It’s a huge no-duh that we live in an Information Age: from high speed Internet to 4G cell networks, we can get whatever we want wherever we want it – data-wise – at practically at the speed of light.
But sometimes I miss the old days. No, they weren’t – ever – the Good Old Days (I still remember liquid paper, SASEs, and letter-sized manila envelopes … shudder), but back then a writer had a damned long time to hear about anything to do with the biz.
If you were lucky you got a monthly mimeographed newsletter but otherwise you spent weeks, even months, before hearing about markets or trends … and if you actually wanted contact with another writer you either had to pick up the phone, sit down and have coffee, or (gasp) write a letter.
No, I’m far from being a Luddite. To borrow a bit from the great (and late) George Carlin: “I’ve been uplinked and downloaded. I’ve been inputted and outsourced. I know the upside of downsizing; I know the downside of upgrading. I’m a high-tech lowlife. A cutting-edge, state-of-the-art, bicoastal mutlitasker, and I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond.”
I love living in The World Of Tomorrow. Sure, we may not have food pills or jetpacks but with the push of a … well, the click of a mouse I can see just about every movie or show I want, read any book ever written, play incredibly realistic games, or learn anything I want to know.
Here it comes, what you’ve been waiting for … but … well, as I’ve said many times before, writing can be an emotionally difficult, if not actually scarring endeavor. We forget, far too often, to care for ourselves in the manic pursuit of our writing ‘careers.’ We hover over Facebook, Twitter and blog-after-blog: our creative hopes of success – and fears of failure – rising and falling with every teeny-tiny bit of information that comes our way.
I miss … time. I miss weeks, months of not knowing what the newest trend was, who won what award, who sold what story to what magazine, who did or did not write their disciplined number of pages that day. Back then, I just sat down and wrote my stories and, when they were done, I’d send them off – and immediately begin another story so when the inevitable rejection letter came I could, at least, look at what I’d sent and say to myself Feh, I’ve done better since.
I’m not the only one. Just this week I had to talk three friends off rooftops because they looked at their sales figures, read that another writer had just sold a story when they’d just been rejected, heard that the genre they love to work in is in a downward spiral, that they’d been passed over (again) for an award, or that someone else had written ten pages that day … and all they’d managed to do was the laundry and maybe answer a few emails.
It took me quite a while but I’ve finally begun to find a balance in my life: a way to still happily be – and now we’re bowing to the really-dead Timothy Leary – turned on, tuned in … by dropping out.
Far too many writers out there say that being plugged in 24/7 to immediately what other writers are doing and saying, what their sales are like moment-by-moment, or the tiniest blips in genres, is the way to go. While I agree what we all have to keep at least one eye on what’s happening in the world of writing we also have to pay a lot more attention to how this flow of information is making us feel – and, especially, how it affects our work.
By dropping out, I mean looking at what comes across our desk and being open, honest, and – most of all – caring about how it makes us feel. You do not have to follow every Tweet, Facebook update, blog post, or whatever to be able to write and sell your work. You do not have to believe the lies writers love to tell about themselves. You do not have to subscribe to every group, forum, or site. You do not have to hover over your sales.
I’ll tell you what I tell myself – as well as my friends who are in the horrible mire of professional depression: drop out … turn it off. If the daily updates you get from some writer’s forum make you feel like crap then unsubscribe. If you don’t like the way another writer makes you feel about you and your work then stop following them. If the self-aggrandizing or cliquish behavior of a writer depresses you then stop reading their Tweets, blog posts or whatever.
You do not have to be a conduit for every hiccup and blip of information that comes your way. You Are A Writer … and, just like with flesh-and-blood people, if something diminishes you in any way, punches you in the emotional solar plexus, or keeps you from actually writing, then Turn It Off.
This is me, not you, but I don’t follow very many writing sites. WriteSex, here, is wonderful, of course … but beyond the true, real professional necessities, I only follow or read things that are fun, educational, entertaining, uplifting, and – best of all – make me feel not just good about myself and my writing, but want to make me sit down at my state-of-the-art machine and write stories.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what it’s all about … and everything else either comes a distant second or doesn’t matter at all.