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 😉 .
Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 2nd
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.
Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line
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.
Where’s the LOVE button when I need it???
I have been saying that technology is negatively affecting relationships since I got both my sons cell phones and they were constantly texting friends. That’s been a few years.
The couples on phones in the restaurant? Nothing new. I used to comment on couples when one was reading the paper and the other a book (usually older couples). I told my husband I didn’t want to be that couple, but now? I might be checking in on FB and then scanning my newsfeed and notifications. Ugh. I AM that which I don’t want to be!
So…I will probably be quoting this post in some future posts.
And yes. My muse would rather read a book, watch people or just bask in the sunshine than check social media. (And I LOVE the seal meme. Weren’t we just talking about that yesterday??)
Perhaps this is why my mind fills with plot either early morning or late at night? (When I’m not online.) I logically know that spending this much time online is not good, but sometimes the pull is difficult to resist, you know? When you get stuck at the doctor’s office, instead of pulling out my notebook I’ve been pulling out my phone and checking social media. *Sigh*
I’ve tried to make a more concentrated effort to remove these devices during the day, at mealtimes and such; and I’m a little shocked how difficult it has been for my family to disconnect. That worries me and makes me realize even more how much we spend “away from each other.”
One of my favorite periods in history is Colonial America and I’m constantly inspired by the fact that they built their education by reading A LOT and having deep discussions with their peers and mentors. There was no memes or gifs…just actual discussion about real people. You know?
Reblogged this on Susan Trombley's Blog and commented:
As I was reading this blog, I knew that this isn’t just a problem for writers. We’re getting more disconnected as a society, even though we can now chat with someone on the other side of the planet almost instantaneously. We lose something in that interaction that emoticons just can’t replace. Kristen makes some excellent points here. What does our constant online presence mean for our creativity and imagination? Do we all need some downtime from the Internet?
I appreciate the way you make us think, check ourselves, and encourage making good decisions.
This isn’t just a problem for writers I think. It’s becoming easier and easier to isolate ourselves because we think we’re getting all the social interaction we need on FB and other social media sites, but we’re missing out on those in-person interactions that give us clues to another person’s mood and feelings. Emoticons are an inadequate substitute for expressions and body language. Often, we don’t even realize we’ve offended someone online until they’ve unfriended us. Then there’s no opportunity to fix the faux pas that upset them by apologizing. I think the danger is that some people will forget how to socialize in person altogether or that children will never learn how to socialize properly.
I hope you don’t mind, Kristen, but I reblogged this on my blog because I think you make some excellent points. I do feel like the more time I spend online, the less connected I am to the “real” world. The Internet can also become a toxic environment filled with trolls and people who just don’t care about hurting someone else because they don’t have to face them and see the devastation. I wonder if it’s not just our muse that’s being affected, but also our empathy. If we never see the damage we cause with our careless words, do we get the same feedback from our conscience?
Personally, my favorite time-waster is video games. I’d avoid FB altogether if you hadn’t insisted in your (excellent 😉 ) book, Rise of the Machines, that we needed to be on social media. I can say that I have to make a point to go out and get some fresh air and clear my head daily or my mind will be more taken up with what I saw on YouTube and Facebook than with my next novel.
Thanks for the excellent post.
David Foster Wallace, in his ridiculously long book ‘Infinite Jest’, wrote a section about our society’s loss of human interaction due to online interactions. (Social media) That was 1996, long before Facebook or Twitter or MySpace. If I remember correctly it was Aol’s heyday. But, he did a excellent job of painting a picture what we were going to be like in The Year of the Whopper, whenever that actually was. A car accident would bring socially-starved people outside as spectators because there was so little actual personal interaction.
Reblog away! And yeah it is that whole “moderation” thing that is the bugger. I have the same concerns. Virtual relationships are “easier’ but in the long run less reading. Like we are living on emotional convenience food instead of what is healthier long-term.
Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.
This is really great! A great reminder and something I’ve been thinking about myself.
Anyone who refuses to learn to use technology will be used by technology.
I had actually written a blog post about my addiction to Facebook and how crippling it was. I am a recovering social media addict. I have learned anew how to sit in a coffee shop and watch people, many of whom are on devices but many of whom are interacting. These coffee shop observations have led to other blog posts. They are why I do my best writing at coffee shops.
Great post! I feel the same way. Technology is helpful in some ways and hinders us in others. While I do enjoy building up my online presence and having easy access to information, I also don’t like the downsides of the internet. Sometimes it feels like information overload, or there are just some things I don’t want to know about people.
This post is so timely for me. Last week I decided to delete social media off my phone. I was feeling burnt out and uninspired. I was using social media (especially Facebook) as an excuse not to write. Of course I wasn’t exactly aware of that. I feel so much better! I’m able to connect with people in more meaningful ways. I’ve written more and slowly new creative sparks are igniting. I realize the necessity of building a platform but, as you’ve mentioned, spending so much time online isn’t doing me any favours. Great post!
Funnily enough, ideas often come to me when I’m in the shower – when I can’t physically be on social media! Procrastination is a big problem for me… I don’t have trouble being present when I’m away hiking or rafting (again, water = no phone!)… but when I’m sat on my laptop and meant to be working?! Then my life’s the meme where Facebook’s a fridge – you keep checking it even though you know nothing will have changed, and you’re not even hungry!
I get my best ideas while driving. I have a long commute every day so I’m used to diving a lot.
Boredom is good for the muse . . . Perhaps that’s why some of my best ideas come when I am driving alone. No one to talk to.
As for being connected, I don’t Facebook or Twitter, so that helps. But yes, there’s still email and blog updates.
Also books. I love to read, and that’s another solo venture.
I had to use that Virilio quote for my one-liner for today, becaause it’s perfect.
Lately I’ve been spending a little too much time on Facebook, and have also been more depressed than I’ve been in a while. I’m sure one caused the other, so I’m staying away from it until I start feeling better, which will no doubt be sometime after November 8…
So much truth here today. I’m going to share this…on social media.
Well said….. I’ve been so plugged in, writing a simple article seems to take ages.
It can get really bad for me. I’ll start to look up a word online, then I check in with Facebook and look around, find something new or not, then eventually get back to my writing and I never looked up the word. Then I go to look it up again and I check Facebook…
Haha. We all have certain strict decisions to make huh!! I’m usually not always logged on to social media, I just block out the world (sort of), by not noticing others nor the world around me
I’ve said here before that I hate Facebook because there is so much hate and ranting there. All that garbage disturbs me, and, unlike some people, I remember it–I can’t turn it off, so I have to stop it somehow. After I unfriended over 2000 people and my timeline improved immensely, I decided that there was still too much Facebook. For three whole days now, I haven’t gone onto Facebook. And you know what? I don’t miss it. I’ll go back on Friday, my promo day, to do some promo on the book groups, and then I won’t go again until the following Friday. At the end of the year when I’m finished with writing, I’ll deactivate my Facebook account and I may or may not go back. Social media has become anti-social media, a scourge now, if it ever was of any benefit. I’m better off without it.
Over-indulging in social media is one thing i am not guilty of -but been feeling guilty about not being guilty of it. I feel better now.
My story is titled “The Courage to Touch” with a little underlying theme about the “no-touch generation (social media and social taboos) so this post was particularly relevant for me.
Another brilliant insight into the real impact of technology (who, me? Zoning out on the internet?) Thank you!
Take warning! Take time to think! 5 Hour Rule! So important!
I don’t get caught up in Facebook (since I don’t use it). My biggest thing is google. I need to look something up for my writing, and the article mentions this fun tidbit…so I look that up, and that article reveals this little known fact, so I look that up…. I’ve lost track of a lot of time that way, but the trivia I have in my head now is fantastic! teehee
And, that article you referenced. That’s the second time somebody in Florida has been arrested for eating a victim’s face. I think the last time it had to do with bath salts. What is it with Florida?!
I don’t have a smart-phone, and I think that helps. If I want to be online, I have to be sitting at my desk. Which is also, unfortunately, where I do most of my writing. So yeah, self-discipline is very necessary, and hard to acquire all in one go.
Anyone got any ideas for exercises to build up those self-discipline muscles?
I don’t actually like being on Facebook so that’s not an issue. BUT…I love reading blogs and commenting on them. Which is great except that I’ve been blogging for four years now and I know a lot of brilliant bloggers. Trying to keep up with them is just as muse-mauling as being on Facebook. These days I’ve learned: up in the morning, pets, coffee and straight into the wip. Even five minutes on social media can be deadly because …I have so little will power. 🙁
I have to set aside tech-free days.
Our society is seriously disconnected as a whole, which would take several tomes to address, especially how it’s affecting us personally AND in business (for example, how there’s no ‘human’ in ‘human resources’ any more). But with regard to writers & social media overkill—I submit one of the best ways to curb that is a small budget. I have a cell phone for talk and text, but these cell companies charge astronomical amounts of money to use the phone for anything beyond that—-data usage may be king, but they’re not pulling any more money out of my shallow pockets. So that limits my social media time to when I’m home and on the net. I do distract myself with FB from time to time, but most (not all) of the time it is strategic. I need timed doses of Labrador retriever pictures and videos to distract me from a lot of other stressors, including rewrites. 😎
I have been thinking similar thoughts recently, even to the point of unplugging for a while just to see what happens. Thanks for a thoughtful post. I love what you do here!
Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog.
Wow. What a fantastic post. This made me stop and think and I realise that I`m too plugged into the internet. This post made a big difference to how I see myself, thank you so much.
Reblogged this on firefly465 and commented:
A must read post from warriorwriters.wordpress.com
Once again, you hit the nail right on the head! People are too “plugged in” today! If one more person runs into me while playing Pokemon, I’m gonna slug ‘um! So if you read about a SF/Bay Area senior citizen being carted off to the hoosegow, you don’t hafta wonder who it is – it’ll be ME!! 😉
I wrote one sentence today. Why? Because I was messing around on FB and Twitter, having conversations and sharing posts. Some of it was writing related, but most of it wasn’t. By the end of the day I was exhausted. I was JUST saying to my daughter, “I think I have to have a no-social-media-until-I-finish-my-word-count rule” when I came upon this article (because I couldn’t shut down my FB page, that was too much ripping off of bandaid.) But at least this scrolling worked out. Loved this article and I’ll be subscribing to this newsletter (but I will only read it after I’ve done my work!)
I’ve started charting my social media time just so that I will spend less time online and more time writing! So far, it seems to be helping. Fantastic post!!!!
Reblogged this on Matthews' Blog and commented:
I’m not addicted to social media and only follow a few FB accounts so I can see photos of relatives who live far from me. But the obligation of a blog is that you must follow other bloggers and comment if you expect the same attention for yourself. This takes time, more than I want to spend, yet you’ve made the point more than once: a blog is a necessary writer’s platform. Thus, my conundrum – ta dum.
Great article, lots to think about.
Kristin, this is such a timely post. My husband had this conversation last week and you can guess who the tech addict is in our family – LOL.
You made some excellent points about observations of the world and people around us at any given moment. Thanks for pointing out and reminding us, the world is bigger and an IPhone or MAC. @sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles
This is really a fantastic write up. We’re losing intimacy, neurological potency, and self-control. I’m a captive victim myself reading this blog at 2am.
Before the internet sage writers had a saying,” Turn off the TV.” That advice still applies, but now it’s smart phones and internet access that should be turned off if you want to get anything done.
TV is still a killer for me. I cannot pay attention to anything or anybody if I’m in the presence of a television that is on – especially during commercials. It can be a handicap sometimes.
I LOVE how clearly you pointed out that it’s the pauses in life that represent the good stuff! And the example of the married couple checking their cells in the short time gap before dinner. I would liken this to that person on a date who has to fill an otherwise meaningful silence with nervous small talk. If she’d shut up, she might find her way to a passionate kiss! LOVE this entire piece. Hits home!
Great insight to how technology is impacting our lives. Like anything is can be used for greatness or our doom. Many people are using it in a purely destructive, self-limiting way that the way we people behave and act today is a result of that. With that being said technological advancements are the way of the future. Its just how we decide to use it that determines who we become
Absolutely! Not only is everyone addicted to computers now it is phones!
Face-to-face Communication & intimacy is disappearing rapidly.
The “isolation” problem is called “anxiety”, I wonder how many people will have this problem by 2020!
I hope we can all learn to take breaks & care more for ourselves & feed our minds with books not screens. Great post!
Problem,,, anxiety, 2020… I couldn’t resist.
Great post. It seems obvious that we should collaborate. Much in common… 🙂