Sometimes I watch the Twitter-stream and think the New Digital World is a beautiful place. A place of generosity. A place of kindness. In the Sometimes you can almost hear people listening, nodding, patiently waiting their turn to add to the chorus. In the Sometimes, the digital shell dissolves and we’re in a small room together, face to face.
You mention a book. I say I know that book. You say isn’t it the best? I say it’s brilliant.
I sip my orange juice (it’s morning here). You sip your wine (it’s evening there).
How’s that novel of yours coming along? you ask. Slowly, I answer.
Loved your last blog post, I say. I needed to hear that today, you say.
I sip my orange juice. You sip your wine.
We quietly slip back into our lives.
And then there are the Othertimes. In the Othertimes the New Digital World is an ugly place. A place of easy exclusion. A place of selfishness. In the Othertimes I hear silent pronouncements, judgments, snide asides. In the Othertimes the digital shell becomes a wall and we’re only in a room together if I qualify.
You haven’t read Faulkner? Exluded.
You’ve read Twilight? Really? Excluded.
You don’t have an MFA? Excluded.
You don’t have a book deal? I mean a real book deal? Excluded.
It’s pledge week and you weren’t invited. It’s high school and you aren’t cool enough. It’s junior high and you buy your jeans at WalMart.
Oh, there is a cursory kindness. And there are moments when the wall comes down – but instead of a small room it often reveals a stage and they’re on it and you’re not.
In the Othertimes, an excluded novelist (blogger, agent, editor) smiles politely, accepts the Otherness and continues on. But there remains an ache. We don’t want to examine it for fear it’s stamped “jealousy,” but it’s there. Instead, we wave it off as nothing or employ a familiar safety protocol: cognitive dissonance.
We didn’t like that club anyway. They’re snobs. They’re elitists.
Okay, maybe we do like that club.
Or a lot.
Maybe we wish we were invited to their literary soirees and their Seurat picnics and their balconies overlooking the sunset Seine. Or maybe we just wish we could sit in a small room and talk face to face. Have you read The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes? you might ask, and you wouldn’t change your opinion no matter what they said; you would say how much you loved it.
They would sip their champagne. You would sip their champagne.
No. You don’t like champagne.
You would sip your tea.
And you would feel better. Cooler.
Or you could forget about the Othertimes. Ignore them. Glide right through them. Perhaps you could stop, look around, and realize you’re already in a pretty good club. A club that matters.
Do you write? You qualify. Do you edit? You qualify. Are you an agent? A blogger? You’re in.
Have a seat. We talk about books here. Books and writing and publishing. And chocolate.
We don’t care how many followers you have or where you live or what you’re wearing. You can even use adverbs and sentence fragments here. Freely.
Sometimes the New Digital World is a beautiful place.
Like right now.
So…how’s that novel of yours coming along?