We live in a brand new age for humans. Technology has fundamentally altered every aspect of our lives and offered writers countless opportunities and advantages. Yet, as the French philosopher Paul Virilio once said, “When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck.”
Before we talk further, I want to be clear. Writers benefit greatly from being on-line and it is next to impossible to be successful without a solid on-line brand. Yet, one of the reasons I became a social media expert instead of pursuing fiction was I saw far too many gurus pushing tactics that required way too much devotion to being on-line.
Chasing trends and algorithmic alchemy requires a lot of energy better spent writing books. We actually don’t need to be on-line that much to have an amazing brand.
Yet, let’s be honest.
Many of us spend a lot of time on-line that has nothing to do with building a brand. We are all guilty. We sit and chat on Facebook, laugh at memes, or—sighs—get drawn into political debate (and those never end well).
We have become a world addicted to instant gratification, distraction and time-filling/time-wasting. But what impact is this having on our ability to write?
The biggest impact is the obvious one. TIME. Many people believe they simply don’t have enough time, yet if we added up every micro-visit to social media? It would actually be a significant chunk. But that is the low-hanging fruit. Today I want to explore what technology addiction is doing to the muse.
I cannot help but thinking of all those Faces of Meth images, where we see the one picture before meth of a healthy person who has all his teeth versus a couple years later when the same person is sickly, sunken, and looks twenty years older. Is this what we are doing to the muse?
Meth abuse is devastating because of a myriad of reasons, but almost all the effects are caused because the user is in a constant state of hyper-stimulation. This hyper-stimulation comes at a cost. Users forget to take care of themselves. They don’t eat or sleep and if they do eat, it is usually foods high in sugar.
Since the drug wears out the dopamine producing areas of the brain, the user requires higher and higher dosages to get the same high (and to avoid the low lows that inevitably follow).
When we are hyper-stimulated constantly on-line aren’t we doing the same thing to the muse? She needs care. She needs rest. And she needs a diet that consists of more than kitten videos and click-bait. If not, she can become yet another among the Faces of
Being Bored Can Be GOOD for Us
Boredom is a necessary and vital ingredient for creativity. It gives the brain time to wander, to reflect, to make connections previously unexplored. It sparks divergent thinking which is the beating heart of innovation.
The problem with constantly consuming the content of others with no downtime is that the brain cannot take the ideas it’s gathered and refashion them like Legos into something unique and new.
So yes, being online can have benefits.
We read a lot of blogs or articles that captivate us and inform us. Articles that contain seeds of story inspiration. But, if we fail to ever unplug, then that article about the murder suspect in Florida found biting his victim’s face off fails to ever germinate into the world’s next runaway-hit zombie series.
What Are We Missing?
Last time we talked about how to use description. All novels require it and good description goes beyond the one-dimensional. But to use description well, we must immerse ourselves in a three-dimensional world that has authentic intimacy.
We simply cannot get that on-line.
How much of the world are we missing because we are sitting in an airport scanning Instagram instead of people watching? Are we taking time to absorb, process, question and explore what is around us? Or are we tapping our phone like a crack addicted gerbil in a lab?
If we are walking through the park, eyes on the screen, can we truly experience the world around us? The stuff that is below the surface that no image could hope to capture. Not merely the color of the sky, but the emotion of it, the meaning of it.
Crucial Conversations & Intimacy
Psychology Today had an article The New Menage a Trois that explored how tech is sabotaging intimacy and ruining relationships. The article asserted that many of the moments that connect us in relationships are born in the pauses.
For married couples, the twenty minutes before dinner is ready matters. Maybe it is one comment that garners a laugh that leads into a discussion and that all leads to a greater degree of intimacy with the other person. Bonding time, so to speak.
But how many times are we filling those pauses with a quick check of e-mail? A scan of Facebook? How many times have we been in a restaurant and we instantly spotted the married couple because instead of being enthralled in conversation? Both were staring at a screen.
What do we writers use to generate conflict? Human interaction. If we are minimizing how much interaction we have, insulating ourselves from conflict and discourse, then we become distant from the emotional aspect of the human experience.
Great writers have the ability to empathize with a myriad of characters. Sex, gender, age, or species (for the sci-fi folks) all become real simply because the author can understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy is fueled by noticing and listening.
If we are listening to iTunes in line at Walmart, we are checked out. If, instead, we unplugged, we might notice the stocker with the carefully hidden gang tattoos, the lines around the eyes for someone far too young, or the jagged scar tucked under the high collar. We might become curious and fill in the blanks of this unspoken life and give it voice, meaning and immortality.
Handle With Care
Our muse is the sensitive part of our soul and it must be handled with care. Embrace quiet. Embrace alone time. Ignore the siren’s song of a world that tells us to be busy, busy, busy. All things in moderation.
We can enjoy the good parts of technology, but it will take self-discipline to maintain a healthy boundary with it. Use timers if you have to. The next time you are bored waiting in a car, interrupt that urge to scan social media, and instead look up. Look around. What wonders do you behold?
Do you think your muse has become one of the Faces of Facebook? Are you struggling to find connectedness? Are you noticing you are too “checked out”? That maybe you are missing the depth and details because of too much on-line time? Hey, I struggle too so while I have one finger pointed at y’all, three are pointed at me, LOL. What are your thoughts?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
Check out the other NEW classes below! Now including a log-line class! Can you tell me what your book is about in ONE sentence? If you can’t SIGN UP.
All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.
Blogging for Authors (August 26th)
This class will teach you all you need to know to start an author blog good for going the distance. Additionally I would also recommend the class offered earlier that same week (August 22nd) Branding for Authors to help you with the BIG picture. These classes will benefit you greatly because most blogs will fail because writers waste a lot of time with stuff that won’t work and never will and that wastes a lot of time.
I am here to help with that 😉 .
All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.
This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.
Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold
This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.
Log-lines are crucial for understanding the most important detail, “WHAT is the story ABOUT?” If we can’t answer this question in a single sentence? Brain surgery with a spork will be easier than writing a synopsis. Pitching? Querying? A nightmare. Revisions will also take far longer and can be grossly ineffective.
As authors, we tend to think that EVERY detail is important or others won’t “get” our story. Not the case.
If we aren’t pitching an agent, the log-line is incredibly beneficial for staying on track with a novel or even diagnosing serious flaws within the story before we’ve written an 80,000 word disaster. Perhaps the protagonist has no goal or a weak goal. Maybe the antagonist needs to be stronger or the story problem clearer.
In this one-hour workshop, I will walk you through how to encapsulate even the most epic of tales into that dreadful “elevator pitch.” We will cover the components of a strong log-line and learn red flags telling us when we need to dig deeper. The last hour of class we will workshop log-lines.
The first ten signups will be used as examples that we will workshop in the second hour of class. So get your log-line fixed for FREE by signing up ASAP.
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.