In this week's episode, we had a chance to talk with Jim Butcher. And he talked about how he got the idea for Codex Alera (a great series!) in an online writers forum.
Over the years, I've found that those forums are difficult for me to get involved with. I waste so much time on the internet when I should be writing (like this morning), and it's easy for me to get lost reading conversations where I really have nothing to say.
One of the reasons I stopped writing my other blog is that I didn't have a lot to write about over there. Here, there's always a topic of the week to discuss. On the forums, I feel like I have nothing to offer. By the time I get into a post where the topic is interesting, or I might have something of substance to contribute, someone else has already said basically the same thing I would. And I hate when anyone posts in a thread just to say, "Yeah, I totally agree with this." I never want to be the guy who says something just to say something. Not unless there's something to add.
On the podcast, we've talked quite a bit about joining a community. And for many people, the forums are the best option. I didn't start to feel a part of a community until I met people in real life. That's how I work. That's how I connect. I've met a few awesome writers through the internet, but out of every thousand people I've chatted with online, only three of them turned out to be people I could have substantive conversations with online. As opposed to less than a hundred people met in real life who led me to my critique group of awesomeness with five members (all of whom I can have conversations with), and two of those members are my amazing co-hosts.
The tough part about communities, especially for us artistic types who want validation of some kind, is finding somewhere safe to be yourself. With the anonymity of the internet, that's almost impossible to find online. For me, anyway. I spend a lot of time trying to craft my words in a way that won't be misconstrued because I don't want to even accidentally say something rude or disrespectful. And if I'm ever going to be a professional writer, I can't spend my time in the forums.
Because if I do, I won't spend it writing. And professional writers have to write.