literature & technology: where have all the lonely writers gone?
The whimsical image of a writer brings to mind thoughts of troubled souls shut away in dark rooms, with a piece of paper and a pencil, or a typewriter, pouring their creations onto the page in deep isolation. When the writing isn’t going, that doesn’t matter, the writer can take a walk, or indulge in a book from their expansive collection, or simply close their eyes and let their imagination wander. A submission posted off here and there demands interaction with the post office, and then it’s a matter of waiting for publication and pay checks to trickle in. Enough to live on, and nothing more, but that’s okay, because the writer doesn’t need much to survive on. Food and shelter and paper and pencils and books, and that will suffice to sustain.
I love this image of the writer, for the carefree lifestyle it depicts and because it is, of course, so fanciful, and so imagined, that only a writer ever could have conjured such a false stereotype of a writer. We all know the reality is much different from this view; however, there is one truth within that passage which has always seemed unescapable – that of isolation and solitude. Writing is undoubtedly a solitary profession, and I doubt that will ever change. Unless a widespread form of mind reading is developed and writers can plug into each other’s brains and see exactly what the other writer is visualising, and from that two writers can simultaneously create the same story. But while the craft itself will remain solitary, thanks to the internet and social media, the writing community is becoming much stronger, much louder and much more accessible for all these isolated writers.
I snubbed Twitter for a long, long time. I couldn’t see the point – what, so it’s like Facebook but with only the status updates? To me, that seemed egotistical and boring. I got sick of knowing what my friends had for lunch on my Facebook newsfeed and what they were up to every hour of every day. I didn’t need to know. It’s not my life, it’s theirs, and, while I’m glad they’re enjoying their days, please feel free to continue enjoying it without updating Facebook every half hour. I daresay you’d enjoy it even more that way. So to me, Twitter was irrelevant. But then I started reading more and more about it. And then I realised I needed to build a bigger platform for my writing work, if I was really serious about making a go of it. So, I bit the bullet and joined Twitter. And now I wished I’d joined years ago.
Twitter keeps me in the loop about what is going on in the writing world. I find out about competitions, journals accepting submissions, industry news and random bits and pieces which make me laugh. And while I’m sure there are some big ego types on Twitter, I’ve found it to be a very friendly place- it is about connecting and communicating with people in only 140 characters, and, for me, about being part of the writing community. Being a writer can be very, very lonely sometimes, and it is reassuring to find likeminded people to communicate with. I don’t tweet a lot- I check my twitter feed every day, but I don’t tweet every day because I don’t always feel like I have something to say.
But this isn’t an article about Twitter. This is an article about the importance of having a writing community for support. And in a profession as solitary as writing is, the internet has opened up a world of possibilities for the lonely, isolated writer to be not quite so lonely or isolated. I’ll admit, as a writer, there are days where I want to be isolated. I want to shut myself off from everything else and write- and on those days I do just that. I shut myself in my room, unplug my internet and thrash my keyboard until my fingers get RSI. But there are other days when I want to feel connected, and part of something bigger, and know that choosing to write is more than just me, a blank word document, my imagination and my vocabulary. As much as I covet the image of the happy, isolated writer living a simple, carefree life, it’s not a reality, and I wouldn’t want it to be mine. I’ll save that character for one of my stories.