Well, it’s really been a month or two of screeds.
First there was Joel Olsen’s viral screed-fest: the eff-word filled rant about not wanting to effing read anyone’s effing script.Then there was “established writer” John Scalzi’s “On the Asking of Favors From Established Writers” – yet another enraged “established” writer bitching about being asked for favors by “non-established” writers. (Note: Laura has never heard of “established” writer John Scalzi, but she wouldn’t want to ask him to do her a favor and tell her who he is because then he’d put her in his next screed about people asking “established” writers for favors.)
Then, not to be overly self-branterential, there was Laura’s Comcast Brants (called her “Comcast Jihad” by a Twitter-friend).Not to mention her screed about having Turkey Neck. And turning into a Masshole.
It’s been a stressful time: back to school, battling religious ambivalence and cooking phobia during the Jewish holidays, and trying to figure out the rest of her career-life with lots of great new work coming in — Laura could go on and on and on here with the stress-triggers — but one thing has been a truly solid rock for her to lean on:
Her virtual life.
Laura’s sure there are tons of screeds she could link to on the downside of Twitter and Facebook and all the other social networking sites we all waste far too much time engaging in, but she doesn’t want to link to those screeds because while they’re certainly true in most ways — sitting around refreshing her Twitter page twenty times in a row to see if she has any more followers, for instance, is of course a fucking ridiculous way to spend those few spare minutes in between updating her status on Facebook — they’re not true in other ways. And those other ways are the kinds of strange magical connections Laura’s made over the past few months on these sites that have truly saved her and inspired her.
She’s written about some of these virtual friendships in past brants, but when Laura was thinking about her virtual connections in aggregate — the ones on Facebook and the new ones on Twitter — she was truly astounded and grateful for how these people have, in spare seconds and minutes through the day and night when Laura hasn’t had time to actually socialize in real-time, helped her. Really helped her. With support and understanding, humor, and incredible expertise.
Let’s go to a few incontrovertible examples.
1. This first example is actually one of Laura’s favorites. For many reasons she’s sure you’ll see when she’s finished. She’s written at least once about Marci Alboher who used to have a fantastic NYTs career blog semi-based on her extremely helpful and timely book, One Person/Multiple Careers, and who is now a guest blogger for Yahoo on her new blog, Working in the New Economy. But she hasn’t yet branted about what happened at the end of the summer. Laura and Marci became acquainted through Twitter (@heymarci), when Laura answered Marci’s query for interesting website bios. After mentioning a few author friends, she mentioned her own bio, and Marci ended up liking her bio enough to cite it in her column about (what else?) how to write a good bio. Laura and Marci both thought this was swell – a win-win for both of them – and it became even sweller when they realized they had a great friend in common, super-cool musician writer Jen Trynin who wrote the incredible rock-memoir Everything I’m Cracked Up To Be. Just as Laura was enjoying the small-world-ness of that connection, something even better happened. Laura’s agent had expressed concern about her overly familiar voice and her overly frequent use of the “F” word in a recent brant: Laura was trying to branch out to get new and different kinds of writing projects and her agent was afraid that prospects would be turned off. So Laura immediately took down the post in question and went straight to her regularly scheduled shrink appointment.
To Laura and most writers, voice and the F word are reallllly big deals, so Laura was thrown into a panic: while she wanted to have the freedom to say what she wanted, she also wanted to get work; and, while she wanted to get work, she wanted to have the freedom to say what she wanted. Laura’s shrink was helpful in the initial deconstruction of this torturous conundrum, but it was when she was leaving the appointment and walking to her car that she got an email from Marci: Where was that post? She’d told someone about it and that person wanted to link to it…
Now, Laura has never met Marci, and yet there she was, on a summer Friday, in the heat and buzzing-buggy afternoon humidity, typing wildly on her Crackberry from her car still parked in front of her shrink’s house, telling Marci all about her Big Brant Issue: her agent’s concerns, Laura’s somewhat competing goals: work and voice, voice and work. And as Marci typed back — that in her opinion the brant in question didn’t strike her as being offensive or jeopardizing her chances for work, and wasn’t that the job [and perogative] of a writer — to have a voice? — and wasn’t total honesty and authenticity in blogs what got writers noticed these days? — Laura realized how amazing it was. That no matter who was right or wrong or what the correct answer about any of it was:
She was getting real time career advice from one of the foremost career-advisors on the planet in her hour of extreme need!
The rest of these examples are much shorter, but no less, in Laura’s mind, meaningful:
2. There’s a whole bunch of food bloggers on Twitter that Laura follows – which might seem strange, given Laura’s long-documented cooking phobia and ambivalence (she can cook, but she’s afraid to, or doesn’t have time to, or, deep down, thinks she can’t cook) – but it’s greatly desensitizing (in a phobia-managing way) to read their 140-character tweets about cooking and recipes and food throughout the day. Last Friday, Laura was cooking up a storm — it was cold, she had a cold, and she just felt like it — and one of the things she was making was chicken soup with matzo balls. At the last minute she decided she wanted to add rice to the soup (Ben likes rice in his soup) but of course Laura got all weird about not knowing HOW to add rice to the soup: was she supposed to cook it first and then add it? Or could she just add it, uncooked? She didn’t feel like going through a zillion cookbooks (another weird thing about Laura — all the cookbooks for someone who rarely cooks) or getting her stupid slow Macbook all greasy by looking all over Epicurious.com or FoodTV.com for the answer. So instead, she wrote to one of her favorite food bloggers, @SimmerTillDone, (whose blog is www.simmertilldone.com) her question. Within seconds, Marilyn Naron, from Lawrence, Kansas, whom Laura has never met but with whom she’s had great brief Twitter exchanges, gave her the answer: she could do it either way (which is kind of what Laura thought).
3. Then there’s a whole bunch of writers on Twitter who, quite simply, could not be nicer, funnier, more supportive, and lovelier. There’s the very talented Hyatt Bass, author of The Embers; there’s Allison Winn Scotch, author of Time of My Life; Deb Copaken Kogan, author of ShutterBabe and Hell Is Other Parents, Jane Green, the author of, well, you know, like 14 or 15 or 25 novels, and a few others. The main cheerleader of them all — and Laura means cheerleader in the absolute best sense of the word, is Julie Klam, author of the uniformly praised memoir, Please Excuse My Daughter. Laura has gotten great messages of support on Twitter from this group of writers she’s never met (most of these gals have never met, but most of them have the advantage of being able to meet since they all live in NYC), but one of her most favorite exchanges took place this summer. Laura was just deciding, after a long and somewhat involuntary hiatus, to try to start writing again, and the thing she wanted to try to write most was a kind of memoir-type thing about moving back to where she grew up. Feeling completely lost and inept and out of practice and all Do I dare to eat a peach?, she wrote to Julie Klam and got a few wonderful and encouraging emails from her: again, Julie is someone Laura has never met, yet she was getting memoir-writing encouragement from someone whose memoir she adored. As Ina Garten always says, “How fabulous is that?”
There are more stories, and more examples, which Laura will undoubtedly remember and kick herself for not including here, but she’ll add them to another follow-up brant when she does. In the meantime, Laura hopes you’ll share your stories of wonderful virtual friendships with her or on your own blogs. Because, isn’t enjoying social networking sites better than screeding about them?