First let me say I have re-written this a few times, because I don’t know how to cover this topic without alienating myself. Second, It’s long. I ran out of time to perfect it since I wanted this out by the 1st, sorry.
I haven’t been in the whole official writing gig thing for very long, and maybe that’s why this particular topic sticks out so much with me. Or maybe I will be torn to shreds for even thinking I could have a say in this which is precisely the reason I’m doing this. Our community is sick. Now I don’t mean in the depraved way I mean in the doctor’s office sick way. It’s nothing terminal or anything, because it’s not too late to fix it. We just need a shot, a shot of compassion and humility.
Back-story time. I have been writing for a long time, but not like what I have been doing the past year or so. Like many others I wrote by myself behind a closed door with the lights off and the covers over my head for good measure. I was embarrassed. My work felt so fragile and raw. If people ever knew of its existence they would surely mock and insult me. After all, I’m CJ the jock or CJ the gamer not CJ the writer. At least that’s how it felt. I think this is a common feeling for most of us at first. When I found out another one of my friends wrote too I mocked him. It was wrong. I was wrong. I was jealous because he could do something I didn’t have the courage to do. I apologized, he pushed me to be more involved in the community, and eventually I relented with NaNoWriMo. I immediately broke the rules like I do, but I still did it. For the most part everyone seemed friendly and nice….that is, until I went into the show your work forums (and, most recently, the forum discussing this year’s rule change which is sort of what clinched my need to write this.)
Keep in mind these are paragraphs written at lightning speed by people who are doing this to have a good time many for the first time. Yet some of the so called veterans would rip at the cadence, the passive voice, and the spelling like they would a George Martin final draft. A few even resorting to insults and cries of just quit now. The mods took down the hateful things as fast as they could, but you could still see it from time to time. On the positive side, most people were helpful and decried those few mean spirits. This pushed me to get more involved.
I started to go to classes and seminars, popped into a few write-ins, continued to help and participate in Camp NaNo, subscribed to Reddit Writing Prompts and Writing, and even drove to other towns to see my favorite writers speak. The more I dug into this world of words the more I saw it. The dark side of us all. Being new I seemed to get a good brunt of it. Everyone telling me my methods and ideas are wrong and juvenile. Things only neophytes would do. These things I know. I’m still looking for my voice and I only have a rough draft.
Probably the worst thing I see is people tearing apart other ideas for the sole reason of getting their own more visibility. (A crime most often seen and admitted to by people using sites with an up vote/down vote system.) One down vote on a new submission will push theirs to the bottom of the pile to be forgotten and keep your own submission closer to the top. It’s tempting I know, but it’s wrong. Another thing tempting is to not up vote things that are good because it will put theirs higher than yours. This is a community, and although it feels great to be praised and recognized it is just as important and vital to praise others.
Instead of encouraging others to join we tend to overload them with rules and tales of woe. If I had a dollar for every time I see: “Why write at all, you aren’t good enough to publish.” I would probably be able to open my own freaking publishing company.
Before I’m accused of just complaining for my own short comings please understand this isn’t coming from a place of anger. I’m a full grown dirt of my shoulders adult. I don’t really care what people say, and I don’t care that my work will never be world famous. That’s not why I do this (again something for another day). I do care, however, when I hear these stories coming from the teenagers at these seminars. So young with a confidence so frail. I have seen people giving up completely, because they felt so discouraged after sharing their work with the world which is a crime. Our crime. Of course it’s not perfect and of course we should give pointers, but we also need to be positive. Everyone likes to know that they are on the right track. We need to be able to push people in the right direction not push them away. Who knows, that young man you just ripped a new one could have been the next Dean Koontz had he been given the time to learn and grow. It’s easy to be misunderstood when our chief medium is text on a page; this is the internet after all.
Rant over I guess. As of tonight I start NaNoWriMo so my already poor updating skills will probably be even poorer this month. My bad. I will do my best though considering this blog is pretty much my therapy. I can’t wait to get back together with the old group for those weekly coffee shop nights, and the bar write-ins I’m trying to host for us older kids. Till next time I guess. Sign up if you haven’t.