You meet some interesting people online.
As a freelance writer and editor of an online magazine, most of my business contacts are over the Internet. Most of them are writers. I usually reserve one night a week to "network" and be available on instant messenger. The other nights, especially when I'm working on projects, I stay offline. This is because my networking nights usually go something like this:
Me: How's that fantasy novel coming along?
Abby: Terrible! I've been wracking my brains out all day over this scene! What kind of underwear did the Saxons wear?
Abby: I've tried the library, Google, Barnes & Noble, everything! I bet those guys who do the Renaissance Faires would know. I need an anachronist! Do you know any?
Me: Actually, yes. Let me get that contact info for you.
Switch over to the next instant messenger window.
Me: How's that science fiction short story coming along?
Bruce: Do you think friendship is possible without emotion?
Me: What do you mean?
Bruce: Well, I'm trying to figure out how I want to portray the androids in this story. I'd like them to have intellects, but not the gut level passions that come from hormone secretions in the human endocrine system. You know, rage, lust, panic, those sort of things. But does that mean they wouldn't be capable of the finer emotions, like compassion?
Me: Well, the Buddhists talk about the Four Bramhaviharas, or "divine states of mind". When you free yourself of the craving for sense pleasures, or the whims of the body, you can be open to these more pure thoughts...
While I continue that conversation, several more windows are opening up with hails from other writers.
Me: Hey! How's that romance novel coming along?
Cathy: Not too bad considering I got a late start today.
Cathy: Yeah, I had throw rugs in the washing machine. Couldn't balance that load if my life depended on it. I ended up chasing the machine three times around the laundry room and finally had to spend thirty minutes sitting on it to finish the load. When I opened the lid, there was an actual puff of smoke.
Me: Uh... whoa.
Cathy: I'm back on track now, though. I've got my silk shirt on, my hair done, and I broke out my diamond earrings.
Me: Sounds spiffy. What's the special occasion?
Cathy: I'm writing the sex scene tonight.
Me: Wow. Um. I got a phone call, I've got to go.
Cathy: I'll send you the rough draft when I'm done.
Me: Um, you do that. Thanks.
Hurrying on to the next conversation...
Me: Hey! How's the column coming this week?
Doug: Not bad, but it's hard working like this. My lower back is killing me.
Me: I'm sorry to hear that. The arthritis again?
Doug: Yeah, I've got the Amazing Weather Vertebrae. I know when a front is coming through, because my spine falls out through my butt.
Me: You should get that checked out.
Another one of my writers is online and I hail them to say hello.
Me: Hey, haven't seen you for a while! How's that series on New Age religions coming?
Eric: Still doing the research. I'm back from Montana.
Me: I take it the commune thing didn't work out.
Eric: No, the coven disbanded. However, I did find a neat cult of druids that's going to let me sit through one of their initiation ceremonies! And they're local!
At this point, I realize that, in between other conversations, I have now spent two hours talking with Bruce about whether or not androids would make good Buddhists and am suddenly struck with a pang of fear.
Me: Bruce, does this conversation make me a geek?
Bruce: Not at all. Discussing comparative religions as they pertain to using speculative fiction as a tool to analyze the human soul is an artistic endeavor. When you pointed out that even Brent Spiner's guest appearance on Enterprise wouldn't persuade you to start watching it again due to Bergman's and Braga's disregard for the continuity of the Trek timeline... that was the conversation that made you a geek.
Oh, well. I'm allowed to be a little weird. After all, I'm a writer.
This article first appeared in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.