A Facebook friend of mine (our relationship used to be face-to-face but now exists purely through the evil genius of Mark Zuckerberg) is also a hobby writer. He suffers, like I do, from follow-through issues stemming from habitual procrastination and a willingness to be distracted. I figure he’s talented. Years ago he promised that I could read something of his and shortly after our friendship dissolved… perhaps the pressure of my possibly judgemental review of whatever he was planning to let me read contributed to that. But I’m getting off topic. The point is he’s funny and creative and one of the rare people whose Facebook statuses are very frequent and completely personal, but somehow entertaining and engaging.
(To me, the worst Facebook offenders aren’t the vapid daily selfie posters, or the people incapable of spelling any words correctly, or even those glorious few who have uncomfortably personal conversations and arguments out there for the world to see – my dark side finds these last examples a certain kind of wonderful. What I can’t stand on social media is people being BORING: “Just got a grilled cheese. Yum!” “Ugh. More snow.” “Watching hockey with the fam. #blessed #goteam #hashtagsonfacebook.”)
This friend’s ability to post about his unextraordinary life is a friggin’ miracle. I look forward to reading what he has to say in three sentence tidbits, and I’d love to be able to read something longer. Last week he took a break from social media and the internet as a whole. My Facebook feed suffered, but his writing flourished. In his words “An entire week offline. I haven’t thought this clearly and undistractedly (not a word) since the 90s […] this is the key to being able to write. Being unplugged for relatively extended periods.”
I’m trying to decide if I agree with this statement. For the first two weeks of NaNoWriMo, I turned off the internet while I was writing. I had a rule that I could only go online once an hour for fifteen minutes, or every thousand words, whichever came first. It worked wonders, forcing me to put (virtual) words on the (digital) page because there was nothing else to do. However, about halfway through the month, once the daily writing had started to be habit and I didn’t have to be as vigilant about avoiding distractions, the tools that the wondrous internet provided were essential. I became a devotee to the @NaNoWordSprints Twitter account, which had me competing for word counts against myself and others while throwing in optional challenges like using the word sloth or writing a birthday party scene. My personal beast to slay was the #1k30min. If completing NaNoWriMo was my primary goal, completely a #1k30min was a very close second. I managed it with a few days to go while writing a scene about a shark attack. No kidding.
I’ll say that if you’re stuck, uninspired, lazy, or procrastinating – definitely unplug from everything. Go out somewhere. Sit in a quiet space with a pen and paper and watch the world. Then write stuff down. For me, if inspiration comes from the physical world, motivation can come from the digital one. If you must be plugged in, find online outlets that will push you to write – communities, writing challenges, blogging.
(Psst: My Facebook friend doesn’t know I’ve posted about him, but I guess that’s the risk you take when you say anything online).