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.
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!