April 5, 2013

It's My Life

{Crap. Now I have Bon Jovi in my head.}

I've been stewing about something since this past Sunday, which you'll recall was Easter, trying to formulate my thoughts into something coherent. Because I'm nothing if not a stewer, a mull-it-overer, a stresser. I'm like Meg Ryan's character in You've Got Mail, never having the perfect comeback when she needs it, then chewing on this for days when it's no longer useful. Anyway, back to Easter... If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen these:

Here's the recipe if you're interested: Lemon Mascarpone Cupcakes

We were invited to Easter dinner with family and I was in charge of dessert. I wanted to make something that felt spring-ish, so I baked lemon cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I was pretty proud of how they turned out—despite the fact that they are just cupcakes—so I posted a photo of them on Instagram and Facebook (my FB friends don't follow my Instagram account). When I mentioned that I'd posted this photo at dinner, I was met with:

"You need to get a life."

Um, okay? It seems like a perfectly harmless thing to say, a joke and nothing more. And let's face it, Instagram users do kind of post a lot of pictures of what they're eating. But. This is not the first time I've been the recipient of this kind of comment, this same sentiment, this idea that I should be putting my time to better use. And it's also not just about Instagram or Facebook, it's about spending my time writing, blogging, cultivating friendships with people I've never met 'in real life'. A good number of people in my real life don't get that. It's as though I've told them I'm pen pals with some creeper behind bars.

While a bit annoyed by the comment, it also got me to thinking about why I started blogging, tweeting, tumbling, Instagramming, whatever in the first place: to make connections with like-minded* people. See, the unfortunate fact is that I don't know anybody in real life who shares my interest in reading and writing YA (except my sister, and I count myself pretty darn lucky to have her). The thing about these people, these connections I've made, is that we all like to share what we create, what we love, what inspires us. It doesn't matter if it's something huge like posting a snippet from our WIPs for the first time, doing a Next Big Thing post, or yes, even sharing a photo of some (really tasty) cupcakes. We imagine, we create, we share. That's how we roll. And that's what I love so much about this community. Nobody here tells me I need to get a life.

The truth is, I do have a life. It may not always thrill me to bits or have me bouncing out of bed in the morning raring to go and take on the day, but it's my life and nobody gets to tell me that it's not good enough. I guess that's my perfect comeback.


* By 'like-minded' I mean 'share similar interests and aspirations'.

62 comments:

  1. That would have been an awesome comeback:)

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    1. It's really too bad I never think of these kinds of things until much later. Ah well. :)

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  2. I totally understand. I even run into this with my husband from time to time :/

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    1. Oh, that's too bad. :( I think there are lots of us who feel this way about certain people in our lives. I'm happy to have such great support from my online friends. :)

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  3. "I don't know anybody in real life who shares my interest in reading and writing" << same here!
    Well, I can count Cristina, Ghenet and Ginger, now that we have monthly writing-meetings, but, you know, outside that, no one. I totally understand ...
    *hugs*

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    1. It's crazy, but I totally thought I was the only person in this boat. It seems like everyone else knows people in real life who share their interests. I'd say I'm glad to know I'm not the only one, but then that would mean I'm happy you're in the same crappy position. I'm just so happy to have such great online friends. :)

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  4. What an unkind thing to say--those are beautiful cupcakes, and I actually thought that was a professionally staged photo. You should be proud of them!

    I think the internet has changed the concept of friendship for a lot of people, and it's too bad that those who don't get it are so dismissive. Maybe their experiences with people that don't *know* offline have been limited to snarky commenters; who knows.

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    1. I'm not sure the comment was meant to be nasty, but it's just one of those things that I would never think to say to someone even in jest. You are so right about how concepts of friendship are changing. While I wish I could sit down and have coffee with my online friends sometimes, I'm still just thrilled to be able to even chat online. You're all such wonderful people! :)

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  5. My first reaction to those kind of comments is usually, "Yes, because unprovoked snark is such a noble use of _your_ time."

    But those cupcakes look yummy!
    P.S. I heard Talk Talk's It's My Life on my internal soundtrack

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    1. Haha! No doubt. I would never say something snarky like that to someone. Ever. Ah well. Not everyone is born with functioning social skills, right? ;)

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  6. I'm with Rebecca... The concept of friendship has changed with the internet. I hate that I have to specify to some people who my "real" friends are vs. who my "online" friends are. The truth is, I have far more in common with the people I communicate with online than I do with the people I see in person every day. Frankly, I like my cyber friends a lot more than most of my in-the-flesh friends!

    Life is what you make of it. I, for one, love your cupcake photo, and all the other photos you've been posting to Instagram. <3

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    1. Okay, you've pretty much summed up how I feel about many of the people in my real life versus my online friends. I was just saying the same thing to my sister last night about having more in common with my online friends than others I know (and liking them more too!).

      And I, too, love seeing your photos on Instagram. It's great seeing the things--big and small--that matter to people. :)

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    2. Yes. Your instagram photos are some of my favorites.

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  7. I have plenty of those kinds of people in my own life...which makes me all the more inclined to retreat to my online life and hang with the cool people here who GET ME. Because yeah, like you, there aren't like minded people where I live. It's a small town. There are some nice people here, sure, but no one who understand why I am swooning over the latest book I read, or having kittens about some plot point that fell neatly into place in my current WIP, or whatever. And I think our creative spirit NEEDS those connections. Social media is possibly the best thing that could have happened to writers and creative souls...because we CAN connect with those like minded people--and that feeds us in a way that REAL LIFE people usually don't. Long live social media.

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    1. This totally makes me feel like I'm not alone. I had it in my head that I was the only one who really didn't have people in real life with shared interests (besides my sister), but clearly not. So much to agree with in your comment. Thanks for swinging by! :)

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  8. Um, who said this, because I want to punch them in the face. Also, those cupcakes look amazing.

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    1. I kind of wanted to too, but don't tell anyone. ;)

      P.S. The cupcakes were yummy!

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  9. My roommate still rolls her eyes when I mention, for example, staying in on Friday night because I've got #writeclub, to the point where she's talked about setting me up with someone to get me out of the apartment. I'm sure most of my friends think it's so totally lame when I'd rather stay in and write and cheer on people I've never met instead of hitting the bars or whatever it is kids these days are doing. (Given how much time some of my RL friends spend on Tumblr and/or Facebook, I think it's safe to say they don't really have room to talk.)

    The fact is, I know some pretty awesome people in real life. I know some pretty awesome people online whom I've never met. There is room for both of them.

    Also, your cupcakes look delicious and I drooled all over my keyboard when I saw them on Instagram. (I didn't, actually, but it was close.)

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    1. Ugh. Setting you up to get you out of your apartment? Bleh. No thanks. I'm not sure people get that sometimes people just really look forward to staying in and curling up with a good book, or chatting with friends on Twitter, or spending time writing and creating. Is that really so weird? Judging from the other comments left here, I'm thinking not. I just wish I could teleport all of you over sometime. That would be fantastic! :)

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  10. People are SO mean! I think your cupcakes look incredible (I want one!) and I think all of your readers for being involved in social media are totally valid. It's the same reason I do it!

    Psh. Ignore the haters.

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    1. So much easier to ignore the haters knowing that I'm not the only one who feels this way about social media and online friends. Who needs this kind of snarly, mean person, right? :)

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    2. Also, have I mentioned that I love how much my online friends care about good grammar? ;)

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  11. Definitely in the same boat! I have some people who are nice enough to ask how things are going, and my husband is fantastic about listening to every YA-related thing I have to babble about, but in general, this just isn't a world I share with the people who are physically around me. I feel lucky to have connected to so many people about a shared passion, and I'm sorry for anyone who hasn't been lucky enough to experience that! (Also, YUM. Gorgeous!)

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    1. "I feel lucky to have connected to so many people about a shared passion, and I'm sorry for anyone who hasn't been lucky enough to experience that!" Yes! Exactly! I don't think that meeting and talking with people online who hail from different corners of the world is something to be ashamed of. I wish everyone could have their life so enriched. And, lucky me, I even got to meet some of you in real life! :)

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  12. Okay firstly, I love your cupcake photo and totally want to eat one. Secondly, bravo on this post! The connections are exactly why I do the social media thing. I'm lucky enough to have friends who have always had similar interests to me - who love geekery and books and TV - the way I do, but with age these interests have diverged somewhat. And few of them actively share my interest in YA and writing, so I come to the internet for that and I've met and made some great new friends that way!

    I think another thing about the "get a life" attitude might just be from people who just don't do that much stuff online and/or older generational people. People who aren't active online or who didn't grow up with the internet don't see it as part of their lives, so it seems frivolous; whereas if you ask quarter-lifers like me or younger people having a presence online is sort of the norm. And even if you don't participate yourself, it's not unusual to hear that our peers are bloggers, vloggers, tweeters, social media gurus, etc. I realized this gap when I saw some of my relatives' puzzled attitude towards my cousin's pursuit of a social media career (what is social media? so this is just like a stepping stone job, right?), and this was even more glaringly obvious when I tried to explain social media to my grandma (even harder because she's hard of hearing and my Chinese is terrible). So it could just be that. The "get a life" people just don't get it. :P

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    1. I think you've nailed this right on the head. Some of this attitude is definitely related to a generational divide and a lack of understanding of social media and what it is exactly. The "get a life" people totally don't get it.

      I think it's fantastic that you have people in real life who like to geek out over books and TV. Right on! :)

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  13. I want to punch that person in the face!

    :)

    But I totally love this post, Jaime, because this describes me to a tee! When I first started writing MG and YA, I knew nobody in real life who shared this same passion. That isolation led me to forums like Absolute Write and Verla Kay (and later to Twitter) where I finally found my tribe--the people who were just as excited about MG/YA as I was!

    I've been very lucky to have found a great circle of writers in the DC area and many of them have become my close friends. But you know what? I met *all* of them online! Even though we live in the same city, I never would have met them if it wasn't for social media.

    So yay for social media, I say! And yay for online friends!

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    1. Isolation is a great way of putting it. That's how I felt too--still do sometimes--so meeting all of these people has really helped. While it would be nice to know people with similar interests in real life, I'm still happy even just to be able to connect with my friends online. :)

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  14. I'm very lucky because a very large chunk of my IRL relationships were actually forged online first, so most people in my life are very understanding of online relationships and "living online" because they have similar niche online groups they belong to. I feel sad for people who don't have a strong connection with people who share their specific interests! Life mist be so tedious for them!

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    1. That's awesome, Jess! I'm so envious. :) I am very lucky to have met so many great people online. It definitely keeps my life from being completely tedious. :)

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  15. Oh I love this post. You're so right--no one gets to decide what is or isn't an appropriate use of your time. 1) Those cupcakes are GORGEOUS. and 2) yes, though lots of people I know through more traditional channels don't "get" on-line relationships. Well guess what, that sucks for them! Because like you, I've found the friendships I've made on-line to be so fulfilling and so meaningful. I wouldn't take that time spent back for anything. <3 <3 <3

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    1. I find that all of these friendships I've made online have enriched my life in so many ways. How else would I meet friends in California, New York, England, Australia, Germany...? I have friends all over the world! And you're so right about these friendships being both fulfilling and meaningful. I wouldn't trade that! :)

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  16. Okay - this was BEAUTIFUL. And while no one's really come straight out and said, "You need to get my life," I have felt that vibe from too many people. But they don't get it. They don't get that beautiful friendships and relationships can be found online. I value quite a few of them above my IRL friendships.

    Great post, Jaime! By the way - cupcakes = YUM

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    1. Thanks, Alison! :) I think people have this idea that relationships forged online are somehow artificial, that people don't present their actual selves online. I think that can be true in some cases, but I don't believe that's the case with my online friendships. As writers, we really put ourselves out there every single day with our writing. There's an honesty and vulnerability there that I don't see in the people I meet in real life. In many ways, my online friends are more real than the ones I see face to face.

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  17. Wow. This sounds like something my brother would say (and very often does) and I have to admit that I quite frequently make snarky comebacks, many of which include the f-word unless children (or my mother) are around. I should explain that as adults my brother and I are very good friends and even shared an apartment for a year, so this kind of banter is not taken too personally.

    I agree that the nature of friendship has changed; human nature has not. We want to share what is important to us, we want to share our joys and our sorrows and find kindred spirits who will rejoice or grieve with us. Posting a photo of your cupcakes today (which, by the way, had me drooling at the first lovely photo of the eggs and lemons) is no different than two neighbors standing at the picket fence discussing the lovely Easter dinner so-and-so served. Humans have a need to share experiences. How we share our them has certainly changed, and I see nothing wrong with taking advantage of the resources we currently have to make connections.

    I feel pretty lucky that I have both a strong online support system and a group of real lifers, too. I have a few writer friends that go way back to high school days, but for the most part the rest have been online connections. Someday when we're all making the big bucks, we'll have a big writing retreat and post pictures on Instagram and blog about it and stuff.

    So screw that guy (or gal). Even though I have never met you face to face, I think you are AWESOME and I wish we could be friends IRL. You and so many others have made my world a better place.

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    1. Kindred spirits--nailed it! You're so right about your comparison of sharing cupcakes with talking to a neighbour over the fence...or even two grandmas showing off pics of their grandkids for that matter. It's totally about sharing experiences, passion, inspiration, you name it. What's the point of life if we're not making connections with other people in whatever form that takes? Like you say, I consider myself lucky to have such a strong online support system. I may not have a huge support system in real life, but that's okay.

      I, too, wish we could be buddies in real life. That would be FANTASTIC! :)

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  18. Seriously, you should have snatched the cupcake out of her hand and shoved it in your own mouth. Regardless of her opinion, a simple "thank you" would have been the classy response. You already know how I feel about all of this, but I'll reiterate that I would NEVER have finally written a book if you hadn't taken an interest in writing as well. That support has been invaluable to me. I can count on three fingers the people I talk to about my writing in real life (you being one of them and I'm also related to the other two), and I know that's probably the case for a lot of people, so is it any wonder when writers turn to the internet to make connections? Sigh. All of that aside, when are people finally going to realize they don't have the right to pass judgment on how others spend their lives?

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    1. Or even just agreeing that they looked nice and leaving it at that. Sadly, some people come with social skills sold separately. I don't know what I would do without you around to keep me sane, to talk books and writing with. I'm very, very lucky. I think we should both pick up and move to the Maritimes (with hubbies in tow) and start our own writing commune. Think how awesome our library would be! :)

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    2. That sounds like an amazing idea. And I bet the weather is better in Newfoundland right now anyway. :)

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  19. I think this is something all aspiring writers face. The sad truth is most people around us just can't understand why we'd devote all that time and energy into something so intangible.

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    1. I think you're right. A good many people see it as a pipe dream and consider us to be those people who are always talking about working on their novel (but really aren't). How awesome would it be to prove them wrong and get published? :)

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  20. You already know this but let me say it again: you are an amazing friend even though we´ve never met in person. <3
    And...this cupcake? YUM!!!!

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    1. Thanks, Elodie! Same to you! We definitely need to fix this never meeting in person thing. Hopefully one day soon! :)

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  21. Preach! I adore all of my internet pals and I honestly think I would have gone crazy without all of you lovely people. My friends think I'm weird for choosing staying in to write over spending yet another afternoon hanging out watching movies but no-one online ever does. (And I went Bon Jovi, too.)

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    1. It's funny because 'getting a life' in these people's eyes would involve engaging in mundane activities like simply sitting around and getting drunk or watching movies or whatever. (At least that's the case around here.) They have no idea just how exciting being involved in a community like this really is! :)

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  22. Grrr. Online friends got me through high school (a Yahoo!Group devoted to Ally McBeal fanfiction, no less--even I want to make fun of myself for that, but it didn't make it any less important to me!) Having a space where you feel like your contributions are valued and other people want to connect with you is SO important, and I think it's great that those spaces are present online. I've been living in Buffalo for almost eight months and I've met ONE other adult with an interest in YA (the school librarian where I've started teaching.) And really all the people I socialize with here are my husband's high school friends and their friends--but the fact that I'm finding it really difficult to make friends on my own is HUGELY mitigated by the fact that I've been getting closer to you and other people I've met through my blog. If not for my internet friends, this would have really, really sucked, honestly.

    Also: those cupcakes. Amazing.

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    1. Ah, man. I so wish we lived closer together. Think of all the book chats and writing sessions we could have sitting around in our geek tees. People are really missing out not getting to know you better! I feel the same way about my online friendships helping with the disappointment of not making friends in real life. I have a couple of friends, but they really don't get me, you know? Thank goodness for people like you! :)

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  23. Those cupcakes are beautiful, you should be proud of them. I don't understand people who put other's life choices and experiences down. So what if you enjoy sharing what you create and if you don't personally know all of the people who you are sharing it to (as in you haven't met them, you do personally know them via email/communications). I am sure you don't say 'oh, getting drunk in a bar, get a life' or whatever to people who are spending their time differently. We only get one chance and no point spending it being negative imo. You keep on rocking and posting.

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    1. I would never in a million years think to tell someone to get a life, even jokingly. People just need to get used to the fact that not everyone likes the same things. :)

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  24. Oh geez. You know that person was feeling inadequate, right? That's why people make dumb comments like that. I'm glad you've decided to use part of your life on us, Jaime. :) You do good work, and it's nice to have you around.

    Also, as Tom Hanks says in the same movie, it's better to be at a loss for words, because when you do come up with that zinger, remorse inevitably follows. (For instance, I might have shot back something snarky like, "You mean like yours? No thanks." And then I would have felt bad.)

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    1. You are so right about good comebacks never really being a good idea. I know I would feel like garbage if I put someone in their place. That's so not my style. :)

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  25. That is so rude. It reminds me of the things my peers used to say to me when I was a studious 15-year-old.

    All I have to do is look at the comments above to know that you are using blogs, etc... to make wonderful, constructive, and, yes, if we really must explain this, VALID, connections with other human beings. And if I made cupcakes that pretty, I would post pictures of them too. (Are those Reeses Pieces eggs on top??? Those are sooo yummy...)

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    1. These are definitely valid connections that we've made with our online friends. I wouldn't trade that for anything.

      P.S. They're Cadbury mini eggs. :)

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  26. Love love love this post! I don't love that you were told to get a life. In fact, I hate that. But I love this community so much. I wouldn't trade the connections I've made online for anything.

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    1. I wouldn't trade them either. They've enriched my life in so many ways! :)

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  27. What exactly does such a person mean by "get a life?" Making social connections is not a worthwhile activity? Sure, it's not the same as giving your life on the mission field, or volunteering with the Red Cross in Haiti, or something like that--but I'm sure most of the people who say "get a life" aren't doing those things either!

    I'm not of the generation that grew up with the Internet. I was in my twenties and married when I first encountered AOL with a dial-up connection. But I was quick to find newsgroups, email, and experience the joy of finding people who shared my interests. I think some--especially those who are particularly gregarious types (not me)--think having "online friends" is a cop-out; an excuse for not being as adept at them at forming RL friendships. Perhaps there's truth to that. But maybe for some of us who form sentences better on paper than in person, this works better. Perhaps this forum gives us the opportunity to edit ourselves, and not say the kinds of socially awkward things we might say that would cause RL people to avoid us. Online, we're not as threatened by having to smile the right way, make sure there's no spinach in our teeth, not stumble over saying "hello"--making friends is easier, because there's less pressure to "perform" and make a good impression.

    Yes, there is the possibility that "online" friends can hide their true personalities behind their keyboard. But RL friends can do the same. How many serial killers seemed like nice people to their neighbors? I try to be genuine online. Sure, I don't necessarily share my opinion about EVERYTHING, and I don't share EVERY aspect of my life. But if you, or any of my online friends, should ever meet me IRL, I hope you would recognize the same person in the flesh as you have encountered on my blog, or in these comments.

    Big hug, Jaime! :)

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    1. We didn't have the internet until I was in my senior year of high school, so I mostly grew up with RL friends. But you know what's crazy? I feel like the friends I've made online have been so much more accepting, encouraging, supportive, and just my kind of people that I wish I could have met them that much sooner. I wouldn't trade them for anything. :)

      You're so right about it being easier, in a sense, to make friends online than IRL. It strips away a lot of the nervousness and awkwardness associated with meeting new people when you're not super outgoing. And I think that most of the people we know online present themselves as they actually are. As writers, we strive for honesty in our writing, and I think that pours over into our online presences as well. :)

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  28. Ugh. Silly, silly people! The thing that is so funny is that all these online writer/creator-community interactions are fueling the passion and discipline for something incredibly creative and meaningful (in contrast to, as you pointed out: lazing around drinking).

    Those folks? They just don't know what they're missing!

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    1. That's exactly it! They're totally missing out. I have friends all over the globe, and for that I count myself very lucky. :)

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  29. :( So far, my family/friends have been pretty supportive of my blogging, but there are times when my husband asks whether I'm wasting my time by blogging. Excuse me? Wasting time? No. Even though I do put a lot of time into blogging/social networking, I don't view it as wasted. like you, I feel lucky to have stumbled on such a supportive and active online writing/blogging community, and I've enjoyed making friends online and finding other people to gush with books about.

    And BTW, those cupcakes look delicious. Maybe they were just jealous. I'm going to have to give that recipe a whirl.

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  30. Well, that's just awful. I remember when you posted that photo and I thought it was gorgeous! You've still got me hankering for lemon cake with cream cheese frosting.
    I think people who don't use social media don't get it, and people who don't use instagram don't understand that food photos are a huge part of what people LOVE to see on there.
    My friends IRL are totally supportive of writing, but almost none of them do it and so they can only commiserate so much. I think one of the fantastic things about online friends (let's just call them friends) is that you share so much in common. We're lucky to live in an era when geography doesn't hinder us from being friends with folks all over the globe. What a gift. When something happens somewhere far away it's no longer, "oh that happened to those faceless, nameless people". Instead it's "hey, my friend X lives near there, and I hope she's okay". Not to over dramatize it, but It has a lot of potential to bring the world together in new ways.
    So next time you see them, tell them your (online) friends do NOT approve of the previous comment. :0)

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