on writing communities.
It’s not often that I publish something that isn’t poetry or prose. I seldom share my thoughts with the world, due to my nature as a private person and unfortunate online encounters in the past. But with all the different posts I’ve seen on WTW and Prose about the site and the community, I thought it might be a good time to share my experiences with online writing communities.
The situation on Prose has nothing to do with me. I haven’t encountered anyone leaving rude comments or complaining about new users, though that may be from rarely being online while I focus on school. But as someone who has been a part of many online writing communties, I often think about how things have changed in them as the years passed.
I first began writing when I was in 5th grade, a small 10 year old with no idea what I was doing, but having fun despite that. It was another year before I found a website created soley for sharing written work: ReadWave, the very first writing site I joined, that is, unfortunately, no longer running.
As a child with little to no experience online, I had no idea what to expect. Internet safety had been drilled into my head and I was careful not to share any personal details about myself. All I did was post my first short stories, all of which were terrible. But at the time, I thought they were great, and I had fun writing them. The community saw me and reached out, giving me kind compliments and gentle suggestions about things to watch out for when writing, and little tips on how to improve sentence structure and grammar. Through these comments I learned how to give constructive criticisms; never with an air of superiority, but with the intention to help the author grow and improve because I wanted to read more from them.
The kindness shown to me on ReadWave shaped how I interacted with others online. Especially in other writing communties. I have joined a variety of them through out my years online-- Commaful, Inkitt, even a month on Wattpad. Somewhere down the line, things online began to change. The anonimity of a username and the distance between screens allowed people to be cruel with few repurcussions. It’s part of the reason I tend not to be very social online unless talking in private messages.
Many of the writing communities I joined lost sight of the community part of it. The focus was on getting attention for their work, demanding comments and reactions but refusing to reciprocate. People constantly misunderstood what constructive critism was and they lashed out to others, either by being called cruel, or by being insulted. Many users were focused on just publishing their own work and never interacting with others; it became a site for them, and no one else. Those became quiet sites. Lonely sites.
Others tried to force the community aspect a little too much. Constant contests and calls for collaboration, to the point where if you weren’t constantly active and working with others, you were excluded from much of the community. The balance between writing and community has become lost, and I’ve watched as each site created a new writing culture that lead to complaints; WTW and Prose are the best (current) examples, from unreasonable censorship to paid-membership superiority.
But what I’ve never seen before is the belief that “new users should be kicked out because they only bring bad writing”.
The one constant in each website, with each unique community, was that everyone was writing because they enjoyed it. It wasn’t about good or bad, it was about passion. What is the story you want to tell? What world do you want to bring others into? What feeling do you want others to understand? These were the important things, not whether or not it was “good” or “bad”.
Who decides? Who is the authority on what is good or bad writing?
In fact, who is the authority on what writing is? A fictional story and a poem are both writing. So is a blog post and a news article. Having a prefernce for one doesn’t mean the others aren’t “writing”. That users on here are being harrassed about “social posts” and “bad writing” is absurd to me.
We are here to write and support each other as we all grow. This site is just a place for us to post and interact with each other. A site for all of us. That’s it. That’s what sites like Prose are for.
Let me tell you a secret I’ve learned in my 10 years of writing and being part of writing communities: we are all bad writers and we are all good writers. We are bad writers simply because there is always room to improve, ways for us to grow. We are good writers because we write for the love of it, for the need to share our words with others.
We are here on Prose because we share the same love of writing. Let this be something that brings us together, rather than push us apart.