Do the writing snobs of the internet really help or just hinder creative writing?

Have you ever visited a writers forum before, felt possibly some kindred spirit between struggling writers, signed up with great hopes and maybe some trepidation, only to realize that most likely most of those users are really just the Debbie Downer types who don’t really care about offering any beneficial critique?  Who really just care mostly about tearing down, and shredding any questions or work you put in before they actually see your work or really get to know you?

I dunno.  It may be just a case of “who am I to judge”, but let’s face it; the internet is nothing more really than a cultural wasteland of dubious benefit that really has only helped porn addicts get their fix without having to walk down to the nearest porn shop and spend forty bones on some fetish gang bang like back in the (ahem) good ole’ days.  And really, what does the internet offer that can’t be had anywhere else?  

Want information on that hard trig assignment due on Friday?  Well by jove!  Head to the nearest library!  Having problems paying for an electrician for a wiring job?  Well hey!  Once again your local friendly library is just around the corner!  Music?  There are still some indie record shops out there that cater to many genres.  

The point is, is that relying on what some stranger thousands of miles away who’s supposedly some “expert”, is kinda like allowing some dude you met at your new job take care of that vintage 1968 Ford Mustang that you spent years renovating?  Sure, he may actually work as a mechanic and know his stuff, but would you really trust anything this guy or gal says let alone does?  Enough to take a few spins out on the freeway?  Enough to take advice on any upgrades?  

My advice?  Engage and form a bond between a college professor who you know knows what they’re talking about.  State, UC, private, hell, even community would work fantastic.  That way at least, they most likely know the contact of someone who knows someone else who is actually reputable when it comes to what you write.  Just don’t sit around typing to strangers who will always just remain strangers.  



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2 responses to “Do the writing snobs of the internet really help or just hinder creative writing?

  1. Nina Kaytel

    I disagree, love. I have been writing since I was a tot and it has only been since using forums that my writing has improved. I grew from the narcissist writer who thought everything I put on page was gold and people would want to read it. I am not that person anymore. If I had kept thinking that I would be nowhere near getting published. I am a novice. The people on the forums are the people who will, hopefully, read your book(s) or any form of writing you publish. Yes, some are trolls, some lash out after having the harsh criticism, and some just wither lost in their own doubt. Then there are the great ones. And since you and I use at least one common forum, I can tell you those people are the ones who will make you a great writer. Besides you are generalizing. You assume that everyone can go to the public library or that the libraries are the same, assume that they only listen to music that is produced in a physical format or a large enough band to be in America, assume that they are socially adept enough to speak to stranger, and you assume that just because their is physical contact that makes them more knowledgeable than ‘a stranger a thousand miles away.’ Look at the signatures, see which ones are published and which ones aren’t. Criticism isn’t your right and I am wrong, it is the opinions of readers.
    Love and hugs.

  2. I think writing forums (and the internet as a whole) have a lot value. First of all, writing is lonely; I appreciate being able to commiserate with people who know where I’m coming from (especially if it doesn’t involve driving 45 minutes to the nearest big town to go to a writer’s group). If I have a question, or I’m not sure about something, or I just want to lament or celebrate, real live people are just mouse clicks away. Over time you develop relationships. I have writing support friends I met online a decade or more ago who I rarely get to see in person (some I’ve never met at all), and they have been invaluable to me. They help me work out problems, they improve my work, they keep me going–I keep them going.

    Are there asshats bloated with self-importance out there? Sure. Are there regular people who just don’t get where you’re coming from? Sure. Are there people who are saying what you don’t want to hear but if you manage to set your ego aside, what they’re saying has something useful in it? Yep.

    You learn to build mental filters to sort the wheat from the chaff. (And I believe this is just as true for in-person writers groups, working with an in-person mentor or critique partner, etc., as it is for doing it online.)

    And Nina has a point about criticism: it isn’t a battle. It’s an opportunity to field-test your work, see if it’s accomplishing what you intended. Again, you have to develop filters. For instance, if someone has a problem with a story being in first person present POV, is it because that POV isn’t working for your story (the best critters will be able to explain why it’s not working, but not everyone can articulate it), or is it because that person just doesn’t like first person present POV? These are things you get to know the more you spend time (virtual or otherwise) with people.

    Online or off, it’s a social thing. It takes time.

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