Wednesday, February 09, 2011


My longtime friend, Barbara, and I were recently talking about how hard it is for writers to concentrate on our writing routines because of Facebook and other social media. 

It has always been a challenge to find the discipline to park it in a chair and get pages out.  We're bombarded with distractions that come in the form of friends, family, kids, pets, iPod, iPad, iPhone, cable TV, the DVR (gotta watch Modern Family!) and so on.

But these days it's even worse for a serious writer to focus on getting work done -- because we're  writing on a darn computer!  Talk about temptation at your fingertips (and eyeballs).

My desktop is connected to the Internet.  So is my laptop.  When I get stuck writing a scene, sometimes I take a break by checking my e-mail, or visiting Facebook, or checking Twitter, or seeing if there are any new jobs posted on LinkedIn that I really should know about... then I somehow wind up over on the news websites... because hey, there's a lot of important news going on (Lindsay Lohan really stole a necklace?!) and before I know it, there I am over at YouTube watching Christina Aguilera flub the National Anthem but doing one spectacular job during rehearsals.  Go figure.

So you see how easy it is to get sidetracked from writing a script or blog post.  Like the Lady Antebellum lyrics say "This world keeps spinning faster to a new disaster" so what happens if we're not online for that breaking news moment, that Sarah Palin Tweet or the latest dancing-baby-in-the-car-seat viral video?  Can we stand to be out of the loop on the next big thing?

Social media is like crack -- a hard habit to break once you post that very first status update.  You're hooked -- and your life is never the same.

I think writers are especially prone to social media because deep down we feel like nerds -- word geeks -- loners.  We write solo, usually leading solitary lives when we're creating (except for those few scribes who can write at Starbucks while the ice blender whirls on high speed.)  So for us geeks who find ourselves alone in our apartments or writing rooms -- checking in with friends on Facebook is a life line of sorts.  A social life line if you will.  We're letting people know, yes, we're still breathing, still alive, but working hard.  So don't bother us.

Here's a radical concept.  What would happen if I unplugged, deactivated my Facebook account tomorrow?  Stopped tweeting?  Would the world end?  Would people even notice I was gone? Would I ever hear from friends again, or worse, make any new ones? 

The great writers before new media were able to write masterpieces without a WiFi connection.  So should we. Imagine how much more productive we'd be without Twitter, Facebook and the Huffington Post popping up in our faces all day?  (Arianna Huffington just signed a $315 million dollar deal with AOL -- I'm helping that woman get richer with every click!  I should get a cut of that $315 mill.)

Granted, social media didn't hurt Aaron Sorkin none.  He wrote a movie about Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg.  Sorkin is nominated for an Oscar this year for best adapted screenplay ("The Social Network").  Yet, he claims to not be on Facebook anymore... that he just "created his account while writing the script".  Don't you just hate successful, Oscar-nominated, disciplined guys like that?  (Just to tempt you, here is a profile on Aaron Sorkin from last week's CBS Sunday Morning;photovideo )

I guess like yoga and banking -- social media is all about balance. Don't overindulge online or offline or you will pay the piper.  It's all about finding your inner will and focus to write even if it's just for an hour between profile updates.

Until next time.