Happy Begetting Day, SWG

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.

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15 Responses to “Happy Begetting Day, SWG”

  1. Michelle says:

    Happy Begetting Day then! Incidentally, it was also NAN’s fifth birthday on March 1 (another one of the important LOTR dates), which came and went since unfortunately the domain went offline that day:( I never realized both sites were the same age!!

    I think I’ve always had an easier time of it, because until recently I never saw myself as a writer first (that has started to change, though). Running a community – with everything that comes with it – needs a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Things you normally would use for your writing. So it’s a constant question of “should I write this scene” vs “should I fix this bug”. Never an easy decision:)

  2. Rhapsody says:

    Happy Begetting Day SWG!

    I did think about it this morning and thought… wow, 5 years already? This also marks a different date because that would mean that somewhere this year I do know you for five years. Reading AMC with a bouncy baby kicking my insides with a dollop of ice cream on my way home (although back then, you posed yourself as an experienced writer, making me go like… wow!). I can say that joining the crew that keeps the site afloat also taught me a lot. In a way I have learnt to distance myself from stuff, but foremost the pleasure of team work 😀 The moments where you propose an idea and you say: this probably won’t be possible and we all make it work. You know? It’s a lot worth toasting to!

  3. Dawn says:

    Michelle: Awww, I didn’t realize NAN was offline now! :( Neither did I realize that our sites were the same age either, although I seem to vaguely remember you promoting NAN right around the time I first started to get active in fandom, so that makes sense. It seemed when I started SWG (which was really the same time that I became active in fandom) that everyone had been around forever except for me! 😀 I remember that HASA was turning four, and I thought that was so old! Now, of course, there are lots of groups and archives (like Many Paths to Tread) that are younger than SWG, which is kind of weird in itself.

    Time and energy for writing versus webwork is certainly a conflict, at least for me. For me, it is also difficult to “change gears” between the creativity necessary to put together a story and the sort of sustained … the best word coming to mind is stamina … that goes into the care and feeding of a website. So it’s hard for me to switch between the two, even when I have time for both. Though I think, really, I need both; they scratch different parts of my brain.

    Rhapsody: Yes, we do know each other for five years at some point this summer! That’s pretty incredible to think of. Most of my fannish friends from five years ago are no longer active. I’m glad we’ve both stuck around. 😉

    I think it’s funny that you perceived me as experienced since I felt so insecure then! But I suppose I did try very hard to appear more confident and competent than I was. But I was a wreck! I’d get sick to my stomach on Posting Fridays, waiting for the comments to start rolling in for that week’s chapter. I’ve grown much less concerned about how others perceive my writing now.

    Yes and yes to what you have learned of running a website! I constantly have to tell myself that critique of SWG is not a critique of me. It is hard since I spend so much time working on the site. As for teamwork, I really think that working with my comods on SWG and other sites where I mod was the only thing that maintained my faith in humanity after the Groupwork from Hell last semester! Nothing beats getting to work with smart, creative people who can take an idea and make it work better than I could have alone. That is really an awesome experience.

  4. Rhapsody says:

    Time and energy for writing versus webwork is certainly a conflict, at least for me. For me, it is also difficult to “change gears” between the creativity necessary to put together a story and the sort of sustained … the best word coming to mind is stamina … that goes into the care and feeding of a website. So it’s hard for me to switch between the two, even when I have time for both. Though I think, really, I need both; they scratch different parts of my brain.

    You describe this so well. I often find myself having to choose between those two, but writing is often recreational, webdesigning things is not. It’s more sensitive for deadlines for me and often goes first.

    That’s pretty incredible to think of.

    Binks and I will also be toasting this summer for a five years of a great friendship :) I often don’t think about it, untill you for some reason stumble upon some correspondence and get all melancholy.

    But I suppose I did try very hard to appear more confident and competent than I was. But I was a wreck!

    Well, you hid it very well 😀

    I’d get sick to my stomach on Posting Fridays, waiting for the comments to start rolling in for that week’s chapter.

    And we didn’t made things easier for you with every commenter having their fav character, fav bits. Folks bouncing to get an update and all? I do look back at that time with fondness, it just had something. I also met folks that way that are friends still!

    Nothing beats getting to work with smart, creative people who can take an idea and make it work better than I could have alone. That is really an awesome experience.

    Ditto! 😀 *raises a glass*

  5. Oshun says:

    Well, congratulations to you and to everyone who makes the SWG the wonderful site that it is. It’s pretty amazing. It definitely is what I consider my home online. Now I am going to feel all horrible and guilty that I do not do more personally to help keep it running. I do pimp it like crazy. Does that count for something? I try to twist the arm of any Silm writers I run across who haven’t started posting their stories there. I do the same with LotR writers who write an occasional Silm fic–try to convince them that they really should post all their Silm fics there.

    I know I can be a big pain in the butt also. Sorry for that! If I get my personal problems of access to my computer and time sorted out later this year, I will try to do more to help on a practical level. I truly have no idea what I would do without the SWG.

    Also, I think it is the with no close second the best looking, most easily read, and inclusive of any site I have ever participated in.

  6. Spiced Wine says:

    Congratulations, Dawn. I believe I found the SWG through Oshun’s A New Day on LOTRFF and was completely thrilled and stunned by the quality of work I found there.

    I recommend and link to SWG authors and the site. I consider it the highest quality archive of Tolkien fanfiction on the ‘net and the essays and character biographies are superb.

    Take care and all the best for the future of SWG.

  7. pandemonium_213 says:

    I had no idea that the SWG was begat on such an auspicious date! Those of us who inhabit the SWG have good reason to celebrate the Ides of March.

    If I may, I’ll take the opportunity to thank you for the marvelous community and archive you have built. In 2005, I would not have dreamed I’d be writing Tolkienian fan fiction, let alone any fan fiction, and the SWG proved to be a good fit for me in so many ways, not least of which is rubbing elbows with excellent writers who continue to challenge and inspire me to improve my craft and who often spark my own imagination with theirs.

    The SWG has made a very positive impact on my life personally and professionally. Personally, in that I have met so many bright and affable people through the SWG (including some – present company included – in meat space) and professionally, in that dabbling on the SWG bolstered my confidence to try another career path (regulatory medical writing) when principal investigators’ positions in drug discovery have all but dried up. So I raise my virtual glass of serce valaron in salute and celebration!

    If I am being totally honest, there are times when I have considered giving it up.

    Understandably. Positions that require considerable work and responsibility but that are voluntary can be onerous at time (as a former trustee/treasurer for a condo association for 3 years, I can empathize). That it impinges so much on your writing breaks my heart, too, especially because it was your writing in the first place that drew me into trying my hand at fan fic myself. The way the SWG is managed so well speaks to the stellar efforts of the co-mods and to you especially as the founder/proprietor, but if there are ways we help lift the lead balloon, let us know!

  8. Dawn says:

    Thank you, everyone, for the begetting day wishes! :)

    Rhapsy:

    And we didn’t made things easier for you with every commenter having their fav character, fav bits. Folks bouncing to get an update and all? I do look back at that time with fondness, it just had something. I also met folks that way that are friends still!

    Believe me, that made all the positive difference for an insecure young writer! I remember it with fondness too. It was so cool how many people I met through that story, many who are friends still today! I often tell Bobby that AMC may well be the most important story (to me personally) that I ever write for that reason alone and because it really marked a turning point for me as a writer.

    Oshun: Are you kidding me? She who writes an essay for us every single month thinks she needs to do more?? 😀

    The newsletter is always mentioned as one of the things people love most about the group, and trust me, people don’t love it because they enjoy my nattering in the News section. 😉 I have you and the other contributors to thank for that!

    Thank you for thinking the site is nice-looking too! About a year after I opened it, someone made an offhand remark about how, now that the site was up and running, I might do more to make it look nice. Ouch! At the time, the site was the pinnacle of what I could do as a web designer. (It took me an hour just to make the stupid logo, for pity’s sake.) I’ve since done much more prettified sites (MPTT’s main “Arda” layout probably being the most advanced) but still tend to personally prefer a cleaner design with minimal graphics.

    And pimpage is so appreciated. This is my weakness as a site owner, that I still don’t like to talk about what I’m doing with my projects much less ask people to be a part of them. I always put off promotions till last and so they usually don’t get done at all.

    Spiced Wine: Thank you! 😀 I have to smile whenever I hear that SWG is [one of] the achives with the best quality work because one thing that I insisted upon when I started it was that there would be no judgment placed on quality (or content, genre, rating) of stories or authors. Everyone was welcome, even if their writing was crap. Can I gloat a little that we’ve gotten such wonderful stories and talented authors without complicated vetting schemes that only piss people off and stifle creativity? 😉

    Thank you too for getting the word out about the group. As I told Oshun, I usually don’t get to this myself since it’s not something that I like to do, so I really appreciate those of you who rec, promote, and nominate stories and essays there! :)

    Pandë: In 2005, I would not have dreamed I’d be writing Tolkienian fan fiction, let alone any fan fiction

    Rewind a year to ’04 and I was right there with you.22-year-old me was such a serious writer and would have been mortified that 28-year-old me spends her time on writing and websites about Elves. Of course, 22-year-old me quit writing for almost two years while 28-year-old me is chomping at the bit for this semester to end so that she can get back into it! So I wonder which outlook was really the best for one who calls herself a writer. 😉

    I marvel, too, sometimes at the collateral benefits I’ve enjoyed from running a website: the friends I’ve made and, yes, also the confidence to know that I want to do something that involves literature and writing. It’s funny how insomnia on the Ides of March can end me sitting by the River Liffy in Ireland with a friend from halfway around the world or in university doing a degree I swore I would never do … but there ya go. :)

    That it impinges so much on your writing breaks my heart, too, especially because it was your writing in the first place that drew me into trying my hand at fan fic myself.

    It really is a catch-22 in many ways. I have much less time for writing if I keep SWG at the level it is now. But then, having SWG at the level it is now and getting to interact regularly with intelligent and talented people who are also writers is really the reason that I have so much that I want to say in the first place. It reminds me of that song “Love and Marriage” (which I skated to once upon a time, so it’s not that random that I would be thinking of it! 😀 ): “You can’t have one without the other.” A lot of my frustration, too, comes from being so busy with school and this pain-in-the-ass job that takes so much time with so little reward.

  9. Angelica says:

    I would never have imagined when I first typed “Maglor” (who else?) into the browser in February 06 out of absolute boredom that four years later I’d be here. So many things I’ve learned (html not being the least :)), so many wonderful people I’ve met, so many new experiences shared with such talented, creative friends that have opened doors that I had closed years ago and shown me paths I didn’t know existed. I think this is a clear application of the saying “No hay casualidades sino causalidades” – which sounds much better in Spanish (I tried translating it but I think everybody will understand it).

    So a toast to friends made, people met, stories written, generally great times shared which wouldn’t exist without your timely insomnia!

    And as regards, “the lead balloon”, we’re here to help you lift it.

  10. Dawn says:

    Angelica, that was a beautiful post, and you have have me grinning and wubbling like a mad fool! 😀 I discovered Silmfic also by typing Silm characters into Google while at work one day; I ended up on ff.net. That was about a year before SWG’s begetting day. I had been composing, in my mind, stories about the Silm for some months by then and had even started on my Silmarillion play for my husband and had no idea that other people did this too and actually wrote down what they imagined. AMC started, I think, that summer.

    (So what site did you end up on with your “Maglor” search? The SWG archive didn’t open till June of ’06–June 6, 2006, or 6/6/06, which always amused me–so I know you didn’t end up with us. I could cheat and look at when you joined the Yahoo! group, but I won’t. 😉 )

    Come summertime, there will be much opportunity for lifting the lead balloon and getting done the many things I’ve put off due to school (not least of all getting more references and maybe more newsletter columns) … and of course, we have a birthday in July. 😉

  11. Angelica says:

    Where did Maglor lead me first? To The Library of Moria!!!! (naughty elf that he is) and soon after to HASA, where I contributed with a 4th anniversary celebration ficlet which got me into a conversation with … you! It must have been around July 06 and soon after I joined LJ and the Yahoo group (I don’t really remember when).

    I had been reading HoMe10 and 11 and that seemed to be it: I had NO idea that there was such a thing as fanfiction or that there could be somebody else interested in the Silm so imagine my ellation when I discovered that there were people who were actually interested in discussing why Maedhros had been left dangling rather than being rescued. I felt like I had found the password to the Cave of Wonders – which I didn’t even imagine existed. 2006 will be remembered forever as the Silmfic year :D!

    And for July, I’m sure Pandemonium will share another of her premium bottles of Serce Valaron! 😉

  12. Ithilwen says:

    Belated begetting day greetings, SWG! The wold’s a better place with such a nice archive in it.

    Of course, I was a complete n00b in the fandom and really not qualified to be taking on such an ambitious project.

    Given the success of the project, that’s an obvious untruth. 😉

    I am sad to hear that running SWG has sapped so much of your own creative energies. Is there any way you could delegate some more of the day-to-day stuff to others, to free up a bit more time for your own writing projects (at least until you can wrap up your schoolwork)?

  13. Alassante says:

    I didn’t realize that I discovered SWG on LJ so soon after it started. I had just begun writing Silm fic in 2005. I nervously posted my fiction on OSA and waited (in terror) for the bad reviews to begin. In the year I’d been in the fandom by that point I had heard about the fact the Silmarillion writers were a unforgiving and serious bunch. I found the SWG to be quite the opposite of what I had expected. I remember posting there and receiving lots of support.

    The January 2006 incident…well, I blame myself for introducing that person to the group in the first place and how I handled the situation (poorly). You and I have discussed this at length. I’m so glad it didn’t derail you from creating the archive.

    I’m sorry that this labor of love has caused you creative distress. It’s hard to make a balance. A lot of the archive owners seem to suffer because of it. I’m glad you gained your confidence to withstand the crap that goes along with it though. It sounds like that if you had been labeled as a ‘Smug’ writer by a ‘hater’ in the fandom a year earlier it could have affected you much more. That ended up backfiring on her since you and the others took the ‘smug’ label with humor. I’m not sure I could have handled it so well.

    SWG is a good place for all of us. I’m glad that I started posting on the archive and the yahoo group. Despite the controversies and dramas in this fandom, it’s nice to know that there is still a place to post my Silm fic where that will actually get read. And I’ve made a lot of friends there.

    Happy (belated) begetting day!

  14. Dawn says:

    Angelica: That’s so funny because my own discovery of fanfic began with a Google search and led me first to ff.net and then … the Library of Moria! I also had no idea that “fanfic” existed. To me, it had always been natural to respond to stories that I enjoyed by making up additional stories about them; however, this was largely confined to my head until I began the Feanorian play and “The Election Farce of Nargothrond,” the former in a (still unsuccessful) attempt to interest Bobby in the Silm and the second as a relatively harmless way to let out my frustration with the Bush administration. I was a bit surprised to find that others wrote stories like this too and quite delighted to find that a whole community, in fact, was built up around it.

    I’m grateful for the day that you found HASA and we met there! :) That day was a gift to SWG, though I did not know it at the time!

    Ithilwen: Thank you for the reassurances that the incompetence that I felt was not so obvious to everyone else! 😀 I’m still not sure that starting an ambitious project was the wisest course of action for someone who wasn’t even a part of the fandom yet, but you are right that things turned out for the best! Hey, I guess it shows why I relate so well to the Feanorians: I often act first and think later! :)

    I hope to soon delegate a bit more of what I am doing right now for two reasons. For one, my love in this fandom is non-fiction and research, and I have been neglecting the Reference Library for too long now in pursuit of keeping other aspects of the group running. For another, I’m now only a little over a year away from being a first-year teacher (I will be in my student teaching internship this time next year) and can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to keep up at all when I am. And, unlike school, which I can occasionally blow off when I need to (having high enough grades that if an assignment is a day late, it doesn’t dent my average in any significant way), but I won’t be able to blow off my students for obvious reasons. :)

    Alassante: You need have no regrets for introducing That Person to the group. :) You can’t be responsible for her actions (and I have forgiven anything that happened as a result of her actions, as you know). It was my trial by fire, and I learned a lot about myself from it. Masochistic as it may sound, I am grateful in retrospect that I got the chance to see the darker side of fandom and find out that I could handle it and everything turned out okay. Especially now that SWG is big enough to be subjected to the occasional offhand snarkiness (which inevitably, it seems, finds its way to me through the grapevine), it makes it easier to just let those sorts of remarks roll off of me. I keep my doors open to everyone, and if people choose not to take advantage of that when there are problems *shrug* There ain’t much I can do about that!

    I doubt I would have been involved in the TBB incident if it had been a year earlier simply because I am totally guilty of provoking that one. 😉 I had (and still have) no interest in the cesspits that are the ff.net forums and would never have gone to the TBB forum if not for the threats that she made against a near and dear friend of mine and which I felt compelled to stand up against. It snowballed from there, and I do not regret it one bit; her little “smug award” showed her colors, not mine. Actually, the snarky bitch in me remembers that weekend very fondly since I had been so disgusted by her behavior for for so long, but we didn’t travel in the same circles, so I never had the chance to speak up about it in any way that wasn’t an echo-chamber with likeminded people.

  15. Kaylee Arafinwiel says:

    Happy almost Begetting Day SWG! It’s good to have you and SWG around!

    Kaylee

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