Monday, October 17, 2011
It's a small world after all
I've been involved in online communities of various kinds for the better part of two decades now, and the one thing that always strikes me is what a small world we really live in. Not so much the coincidences of who knows who and who lives where, but just the camaraderie possible between people from all walks of life, from all over the globe, when united by a common interest or goal.
Last November was my first NaNoWriMo experience, and although I was already well aware of the joys of networking online with other writers, discovering the forums there was one of my favourite bits of the whole month.
Being part of my local region's group is an unusual experience for me- it carries all the benefits of the CompuServe forum (and other group hangouts); a sense of community, a sense of shared enthusiasm and drive, a supportive environment. But it's also very unique in that (almost) everyone in the group actually *is* geographically local to me. For someone who's only attended a couple of local writing courses and hasn't quite managed the step of connecting with other local writers in person, it's a bit of a revelation to discover so many others so nearby who are all working on the same kind of goal at the same kind time, with the differences in things like backgrounds, experiences and genres of choice contributing great variety.
I'm a very socially confident person, but going along to the pre-NaNo meet up last year was a bit nerve-wracking even for me. Knowing that you're going to meet a big group of people who *are* in theory just like you is actually weirdly intimidating. What if it's not all you hope for? What if you're the only one who doesn't quite fit in?
I'll just say for anyone who isn't sure whether they should go along to their local meet-ups or write-ins during NaNo- it's worth it. You discover that it's *not* quite what you expected, and that you *don't* quite fit in- but nobody does. Everyone is working toward such individual goals, and the thing that brings you together and helps you get along is the shared enthusiasm for this experience.
That enthusiasm can roll on for months after NaNo, as can the friendships you develop. You can get most of the same perks from joining up to a local writers group at any other time of the year, but there's something very different about November and the time limit (and word count) we're all set.
Anyway! My point being, there's no such thing as too young or too old, too inexperienced or too jaded, right genre or wrong genre, whether you're online or in person. As humans, we just know our own kind when we meet them- and if you're a writer, don't worry. You belong.