Finding Peace in the Process



The 'Burbs, Illinois,
January 18
Married father of two girls. Was a writer in a previous life. Drove a truck for 20 years. Trudging the road of happy destiny since 1987.


JANUARY 30, 2009 2:13AM

My 'virtual' friends on OS

Rate: 71 Flag

     I've been commenting on several articles lately by unhappy writers "flouncing" Open Salon, or just expressing frustration about not being on the cover or how come we don't get paid or are the editors evil or have we all unwittingly been drawn into some sort or reality show in which 3,000 writers claw each other's eyes out till only one is left standing and he/she gets fifty bucks while the site makes billions in oil company endorsements and the rest of us suckers starve and die.

     I found myself writing this, "And besides, I have more fun with my OS friends than I do with my regular friends."


     My first response to these posts was that I enjoy writing here. My writing improved greatly over the first four weeks since my first post, Dec. 1. I am excited to think about how good I can be if I keep working. I had written a few chapters of my series "Shaving With Connie Francis," before posting them, and they sucked. Knowing someone would read them frightened me into tightening things up, smoothing over some rough passages, blowing up a few others altogether.

     Then came the responses. I was thrilled, as I was with a few Editor's Picks. I hear grumblings that the EP's for new writers are a bit of a cadge. Newbies are thrown out where they can be seen in the hopes of getting them started finding like-minded or sympathetic writers who will fill them in on the friending thing and kind of nudge them into providing free content for the site while their spouses go without affection and employers move them up on the list of recession casualties and their dogs shit in their shoes because no one takes them for walks anymore.

     The thing works fine for me. I'm getting better. I have several published authors reading my work regularly. I have legions of fans, okay, scores of fans, well, not quite, scores, call it an even dozen of people who have asked me to zap them a PM when I post, which is a dozen more than I had two months ago. All good. I have no desire to run the site and wouldn't know how to if I did. I'm happy Lauerman and whomever are getting paid doing what they do to keep the site up every day.

     It's my playground and I love it. Which brings me the long way around the bend back to the friends thing. I wrote, "I have more fun with my OS friends than I do with my real friends." Is this healthy? Should I try to get out of the house more often?

     Hell no!

     I have chosen my friends here and they have chosen me and how often does it work out this way? The last time I was on a playground looking for friends I chose the meanest pricks around because if they were my friends they weren't beating me up. In high school I hung with a tight circle of guys from a small Catholic school because if we stuck together the guys from the bigger public schools wouldn't beat us up. I went to college with a kindergarden classmate. But he was an engineer and I was in journalism so just like that my friends were journalism people.

     I made many friends over the course of many careers, but were these mere  matters of convenience and civility? Would I have chosen them based on their tastes in fiction, poetry or painting?  I think everyone ought to carry a list of 25 things in their pockets. Meeting someone new, we could simply exchange lists and have much to discuss or not.

     Never thought I would rediscover the joy of writing letters. Never thought I would read poetry and enjoy it. Never thought I would care so much about someone's else's rare and horrifying disease, sick kids, lost dog, aging parents or trip to Antarctica. Never thought I'd have to set an alarm so I stop reading other people's stories and start writing my own.

     I'm happy to report I can still function in the flesh-and-blood business of human interaction. Tomorrow I will go out with my wife and some of her flesh-and-blood friends to see Kris Kristofferson. I will have fun. I will be witty, though not nearly as clever as I am here, as there is no "delete comment" function in the unforgiving flesh-and-blood world. On Sunday we will watch a football game with a longtime flesh-and-blood friend of mine and his wife.

     I will not bludgeon them with my opinions about the stimulus, nor will I cause anyone discomfort re-living my rehab experience or the effect of braces on my high school sex life or the shortcomings of my offspring or my ancestors or my dogs. We will keep the conversation on country music and good songwriting and the advantage of having a quick-release QB when trying to beat a blitz-happy defense.

     I will save my opinions on other topics for when I return here and get to choose my friends, and wallow in the attention of those who have chosen me.  





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I loved this post. I couldn't agree more with what you have said and my experiences here are very similar. "nor will I cause anyone discomfort re-living my rehab experience or the effect of braces on my high school sex life or the shortcomings of my offspring or my ancestors or my dogs." Great line.
jimmy, this is lovely. so clear and so poignant and, well, just a fabulous antidote to people's trials and tribulations on here. i do my share of complaning too, but i do try to focus on the humour of events. i hope so. and i love my frends on here. only a few can find time to PM but it's fine. those who do are xtreemly support and kind and also laff bout thins that i think are funny too.

love love love
Well-said, Jimmymac! Writing for the readers here ups everyone's game, can't imagine a better sandbox. The danger (for me) is spending more time commenting/reading than writing or working on other projects, I set time limits too. (and often ignore them ;) Great post -
I really enjoyed this post, especially the last paragraph. I'm going to 'choose' you now if you don't mind. Feel free to wallow in my attention :D
Great job, I am one of your fans. Keep going.....
Jim, yesterday I got to meet one of those virtual friends. I met Tom Cordle.
I do love the virtual friends here. I can 'visit' with my friends here anyime I want. I do love the writing here. I pick and choose just like us all. This post you write here is to the heart of it all.
It is in the word 'friends'. I do love that word. And since I found OS, I do love the writing and the folks here on this site.
I list you as a best.
I'm happy to see a positive, supportive post on the experience of a relative newcomer to OS. I understand a lot of the frustration expressed by some about the challenges of the site, its culture and its platform, but I think I have to agree with you on balance jimmymac - it's a pretty great place. Thanks for writing this.
From someone glad to have you as a virtual friend....:)
Only a writer with a mind and soul like yours could have put a post like this together. It tugs at the heart, stirs memories, creates chuckles and makes complete sense. Consider yourself the chosen one to be the strong voice of reason. Virtual or not, I'm hugging you.
I've been here a very short time. Whether you are a "Writer" (not sure yet what the operational definition is for that) or some who writes (like me perhaps) OS is a place for experimentation. I can't do experimentation at my day job. It's a risk averse place. Life is like that for many people.

I can experiment here. With storytelling, or risk talking about my troubled past. I can be serious or attempt to be humorous . I can help someone, or be helped by someone. I can make a mistake, and no lives will be lost, no permanent damage will be done, and I'll have the opportunity to learn. Learn from people who I perceive do this writing thing better than me, and from those who I may perceive don't. Which if I'm humble enough, I might learn more from them.

Paolo Freire one said, "In a true learning situation, it is difficult to discern who the teacher is and the student is."
I don't see how I could explain my experiences on OS any better than you did with this post. And I need to thank you for editing it repeatedly so as to get it tweaked to my exact way of thinking.
I am curious as to how you were able to read my thoughts even though we've never met virtually or any other way.

Greg Thomas has mentioned you and I've seen you on the cover, but never clicked on your work mostly due to time restraints and the fact I rarely read cover stories unless the author is on my friends list.

I simply can't read any more than I do now. I can't. Really. Crap, who am I trying to kid. I can't resist it anymore than I can hold my breath for an hour.

After reading this I have to read more. You got me. Jeez, I'm such a sucker for great writing. Aagh! I am pathetically weak. I need help.

I'm glad I don't have a dog to walk. If I did, I would likely be cleaning up poo right now. Oh yeah. The litter box is full.

P.S. I like the idea of the timer. I'm sooo guilty of reading too much and not writing enough. JimmyMac has a new fan. Shit!
And sometimes the OS-ers turn into those flesh and blood friends as well! Great post, wonderful thoughts, I'm happy to consider you among my OS friends. And unlike wingsuit base jumping, it never gets boring ;-)
Right on!!!

Enjoy KK ... super fun deluxe!!!
Spot on, Jimmy. Enjoy my virtual friendship. :)
So THAT"S why my shoes smell!

This is it exactly. And here's to Kristofferson still being alive!

"I have seen the morning burning golden on the mountain in the sky.

Aching with the freedom of the feeling of an eagle when she flies. . ."

I love that guy.
You said it, Jimmy! In fact, I think that people here on OS know me better than those in my "real" life. If I talk about writing in my real life (outside of my writer's group), people's eyes glaze over.

It's easy to be open with one another here because we "get it." I'm glad to be among your chosen friends and to have you as one of mine.

Now go walk your dog. He's eyeing up your shoes.
Oh Jim, I loved this. You eloquently and honestly put into words what I couldn't find. Writing is for FUN for many of us. Blogging too. Not all of my posts are writing. I use this place to display my passions in life, and they are many. My perils in life, and they are many. And my joys in life, and they are many.

You are most definitely one of the great writers on here. I read, rated, and commented on every Connie Francis post and loved them. As James Taylor said "you've got a friend." At least in me.

Virtual friends make great friends. I have fun with both. :-)

this is a great post Jim :D you are awesome!
Wonderful post, Jimmy - I agree completely. I have a small circle of real world friends, but due to geographical challenges, and scheduling conflicts, I may go weeks without seeing any of them. OS gives me a place where I can connect with other creative, intelligent and thoughtful people any time of the day or night. And where else, I ask you, would I possibly run into someone who could quote Paolo Friere - one of my favorite thinkers - as OE Sheepdog did in your comments. In the past few months I've read some of the most phenomenal stories, essays and poems - I'm humbled by the talent of so many here, and grateful to be allowed to participate in my own small way. Glad that you chose to share Mike and Jerry, and all your stories with us here - I think I became a fan the minute I finished Shaving, Chapter One.
My goodness! I step out to walk the dogs and return to find all this. Do you people never sleep?!!!

Please accept a sincere group hug. I am just fascinated by the nature of the relationships formed here, as the written word is so much more revealing than what passes, for me, at least, for conversation. I don't have a delete comment function out there, so it is natural to be guarded. As a result, worthwhile thoughts go unexplored and unexpressed. My experience here in this regard has been remarkable. Seeing my thoughts in black and white is as new to me as it is to those of you reading. I haven't seen this stuff before, either. The shared experience of this is incredible.
I'm a month behind you in posting, and I too started because I enjoy it. I'm working to hone the ol' verbage to a sharp point out of the nub from which it started. I hope my prose becomes as eloquent and witty as yours in the next month. But Kris Kristofferson, dude?
You so eloquently expressed my own experience of OS. There is no freaking way in my "real life" that I could ever meet such a wonderful group of n'er do wells and intellects and dreamers, and share the things we don't share in our daily interactions. OS has become my artistic community, and I am very grateful.
You so eloquently expressed my own experience of OS. There is no freaking way in my "real life" that I could ever meet such a wonderful group of n'er do wells and intellects and dreamers, and share the things we don't share in our daily interactions. OS has become my artistic community, and I am very grateful.
[wild applause]

[sheepish full agreement on the "having more fun with virtual than real friends" front]

[reluctant slinking off to a work meeting]
What a perfect post, but you are a master of perfect posts.

I am sick to death of reading about people leaving, or not getting enough attention & threatening to leave, or complaining about other posters hogging the "limelight."

There are so many excellent writers here.---and strangely, the best never seem to complain. They just write and post.

I am purposely not calling them (all the excellent writers) out by name, because if I start, I'd end up stealing your comments feed---that's how many there are---and you, my friend, are among them.

We are lucky to have found this place and most of all, each other. Writing among you guys has made me a better writer---In fact, it is the only reason I started writing again---(That, and because McCain picked Palin.)

But, you've already said all this in your perfect post. Thank you for that.

p.s. That alarm thingy---what an excellent idea. Mine is ringing right now!
I've found most people who've declared "problems" with OS really are really just frustrated with themselves.

And Dear God in heaven, please give me a "delete comment" button in real life!!
Jimmy, you are so right in many ways. My OS friends have been a wellspring for me of ideas, comfort, support, laughs, and good times. You know, how much more do you need from a friend? I try to get here every day and read and respond and write, but sometimes my life doesn't let me. But I never regret being here.

And others are right....eventually, if you are lucky, and take the opportunities as you find them, you make real life flesh and blood friends from the ether.
Oops, one "really" too many. (Told you I needed a delete comment button...)
Perfect post! Says it all. Write and ye shall be found. This is the community of friends I always wanted, and wish all lived nearby so we could get together and have a drink once in a while, and perhaps go over to Sandra no long Miller's house for rack of lamb, or you guys could just come over here and we could order out. In the meantime, I'll just keep reading everyone's great writing, great comments, and once a year, post something myself.
Thanks for this post and enjoy Kristofferson.
As a fan, let me thank YOU. Written beautifully, touchingly.
Wonderful, Jimmymac!!! But, seriously, I would actually love to hear about your high school sex life!
So understand what you said about maybe needing to get out of the house more! Guilty as charged!
The OS community of friends and supporters is like no other. My "other" friends hardly know about this place.
I like it that way.
Wierd or what?!
Jimmy, you are a simply wonderful writer! I haven't gotten up the guts to start posting on OS yet, but I've been hanging around the fringes, reading way more posts than I probably should, and always checking your blog for new posts because you are just awesome in so many ways.

What you are doing--and this impresses the hell out of me--is using a probably imperfect medium in exactly the way it should be used: to your advantage. You're making friends, enjoying your time here, and damned if you're not ALSO improving as a writer, using the forum to test the waters, learning to edit your stuff...jeez, you're some kind of genius!

I had a friend once who was a single mom...two kids, no child support, and no marketable skills. She went on welfare, food stamps, and whatever else she could for a while. And while she was on it, she found a way to go to school for her CNA. As soon as she got that, she went off welfare, went to work as a CNA, and kept going to school part-time--still needed the foodstamps and a few other things, but everyone could see she was moving in the right direction. Then she got her RN, got off all the subsidy programs, and has made a great life for her and the kids. What she did was take an imperfect system and make it work exactly the way she needed it to work.

And--OMIGOD--you're going to see Kris Kristofferson! I've been deeply, madly, passionately in love with thtn man since 1972, when my older brother gave me his first album for my 13th birthday. No kidding--it's all in the "25 things about me" post that I haven't got up the courage to post yet! Three years ago I dragged my husband from New England to Park City, Utah to see him (my daughter was working for an airline and got us a free flight--standby, and we got in late and missed half the show). Then a couple of months later we saw him in Boston and I got to meet him, and now I can die happy.
Thanks Jim. Enjoy Kris. Willie comes to town here next week. You da' man!!!
Such a wonderful sentiment and beautiful post. I think you said what many of us were wanting to say - and did a much better job saying it.

Thank you.
Well said bro. You clearly articulate why some of us are here. I'm glad I've got you as a friend here, even if we don't always agree on everything! :)
Oh, Jimmy, this post couldn't have come at a better time. I've just been exchanging messages with a newbie here on these very same issues. You've expressed the joys of OS so much more eloquently than I did, so I'm just going to send him over here. (His name is iron fish, and his piece about furniture haggling is still on the cover, I believe. As you'll see, a first-rate talent with a very droll wit.)

I could go on and on about OS, and about your writing, and about the many pleasures of "virtual" friendships, but believe it or not, the dogs really do need to be walked.

Thanks again for all that you bring to our playground. Now, any interest in trading your banana for my baloney sandwich?
[... and wallow in the attention of those who have chosen me.]

Consider yourself chosen!
Caught up with many earlier comments with PM, since I was late to my own party. If I missed anyone please accept group hug.

Griff-Thank you. Seen Willie a couple of times. Excited about Kris. For a few years there, when he was young and hungry and writing a lot, he walked with the immortals.

RenaissanceLady--I assume the enjoyment of INTERACTING with other writers is why everyone is here. Where else can you get this?

MJwycha--Ditto above and thanks so much for stopping by.

Laurel--How else under any circumstances could this collection of people find each other and get to enjoy each others' talents and company? I am going to pass on making a banana joke. Mom told me to play nice, especially with girls.
dogmom--Watch me wallow. What a cool word. Wallow. Wallow. Wallow.
Count me in, Jimmymac.
Love this--so many phrases I just love like:
"...providing free content for the site while their spouses go without affection and employers move them up on the list of recession casualties and their dogs shit in their shoes because no one takes them for walks anymore."
The alliteration is lovely...
jimmy, I think you expressed quite well the issues we all think about as we work hard to improve our writing. It is a gift to have such a great community who unselfishly provides immediate feedback on our scribblings......I am grateful to the point where I can never find words(and it's odd for me). I hope folks send a hello to the editors now and then, thanking them for their efforts and the way they manage the work of all these "lovers of words."
By all above accounts, seems you struck a pretty harmonious chord here. And it rings pretty true for me, too. You’re one fine writer, and I’ve enjoyed every one of your posts.
I am so tempted to put up a three word post (would the most succinct I've EVER been) hyperlinked here:

What He Said

Maybe even another four word post, hyperlinked here:

This Is A Writer

My friend, you are a shining example of what this place can be. Thanks for showing up.

o'steph--That's a great example of the kind of stuff we "get" to do here. The endless sentence is something I happened upon by accident a few posts ago and have been tossing it here and there as I go. We get to practice here and learn, without having to reach for a stylebook every five minutes.

Gary--I am drawn to the "experience" of writing, as opposed to the result. The way the mind manipulates an idea onto the page. For me, for now, the process is the reward, and the community is ridiculously supportive of this.

David--Never had this many responses. I assume many of us relish the "experience" and the support of this remarkable community.

Bill--What who said? Where? Thanks.
Great and thoughtful post. I was very much in agreement with many of your sentiments several years ago when I was posting on another forum. But I ended up feeling that there was something not quite right with the equation in which I was closer to a group of 'virtual' friends than I was to real live flesh-and-blood people in my community. This realization inspired me to rethink the way I was relating in real life. I began to extend myself a bit more, and created a little salon in my home in which I regularly invited intelligent, creative neighbors over for cocktails, film, food, discussion. I guess what I'm saying is that online forums helped me to rethink my day-to-day face-to-face interactions, and taught me how to become a better friend - in the flesh.
Heh. great writing! In regards to OS, I say to friends, "I've joined a cult." That just sums it up.
Well said indeed! I will not bludgeon them with my opinions about the stimulus I think this makes my "flesh and blood" friends grateful for OS on my side, too.
Hmmm. M.Chariot. He’s one smart cookie.
"Knowing someone would read them frightened me into tightening things up, smoothing over some rough passages, blowing up a few others altogether."

"Never thought I would rediscover the joy of writing letters. Never thought I would read poetry and enjoy it. Never thought I would care so much about someone's else's rare and horrifying disease, sick kids, lost dog, aging parents or trip to Antarctica. Never thought I'd have to set an alarm so I stop reading other people's stories and start writing my own."

So true. Thanks.
Monsieur Chariot--Happy for your learning experience and thank you for the contribution. There's gotta be a healthy balance somewhere. Perhaps being new to the experience accounts for my amazement at it.

Silkstone--I wouldn't call it a cult, as no one tells us what to do. It may appear that way to an outsider. Thank you.
No, no one tells me what to do. Just that I feel being active on OS requires a slavish devotion. ;)
Silkstone--The time requirements are similar.

Saturn--My wife is grateful I have somewhere to dispense my verbosity other than at the dinner table.

Faith--Never thought I'd need one to tell me when to stop responding to comments either.
Thanks Jimmy. I had wanted to say something similar, being new here and just enjoying the hell out of it. Glad you said it first and much more eloquently than I could have. Now if we could just get a spell-check function...
No flouncing here! I love this post and I love OS as a place to write and read.

Every day, I get lost in other people's posts, and every day I write something. At other sites, this just hasn't worked.

And there is a serious lack of trolls here. While there are some, the place isn't overwhelmed by the robo-posting clowns.

Thanks for so eloquently expressing what I'd like to say when I've been here for a few more months.
Conspiracy theories never held much appeal for me. As a newcomer I appreciate your honesty and gratefulness (and thank you to my new friend LNL for the shout-out.) It seems like the best course of action is to do your thing, whether that's shooting for the cover every day or writing for a special group of virtual friends when the muse hits. And seeking out the work that speaks to you & being encouraging whenever possible. And of course, making sure to leave time to walk the dog.
Well, serves me right to come in so late. A whole 12 hours late. Is this a fast internet world or what?

Anyway, you know how fond I am of you, and the writin' ain't bad either.

So, what they all said. That should just about cover it.

You read my mind! (so glad I don't have a dog!) Perfectly put! I love your writing and am so thankful for this virtual community of witty friends to hang with.
I'd hate to spoil their fun, but blogging hosts and editors (some writers) create sites like this to let people post all day long. They take the somewhat good ideas and, well, mold and form it into their own idea. Then they sell it, and laugh because the rest of the blogging populace never knows.

Sorry, Joan Walsh.
Smithery--That are wroking on that.

Zumalicious--Glad you are enjoying yourself.

Iron fish--Thanks for checking in. A time for everything, right. I find I need to practice and find it wonderful to be able to do so in front of an audience.

Monte--Where 'ya been? We were about to send out a search party.

Mimi11--Thank you. I have enjoyed your posts as well.

Barricade--Thank you for checking in. Everyone here knows they are throwing their work out there and who knows what might happen to it. I think I need a lot of work right now and am grateful to be able to do it for an audience. Thanks again.
I'm so happy I "met" you, JM. You are a good writer, forthright, funny, and self-aware. I agree with everything in your post, and applaud same.

I've been down the road of joining an online group of smart, funny, hip people, paid the price of allowing egos to flail, not least my own, and have been very cautious here. I don't "write", yet, though I do intend to. One day. I love to read, however, and one couldn't ask for a more informed, ejumicated bunch than this one. For the most part, snark and flounce are rare (or I do an impressively good job of being oblivious thereto). For the most part, scammers and spammers are ignored (as they should be). And for the most part, I absolutely love these folks, you maybe especially included.

You've done the thing I cannot yet do, and exposed your belly. You've done it in an exemplary, sometimes hilarious, fashion, with noble intent. I like you and your family. I like your stories. I hope to read them for a long, long time.

Now I've gotta go back to the alarming work of work. I cannot wait for the day that being here is my "work".

- ConMc
Nice balance to the whining (which I enjoy and partake of myself--I'm schizo that way).
Connie--Thank you. Your pix and poetry are cool, but I look forward to a story or two.

Lainey--Thanks for dropping by.
and why isn't this an EP?
>It's my playground and I love it.

Me too! I'm thrilled to be here.

I loved this post. Well written.
Hey, thanks for making everybody feel all-inclusive,
and plugging poetry as well... you are a fine man,
hope you enjoy your vacation at the KK Concert
with wife and FAB-friends tomorrow; oh, and, say hi to
everybody for me!
Hells yeah Jimmy. Proud to call you my friend.
I really enjoyed reading this post. It was entertaining and uplifting and just really gave me good, warm feelings about you, OS, and the other lovely writers here. It was also very well written. Thank you so much for sharing it. I'm jealous that you get to see Kris Kristofferson!
Yeah, this is a great place to hang out and shoot the breeze with smart, funny, opinionated, generous people

A great place to drop a piece of writing and see if anybody responds

A great place to learn
I am one of your fans!

Loved your post. OS puts me where there are people I'd want to met.

My favorite flesh and blood friends are verbose, witty, funny and literate--just like the OSer's I've "met" here.
If OS had an MIW (Most Improved Writer) award, you'd win it going away.

Just as with singing, every writer has his own distinct voice. Kristofferson may be a helluva lot better writer than a singer, but there's no denying that in both cases, he has a voice all his own.

Again, just as with singing, some writers are imitators and some are originators. Kris is an originator, and so are you. Fools like me wander from voice to voice, but you have tapped the mother lode right out of the box; your voice is as crystal clear and honest as Emmy Lou's.

As for friends, Daddy always told me a man could count his real friends on one hand. But no one had heard of virtual friends back then. Keep up the good work, my friend.
Sorry I haven't been able to answer or acknowledge everyone. I'm not used to so much attention. I am delighted so many find the same value in Open Salon as I do. Thanks to everyone for jumping in the pool with me.
Honest, straightforward rationale for choosing this place, and it choosing you. Rated.

Between this and facebook, I am spending a lot of time online. Will have to learn to manage time wisely and not spend all my time reading at the expense of writing. And then, there is that full-time job I must attend to. If they only knew ...
Jimmy you write wonderfully well - a favourite of mine being Raymond Chandler and he reminds me of you, you are so relaxed, eloquent and softly humorous just at the right time. This is my second day on OS having stumbled across it purely by accident and your post here would serve as an immacultate introduction to the whole point of the site for any experienced writers or nervous newbies like me.

I now plan to savour your other posts......