By nature writing is solitary work that most often requires quiet or at the most a mild background hubbub. We might not all need to go all Walt Whitman on the world, but it does help to have a few minutes when our brains aren’t being bombarded with noises, words, requests, pings, or anything else. When the outside world is shut out the ideas can play together, feed off each other, and finally grow into something interesting or even worth writing down.
I’m always perplexed by novels written by a team of writers. How do they do it? Do they talk out each paragraph? Do they divvy up chapters, each taking one home to work on quietly? I can hash out ideas with people, discuss plot points over a glass of wine or a hot cup of coffee, but when my fingers hit the keys, I need to be alone inside my brain in order to make the words sound right.
For the longest time it was understood that novelists worked alone, as recluses, as long as they needed to hammer out their tales. That was the norm. Writer = slightly loner type who spends countless hours away from the rest of the world. Fine.
Then the Internet was born and Social Media emerged.
Now avid fans look up favorite authors on Twitter and Facebook. They search websites for email addresses. And they get frustrated if they don’t find that person online. In today’s world, if you’re not online, you don’t exist. Unless you’re Stephen King. He’s allowed to be offline. (And even he has a bit of a blog on his website. Not that it’s current, but it’s there.)
Even worse, agents seem to be looking around online. When they receive a query from a new writer, they want to know about social media presence. And if you don’t have one? They send you online to get one.
I started blogging years ago because I was lonely and bored. I kept it up because it was great for my writing. Then I kept going because of relationships forged and because of that persistent fear that one day I’d submit a query and hear back that the book seemed great, but my online presence was too insignificant to make me be considered.
A voice inside my head always whispers “If the book is good enough, no one will care.”
Another voice inside my head always replies “But what if they do?”
So I stay online. I blog. I tweet. I facebook. I keep working on my online presence, my social media platform. I gather fans, make sure to be as true to myself as possible. Hope that one day all that time spent will prove to be worth something.
Because that’s where the problem lies. It takes time to built a social media platform. It takes time to grow an online following. It takes dedication and time to keep it up day after day. Time that could be spent working on the book. Time that could be spent working on the next one. Time that could be spent polishing the manuscript to get it ready to send out. You cannot be online one week out of the month. One day out of the week. It just doesn’t work that way.
And yet, so often it seems like all the Internet provides is noise. Endless distracting noise. It seeps into my brain, filling up the lovely empty space that the ideas like to play in. That the words are best born in.
I wish I had the courage to turn my back on Social Media and all that it holds. I wish I had the self confidence in my work to know that it could stand on it’s own and be sufficient in and of itself. But I don’t. I need my friends in the computer to keep me going. I need to keep blogging. I need to keep Tweeting and Facebooking. I need to keep reading comments left here, there, everywhere. It gives me confidence to keep going. And some days it makes me feel like I’m still working towards that goal, the published novel, even if I haven’t had any time to do more than an hour of editing in the last week.