For the most part, writers are solitary beings. We live in a world where we invent many of the people we spend time with. We dream up our characters’ homelands and families and careers. We give them romantic interests. We pit them against each other. We put them in life threatening situations. Sometimes we even kill them. It’s all in a day’s work.
But what happens when that work day is over? Sure, most of us have families; spouses willing to run errands when we’re short on time, teenagers who’ll (albeit begrudgingly) help us solve our latest computer crisis so we can keep writing, a sibling who’ll take Mom to her doctor’s appointment if we can’t. But how many of us have close personal friends we can talk to about those very family members when we need to vent? How many of us know our neighbors well enough to request a favor? Facebook and My Space are great for connecting with others who share our interests across the country and the world, but few if any of those people actually exist in our everyday lives. In that respect, they’re similar to characters in our books. We can’t ask them to pick up our kids from school if an emergency arises, or to come by and take care of our cats when we’re out of town for the weekend.
The computer age is great in many respects. Chances are, if you’re 30 or under, you can’t imagine life without all of your electronic gadgets. But clearly, society is losing something along the way toward this latest form of social modernization. We no longer feel the need to reach out to others on a face-to-face basis. It’s easier, faster to just sit in front of our computers and fire off an e-mail. I’m as guilty of this as the next person. That’s why today I’m offering up a personal thank you to my neighbor, Katheryn, for being, well, a great personal neighbor and friend. Katheryn has been terrific since Jody and I moved in nearly 8 years ago—always willing to reach out and lend a hand. Or, as was the case on Monday, her vehicle. My car had a flat tire and I needed to be somewhere. Hard to imagine someone on Facebook stepping out of the computer and handing me their car keys.
E-mail and social networks are great venues for connecting with others. Let’s just make sure we don’t make them our only connection. As Streisand sang in Fuuny Girl, People—people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.