Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Blogosphere and Literal Reality

I suspect I know how it must have felt to be a Dungeons and Dragons player back in the day. I wasn’t one (I think girls were few and far between with the D&D guys), but they were a tight knit crew of unusual people who generally kept their secret passion to themselves when around the rest of us, but they were a force to be reckoned with when they were together – sort of like Mulder’s friends on The X-Files, The Lone Gunmen.

When I started blogging initially, I didn’t tell too many people. To the average non-blogging person, the stereotype of a blogger was some pitiful person journaling her personal thoughts about cats versus dogs, what she had for breakfast and God knows what other self-indulgent prattle out into cyberspace.

Originally, I thought I wanted to connect with people who were interested in making a life change. By day, I’m working for a high tech company as a technical sales person, but I had decided I wanted to change my life and pursue something with much more meaning to me – my writing. As it turns out, the writing and the process of writing is what the blogging is mainly about. I’ve had an opportunity to share in the experiences of writers from the aspiring novelist, like me to many people much farther along on their journeys.

The term “blog”, short for Weblog is even distasteful. It sounds like a biological function you’d perform standing in a shiny satin dress, friend holding your hair, and high heels aerating the lawn behind a country club after too many rounds from the open bar at the company “Holiday Party”.

Weblog also seems a misleading term. Merely logging events and thoughts doesn’t indicate anything much different than posting thoughts on a web page, but I think the majority of bloggers – at least those I’ve come in contact with – blog because they’re looking for a dialogue.

Little did I know how rewarding blogging with writers, artists and all manner of creative minds would turn out to be. I won’t go into my Six Degrees of Separation experiences to outline how following a comment from one blog to another and to another has led me to some of the most thoughtful and interesting people I know, but I will say that the blogosphere allowed me to meet real live people in my own home city of Denver and hopefully as time goes by, I’ll have a chance to meet some of my online friends in other cities and countries.

Friday afternoon I met Karen Degroot Carter, another Denver area writer. Karen is the author of One Sister’s Song and also a member of The Lighthouse Writers Workshop, a creative writing school here in town. We had a terrific time and Karen posted about it here.

Sometime very soon, Karen and I hope to have lunch with Carleen Brice, another Denver writer, member of The Lighthouse Writers Workshop, blogger at The Pajama Gardener, editor of Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife and author of Lead Me Home: An African American’s Guide Through the Grief Journey, and Walk Tall: Affirmations for People of Color. Her debut novel, Orange Mint and Honey will be released by the One World imprint of Ballantine in February.

Years ago, people predicted that the proliferation of the internet would lead to our increased social isolation, but I feel like I’m part of a phenomenon where the blogosphere is enhancing our lives and bringing us closer to people we might otherwise never meet.

I still don’t talk about my blogging activities to many people and when it does come up, I tend to change the subject. I think it’s a little like being a Dungeons and Dragons player – I don’t think most people understand.

What surprises has blogging brought your way?


reality said...

Hi Lisa,
Even when I hadn't started writing my novel, I always wanted to connect with writers. It seemed like an impossible thing to do. I always imagined them as high and mighty beings, far above us mortals.
Since my sojourn into blogging, I have had the good fortune to now be friends with not only published authors but aspiring novelists; all wonderful people.
That is something I had never bargained for. To know that I can email any one of these and know that they shall reply and help me in my writing process. Or even life in general.

kristen said...

I've also found the generosity of other writers--published and non-published--to be one of the biggest surprises of blogging. I never imagined I'd find myself in the midst of such a wonderful community. I've also found tremendous support and guidance in the words of other blogging moms. After a while, you begin to know where to turn for a laugh, a cry, or some thoughtful companionship and that is a priceless gift.

But like you, Lisa, I don't talk about it much in my "real" life. I find that my family and some faraway friends who want to keep pace with our lives are very supportive, but the few times I've shared my blog with local friends, I've been disheartened and discouraged by their response. Many people see it as a threat. They think of me as some sort of geek looking to avoid actual human contact--and have told me so.

Anyway. The world is changing. The publishing world is changing. I see those of us who blog as being a little ahead of the curve.

Yes, this has expanded my world, my life, my heart and my soul in ways I never could have imagined.

Charles Gramlich said...

Yes, blogging has become a genuine social interaction for me, and a much more fulfilling and uplifting one than the general run of conversations in a bar. I can talk to a lot of people who share similar interests to mine, while in my real world I don't often find that many. Plus the networking is outstanding.

Carleen Brice said...

Hi Lisa,
I can't resist a little 6 Degrees of Seperation: I know Karen's editor.

I recently read a really funny line of Neal Pollack's that I'll paraphrase: "Of course writers email you back. What else do they have to do?"

Everyone's just sitting at their keyboard in their pj's checking their Amazon ranking anyway. :-)

No, I'm always floored when someone (published or not) responds to my email too.

I'll see you at the Writer's Studio and lets plan a lunch then, OK?

Ello said...

Hi Lisa,
The one big thing that blogging has done for me, besides addicting me to the blogosphere, is how much incredible knowledge I have garnered. Not just about publishing, writing a book, but the trials and tribulations that all our fellow writers go through. And that has been incredibly enlightening to me. The whole, "You are not alone" phenomenon, you know? And that has been the best thing reading blogs has brought to me. My own blogging is alot of fun as it allows me a creative outlet outside of writing my book. And every time someone comes by and comments, I feel so happy! I think Wow! someone is reading my thoughts. Especially when they leave nice encouraging words, like you do! It always makes me feel great.

Shauna Roberts said...

I'm not sure I had any surprises because I really didn't know what to expect when I started.

I hadn't thought about it until you mentioned it, Lisa, but I haven't told anyone about my blog but a few writing friends. I do have it listed in my sig file, but as far as I know, only a couple of people have visited it after seeing it there. I guess I feel a little nervous about having nonwriters read my thoughts.

I've made new friends from blogging, which is really great. I've also found it educational when people discuss problems they're having with their work or have found in a book they're reading. Some of the published writers talk about general publishing issues, which is good to know about.

As others have mentioned, it's good to know I'm not alone in my path to the fiction-writing life.

Lisa said...

Reality, The accessibility of published writers was a pleasant surprise to me too. Carleen has a pretty funny comment about that below.

Kristen, Karen Carter ended her post about our lunch on Friday with a similar comment -- something like, It's a Blogging Thing - You Wouldn't Understand. I suppose if the shoe was on the other foot and I knew someone active in the blogosphere and I didn't know anything about it, I wouldn't get it either.

Charles, I find exactly the same thing. Although I can enjoy social interactions with my non-writing friends and neighbors, it's usually much more superficial stuff. Talking about writing, in particular brings out so much more about a person because it is so personal and it does mean so much to all of us that I believe many of us "understand" each other much better than lots of our real life friends and acquaintances do.

Carleen, I love that line from Neal Pollack! I'm not sure what I thought published authors did all day long before I connected with them -- sat around waiting for assistants to peel them grapes maybe? Writer's Studio with Tobias Wolff -- definitely. Now, to decide which pair of pajamas to wear...

Ello, I think the "you are not alone" aspect of blogging has meant the most to me too. No matter how sympathetic our friends and relatives are, only other writers can truly understand some of the emotions and it's been so reassuring to me to know that it doesn't matter how many books a writer has published, the ups and downs never change.

Shauna, Once in a while the thought crosses my mind that it wouldn't be too difficult for a customer or colleague to Google my name and end up here (fortunately or unfortunately, there are a lot of Lisa Kenneys on line), so now and then it gives me pause to recognize that a lot of my posts include personal revelations about my insecurities and vulnerabilities. But when I weigh the pros and cons, I figure it's still worth it because of the dialogue I've had as a result. And even if someone from outside this "world" does read about my thoughts and feelings, that's all OK. Despite my workaday persona, I actually am a real human being :) I also do love the posts about craft and process. It adds a whole new dimension to the education process when a real live person talk about how addressing things like POV, description, dialogue, plotting, etc. is working in a real ongoing work in progress.

Larramie said...

Ironic, isn't it that we tend to keep our virtual life of blogging separate from our real life and, yet, TIME Magazine named us The 2006 Person of the Year? Ah, the implications....

Lisa said...

Larramie, I hadn't really thought of it quite that way, but it's true. We really do keep those two lives completely separated. I suppose to a large extent, we're different people in each of those worlds, aren't we?

debra said...

many of us Do keep our various lives separate--we even use different names. Interesting stuff...

Lisa said...

Debra, we do and I think it's interesting that many of us tend to be less guarded about some of our thoughts in the virtual world than we are in the real one...

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Literary Quote

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.

Virginia Woolf