Farewell to Figment

Photo Jul 23, 7 19 40 AM.jpg
 

I know I haven't been using this space very much recently, but I convinced myself that this was important enough to document online. Excuse me while I have a Very Important Emotion—

at the end of next month, figment.com is shutting down.

It's okay if that means nothing to you, but I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that to a group of my friends and I, about seven years ago, it meant everything. Figment is a website where teens and young adults could post original fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. It's a massive online community of readers/writers/book people. My people. 

Here's the NYTimes article that came out when Figment was launched in 2010. It reads pretty cold and metallic, like it was all an experiment, which I guess it was, but I don't think even the founders understood back then that it would turn into what it did. 

I found out about Figment through an undergraduate writing conference at the University of Southern California in my first year. The keynote speaker was Dana Goodyear, New Yorker writer and co-founder of Figment. She didn't say a word about Figment in her speech, as I recall. But while I was reading her bio in the program (because I'm the person who reads everything cover to cover, including event programs), I found mention of a baby website called Figment Fiction, as it was named then.

After the conference, I went back to my freshman dorm room and I googled Figment fiction Dana Goodyear, was greeted by a friendly-looking red-flecked homepage, and was intrigued enough to create an account. At the time, it seemed like a pretty female-dominated space, which was very foreign to me (little did I know I would go on to work at a women's organization and later, an all-girls' school)—but it made sense, considering how female-dominated the YA world was/is. I never grew up in chatrooms or reading fanfiction, but I did post super embarrassing short stories on my Myspace blog at one point. So yeah, when I found Figment, I was immediately into it.

After joining Figment, I realized that there were a few famous "Figgies" whose writing everyone on the site knew. Everyone wanted to be these writers' best friends. Including me. Not surprisingly, a few of these writers have since gone on to become published authors. Some of them now have MAs and PhDs.

The weirdest part? I actually do get to call these brilliant people my friends today. Years ago, I read their first drafts on Figment, and I was so inspired by them that I took a deep breath and I hit publish on the opening pages of the first novel I'd write entirely online, watching as it slowly gathered a following that I'd never dreamed I'd have. These Figgies and I would become each others' fangirls, cheering each other on, waiting for new chapters and plot twists. We'd trade comments and tears when it got hard (which it did, a lot). We—all of us, all of the users—made Figment what it was.

I'd never had a writing community like that before. I was always the closet writer, until Figment. I was the girl who wrote stories in her free time because it was fun, not because I thought anyone would ever see them.

Figment changed all of that. 

All of it.

It's because of Figment that I started to share my writing. It's because of Figment that I thought, maybe I'm sort of decent at this. And then thought, maybe I'm good at this. It's because of Figment that I now can say I have some of the most thoughtful, kind, talented friends anyone could have, from all around the world. 

It's because of Figment.

i am literally the person i am because of figment.

All through college, I'd wake up in the morning, and it was the first site I'd check. My senior year, I stopped posting my writing, and people actually cared that I'd stoppedIf you're not a writer, it's hard to explain what that kind of validation means—but just imagine, for a moment, that all of your dreams depend on you working by yourself in a room alone for the rest of your life, never knowing whether anybody noticed or if anyone would like what you had poured your heart into.

That's what it's like sometimes, writing. And then, suddenly, you get a place like Figment, where people leave comments like these:

 
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screenshots from Figment, circa 2011

screenshots from Figment, circa 2011

 

I don't know how else to say it. This online experiment is a space that helped make me who I am, and shaped so many of us. But after November 30, the site is shutting down. Forever.

All of the work will disappear. All of the time-stamped evidence that we were ever writers and readers together. Gone. Poof. If you didn't know better, you might think that it all never even happened.

But us?

We the writers who today still send each other texts about finally finishing that one project that has lasted for years; we the readers who tweet cryptically about the first drafts that have appeared in our inboxes; we the friends who meet up in southern California and New York City and Florida and Seattle to swap life updates over good coffee and bad pizza; we the ones who made Figment? 

We know better.


here are a few more figment farewells from fellow figgies:

Kimberly KaraliusE.R. Warren | Lydia Albano

You can find out what's going to be happening to Figment by reading their announcement here. I will not be transitioning over to Underlined, but I will certainly miss the community. In the meantime, here are some screencaps for nostalgia's sake.

 

My Figment profile, with original covers by 18-year-old me.

That one time I killed off a character people loved and made everyone hate me.

Literally, someone made me a fan club and people actually joined it??

That one time I was a "Featured Fig" on the homepage for a week and I freaked out and my college roommate was so proud that she took a photo of me freaking out.