BLOG Sam Needs

NWR Issue 99

DeviantArt Social Network

In my poetry class last semester, everyone said that they did not have a DeviantArt account because it was mostly a site for fan fiction.
Kait Forest, DeviantArt user

Most aspiring and established writers know the value of a strong Facebook or Twitter presence. Social Media has become the primary method of exposure for many of us. Yet seldom mentioned is DeviantArt, a social network founded thirteen years ago specifically for artists to share their work.

With over 26 million artists of various mediums and ability, the site certainly isn’t lacking in either scope or talent, so why does it seem to have been overlooked by the literary community which has so eagerly taken up the more prominent social networks? For me, the answer is clear: DeviantArt does not put its best foot forward.

DeviantArt is a community above all else, and a welcoming one at that. Moderators do scuttle inappropriate content, and some artists are certainly more celebrated than others. But there is no quality control; nothing is deemed inadmissible or removed for being subjectively ‘bad’. It is both the most admirable and daunting aspect of the site and one which I discussed with Kait Forest, a young American writer and ‘Deviant’. She observes that it is not always the most accomplished or complex works which gain prominence.

It makes [DeviantArt] very misleading […] more often than not you stumble upon a piece of writing that is highly inexperienced, almost comparable to first grade written literature, appealing to a vast crowd.

Yet, as Forest also notes, these pieces can often be found side by side with work which could easily have appeared in the pages of a literary magazine.

For the reader, the site’s holistic approach to art can make it difficult to find work which may appeal to you. Simply browsing the Literature category will turn up a thousand crude Harry Potter fan-fics for every strong poem (and for every solid piece of Harry Potter fan fiction there are a thousand dull poems).

DeviantArt shies away from judgement; there is a deeply ingrained culture of mutual encouragement among users which extends to the site’s thriving literary sub-culture. Often, the best way to attract readers is simply to read as much as, or often more than you post. Writers of all ages and aptitude are always willing to leave you words of encouragement or some constructive criticism, but there is a generally unspoken agreement that you should be willing to do the same.

For me, one of the most enticing parts about DeviantArt is the ability to ‘Favourite’ works and share them on your own page. Finding a writer whose work you truly enjoy and then browsing their favourites is akin to reaching the last page of a collection and finding the author has listed all their favourite poets and poems on the inside cover.

I often wonder if DeviantArt has an image problem, though, as this article’s opening quote suggests. I have never met an ‘established’ author on the site, though there are plenty of published writers and some big names in other media. Most likely, this is a symptom of the site’s Ellis Island attitude to creativity. As Forest says, ‘I think if a professional writer were to come here, they would feel they are stooping to a much lower level as a writer.’ Here, she exposes what I find to be the real allure of the site, however: it often disregards professionalism. Breaking into the literary industry is daunting for the aspiring writer. The industry has its own internal pressures and fashions and time constraints; we are rightfully taught to expect rejection much more often than acceptance. Implicit in this is the notion that any work we choose to submit to an editor must be judged before it can actually be enjoyed.

Posting on DeviantArt has gained me a small amount of exposure and a few thousand readers over time, but I find that it is the community which makes the site a worthwhile investment of my time; it is the people who will keep coming back to your writing to tell you what they like and what they don’t; what works and what doesn’t. I don’t consider it to be a tool in my ‘aspiring writer’s press kit’; it is an endless writing seminar. It is an enormous, open-source notebook for developing ideas. For readers, it is an literary magazine with an infinite number of pages. There really are some excellent writers on DeviantArt, young and old, published and unpublished. You just have to find the right page.

Kurski by Emily Golightly
The Cat on the Porch by Julia Caitlin
De la Belle by Kait Forest.

With thanks to Emily May {Golightly}, Indigo-mouse, Vespera and especially Kait Forest.

Sam Needs is a former intern at NWR, where he specialised in social media promotion


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