For all my going on about how I spend too much time on the Internet, I really don’t (spend too much time)–and the time I do spend is valuable.
I’ve already shared my love for how technology has enabled formerly unheard of methods for professional development, so I won’t go on that tangent again. But I wonder if I’ve ever voiced my appreciation for the community and connections my Internet life brings me? As I’ve also said before, I live in a small town–quite fortunately, it’s a vibrant place with a varied and talented arts community. As great as that is, the sheer lack of population still dictates reality. Often if you have a specialized niche up here (or in other small towns across the province), you are the niche, and while you can find friends and colleagues in similar or complementary areas of work/interest, chances are, you’ll be the only one doing _exactly_ what you do. When I go to big conferences, I hear numerous writers complain about isolation being one of the biggest problems in their writing life.
On one hand, I’d argue that for writing (or any other creative endeavour, be it painting, building websites, fly-tying, whatever), a lot of alone time is not only the norm, it’s a necessity. But on the other hand, humans, even the most introverted of us, are social beings. We can’t survive, stay motivated, inspired, stay sane in a vacuum. It’s this other hand that itches to slap the face of the complainer (lightly and kindly, of course–for drama not meanness 😉 ) and say, “Get thee to the Internet!”
I don’t think the Internet matches the benefits of meeting up with like minds face-to-face, but it can foster community and connection nonetheless, and for the writer-for-hire or freelancer, it can build a great support network of working writers and people in related fields that you can turn to for information, advice, and job leads. And more and more, being online is a boon to your actual earning potential.
Today geography has very little limiting effect on those offering creative services. It’s expected and assumed that most, if not all, communication and work will be done and transfered via e-mail. Forums, chat rooms and online video conferencing allow for business meetings, brainstorming sessions, and collaborations. Things like Twitter, Facebook, etc., make promoting yourself and your services inexpensive (free!), with a unheard of reach (global!).
I confess, I mostly use the Internet for its personal connection/inspiration aspects. I’ve made close friends with other writers over the years, and unlike say, The Inklings (Lewis and Tolkien and their crew), we can’t meet up with weekly for port, good cigars, and writerly chat. However, we can get together whenever we like and have, I flatter myself, similarly interesting, growth-inspiring conversations online in the forum we created for that very purpose. I can’t see this primary benefit being subverted by another, but in recent months I’ve been very impressed and excited by how my online obsession has helped my business grow and led to opportunities I might not have had if not, for example, for this blog. Yes, personally and professionally, the Internet = two thumbs up.
And guess what? As often happens when I’m excited about something–I suddenly hear/see things about it everywhere–I was just notified about an upcoming seminar being put on by Small Biz BC (who else? ;-)). Guess what it’s about? Oh, you did guess. Good for you! Social Media – what it is and how it can build your business. They’re covering tools like Blogs, Facebook, RSS, Twitter, and social bookmarks, and I’d love to attend, but unfortunately I have prior commitments. I’m going to see about shuffling things, but I’m not sure I can. You, however? Nothing’s stopping you. If it’s not advertised as being available in your region, contact them and see if they can contact the Community Futures in your area–Terrace isn’t on their list of available places, but it is available here!). And if you do go, do me a favor and let me know how it went and what you learned.
Now go, pour another coffee, and spend a bit more time online before you get down to work. It isn’t time-wasting; it’s a powerful networking strategy for your small businesses. 😉