Intimacy: A Rant, by cupidsbow
Since I got my LJ, I've discovered this whole new world of intimacy. It really surprised me to find this world, because, even though I'd always had good experiences with the net in the past (ever since my first email account in 1988), a little part of me had bought into the mainstream-Press idea that the net was this big alienating geekfest.
But although I did find a massive geekfest (which is something I kinda like anyway), I certainly didn't find alienation. I found layers of intimacy that I'd never experienced before.
So imagine we're eating out way through a huge, totally awesome, multi-layered cake (but not a wedding cake, because eeewwww. No, I'm talking hazelnut cream gateau or something, OK?). And I bit into the first layer, and started putting my thoughts out there on my LJ for any old person to read. And the first people were those I already knew.
I think Fe was probably my first regular lurker. She's never commented here once. But from little things she says at parties, I know she reads pretty much every day. I never had this connection with Fe before. But, suddenly, now she mainlines my daily musings. When we meet, she knows about my life. She reads my Orlijah stories. She *likes* my Orlijah stories. As far as I know, she's never read my fiction before, even though I've been a published writer for as long as I've known her.
This is a very strange thing. But it's a very good thing. Now I feel close to Fe in a way I never did before. I think she might feel something similar. Maybe we'll talk about it at the next party. Or maybe we'll smut over the Orlijah goodness :)
So, first there were people I knew in RL visiting my LJ. Then I started posting my stories onto the communities, and suddenly there are all these strangers coming through my LJ and leaving nice comments.
Some of these strangers came back for the next story, and the next. And then they weren't so strange anymore, and I started to recognise names, and respond, and friend.
They drop by and leave comments on my rants. I'll probably never know them in RL, but they're still real to me. The mainstream-Press would say there's no way to have real intimacy there--it's all superficial.
But, you see, they're wrong on two counts. First, our conversations may be brief, but they are often. Every week, every day, sometimes more than once a day. We build up detailed picture of each other, even though we've never met. I know Talesin found me via abundantlyqueer, and lurks around thinking up good ways to faint from lust, and is pretty much addicted to Orlijah and not so keen on other pairings. I know msilverstar is balanced and rational, even when we disagree, and that she's my LJ granny and likes green and likes lots of pairings I don't. And on, and on and on. And they know similar things about me.
Second, we have this really strong common interest.
So we've come to lotrips and LotR in general (and I've got some other fandoms I rec in too, not to mention, a lot of us are academics, so we have interests in common there as well--hi Tama, hi Grant). We have this common language of affection for these characters and stories.
But here's the real kicker--the thing that I find so amazing. We *share* our *own* stories. You don't get much more intimate than that. Think about it.
I know what kinks turn on deleerium and makemewannadie or (unfortunatley) chaosmanor and epicanthus (damn their Viggo-loving eyes). I know, because they told me in their fiction (edit: or their recs. I meant to pop that in as well, because I haven't actually read norah's fic yet, coz I haven't found it yet, but her recs have given me a pretty good idea of what her kinks are anyway).
And then they told me again after reading my fiction.
Because they told me that *my* kinks turned them on.
This is the layer that really gets to me. I hope I can do it justice.
Aside from our common interests, and the way we make them intimate through sharing our stories, there is another aspect about the fiction that amazes me.
I've been writing and getting pulished for ages... since 1990 (my first story accepted, by Westerly). In all that time, I've put stories out there... sent them off into the void having loved them and slaved over them.
And they disappear, without a trace.
Occasionally, I'd get a bit of feedback. Sometimes it would be passionate and positive, and would embarrass me, so that I couldn't listen to it properly or respond to it very well. Sometimes it would be people telling me all the things wrong with it and why they didn't like it, and I'd feel obliged to listen, even though I hadn't asked for it (and I like constructive critcism, but that's not what this was). Mostly there would just be silence.
And people would look furtive if I asked them to read something, and kind of do it dutifully, and not out of pleasure, and then they didn't like having to tell me they didn't like it. So I mostly didn't ask them to read things, or for their opinion on things. It saved us all a lot of embarrassment.
LJ has changed all that.
Now, people *want* to read my stuff, and pester me for more. I can't keep up with it.
[edit: and I can't believe I forgot to put *this* in, but I never had a regular beta before LJ. And now I can't imagine what I'd do without betas! rosiegamgee and epicanthus in particular have given wonderful, detailed, considered feedback that has been incredibly useful to me as a writer, and has made me feel very close to both of them.]
When people give positive or negative feedback, I've got time to think about it before I respond. I'm still not very good at responding--I haven't had enough practice, and I still feel a bit embarrased. But I'm getting better.
The better I get, the better the feedback gets. I get a real sense of what it is that worked or didn't work in the story.
And I get a sense of closeness with people, because the things I loved enough to write about, have found their way into other people's heads and become real, the way fiction you connect with does.
The opposite is true too. I can finally send an email to someone and give feedback without feeling like a stalker, because I know how they'll feel when they get it.
For me this intimacy of being able to share the characters in my mind, and then talk about them with other people, and share their characters and talk about them, is an absolute revelation! Even though I'm still not that good at it.
It's changed my life. It's changed the way I think about my fiction. It's made me more creative, more productive, and braver about taking artistic risks.
It's a new type of intimacy, and I really love it. And I thank you all so much for being here to make this wonderful experience happen.