Wednesday, July 27, 2011


This post focuses more on the "rural" part of the blog name. (But in honor of Pride Week in Vancouver this week, I'll throw in a rainbow flag pic for the heck of it. There's the gay content.)

I do like my time to myself. Always have except perhaps during adolescence when we seem to be wired differently, when alone equals unpopular and triggers despondent "What's wrong with me?" entries in spiral-bound journals. I am on vacation now and this is an opportunity to use all my alone time to focus on writing. While jogging earlier this week on a highway infrequently traveled by a mill worker in a souped up Dodge Ram or a camper hauling a boat, I thought, Oh, this is great. I need this jog. Gives me time to think. And then I checked myself. HELLO?! You have all day at home with uninterrupted thinking time.

Peace and quiet? That's a big reason I was enticed to buy a house a ferry ride away from the city. But often there is too much peace and quiet. When I walk my dog through this neighborhood at 10 p.m., almost all the lights are out. Takes "bedroom community" to the extreme.

Too much thinking time, too much peace and quiet....not a good thing. Interaction is valuable; quells the hermit tendencies. I drive into town once or twice a day. I engage in counter conversation. Hello/How are you/I'd like a large of the dark blend/Thank you/Have a good day/Yes, nice to finally see the sun. It's autopilot talk. (Yesterday, when I bought a newspaper, the gas station attendant said, "Have a good weekend." It was Tuesday!) Often the pleasantries are with the same people. Despite being a small town where everyone is supposed to know your name, we don't. They may even be wearing company name tags. Never noticed.

These are only interactions on a technical, dictionary-definition level. I say more to my dog. (And I like to imagine he says more to me. Wonderfully communicative eyes.)

Praise be to the Internet.

That's a sentence I never thought I'd write. Sixteen months ago, I recall asking a former coworker about Twitter. Why was he on it? What was the point? Why did he keep checking his account? His answers, like all of his answers, rambled on. (How could this man communicate in 140-character chunks?!) He mentioned two groups he'd "befriended": one a swarm of golfing enthusiasts and another a keen pack of techies. He was meeting up with many of the golfers in North Carolina in a month. No, they'd never met. He didn't seem to get the point of why I'd asked.

I set up a Twitter account, a couple in fact, but I remained a skeptic. Then I attended the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators' massive conference in Los Angeles last August. More Twitter talk. At one workshop, the Tweeters (Twits?) were rabid, every sentence beginning with "You must--". When I logged back on, I followed some of them and most followed in return.

I signed on to official chats, #kidlitchat and #yalitchat, at their weekly times. It was challenging to keep up with the stream of comments and to tweet a relevant reply before it became off topic three minutes later. At other points in the week, I tried to think in tweets. Ooh, that'll be clever. But then a driver would chirp something quite different when the light turned green and my witticism would be gone. Still, I think I started to get it.

A year later, I look forward to the chats. I recognize the names and tiny pics of many people Tweeters. Some of them stand out. I like what they say, I relate to them, we reply to one another during the conversation. Yes, conversation. Some of them even get when I'm trying to be funny. (I REFUSE to ever use that Internet laugh-track, LOL.)

This summer, I've also checked out #litchat and I belatedly stopped in at #bookmarket. The feel isn't the same though, likely because I'm still a guest. Last Sunday, I stopped by #TVwriterchat. Yes, I've been a closet sitcom writer, dating back to 1989. Never came out. Moving from L.A., it was hard to find anyone in Vancouver who would passionately dissect an episode of "Seinfeld" or discuss the quirky promise of the current "Raising Hope". In my rural environs, I can't even attempt to share my thoughts with the dog. He runs to another room if I laugh too loud when the TV is on. ("What is that noise breaking up our peace and quiet?!")

I had to get up and pace a couple of times during the chat. I was too excited to sit. I was outing myself as a TV writer wannabe. I found a connection. And I can't wait for next Sunday.

Things are moving beyond official chats. Early this morning, I tweeted that I was submitting something to a magazine today. (If I tweet it, I have to do it, right?) Three replies came back, wishing me luck. I recognized each of their profile names. Another person sent me a direct message, thanking me for acknowledging during last night's #kidlitchat that self-doubt is a normal part of the writing process. She felt she could slog on without abandoning her manuscript.

Yes, I am a Tweeter/Twit/Twitterer/Twirp.

Real time conversations about things I care about. I feel less isolated, less alone in the middle of nowhere. I feel inspired to write more. I'm not the only one spending his vacation in a home office, typing away, pondering, plotting, revising. It's exhilarating!

1 comment:

Rick Modien said...

Great post, Greg. (I can call you that, can't I?)

I laughed at what to call yourself--Tweeter, Twit, etc.

Okay, I admit I don't get the whole Twitter thing, and I'm not sure I want to. As I wrote in a post, Chris and I aren't even into cell phones. We also don't like that people value using hand-held devices to communicate when they have real family and friends right in front of them. (Note to the fellow sitting at a table with five other people at Cactus Club Cafe in Coquitlam last Friday, who couldn't stop using his device the entire meal. Had I been sitting with him, I would have told him what I thought of his rudeness.)

On the other hand, I see how Twitter helps you stay connected to the world beyond your rural location, and in contact with folks who have the same specialized interests as you, so I get that.

On the subject of self-doubt in writers, can I recommend the September 2011 issue of "Writer's Digest," and an article titled "10 Ways to Harness Fear and Fuel Your Writing" (p. 26)? Wow, it's almost as though Sage Cohen, the writer, was in my freakin' head. Scary. But the advice is great, and practical. I found this piece very helpful, and I think your Twitter friend might, too.

Good luck with your writing, and thanks for all the posts this summer. It's great getting to know you better.