it all started six and a half years ago. and when I say, “it all”, please know that I literally mean, “my life trajectory”. I’m not actually exaggerating. there are no words to describe the significance in my life of a little website called Figment.com. yikes, okay, I’m crying now and I’ve barely started. this will be fun.
eighteen-year-old me struggled to make friends (so did seven-year-old me, and eleven-year-old me, and fourteen-year-old me, and all the other mes in between). I was lonely and awkward and preferred reading to braving social situations where I knew I’d say dumb things that I’d have to relive for weeks in my head. books held magic, wonder, true love, daring action…escape. during my teens, a significant portion of what social life I had consisted of online forums about books and the nerdy worlds that surrounded them, but Figment – where you could create a profile and share stories and watch people comment and review and react to them – changed everything for me.
I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know how I went from posting amateur scraps of fairy-tale retellings and feverishly commenting on stories I especially liked to amassing a relatively substantial following and calling so many amazing writers my friends. the most obvious thing I can blame is the day I posted a prologue of a story about an imprisoned princess who talks to a
boy through a stone wall and then escapes and has to fight to hold her own. ‘Esmeralda’, as many of you know, gained hundreds of followers and somehow – I don’t say this to brag, but to gush with gratitude – gained me some of my closest friends. after that came a story about a quiet girl whose sweetheart goes to war, and you know what happens next.
in the three or four years I was really active on Figment, I went from being a shy, awkward (okay, I’m still awkward), insecure, and self-doubting writer who was sometimes brave enough to share her words with others, to an enthusiastic amateur who eagerly posted each chapter of every WIP and watched the comments come in with pride and some degree of confidence. during those years, my work was featured on the homepage numerous times, I was interviewed, picked by site-wide readers for “best of Figment” lists, and a friend/reader, Tiffany, made me a fan club. a fan club, guys. what the heck. my followers list lengthened, my skin got a bit thicker with every constructive review. my confidence grew, and I started telling people in real life about my writing.*
but there are two things I want to dwell on for just a moment before I leave you with a few amusing screenshots so I can cry for a bit.
the first is how Figment made me the writer I am today. so many of you have heard stories about the creative process that went into my book, Finding You, so I won’t bore you. but to summarize, I had no idea what was going to happen to Isla, chapter by chapter. I was only ever a few chapters ahead in my writing than I was in posting updates, and it was the encouragement and support from the hundreds of ‘Figgies’ that very literally kept me writing some days. the same can be said for ‘Esmeralda’.
that brings me to my second and final point, and that is the friendships I made on Figment. (crying again. wow, okay.)
even as feedback and the pressure of posting on Figment pushed my writing ability and skill, I can say for a fact that the friendship of my readers and fellow writers did the same for my character and confidence as a human being. what started with fangirling for some of my favorite stories on the site became follow-backs and comments returned on my own stories, and then somehow being taken under the wing of some of the most kind, brilliant, bright, magical, and incredibly talented people I have ever had the chance to meet (that’s one of the crazy parts- I’ve never actually met most of them). they have encouraged me, critiqued me, beta-read for me, and generally bettered me over the past six and a half years and I cannot imagine having walked this journey without them. to those of you I joke with on twitter, message on facebook, text when I’m struggling to find light in darkness- I love you. I loved every comment begging for more chapters, I loved every angry explosion when my protagonist was wronged, I loved every thought-out review that you took such time and care to send me.
it’s incredibly difficult for me to believe, most days, that I have a real live book in stores across the country and I want you to know that I mean with total sincerity that it exists because of you. I would have given up, if I was the only one who cared what happened to Isla. I would have given up, if I’d listened to the voice in my head telling me that I wasn’t smart enough to write about hard topics for teens. thanks to you all, I was not allowed to give up. when I think that I will never be able to reconnect with most of you, it pains me. you all laid bricks that built the person and writer that I am**.
I know that Figment is merging with Underlined, and I’m excited to look into what that will look like. at the moment, it’s hard enough to juggle a full-time job with any writing time at all (plus a social life!! I got one! most days I miss my books to be honest…), so I don’t know what level of involvement I’d even be able to have. but Figment was there when I needed it. Figment shaped me, my writing, my characters. I am deeply grateful for its existence in a way that may sound terribly silly to many people, but cannot be fully put into words. it was a safe haven, a place of inspiration, and the birthplace of some of the best friendships I’ve yet to find.
so, to the page-refreshers, the long-winded reviewers, the ecstatic commenters, the fan-club-makers, the “Desla” shippers, the mis-pronouncers of all the weird names I love to use, and – maybe most importantly – the people who called Leopold, “Leo”, I love you.
to close, I’m including a few screen-shots of some favorite comments- not the super long, super lovely ones that actually contributed intellectually, but let’s be honest, we all loved getting these ones the most***:
farewell, my lovely Figment.
*if in any way this comes off as braggy, I apologize because that was not my intention. I merely meant to point out that my writing found a home and found recognition on Figment, in ways that I never dared to wish for, and in ways that built my confidence exponentially. I don’t believe I would have had the nerve to pursue publication for Finding You had it not been for Figment.
**if any of you find this and would like to keep in touch, please find me on twitter or instagram and message me! @lydalbano on both. 🙂
***these comments are all clearly out of context and not lined up by date, which I apologize for. I also screenshotted the home page for both Finding You and Esmeralda even though I’d already deleted all the words, so they no longer showed an accurate word count. both were well over 100k words.