To Connect And Collaborate Is To Live And Grow
Someone said to me recently that my time spent on Twitter was time wasted, since instead I could be spending that time actually getting things accomplished.
Hearing things like that is painful, but not simply because it hits the usual angsty sore spots about my writing: that I’m not working hard enough, not working well enough, not working fast enough, etc. It’s painful because there are basic flaws in the philosophical underpinnings of that statement, some more pernicious than others. The person who said that just doesn’t get it.
Yes, connection with other writers on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc. can be little more than friends hanging out shooting the breeze. It’s fun and life-affirming, but is that “valuable”? Is it “productive”? Well, those relationships are important. That time spent with people can help simple acquaintances grow into friendship. Friends not only help you to be, y’know, happy, but they also make your world a better place in more concrete ways. Because I’m friends with other writers, I’ve been able to have meaningful conversations about technical matters such as how to write from one gender vs. the other, plotting, character development, pacing, language styles, etc. I’ve been introduced to new books that I never would have come across on my own. I’ve tried genres that I wouldn’t otherwise have considered.
In a more personal sense, these connections have allowed me to lean on my friends and get emotional support when I need it. Maybe I’m just a needy, neurotic guy, but there are times when I feel like I’m kidding myself by thinking I can be a writer. I look at my work and see nothing but crap. Thanks to the connections I’ve made, there are people out there who not only want to help me come to my senses, but who know me well enough to feel comfortable in delivering either a pat on the back or a kick in the pants. You just don’t get that kind of thing from slight acquaintances.
Can connections lead to good collaborations? Seriously, do you have to ask?
True, writing is typically, even canonically a solitary activity–it’s just you and your keyboard. However, there are plenty of times when the project is built on collaboration. My story in the Yang Book was fitted like a jigsaw piece to match up with the stories around it. At one point, Dan Powell and I were e-mailing various drafts back and forth trying to match up the locations and chronology so that our two main characters could meet within the fictional world they both inhabited. He’d tell it from his POV, I from mine. It was an entirely different kind of creativity.
In another instance, I had the chance to be one of the editors of a Choose Your Online Adventure story, working with three authors and three other editors, each of whom had their own group of writers. It was a glorious, tangled, snarled plot, looping back and forth and over and under. At times, I despaired that we would be able to make it work, but through close collaboration, it all set into place perfectly.
My collaborations in these projects, as well as my editorial roles in the “100 Stories for Queensland” and the upcoming “Best of Friday Flash, Vol. 2”, are collaborations that I became a part of because of those connections I made on Twitter and elsewhere. Sometimes I’m asked to take part, sometimes I put myself forward. Sometimes collaborations are mapped out ahead of time, sometimes they arise spontaneously.
All of them, though, happen because writer A thinks that working with writer B (and maybe writers C, D and E) would be A Good Thing. This process leads to partnerships in critiquing stories and manuscripts, sharing tips and tricks, passing along word of opportunities, making introductions to help people grow their networks, etc.
If you want friends, you have to be friendly. Invest the time in making connections, not in a cold-eyed ROI sense, but just for the sake of the connections themselves. I can’t promise it will make you a better writer, but it will give you the chance to take your writing to new places.