Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Writing is a lonely profession - 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
photo by Amy Guth
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. Start with your Facebook account. You probably have writing friends, create a list of just those friends. Then periodically when things are going well (or not so well) post status updates that only other writers can understand.

You can also use hashtags on Twitter such as #amwriting, #amediting and #nanowrimo during November.

You can also declare a "word war" on one of your social media sites. Set a time and encourage everyone to compete to see how many words you can write in say 30 minutes. Compare results and even share favorite paragraphs on your main newsfeed or possibly in a private group you can form such as a video hangout on Google plus or a Facebook Group.

You don't have to be all alone in your writing. Support can help

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