Does A ‘Writing Community’ Really Foster Writing? Or Community?

Image - iStockphoto: gemenacom
Image – iStockphoto: gemenacom

‘Connect With Readers While You Write Your Book’

That’s the brand promise of a site called Tablo. Familiar with it?

It’s the work of writer and developer Ashley Davies of Melbourne, Australia. That’s a city we Australian Open tennis viewers feel we know very well after two weeks at the Rod Laver Arena (and two weeks of the Melbourne tourist authority commercial on ESPN2 and Tennis Channel).

A colleague brought Davies’ site to my attention through Paul Sawers’ write-up of it at Venturebeat, Tablo: Discover books from new authors as they’re being written.

As Sawers writes:

In effect, you can garner feedback from other users as you’re writing the book, with the platform serving as a Twitter-style social network that connects authors with prospective readers. The interface looks somewhat like Twitter too, but we digress…Tablo currently lays claim to more than 20,000 authors from 130 countries, who between them publish north of one million words a day.

Tablo is not new. What occasions Sawers’ write is the launch of a new app that, he writes, “lets you peruse by opening paragraphs and summaries and swiping until you see something you like.”

And what does that remind you of? Of course, Allen Lau’s Wattpad.

As Ashleigh Gardner, the content chief of that much larger platform likes to stress, Wattpad’s leadership doesn’t think of the site as a publishing site but as a social medium. It’s a place that emphasizes the social interactions of members encountering and interacting with each other about writing and reading what somebody is writing.

Wattpad’s site tells us that it has 35 million members who spend nine billion minutes each month on the site. That’s a lot of community.

But it’s all the rage, isn’t it, community?

If it takes a village to write your book, is it your book?

How about a community to support and promote community?

We’ve got that, too. A site called introduces itself to you with these lines:

The Internet makes it possible for communities to create anything. But communities never create anything without leadership. You can’t just put up a website and expect that bridge to get built, you have to talk to people, build relationships, send emails, tweet, host events, recruit volunteers, ask for donations…and you have to do all of that at a scale much larger than yourself. You have to lead.

Aimed not at the bookish world, per se, but at pretty much all of us out here, NationBuilder is the descendent of White House 2, both the work of the talented Jim Gilliam. The NationBuilder site is tagged “the essential kit for leaders.”

And of course that tells us that leadership today is tightly tied to ideas of community – no surprise there. This is a top-level marketing and corporate development trend. We are just gaga for community. Who knew everybody was so damned lonely?

The Internet has enabled an historically unprecedented faculty for getting people together around an idea or event. You just have to wonder if that’s always such a good idea.

Not Everybody Loves Community

Introverts look at all this with some skepticism.

41XPcJbM7sLWe find that our energies are more drained than increased in being around others. This was affirmed for many by Susan Cain’s very effective book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Broadway Books, 2012).

It’s not very convenient, on most days, to be an introvert in a community crazed era, frankly. The world is not kind to someone deemed “not a team player.” Me, I won’t even watch doubles tennis, speaking of the Australian Open. And I follow professional singles tennis over other sports, the entire ATP World Tour, because it’s one-to-one, person-to-person. No team spirit, thanks. I like to see what a lone player can do when faced with another sole operator.

I have to think that the viewpoint of introversion is part of what calls so much community into question when it comes to the writing life. In so many areas now, writing is talked about and even promoted as a group effort, a thing of community.

Even if you’re not a member of a big community like Tablo or Wattpad, you might have a critique group to which you’re frequently submitting your work for feedback. This is, as someone noted lately, a lot better than foisting the stuff off on your friends and family, sure. But at what point do you find yourself writing for that group? — instead of for yourself.

What your readers will buy, if they do buy your book, will be something that’s really yours. What if it’s not really quite so much yours anymore because it’s got the community’s fingerprints all over it?

Read More

There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son

Writing on the Ether: Does Your ‘Writing Community’ Really Foster Writing? Or Community?

Originally published by Thought Catalog at


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