Yeah, I know—writers are supposed to chain their butts to the seats of their writing chairs if they want to achieve real literary success. But it’s the rare writer (Emily Dickinson is one of the few who come to mind) who can thrive solely in the airspace between the fingertips and the keyboard (or the pen tip and paper, if you employ the old-fashioned method of writing). Most of us have to fill the creative well every now and then before it dries up like an old leather shoe.
Attending the blogging class by Kitviel Silberberg (Teddy Gross) that gave me the know-how to start this blog
So, while I surely don’t want to discourage any writer from the essential practice of applying butt to chair and writing, writing, writing . . . when it’s time to fill the well or break through a block, virtual reality can be as rewarding as the physical one.
Here are just a few ways writers can benefit themselves and their writing by taking a trip into Second Life:
- Enter a writing contest. For some writers, their muse jumps much higher when poked with a contest prod. There’s at least one writing contest every day in SL, and usually more. One of my favorites is the daily prompt/contest run by ItsNaughtKnotty Canned of INKsters. Write 500 words about the day’s prompt, stick it in the INKster’s mailbox under Shakespeare’s smiling face on Cookie Island, and you could win a small bit of money and warm recognition for your efforts. There’s nothing like a writing prize to boost one’s ego!
- Participate in a reading. Even more common than writing contests are open-mic events across the world’s continents and islands. Poetry readings where the lonely poet can jump in and read are held just about every day. Or check out an open-mic event open to either poetry or prose. One of the best I’ve discovered is the Wednesday Writers’ Circle at the Waterstage on Cookie Island, put on by the wonderfully supportive people behind the Written Word group in SL.) Or maybe you’d rather tell a story: Perfect! Several story-telling groups invite your participation in their regular events.
- Get a lesson from a pro. The SL writing community is rapidly approaching the top of my list of “best-kept secret resources for writers.” This virtual world is full of writers of all experience levels, including many published professionals who love to share their work and their wisdom to help other writers. They offer classes, workshops, readings, advice, and support—often at no cost or on a donation-only basis—and seem genuinely interested in helping those of us with less experience.
- Role-play your characters. Are your characters stuck in a scene? Is one riding a horse but you haven’t a clue what it looks like atop a horse? Or a surfboard or hot-air balloon, but you haven’t the time, money, and/or courage to try it out in First Life so you can describe your character’s experience? Well, you can do all of these and more from the financial and physical security of your own home! Your avatar can do in this virtual world just about anything a person can do in the real world. Sure, it’s not exactly the same as doing it in real life, but it’s amazing how much the virtual experience gives the sense of the actual one. Try it—you’ll see!
- Travel to exotic locations. Similar to the previous point. Sure, actually living in the jungles of Burma in First Life is very different from anything you can currently experience in Second Life. But the amazingly detailed replicas of locations throughout the world are almost as valuable as traveling there in First Life—and sometimes even more so. After all, you can’t fly up to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome to examine its tiniest details like you can at the incredible replica created by Vassar College in Second Life. And it’s a heck of a lot cheaper!
- Trade critiques with other writers. Getting feedback on your work is not just important for improving your writing, it can also provide motivation and accountability (both of which tend to be in short supply when doing the lonely work of writing). But you have to meet other writers to find a critique/writing buddy, and that’s where Second Life can produce for you. In addition to one-on-one trades I’ve made, I’m planning to set up organized writers’ groups at Story Mountain Center for Writers, with regular meetings just like First Life writers’ groups.
- Play. Relax, have fun like you’d never allow yourself to do in First Life, and go back to your First Life keyboard or paper refreshed and invigorated by laughter—it’s amazing the creativity that pours out after a good time! (In a future post, I’ll share some of the crazy things I’ve done in SL that I’d never for a moment consider doing in FL. (If I forget, remind me of the Dancing Cow!)
My list could go on and on . . . but I would love to hear from you! If you’ve ventured into Second Life, what kinds of events or activities have benefited your writing? Please post a comment to share with the rest of us!