An Ignorant Writer and the Internet

I’ve always wanted to be a story-teller. This is not one of those narratives I’ve imprinted retrospectively onto my childhood. It’s fully legit. Ask my parents. I was drawing the stories before I could write them and then the writing took over. This is irrelevant. Whether one discovers their passion for writing upon emerging from the womb or much later in life has no bearing on the legitimacy of their writerliness. If you write, you’re a writer, as Chuck Wendig has pointed out. I like that way of looking at it.

But then. But now. But oh dear.

The Internet.

I blundered into my mid-twenties somehow managing to be unaware of the enormity of the writing community online. I had spent a lot of time on the internet prior to the discovery, but I was mostly reading web comics, news, politics, articles about feminism and human rights, and stuff about World of Warcraft. I don’t know how I managed to arrive so late to the party, but I did, and now I find myself fighting silly doubts about the legitimacy of my writerliness. Here are a few thoughts about writing and the internet.

Firstly, and let me be very clear about this: it’s pretty much all good. There’s advice and support and friendship and networking and feedback and ways to help you get your work published and promoted and ways to help others do the same. It’s great.

But it’s also absolutely flipping intimidating and overwhelming at the same time.

Having suddenly immersed myself in the online writing scene, I find myself spending a large amount of time doing things and worrying about things that I never did or worried about before, and while I can recognise a lot of it as unambiguously good stuff to be doing and worrying about, some of it seems a bit counterproductive, at least for me. I’m drowning in acronyms I don’t know, genres I can’t identify, blogs upon blogs upon blogs giving writing advice, reams and reams of information about the publishing process including an entire vocabulary I’ve never previously encountered (but probably should’ve), competitions and collaborations and marathons and promotions and forums and groups and hashtags and and and and… It’s great. It’s great and it has made me very excited for the future… but it has also made feel incredibly tired and incredibly lost. Some days I get so distracted by it and so preoccupied fretting about my ignorance and my disconnectedness and the idea that if I don’t engage with it, if I don’t get more involved, I’ll never get anywhere or be anyone… that I hardly manage to do any writing, which is surely the most important thing for me to be doing, right? The writing! I’ll never get anywhere if I don’t write, and write well. But I’m struggling! And it’s stupid! What is this?

The WIPMarathon has been absolutely fantastic. It has done a lot to boost my feelings of connectedness and involvement. I’ve gained almost 100 followers on Twitter since I started (for whatever that’s worth) but now I’m looking out and seeing this endless labyrinth of things I don’t understand, processes I’m ignorant about, books I haven’t read, people I don’t know anything about, and concepts that are absolutely alien to me and I just want to get into a WIPMarathon group hug and pretend that I’m not obligated to involve myself in anything else. But I’m not obligated, am I? And why wouldn’t I want to be more involved? It’s all here to help me! What is wrong with me? Why do I just want lock myself in a room on my own and pretend that the internet was never invented? I love the internet! What’s up with that? RHETORICAL QUESTIONS.

I used to see writing as a solitary undertaking (which is one of the things that made it appeal to me so much), but now that idea has been flipped onto its head for me. I like sharing and I like being involved but. BUT. I’m not very good at it, I guess. I think that’s the point of this post. I’m not good at getting in and I’m not good at keeping up. I can do it on a small scale, but I don’t know where to set the boundaries and the vastness of it all can be crippling without boundaries. I need to figure this out in my head for a while. Perhaps it’s like anything, and once I’m a bit more savvy, I’ll feel less overwhelmed, but right now I’m just flailing, in a bad way! I need to figure out what tools to make use of what tools to set aside so that I can focus my energy in a productive way instead of melting my laptop by having thirty thousand tabs open and not knowing which one to deal with first. I need to make a plan!

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6 thoughts on “An Ignorant Writer and the Internet

  1. I feel much the same way, it has to be said. I follow so many writing blogs on WordPress and Tumblr with some great advice that just freaks me out while I’m trying to get down a first draft. It will be really useful for edits but I make the mistake of reading them when I find them and just get stressed out that I haven’t even considered some things that are apparently staples of writing.

    WIPMarathon has been great because I’ve come into contact with more writers and it’s allowed me to be more outspoken about my own writing when before I would tend to clutch it to my hypothetical (occasionally actual!) chest to prevent anyone from even coming into contact with my work. But, while it’s great to get feedback by putting it out there, it’s also scary and I think adds pressure that you can ignore when you’re working in your own little world.

    Definite pros and cons there!

    • That’s exactly what I do, and it’s really not a healthy process. I’m going to start taking these effects into account as I move forward with this draft of mine. I realise these things are never written to cause self-doubt and stress, but if that’s what they result in then they’re definitely worth avoiding until the right time in your process. I need to be more aware of this from now on. Learning my lesson the hard way!

      Pros and cons indeed!

      Loving WIPMarathon. It’s been so positive and a good balance of all the good things the internet has to offer, in manageable quantities!

  2. Just like in the real world, stressing yourself to fit in isn’t always the best thing to do. Exhale and do what makes you comfortable, and trust me, there are people that’d still understand. Just like in real life.
    I used to be overwhelmed too in my early days of Twitter (which was early this year) because there was so much to read, too many people to learn from and all that. But I had to condense these things, choose the ones I wanted, and forged my own path in some cases. Now when I’m scrolling down my feed, I know links I’d open and those I’d simply ignore. Not that they’re not good, but I need some space in my head.

    And you could hear all these things- show don’t tell, don’t use adverbs, don’t do this, but at the end if you follow the rule to the letter, you’d miss out on the parts where your novel has to speed up by telling, where an adjective carries the best punch and so on.
    Sorry if this comment is long, but that’s what I discovered. You have to go with your guts. Many bestsellers didn’t follow all these rules to the letter.

    So sending you hugs. Don’t be afraid to be comfortable. And hopefully, WIPMarathon won’t make you uncomfortable in these last few days 🙂
    But if it does, don’t be afraid to be comfortable. Because that’s really what matters at the end of the day.

    Hope this makes some sense. O_O

    • Thanks for this great, thoughtful comment Ifeoma! It totally does make sense and I completely agree! WIPMarathon has been an absolute pleasure and I’m so lucky to have discovered it when I did! Wish it could just carry on forever, as it feels like a safe and comfortable space on the internet! It’s everything else that is a bit scary, but you lot have been absolutely lovely and so supportive. It’s wonderful. You deserve a medal! 😀

      Hope you’re having a lovely weekend! Looking forward to working through all the check-ins. 🙂

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