We met to discuss the creation of a website and a blog for our writing group, WritingWomensMinds, born out of a Personal Memoir class at East Line Books. Over cups of chai, we compared notes about how to make ourselves known in the world of social media. We’re mature women but novices in the world of Face Book and Twitter. We had been told by agents and editors, by teachers and book doctors, that we needed a platform, a presence, an interest group, to sell our novels, memoirs and art. We had thought it would be enough to write well, to write relevantly, to write from the heart. And besides, if you are spending moments, hours, days on e-mails, blogs and websites promoting your writing, when are you doing the WRITING?
Our faltering conversation was interrupted by a techno guy, on his way to the Men’s Room or to get a refill of his coffee, black, who just had to tell us that what we needed was “open source technology.” We needed to be linked to and immediately accessible on Face Book, Twitter, Google and any other damn place that people were looking for the newest “trend” because books were “dead.” Without a moment to mourn the demise of our second careers before they had even begun, he was steering us to “droupel” and google.com/insights/search for what was “trending” today, tomorrow, around the corner.
When he suggested that we give up our own projects to ghost write for famous people, I felt a twinge of pain. Was not my own story good enough? Did I have to murder my child, have an affair with a married politician or experience an “out of body” moment while near death for anyone to be interested in my life? Was a book only a vehicle for a speaking tour? I had been raised to love reading, to cherish the feel of a new or well-loved volume in my hands, to look forward to quiet moments curled up with a story that I could fall into and forget everything else. He dismissed the notion that anyone read anything that was not “trendy” and that anyone would write for any other reason than to make a lot of money.
After he left, we shook our heads and smiled. He had technology at his fingertips and we would never understand half of what he had said or believe much of what he had preached. But we had more. As he said, with no small admiration, “you can write” as though it was a gift, a lost profession, an honor. About that, at least, he was right.