produce 50,000+ words of fiction during National Novel Writing Month and barely get half that done any other time. But I know why. It's the knowledge that any time I sit down at the keyboard and begin that wrestling match with my characters and plot that there are thousands of other people doing the same. And they aren't just nameless, faceless people. I get burnt out or tired or need some inspiration or a question answered, I can click over to the discussion board and take part in a "word war" or give a suggestion or two about names in the future or philosophize about whether dystopic fiction is depressing or hopeful, or just share the frustration of the writing life.

One would think with all those digressions, that productivity would wane. Yet, the opposite is true. Just as that short gossip break in the middle of covering a big story or working on that course outline in a face-to-face setting can be the refreshing break you need to push through, seeing that "wordwarrior1978" didn't quite hit your high score for the day, or simply answering the question, "What is your character doing right now?" can help me get that second wind to push through to my daily writing goal in a way working alone cannot.

So, where is all this leading? Modern internet technology, what has been called Web 2.0, has created tools for us to move away from the isolation many of us can feel as writers. We are in a position to encourage one another, hold each other accountable, motivate, inspire, stimulate, assist and even provide those "water cooler" moments of diversion that refresh.

While social networking like Twitter, Facebook, Shoutlife, Linked in and MySpace, not to mention more traditional networking like discussion boards and email discussion lists can become a time sink if restraint is not exercised, they also can provide the writer, especially the writer who works at home, with a social support network.

For instance, say you are on Twitter with a lot of other writers in your own area of expertise. You need some piece of information. You post your question. It may just sit there. Or someone might "tweet" back with an answer. Or while you are writing, a tweet comes through telling you a friend just sold the article they have been working on, and you have been following their progress. That is an encouragement for you to keep writing.

So, here is a proposal. Begin to build your own writing support network. One online resource is the Lost Genre Guild Discussion Board . People are dropping by there all day long. Lots of tips and encouragement and a great place to ask questions. The Lost Genre Guild Email Discussion Group is another source for connection through the day.

Twitter is the world wide water cooler. 140 characters to say what you are doing, ask for prayer, seek advice, or just share your day. Great for "word wars" and other writing games. You don't know what a word war is? It's simple, you post an announcement for writers to start writing at a certain time until a certain time. At the end, compare word counts. You can follow me on twitter at Terrimain . Also, if you think about it post some encouragement throughout the day. Quotes, jokes, praises are always welcome.

Then there are the bigger social networking site. If you want to connect with me, you can at Facebook and Shoutlife.

Maybe together we can create a powerful social network of writers that cuts across the various technologies providing support, encouragement, inspiration and help to each other. It can be like the newsroom, just without the clatter of the typewriters.

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Blogger madcapmaggie said...

I just recently started hanging out on twitter (as madcapmaggie) and I'm finding it very helpful. This past Friday, I twitted about my writing goals for the weekend -- and having thus committed in public to them, I got them done. I was thus free Sunday to cook, clean and shovel lots of snow {wry grin}.

January 19, 2009 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger Frank Creed said...

Yes, Terri, we're coworkers for the Boss. I had one woman reply to my Twitter invitation saying the Second Life fiction thing would not even be an advantage for her. She just liked the idea of having writers to chat with while on "break".

For anyone with a sense of community, working at home on the Web can be a noisy place.


Frank the official site of Flashpoint: Book One of the UNDERGROUND

The Polishing Manuscripts until they Shine

January 19, 2009 at 7:46 PM  
Blogger Brandon Barr said...

I agree, talking with other writers helps ease the isolation of writing...

I consider myself super fortunate because I write with a co-author. Talk about a huge motivator!! It definitely has been a blessing

January 19, 2009 at 7:47 PM  
Blogger conarnold said...

Thanks for your post, Terri! I agree that it's great to have the support, encouragement and inspiration from others through Twitter and sociall networking sites. GodLinked is one of my favorites.

January 20, 2009 at 2:32 PM  
Blogger Zebee said...

I'm friending you on FB and Shout life.
BTW, pop over to my blog My post on the 11th was one of your tips.


Joy Delgado
follow me on twitter:

February 12, 2009 at 6:25 PM  
Blogger Alexander Field said...

I remember those journalism classes - without a doubt, hated 'em at first, but grew to love them because of what you say here: camaraderie, intensity, deadlines! Anyway, I love that there is a community out there, thanks for the tip - I will have to check it out.

March 25, 2009 at 9:24 PM  

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