I suspect a lot of writers are like me, sociaphobes who spend more time in their fictional worlds than out in the open. The real world is a scary place. It’s unpredictable and sometimes cruel. Fiction writers deal with this by creating mockups of the real world, adding elements that save or destroy, depending on the situation. It’s all about control, I think, especially control over our own fears. I once read an article about a horror writer who was scared of the dark as a kid. (I think it was someone famous, but I don’t want to mention the name, because I’m not sure.) He was scared of monsters and boogie men and whatever creepy things may go bump in the night. He overcame the fear by writing about them, the most horrible worst-case scenarios that a monster can create. It was his way of controlling the monsters, controlling his own fears. The same is true for other writers. We know that we can’t stop death and hate and pain in real life, but we can create worlds where these bad things happen at our command. We’re not detached from it, and a good writer won’t make the bad things convenient. In fact, the more emotional we get from a scene, the more powerful it’ll be for the reader. It’s controlled in that the reader and the writer can walk away from the experience—much like a thrill ride at an amusement park—without truly being hurt.
The real world doesn’t give you that option. There are infinite possibilities of tragic events that cannot be controlled. They can be reduced and sometimes prevented by not putting yourself in a vulnerable position in the first place. Enter the recluse, the person who tries to control fate by isolating him/herself. The best way to avoid a car crash is to not drive. The best way to avoid negative confrontation is to not confront. Distance yourself from all means of social interaction. Don’t use the phone. Don’t join clubs. Don’t talk to too many people who might judge you. It’s a cushy little world – until you become a published author.
Enter social networking, a reclusive writer’s worst fear, but one of the most vital tool for marketing your books. I knew this stage would come. I’ve been bracing myself for it for years. As I patched up the last edits of my book, I was intensely aware of the social grim reaper looming over me, black cloak billowing in the wind. I can’t write him into submission, can’t stab him from my life with a fountain pen. This is something I have to deal with head on.
I’ve met many awesome virtual friends in the past few weeks, writers like me, some experienced and some new, who are going through the process. I’ve joined writer networks and now follow blogs that I actually read. It comforts me to know that these writers are human like me, not monsters or boogie men hiding in dark corners. This social networking gig isn’t as bad as I thought. It’s actually been a pretty positive experience so far. I’m not saying that I’m ready to pick up the phone and chat with people now – I probably won’t be attending any video conferences or all-night book signing parties any time soon. But I definitely see the value – no, the urgency of shedding my public phobia. It’s time to embrace the social reaper.