How the Web changed writing

I remember when we all said social media would bring the world together. Troll factories, bullying mobs, and fake news put an end to that idealism!

The Web has certainly changed western life since those days. Shops are closing. We don’t need to buy music. We can even start our own writing businesses, using freelance marketplaces.

For writers everything is different now. Twenty-five years ago I was the only writer I knew. I had no access to writers groups. The only way to be read was through traditional publishers. The gateway into the writing world was very narrow indeed.

Writers who succeeded were lions. They had status and recognition because they had achieved something very difficult. I wanted to be like them!


Today, for those with internet access, the gateway is unimaginably wide. We can join online writing communities, publish our own books, share our writing on social media, and take distance learning courses on other continents.

Now anyone can be published, so there’s no prestige left in having our names in print. The wide gateway has turned writing into a community hobby. Sooner or later the last of the status seekers will drop out. People will write because they enjoy it, and not because they want recognition.

For me, studying on creative writing courses feels like a way of life. It’s a practice, comparable to swimming or Qigong meditation. This is a surprising turn of events for a former status seeker.

I used to see courses as a route to making myself acceptable to publishers. Perhaps these days writing teachers aren’t people who help you get into print. Maybe they’re more like yoga instructors!

I did see my name in print eventually. I wrote a PhD and published a few papers. But by then blogging was in full swing. I had a blog, so being a published writer was no longer exciting.

What makes me happiest is seeing my work among the hundreds of titles listed in the bibliographies of other people’s books. It means my academic writing helped those writers.

Being in community and contributing to community is what writing should be all about. What do you think?