Monday, July 5, 2010

Building Community

I've had a Facebook account for awhile now, something like two years I think, and in that time I've made a number of friends, many of them writers, like myself. Most of them have the same goal as I do to publish, or if they've achieved that goal, to promote their wares. What strikes me about this is that their pages cry out into an unknown void hoping that someone is paying attention and is interested in the books they are hawking. It reminds me of 19th century street vendors barking to sell their goods.

The other thing that occurs to me is that each writer is very much isolated, which is ironic since Facebook is a social networking tool. I thought to check the groups on the site and even the discussion groups and have found little activity. And this got me thinking: is there a way to use Facebook to build a community of writers who will interact and help each other write, publish, and sell their work?

I don't know the answer this question but I do know that in all the groups of writers in which I've work, we are best when we come together. So imagine the potential here magnified by the Internet and Facebook.

But I also know that people are busy and have little time to participate. They are want to see a real benefit or want to perceive value in something before they commit to it. So without such a community now, there's no way to show value or benefit to prospective writers who could benefit or enhance the value overall the community for all.

I am also reminded this Independence Day that being alone is very American. It is woven deeply into the American character and makes us who we are as a nation. We admire the lone worker who helped build this country, tame its wilderness, and who today is the very backbone of our economy. And, as we all know, writing is a solitary act by its very nature.

And yet feedback on a piece of writing is key to its improvement. Unless we come together and help each other, such improvement is slow or may not come at all. Likewise, the more people who like a book and are willing to promote it because they believe in it, the better for the writer.

In my view, coming together to build a community that helps each other is the most benefical thing we can do to promote good writing and improve our own skill sets. I know that because I've volunteered for a non-profit for 12 years. I always got back more in learning than I gave. And I learned things it would have taken me even more time to puzzle out for myself. I learned about people, technology, movitation, and writing.

I've also seen some very interesting discussions on the Walls of some of my Facebook friends. What a shame these aren't captured for all. Some of us even challenged each other to change the way we write to stretch ourselves and go in a direction we normally wouldn't take. Seems to me this sort of thing should be done more often.

But, of course, I can't force anyone to do anything about this. And I can't do it by myself either. What I can do is put the idea out there and see if it takes root and sprouts. So if anyone is interested in discussing this further, please contact me or leave a comment. I'll be happy to discuss this more and see how we might be able to make this happen.


ien said...

Interesting post, Rich. Thank you for taking the time to grasp hold of something that I suspect a lot of us have noticed and pondered. You've expressed the problem well. Nicely done.

One response to the problem might be to scan Facebook for relevant conversations (wall posts with significant threads and more than one interesting point of view)and post links on your own page in order to share those conversations with others.


feitelberg said...

Yes, what you say is true and it would help me perhaps, but would it help others? I have no idea how many people see my page. I'm looking for a place we can all go and share ideas, knowledge, expertise, etc.

Even the current approach of creating another discussion group is not the perfect answer if we don't all participate. I think the participation part is the key.