Just like an Elf, SWG has both a recognized begetting day and birthday and, just like an Elf, its parent (that would be me) tends to recognize the former rather than the latter. In fact, I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I don’t know the SWG’s exact birthday except that it is at the end of July sometime. And I usually miss it when it rolls around until I’m writing August’s newsletter and have a serious oooops moment when thinking of what news I have to report and realize that we’ve turned another year.
I don’t often mention SWG’s begetting day because it seems irrelevant to anyone but me since the group was inactive until its birthday in July. But this is the SWG’s fifthbegetting day so enough of a milestone that I thought, what the heck, I’ll mention it just this once. The SWG came into being on the night of March 14th into 15th when I couldn’t sleep. (Insomnia being a generally dangerous thing for me, creatively, considering that I also invented my o-fic universe the Midhavens one night after taking stimulant cold medicine and lying awake until 5:30 AM.) It occurred to me that night that there were a lot of talented Silm writers yet, aside from the Silmfics discussion group, they had no place of their own to call home. And this being soon enough after the LotR movies, Silmfic tended to get drowned on general Tolkien archives by stories written by enthusiastic though largely ephemeral members of the fandom drawn to the sources by the movies. Since I didn’t have much interest in LotR-based stuff, the lack of a centralized place for discussion and stories relating to the Silm was frustrating for me, so I took on that dangerous middle-of-the-night and quintessentially Dawn way of thinking: “It does not yet exist; therefore, I must create it.”
So create it I did. I had no idea how to use LiveJournal, but I signed myself up for an account so that I could set up SWG there, and I created a Yahoo! group too. That was March 15th, the Ideas of March, SWG’s begetting day.
It sounds cliche to say it, but five years seems simultaneously a short a time ago and an eternity. I was a very different person when I started SWG than I am now. Of course, I was a complete n00b in the fandom and really not qualified to be taking on such an ambitious project. I was also incredibly insecure as a writer. I wasn’t sure I was any good at all and thought there was a good chance that I completely sucked. That first year of posting Another Man’s Cage on a weekly basis nearly gave me a peptic ulcer, I was so convinced that, at any moment, someone would denounce me as the fraudulent writer I was sure that I was. Likewise, SWG was a tender part of my fannish self just waiting to be wounded … and it would not take long for that to happen the first time. (I remember my first unsubscription notice to this day and how much that bothered me that my group had clearly made someone unhappy enough to unsubscribe. I won’t say that unsubscriptions don’t ever bother me now–it really depends on the person and/or the circumstances–but this was someone who never spoke once; I really shouldn’t have cared that much. But I did.) In January of 2006, one of SWG’s members (and we were just an LJ community and mailing list then, though we were discussing our website and archive) became most unhappy with me over a perceived insult on the mailing list that she felt that I’d ignored and started a public campaign against my infant Silmarillion group and me personally. That was … distressing, mostly because while I perceived the unfairness of her accusations, I wasn’t sure that my and SWG’s reputation would withstand them, no matter that they were not true. My grandmother–my last surviving grandparent–died right around the same time, and that was a slap in the face to bring me back to reality. My grandmother was a stubborn Polish lady who once rear-ended a car because the driver didn’t go fast enough for her after the light turned green; it felt like, with her death, Nanny was giving me a shake and asking me when I had begun to care so deeply and allow myself to be hurt so much by lies spread by someone who was known to be both unkind and a magnet for drama. When the SWG’s first begetting day rolled around on the Ides of March, 2006, one could say that I was already a much tougher person than I had been just a year ago.
I could sit here and spout many such examples of how the SWG has enriched my life in the past five years and shaped who I am today, but in truth, my experiences as a group and archive owner have been ambivalent. I don’t think I’d ever unwish my insomnia on March 14, 2005, and the subsequent creation of the SWG, but neither have my last five years as the group’s owner been all honey and roses. If I am being totally honest, there are times when I have considered giving it up. When I think of the time for my own writing and art that I have sacrificed to learning web design and building the site and maintaining the site and coming up with ideas to keep the site active and interesting … well, I think, “I am a writer; this isn’t what I had in mind when I started this group.” I have sacrificed most of my Tolkien-based writing and a lot of my o-fic writing too in order to run this group. If I am being perfectly honest, there are days when that breaks my heart. And I would be lying too if I did not acknowledge that there are days when undertaking the sort of effort that it takes to keep such a project afloat (“launching the lead balloon,” as I recently said of B2MeM) does not seem worth it “for love alone.”
But, of course, there are the friends I would not have made, the stories that would not have been written, the things I would not have learned (including web design!), and the experiences I would not have had if, at this precise moment five years ago, I had deleted my nascent group before anyone knew it existed.
So happy begetting day, SWG. I am grateful to you for bringing me to a point in my life that, five years ago, I could have never imagined. I wonder where we’re going next.