If you're familiar with Twitter, you recognize the # symbol at the beginning of the title of this piece as the start of a "hashtag". If you're not, don't worry, this isn't a love letter to Twitter, and you don't have to be a part of Twitter to appreciate what that "#writechat" has come to mean to me. What you do have to understand is how important group interactions can be to someone who practices a craft as solitary as writing.
First, what is #writechat? It's a very open group discussion every Sunday, 2-5pm CDT, on Twitter. Twitter, with the limiting aspect of 140 words (130 for this discussion, because each post must include the phrase #writechat if you want others taking part to see it) doesn't encourage lengthy discourses. With its free for all membership, a lot of people can take part very quickly, and it's very hard to keep up any discussion going more than a few sentences. Then there's the technology of Twitter, which may slow down, or even prohibit, a participant's responses, effectively taking them out of the chat. So how could something so disorganized, so superficial, so inclusive be of any benefit to an aspiring writer? Wouldn't those three hours be better spent actually writing? No, they wouldn't, at least not for me.
#writechat is the discussion group equivalent of speed dating. Like speed dating, you don't go in with too high of expectations, but an open mind to the possibility of something clicking. In speed dating, you might not meet the person of your dreams, but you could learn a bit about yourself through the quickfire conversations. You definitely discover a lot more of the things you aren't looking for in a mate. In #writechat, while looking for the secret that removes every obstacle to a successful writing career you'll find kernels of advice that chip away at those obstacles. You'll also have a few of those private superiority moments, when you realize you have progressed as a writer. And finally, like speed dating, you might "meet" someone who you engages you in a way that you want to carry the conversation further. Twitter's follow feature is only one click away.
What did I gain from this past Sunday's #writechat? The two questions that started the whole thing roiling (and nearly stayed on point the whole three hours!) were posed by this week's guest moderator, @markdavidgerson, "How do you define success as a writer?" and "Are you okay calling yourself a writer if you're not published?". I've always been pretty clear on my answer to the first, but the second question, which so many other writers had no problem answering in the affirmative, has always been one of my inner demons. I know that if I don't call myself a writer, if I have some sort of inner shame or inferiority about my work, it will never be as good as it can be. If I don't respect my work, who will? #writechat, with all its crazy side conversations, occasionally spamming, and pure off topic discourse, taught me one thing yesterday. I AM A WRITER. Thank you to all who participate in #writechat, and especially to WritingSpirit ,the founder of #writechat.