Putting the ‘friend’ into cyber friendships

On her blog a few years ago, author Jody Hedlund questioned if our modern cyber world is distorting the meaning of the word ‘friend’. She asked, “How would you define a true friend and can you find that kind of friendship in the cyber world?” I’ve often thought about that question but never really come up with a definitive answer.

“What constitutes a friend in the truest sense of the word? We all value different qualities in our friends. but certainly we can all agree that a friendship must involve a genuine relationship. My pocket Webster defines friend as: close companion. More specifically as writers, we need genuine friends who can encourage and challenge us in our writing journey and we can do the same for them. Do Facebook friends fit that definition? Are they close companions or are they another “list” of people to help us in our quest for publication? For that matter, do any cyber friends live up to that definition?” [Jody Hedlund]

::shifting gears here::

On Friday, June 6, 2008 Joylene Butler published her first blog post. At least, it was the first one that I know about. She had sold five copies of her first novel and was moving to the next step: blogging to promote it and become more visible.

I didn’t know her then, nor had I found her blog when I began my own three weeks later with an initial post on June 28, 2008. My fiction wasn’t published yet so I had nothing to promote, but I was following the trend to be prepared by developing an online presence in the writing community.

There were no comments on my first post, just as there weren’t any on Joylene’s. We were newcomers in cyberspace.

CG&JBI don’t recall how I found her blog. Something in the mysterious realm of cyberspace drew us together. There was a post that November about eagles ‘fishing’ among the ducks on her lake that caught my attention and prompted me to respond with a comment about the goose who nested atop a beaver house in our marsh. Later in November she left a comment on my blog, and as our exchanges continued we discovered we had a lot in common.

When her second novel was being released I interviewed her on my blog. At some point she read and critiqued a story for me. Mostly, though, we’ve just played the role of encourager for each other. She has her own long-standing circle of writer friends and I’m involved in a writing group of my own.

We interact online regularly but we’ve met only once. She lives about 900 kilometres from me, but we managed to arrange a rendezvous when she came south for one of her book signings and I was visiting with family in a nearby city. When she answered the door that day I felt I was being greeted by an old friend.

::returning to the original question::

Friend? One who can encourage and challenge? Hmmm.

JB2Joylene and her husband went to Mexico on November 1st and are renting a casa for the winter at Los Arroyos Verdes in beautiful Bucerias. It’s a place that obviously agrees with her. But two weeks ago she posted about how she had fully intended to set up a strict writing schedule and finish a WIP while there, but so far hasn’t managed to write much at all. You can read the post here, but she concludes, “It’s disheartening to realize I’ve turned into one of those well-meaning persons who can’t get anything done past getting her nose burned.”

Dozens of people have left encouraging comments for her that range from, “I don’t blame you for being distracted. I’m sure you’ll settle back into writing soon,” to “Enjoy yourself and don’t worry too much about the productivity side of things,” and “Keep the faith. You will get there.”

It’s comforting to receive this kind of response, but I’m starting to wonder if any of us were being true friends in offering those consoling virtual pats on the shoulder. Maybe we should have been saying more challenging things like, “It looks gorgeous there. Take a day or two or three every week to soak it all up, but be sure to honour your desire to use a portion of the time for finishing that manuscript (or starting another if that’s the direction you’re led). If you don’t, after six months away you’re going to be cross with yourself when you get home.”

What do you expect from your cyber relationships? How would you want a friend to react when you were avoiding the very thing you normally loved to do — the writing that you promised yourself (and all of us!**) you were going to do during your several months of free time?

If I actually said that to Joylene, would I be a true friend, or just a nag?

Joylene writes suspense thrillers … has two published, with two more in the works, and has a story in a recently published collaborative steampunk anthology.

After reading this she’ll probably write me into her next story and kill me off!

~

 

** I will gain momentum soon and begin a routine of writing and blogging and whatever else I promised myself I’d do while here. The right schedule will arise in short order. In fairness, my internet connection has been terrible and I’ve had to stifle my impatience. Which also means I’ve had no excuse for not writing. That will change. I pledge to finish my current WIP, Shattered and to smooth out any clinks in my Vietnam political thriller, Kiss of the Assassin.” [Joylene Butler, Blog post: November 17, 2014]

~  ~  ~

Challenging Changes

.

Sometimes things just don’t go as planned. Our trip home from the Okanagan mid-week was one of those things. The afternoon’s drive started out pleasantly enough. Sunshine. Picture-perfect clouds. Hardly any traffic.

I barely noticed as more clouds snuck in…

… until suddenly, well along the mountainous Coquihalla Highway, the darkened skies dumped their contents.

Then, just as the clouds began to lift and we neared the town of Hope, BC, bordering the eastern edge of the Fraser Valley…

… we encountered an ominous sign.

Earlier in the day there had been a massive mudslide which closed the Trans-Canada Highway. Traffic from three different highways backed up for miles as vehicles united into one lane and were re-routed by police and Department of Highways personnel through the town to a secondary highway on the other side of the Fraser River. That last leg of the trip should have taken us an hour and a quarter. It took us five.

As we finally approached home, the remaining clouds parted. We arrived late and tired but safe, and were glad to learn that no-one had been seriously injured in the slide or any of the subsequent traffic accidents.

Of course there’s a writing application coming. 🙂 I think it ‘s true that the writer’s journey often encounters unexpected changes and challenges, too.  There are the pleasant and productive times, as well as long hours of struggling with the direction our stories are taking. Times of hoping and waiting. Disappointing detours that make us wonder if we’ll ever reach our goals.

But if we follow the guidance of those who have expertise, if we do our part with patience and persistence, we’ll find our way. The route may not be quite the one we intended to take, and perhaps we’ll have to compromise a bit on the destination, but if we trust God to be the Navigator in charge of our lives, He will see us safely through the maze.

Have you encountered major detours in your life or your writing? What got you back on track or did you permanently alter your course?

~

“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.”
[Proverbs 3:6  AKJV] 

.

Today’s the Day and I Did It!

Yes, I did. With a gnawing in my stomach that other years caused me to bypass my first choices, with lips pursed and heart thudding, today I took a deep breath, checked two particular names, clicked “submit” and cemented my decision.

Registration opened at noon today for the 2010 Surrey International Writers’ Conference. I’ve attended for several years and taken part in the editor and agent sessions, never confident that my writing was worth the time they gave to listen and evaluate, despite their encouragement. I love this conference for its information, inspiration, rejuvenation – and, of course, the pure pleasure of hobnobbing with other writers and writing professionals. It’s a heady environment!

This year I decided to register early and try to book an interview with my first choice of agent and editor. I value their opinion and can only know what that is if I actually present my material for scrutiny, right?

The deed is done. Registration and the appointments are confirmed. Gulp. Now I have to live with this trepidation for four months until conference time arrives. One consolation: I should lose weight between now and then. The butterflies are bound to consume any calories I manage to eat.

Do you have plans to attend a writing conference this year? Have you attended one before? How was your experience?

.

Goals versus Challenges and Resolutions versus Intentions

Is a goal really a goal if you have no expectation of reaching it, or is it just a pipe dream? That question returns with tongue out and fingers flapping in ears to taunt me whenever I consider accepting a challenge.

 

The first time was when I agreed to participate in the 2006 NaNoWriMo insanity. I’ve launched myself towards a 50,000-words-in-November goal on three occasions now but have yet to make it to the finish line.

 

A friend and I long ago gave up on New Year’s Resolutions. We agreed that making ambitious “resolutions” that we probably couldn’t keep is just setting ourselves up for failure, so instead we settle on sharing our “intentions”. Intentions aren’t promises in the way resolutions are, so breaking them isn’t quite as devastating to the morale. The trick is to identify the category to use at any given time.

 

Then too, it’s important to identify our capabilities. I’ve said it before: there’s no sin in being good to yourself. It’s okay to ease back on the throttle when life’s multitude of priorities threatens to overwhelm. So why, when I have more on the go than I have time or energy to cope with, do I accept more challenges? I suspect it’s because I know I work better under pressure. The more I absolutely have to get done, the more efficient I become.

 

With that in mind I recently took up Jennifer Hubbard’s Summer Reading Challenge, pledging to read ten books before September 21st. I don’t expect to have trouble meeting this challenge because I  l-o-v-e  to read. And that’s the reason I’ve also accepted Tristi Pinkston’s July Writing Challenge. It’s much too easy for me to read to the point of procrastinating on my writing, so these two challenges should balance out my efforts. I’ve committed to edit (revise yet again) at least 200 pages of my current novel and also organize the haphazard thoughts for my new w.i.p. – get them out of my head and into some kind of outline on paper – during the month of July.

 

I’m not sure where challenges fit into my interpretation of goals. Are they resolutions or intentions? Either way, I’m getting psyched up to accomplish great things this summer.  Oh, but I have to stock up on Diet Coke before I do anything else. It’s pretty hard to read or write without a cold one near by. If I share my supply with you would you like to join me for either or both challenges?