I’ve read debates about whether following blogs, using Twitter, and joining lists bring value to users…or is just a vast time suck that takes away from actually writing. Can you learn from virtual content under impersonal conditions? Is the content accurate or trustworthy? How do you tell?
Before I answer the questions, because of course I know the answers, I’ll share my experience. 🙂
The first blog I ever followed was www.arghink.com, written by Jennifer Crusie. I liked her books and she taught craft very well. Stir in her sense of humor and it was a great way to learn about writing. I still follow her blog. One day, she wrote about screenwriter Jane Espensen who’s written for television series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Gilmore Girls, Ellen, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Battlestar Galactica, and Dollhouse, to name several. I followed Jane’s blog, which dealt with screenwriting but was helpful on writing tight, plot, and character. She discontinued it a few years ago. Finally, I follow Lucy March’s blog because it’s built on a community of supportive encouragement and universal regard. Lucy is moving on, but the community will continue. I might stay with it. I might not.
Is blogging a vast time suck that takes away from your writing? Gem State Writers (GSW) is the first blog to which I’ve contributed. It’s been a valuable experience to me because it gives me a forum to voice my ideas, an opportunity to meet people all over the virtual ‘verse, and to learn from them via their comments. We are building a community of people who have similar interests. GSW has a generous schedule so I post a blog every two weeks. I support my fellow GSWs by reading their posts and posting comments. Answer: Not a time suck that infringes on my genre writing. At least, not in my case.
Can you learn content from impersonal sources? One of my critique partners is active on loops/lists. She is a treasure trove of information. She shares news about agents who are actively signing, contests with invaluable connections, publishers that are seeking what her partners are writing. You can’t buy that kind of info. Her connections with these groups keep her updated on the latest industry news. And while you might not know the people posting initially, friendships evolve over time on a list. Answer: Yes, you can learn without personally knowing the person sharing the information.
Is the content accurate or trustworthy? How do you tell? Seriously, we’re adults. It’s practical to verify information. Just do it with content on blogs and lists. For every inaccurate posting, there are at least four that are correct. That’s not a scientific number so don’t try to verify it. 🙂 For example, you read on a blog that a literary agency is looking for YA writers. Go to their website and check it out. Always practice your due diligence. Because, if what you found out from a list or blog is true, you might have a head start over those who didn’t read it. Answer: Maybe yes. Maybe no. Deal with it.
The key is balance. If you find yourself spending time on following blogs, Twitter, multiple loops, and you’re not carving out a schedule to write, you need to dial back the social media. If you’re able to do it all, still write regularly, and meet your writing goals, congratulations. Virtual value is yours for the taking if you handle it right.