As I stated yesterday, I am trying to get more of my writing actually out there in the world. To do so requires energy and time. These are two things that a single mom with a full time job doesn't exactly have in spades. As I struggled to keep my eyes open getting my words in at 750words.com every night before midnight, I wondered if I had my priorities straight.
"I don't have time to write."
I find myself saying this too often. I still manage to get my daily writing in, but I know that's the bare minimum if one really wants to be a writer. And to be honest, I need to write about more than what happened in my day and the things I am going to write, you know, when I have the time...
I also hear other people saying this. A lot. In fact, almost more than any other creative endeavor, I hear people referring to themselves as writers, but then admitting that they don't actually write. I've had three such conversations this past month alone. What is going on here?
The simplest answer is that when people ask us what we do, many of us don't want to give them the "day job" answer. We want to tell people who we are in our minds, what we WANT to do. I get that. I used to hold a grudge against my day job because it wasn't film making. In my mind I was Steven Spielberg, not Mark Zuckerberg (how I learned to love my inner computer nerd and rule my code with pride is an entirely different blog post, but not quite in the scope of this one, so I will leave it). Not only that, but "I'm a writer" sounds so cool. It just makes a person sound smart, doesn't it?
I'd wager there is something else going on with writing, and it's kind of the biggest obstacle. Writing is hard. It is really hard. Most people don't realize this until they actually sit down to maintain that blog or write that novel or screenplay. We all learn to "write" from a very young age, so we are under the impression that it is easy. Hell, if a SIX-YEAR-OLD can do it...
"Hey I know grammar! I can write! I'm going to move out to Hollywood and be a screenwriter! Easy money! All I have to do is write ninety little pages and I can get $100K for it, right?" Yeah!
No. I have met a lot of people who are "working on a screenplay" out here in Los Angeles. I have met a few who have actually finished one, fewer still who have done more than one draft of it and VERY few who have done anything with what they have finished. It's not just because Hollywood is so tough, it's because what they are trying to do- even before they go pitch it to a heartless executive- is actually really, really hard. Writing takes a lot of time and focus. I can write ninety pages of words with no problem. You won't want to read them. I doubt anyone is going to want to make a movie out of them.
Focus is the hardest part. For me, anyway, "writer's block" is just the inability to focus. Sometimes writing involves some research. Thankfully, we have the Internet and all of the information in the world is at our fingertips. Unfortunately, we have the Internet and all of the information in the world is at our fingertips. One harmless little search for flower metaphors can turn into me fantasizing about owning a vineyard in France. I will feel bad about the diversion and buy a book on writing from Amazon to alleviate the guilt, only to look at the clock and realize it's time for bed.
Researching aside, nothing is a bigger focus stealer for me than social media.
"I was wondering when she was going to get to the point of this."
Right. I enjoy clicking on the links my friends post on Google+. They are mostly of the geeky and informational variety. I can handle scanning my twitter feed a few times a day and sending out my own tweets. However, nothing is more time sucking than Facebook.
That girl I went to high school with who I haven't spoken to since 1993 just had a baby. How cute! What else has she been up to? This one guy I met once at a party in Hollywood is posting some horrifically nasty political garbage and the comments are priceless. I will write my response. Wait, I will edit it before I post it because it might not be nice. I will delete it because I don't even know any of these people. I haven't been able to write anything, so I will go check out my writer friends' profiles. Oh, look! They are on Facebook, too. Well, I feel better now. Look at this story about this heart-wrenching thing that everyone is rallying behind. Oh, wait, it's fake. Now look at this story about how that story was fake and how anyone who believed it was stupid...
On and on it goes. I had been spending less and less time on Facebook. I had mostly been posting pictures of my baby for friends and family (and that dude I met at that party and that high school "friend" who... wait... we didn't go to high school together at all! Who even IS that person with the new baby?) Lately, I started to notice that a lot of my real life conversations were revolving around things that had been posted on Facebook, either by me or by my "friends." All 415 of them (yeah, I don't actually have 415 friends).
So I wondered, what if I just quit facebook altogether? It's taking up a lot of time that could be better spent finishing and publishing those writing projects I have (two novels, a screenplay and a pilot, to be exact). I should focus on being a better writer (or coder, but like I said, that's a post for another day). After a couple of days of wondering how best to end my relationship with Facebook (should I warn people, should I just pull the plug, should I post my reasoning?), I just pulled the plug after the new year.
So far, so good! I am still alive. People still exist. I'm fine not knowing what football games people are going to be watching this weekend. I'm sure most people will be just fine not seeing my posts bragging about my mad home ice cream making skillz. A "like" on a post can give us the false sense that hundreds of other people care about our day-to-day lives just as much as we do. I
It's been making me reevaluate how I might use Facebook, should I choose to come back (deactivations, unlike deletions, are temporary and can be undone anytime, just in case you were wanting to try the same experiment). There are a couple of friends I have thought about contacting, but have realized that the only way I was ever in touch with them was on Facebook. I should change that. Not only that, it can be a useful tool for writers! Before this week, I would have posted a link to this blog on Facebook. This writer does want readers, after all. I won't be doing that for this post, however. Which makes me a little sad.
Though I also won't be doing the subsequent infinite scroll down my news feed that will occupy my brain for an hour or so. Hmm. Maybe I will pull out my outline instead...