How Social Networking Kills the Creative Spirit

by JT Ellison

You want to hear some hard truth? Do you promise not to get mad at me? Promise?

Okay then. Here it is. Your social networking habit? It might be hurting you.

Yes, I know it’s fun. Meeting new people, reconnecting with old friends, discussing the price of tea in china with strangers, staffing up your mafia, finding out your Princess personality, etcetera, etcetera. But every minute you spend on Facebook and Twitter (I’m not even going to try and list the gajillion other social networking sites available) is another minute you aren’t writing, or reading. Nurturing your creative spirit.

The Muse is a delicate flower, a fickle Goddess. She must be treated with respect and dignity. She must be nurtured, given the proper nutrients: water, sunlight, fertilizer, a touch of love. If properly taken care of, she will reward you with great things: a bountiful garden of words, a cornucopia of ideas. But if you neglect her, she will forsake you.

And none of us want to be forsaken.

I read an essay last week that broke my heart. It was one writer’s honest, true assessment of her burgeoning Twitter addiction. She openly admitted compromising her family time so she could spend hours a night talking to strangers on Twitter. Her online world became more important that her real one. And I get it. I see how easily that happens. Especially when you’re a new writer, and networking is so vital to your future success. (I am so thankful Facebook and Twitter came along after I was already published.) A little encouragement—that tweet that gets retweeted, the blog entry that starts people talking, that link you sent that helps someone else—it’s heady stuff. A classic, undeniable ego stroke, and for a lot of us, that’s just plain intoxicating. (Yes, some of us not so new writers fall into the Twitter trap too…)

But when does it become a problem?

I can’t answer that question for you. You may want to ask yourself some hard questions though. Namely, how much time are you really spending online? Can’t answer that offhand? Spend a week keeping a log of all your online activity. Not just Twitter and Facebook and Goodreads and Shelfari. Track your email consumption, your blogging, your blog reading, your Yahoo groups, your aimless surfing and your necessary research. Be honest. Don’t cheat. Add that time up at the end of the week and take a candid, truthful look at the results. I guarantee you’ll be surprised at how much time the Internet takes.

Then ask yourself these questions:

Is the Internet as a whole compromising my writing time? Am I reading less because I’m spending more time online? Why am I doing this? Am I reaching out to strangers because I’m not feeling the same sort of support at home? Am I lonely? Blocked? Frustrated?

Because here’s the heart of the matter. Writers? Our job is to write. And I don’t mean pithy status updates and 140 character gems that astonish the world. I mean create. I mean writing stories. I mean taking all that energy and time you’re spending online playing and refocusing it into your work.

You know why it’s so easy to say that and so hard to back it up with results? Because Twitter and Facebook are FUN! And you’re talking to other writers, so you can sort of kind of tell yourself that this is really just research, background. You’re learning, right? You’re connecting with your fans, with your readers, with your heros. Very, very cool stuff.

Listen, if you get inspired by social networking, if watching successful authors launch successful campaigns helps spur you on to greatness, fabulous. I have been greatly inspired by some posts, links and attitudes on Twitter. I think it’s so important to try and have a positive experience out there in the world, and I follow people who exude positivity, who are following the path I want to follow.

But if you’re forsaking your Muse, taking the easy way out, then you have to do a bit of self-examination and decide if it’s really worth it. I am “friends” with people who are online every single time I open my computer and go to the sites. And I can’t help but wonder – when are they working? When are they feeding the Muse?

An editor is going to be impressed with your finished manuscript, submitted on time. The jury is still out on whether they’re impressed that you can Tweet effectively or that you’ve rekindled that friendship with the cheerleader who always dissed you in school.  

The thing about social networking is a little goes a long way. I love Twitter. It’s my number one news source. I follow interesting people, I’ve made new friends, and more importantly, I’ve gained new readers. It’s a tremendous tool for me. But I’ve also (hopefully) mastered the art of Twitter and Facebook. I can glance at my Tweetdeck, see what I need to see, read what I need to read, then move along.

Facebook, on the other hand, became a problem for me last year, so I gave it up for Lent. I spent six weeks only checking it on Tuesdays and Fridays. The first two weeks were hell. I was missing out! Everyone was on there having fun except me.

And then it got better. At the end of the six weeks, I added things up. I wrote 60,000 words during my enforced Facebook vacation. That was enough of an indicator to me that it was taking time away from my job, which is to write.

Now Facebook is a breeze. I’ve separated out my friends, the people I actually interact with daily, so I can pop in one or twice a day, check on them, then keep on trucking. I’ve set my preferences so I’m not alerted to every tic and twitch of the people I’m friends with. I don’t take quizzes or accept hugs. Ignore All has become my new best friend. Because really, as fun as it is to find out that I’m really the Goddess Athena, that aspect isn’t enriching my life.

I read Steven Pressfield’s THE WAR OF ART recently and was so struck by his thesis, that artists fight resistance every moment of every day, and the ones who are published (or sell their work, etc.) are the ones who beat the resistance back. Twitter, Facebook, the Internet in general, that’s resistance. (And to clarify, resistance and procrastination aren’t one and the same. Read the book. It’s brilliant.)

For professional writers, the social networks are a necessary evil, and as such, they must be managed, just like every other distraction in our lives. I still have my days when I find myself aimlessly surfing Twitter and Facebook, looking at what people are doing. Getting into conversations, playing. But I am much, much better at feeding my Muse. I allot time in my day to look at my social networks, but I allot much more time in my day to read. And most importantly, I have that sacred four hour stretch—twelve to four, five days a week—that is dedicated to nothing but putting words on paper.

There’s another phenomenon happening. The social networks are eating into our reading time. Readers have their own resistance, their own challenges managing their online time.

Yes, there are plenty of readers who don’t have Facebook or Twitter accounts, who may read this and laugh. But many of us do, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, every minute spent conversing online is another minute we aren’t reading. I can’t help but wonder if this is what will ultimately drive the trend toward ebooks, since one out of every three readers prefer to read electronically now. One in three, folks. That’s a large chunk of the market.

So how do you turn it off? How do you discipline yourself, walk away from the fun?

It’s hard. But what’s more important? Writing the very best book you can possibly write, or taking a quiz about which Goddess you are? Reading the top book on your teetering TBR stack, or reading what other people think about said book?

For writers, you have to set your priority, and every time your fingers touch the keyboard, that priority really should be writing. The rest will fall into place. I hypothesize that while the Internet is taking a chunk of reading time, most readers still read a great deal. Which means we need to keep up the machine to feed them, right?

Does this post sound like you? Are you easily distracted? Frustrated because you can’t seem to get a grip on things? There are a bunch of great tools out there to help you refocus your creative life. Here’s a list of the websites and blogs that I’ve used over the past year to help me refocus mine.



43 Folders

Zen Habits


The Art of Non-Conformity


The War of Art – Steven Pressfield

The Creative Habit – Twyla Tharp

Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life – Winifred Gallagher

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi 

Take fifteen minutes a day off your social networking and read one of these. I promise it will help you reprioritize your day.

Because really, what’s the point in being a writer if you don’t write?

What do you think, ‘Rati? Are you overdoing the online time? Any tips for making the best out of your Internet experience? How do you find the balance?

Wine of the Week: 2008 Quattro Mani Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

46 thoughts on “How Social Networking Kills the Creative Spirit

  1. Chris Hamilton

    I’m doing a session on social networking at a writer’s conference in October and this will be flagged as must-read material. If you use social networking, you have to do it with a goal. Anything that doesn’t correspond with that goal goes to the curb.

    What makes it difficult for me–and maybe others–is that social networking is part of my fallback position should the axe fall on my pretty little neck at work (always a danger these days). Some of that social networking time is to protect against that, but not all. Not even most.

    Great post.

  2. JD Rhoades

    Great post, JT. The way I kid myself is by telling myself it’s marketing. A lot of the friends I’ve made on Facebook and Twitter and blogs (and before that Rottentomatoes and before that newsgroups like alt.callahans and rec.arts.mystery) have bought books. So there’s some usefulness to it. But it’s too easy to tell yourself "well, I’m contacting new readers" when all you’re really doing is goofing off. I recently put my blog on a brief hiatus to think over what I really want to do with it.

    Everyone should still check Murderati at least a half dozen times a day, though.

  3. Joe Moore

    “Because Twitter and Facebook are FUN! And you’re talking to other writers . . .”

    In many ways, that’s a big problem. Is it writers we need to be talking to or potential readers. I know a #1 NYT bestselling thriller writer who set up a Facebook account. Very quickly, he had a ton of writers as friends. Within a short amount of time, he contacted them all with an apology that he must de-friend them. The only people he wanted in his friends list were fans. It may sound harsh, but that’s the right business approach if you look at social networking as a marketing tool. Otherwise, we have to admit that it’s a time eater and tweet away. Nice post, JT.

  4. billie

    Good post, JT.

    I think we have to be attuned to our own writing rhythms and pay close attention when things start to feel unbalanced. I’m not tempted much by Facebook and not at all by Twitter, so it wasn’t difficult for me to delete my Facebook page after trying it out for a few months. I don’t know for sure how Twitter even works.

    But we all have something that can intrude on the writing. For me, online, it’s blogging. I enjoy writing blogs and reading them, so I try to limit myself to a certain amount of time/day for that. There are a couple of forums I check in on each day, too, but I’m pretty good at cutting that out completely for a few weeks if I feel the impulse for reading/commenting is getting out of hand.

    I’m more likely to lose writing time to the barn than anything else, and that is actually okay with me. Finding balance is an ongoing part of the process. I write more and better when the other parts of my life are genuine and satisfying, so I aim to keep good stuff going on that adds depth to the work.

  5. Zoë Sharp

    Hi JT

    Being both right up to the minute, and extremely internet-savvy – NOT – I’ve been still waiting to make the FaceBook/Twitter leap. And my reasons for not doing it have been exactly the one you mention – creative time-suck. If I’m tweedling around on internet sites, I’m not writing, and I get little enough time to do that as it is. But I’ve always been worried that by NOT Twittering or Tweeting, or whatever it’s called, I’m doing myself more harm than good regarding the networking/marketing/reaching new readers side of things.

    I guess I’ve always been reluctant to start something if I’m not convinced I can do it well.

  6. Jessica Scott

    Fantastic post, JT. I worry a lot about balancing my real job in the army with my family life and my as yet to be launched writing career. My tentative plan is to get an iphone (yes here’s a great excuse to have one) so that I can do the social networking thing during the day, between meetings or sitting in traffic (not while driving). That way, when I get home at night, get the kids in bed with lunches already packed for the next day, I’ll be able to sit and say to myself " self, it’s time to write and nothing else".
    That’s my plan. We’ll see how it works out in about three months when I get home from Iraq and real life kicks in. If being home is anything like being on R&R, I’m going to be absolutely exhausted…but hey, that’s what motivation and coffee are for!

  7. Bryon Quertermous

    First off let’s address this crap about defriending writers and only keeping "fans." That’s bullshit. (Sorry Joe, I know it’s not you making this point). What a stupid thing to think. The bulk of my friends on facebook who aren’t family or realworld friends are writers. I am a writer too but I’m also a fan of the writers I’m friends with. I think the same is true of all writers. Part of the reason Bouchercon is so cool is because most of the writers who are there promoting and "being writers" are also being fans. I’ve seen NYT Bestselling authors fawn over writers they grew up reading. Any writer worth his salt is also a reader, and usually a passionate one at that.

    Now, Twitter and Facebook are a precarious thing for me. I’m not able to write in long sustained sessions, I write in little bursts of 200-300 words. I’ve tried completely turning off the Internet in my house and I’ve found that when my first little burst is done, if there’s nothing online to entertain me and to keep the computer on I’ll shut it down and go watch TV or read a book or whatever.

    But If I have the Internet connected, I’ll write for a little bit, then play online for a little bit, then write for a little bit more. So by keeping my computer on I get two or three of those 200-300 word bursts instead of just one. Now, the problem is that more times than I care to admit, I’ll write a little then spend the next three hours online and not get any other writing done. That’s bad, but it come down to discipline on my part. Like JT I’ve stripped Facebook and Twitter down to the essentials. I don’t do quizzes or play games or any of the other time sucks. It helps.

    The best thing I found was cutting my blogging WAY down (reading and commenting) because this is where the true drain on my creativity was coming from.

  8. JD Rhoades

    The only people he wanted in his friends list were fans. It may sound harsh, but that’s the right business approach if you look at social networking as a marketing tool.

    I’d have to respectfully disagree. To me, a writer who only seems to be on there to flog his/her books gets, not necessarily de-friended, but ignored. Someone who’s interesting (and who has interesting interactions with interesting friends) is more likely to grab my attention. Once they have my attention, it’s a short hop to getting their book. Anyone else feel this way?

  9. Alli

    I try to limit my FB time to 15 minutes a day – some days it’s harder than others to stick to that time limit and way too easy to get distracted. I haven’t Tweeted, and I am trying to stay away from that as long as I can as I know I will if I start, I’ll succomb to its wiley ways. 🙂 There are half a dozen writing blogs I read on a daily basis, and OK, they can become distractions BUT I feel I am keeping abreast of news and learning craft. Of course Murderati is a daily read for me!

    I do, however, love having the internet easily accessible when I am writing. The current WIP I’m working on needs a lot of research and even though I have books on the subject matter, sometimes I can’t find the answer I need. I have bookmarked certain pages of reliable sources and can go there for information – and most of the time I get it and can insert it into my WIP and move on. So the internet can actually enhance and speed up my writing.

    I do agree with JD re: authors, fans and friends on FB. I am "friends" with a lot of authors purely because I love their work and want to stay up to date on their progress, book releases, etc. I would be pretty peeved if someone told me they were "unfriending" me just because I was a writer and they only wanted fans, when in actual fact I am both.

  10. Karen in Ohio

    As a reader, I’m much more likely to read a new author with whom I’ve interacted somehow, like Toni, JD, and others here. There is such competition for my reading dollar that it takes even the slightest, most tenuous connection at times to cause me to spend that money–and my time–on a book by someone I’ve not read before.

    As a fellow writer (nonfiction), I used social networking way back in the very beginning of Internet message boards (1989) to help spread my reputation as a helpful and knowledgeable writer. It made an enormous difference in separating my work from less approachable authors.

    So, yes, social networking is a giant time suck, but if you use it in a judicious and balanced way it can be more beneficial than harmful.

  11. Jena

    You’re so right, JT. I used to thing the reason I got my best writing done at our lake cabin was because I was usually there alone — no husband to demand meals at regular hours, no need to stop because of an arbitrary "bedtime," no kids to interrupt — but in truth, it was because I had no internet. As soon as I got home, I was consumed with the need to read blogs, news feeds, and moan on Facebook about how I had "no time" to write.

    But I’m trying. I stopped blogging a year ago. I only check or update Facebook or Twitter from my phone and when I’m away from my computer. I don’t "friend" a lot of people, and I follow even fewer. I’m unsubscribing from a couple of RSS feeds a day, trying to wean myself, but I still waste an hour every morning reading other writers’ blogs about writing.

    As for my own writing? I’m still doing very little at home — that damn "You have mail! ding is muy seductive — and I’m still writing only when I’m away from internet. I know my next step is to restrict myself to 3-4 brief periods a day to answer mail, and unplugging after I hit "send."

    Wish me luck. And many words.

  12. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Oiy, this is such a great post that I have to flag it so I can re-read it once a month…and so it will cut into that 60,000 words I had hoped to write during, well, not Lent, maybe during that week between Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur.
    I’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding all that temptation. I got lost in Facebook as soon as it was introduced to me and then, after I reconnected with every single person I went to elementary school/junior high school/high school/college with, I began to settle down. I remember when I cross the 100 mark in my friends on FB and I thought, "holy shit, that’s a lot of people." Then I go to other author’s FB sites and I see a couple thousand friends. It reminds me of that great line in the movie "The Player" when the Hollywood development executive says to Tim Robbins, "You took her to a party with a hundred of my very best friends!" Once I realized that FB was more than a way to reconnect with friends, but it was a marketing tool, I took the photos of my wife and kids down. No reason to throw them into the marketing game.
    I used to read a book a week and now it takes three weeks to read that same book. But the biggest obstacle to getting good writing done continues to be my day job. I’m looking forward to the day when I focus my work hours on writing.

  13. Shannon Esposito

    I’m so glad you have addressed this, JT. As someone in the stage of trying to get published, I am in constant state of anxiety about this whole self-promotion and social networking thing. That is really all you hear about now: how you HAVE to have a presence on every site, how you have to have your name out there before you even have a book out there, how publishers expect you to have lists of thousands of contacts, come up with brilliant ways to promote yourself via twitter, facebook, etc. because they aren’t going to spend money promoting a new writer.

    On the other side of it, I have seen a few authors use these sights exceptionally well , but I always wonder how in the world they find the time to do it and write, too????

  14. Louise Ure

    I haven’t yet fallen into the Facebook and Twitter trap, but I’m still spending far too much time online instead of writing. (In my case, it’s an obsession with political blogs.)

    But your advice here is fabulous, J.T. You are my own cautionary tale, and you’ve shown me how to avoid the traps.

  15. pari noskin taichert

    You KNOW I’ve been thinking about this for about a year now and have been working to cut down my online/computer play time. I’ve avoided Facebook and Twitter completely and rarely go to many of the other sites I’m now signed up for. I’ve cut down my listservs.

    I have had a difficult time keeping to my no-computer/internet Thursdays because of the convention etc . . . but I’m turning off the computer more and more.

    And you know what? I’m more productive, more inspired and just plain feel better.

  16. toni mcgee causey

    Agreed. Must go twitter this now. 😉

    When I’m goofing off, I know I’m goofing off. It’s okay, and everything shouldn’t always have to be about work and output. But one must always be honest about what it is: goofing off. And put it in perspective: unless a blog is super high-end successful, or a person has 10K + followers on FB or Twitter, those "marketing" moments aren’t going to make a ginormous leap in actual sales. [edited for clarity] Online moments will, however, create goodwill and word of mouth and lasting friendships and support.

    So have fun at it, but be realistic about what it is: another way to hang out at the water cooler. When it comes time to get promoted, you have to have something the boss would promote you for, and generally, it’s not how well you quoted the water cooler gossip.

  17. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Well, I don’t yet have Internet in my (temporary) new home, and after two weeks of seeing how much more writing I am getting done without it, I’ve decided not to hook up for a while. I do my e mailing and checking sites for an hour at the gym before my workout and unless I know I’m going to need to get back to someone that day – THAT’S IT. One hour, an hour and a half, tops. It’s all the time I need and the rest is… well, there’s a word for it.

    It is miraculous how much more I am getting done. Truly, astonishing. I really don’t want it in the house any more.

  18. PJ Parrish

    Well, the highest compliment I can pay your column is that I am signing off and going back to my neglected chapter.

  19. JT Ellison

    Good afternoon, ‘Rati! I took some of my own advice and unplugged this morning. : )

    Chris, feel free to use this. I hope it helps your students! Yes, Social Networking (forever more known as SN in the comments today) can be a hugely important tool. We see success stories every day, smart folks who use it to their advantage. So you’re on the right track.

    Dusty, I’m been guilty of that many times as well. It’s one of the reasons I stepped back from everything a couple of months ago. And I agree, if you’re only going to read one blog a day, Murderati should be it. Plus we have that fantastic Publishing News link at the top, so you can get everything here : )

    Hi Joe, thanks for stopping by today. I respectfully disagree with the notion that SN is ONLY for fans. Like Dusty said later on today, writers are fans too. Now, if he/she was trying to stop the flood of authors who have a tendency to over-inform, over-promote and over do in general, then I understand. But it’s impossible to really differentiate between writer fans and reader fans. And why would you want to? I bet he/she lost some sales over that too.

    Billie, you’ve hit on something that I neglected to add to this essay, which is sometimes, you need to just be. No amount of SN will make up for the time we spend recharging our batteries doing whatever we need to do. I’ve been getting all Zen myself these days, stopping everything for 5-10 minutes at a time to just experience life. My cat, for instance. My laptop is always in my lap, and she wants up too sometimes. I love the moments when I set the work aside to let her come love me. It rejuvenates me.

  20. JT Ellison

    Zoë, it really does have it’s pros and cons. You CAN raise your profile, you CAN gain new readers. But you also have to commit wholeheartedly if you want to use it as a tool. The social part of SN is primarily that – being social, engaging your followers and friends. Using it to soley promote isn’t enriching, I think. There are plenty of authors who don’t, and they do just fine. You know?

    Jessica, thank you for your service. If it weren’t for people like you, we wouldn’t have the freedom to even have this discussion. I think the iPhone idea is really smart. I do that sometimes when I don’t want to get sucked in but want to touch base, and it works wonderfully. You’ll find your balance, I’m sure of it!

    Susanne, setting limits is the best thing we can do for ourselves. It takes real discipline and professionalism to be a writer. And that starts with us.

    Hey BQ. Good to see you! I know what you mean about staying focused. There are many time when I’ll take a break, ride through the sites, then get back to work. My mind is still on the writing, but it needs to do some deep breathing. You know?

    Dusty, I do. I’ve added writers to my list because they were funny or poignant, and dropped some who go overboard. I think we all forget that every word we put out there is out there forever, open for interpretation. So mind your Ps&Qs, folks : )

  21. JT Ellison

    Alli, I have days when I turn off my internet connection entirely, and some when I leave it on knowing I’m going to have to spot check some research. It’s all in finding your balance.

    Karen, I agree. I do believe the Internet has been a boon for writers and readers, because of the interaction. There’s also the opposite effect though, where the access is too much. Finding the right balance is hard. I’ve had to unfriend people who were getting too… personal… I guess is the right phrase. It can get creepy sometimes.

    Jena, I think all of us are starting to see the tarnish on the web. I get a greater sense of satisfaction out of producing good words than anything, but I sometimes have to remind myself of that.

    Stephen, you do know I stalk your friend lists. That’s how I found out… You are one of a group of folks who have a whole additional set of problems with this – a day job. I bow before you, brother.

    Shannon, you’re right. The word on the street is PROMOTE, anyway you can. But I’ve seen some excellent promoters disappear, and I wondered if it was because they couldn’t find that balance. Yes, we have to do some self-promotion. But there isn’t a legit editor in the world that would encourage you to forsake your writing time to do so.

    Louise, I am definitely the cliff jumper on this. I’m also neurotic enough to continue the self-examination of what works for me, and what doesn’t, and want to share my mistakes so others don’t make them.

    Pari, you’re proof positive that this works. Keep it up!

    Toni, exactly. Once you find the balance, you’ll know when you’ve overstayed your welcome at the water cooler. ; )

  22. JT Ellison

    Alex, you have had to put up with more than your share this summer, that’s for sure. But yes, no internet does make for seriously productive days. I like to turn on Freedom, which disables my connect (with Randy’s office being here, i can’t turn it ALL off) but Freedom let’s me unplug. And it’s too much of a hassle to cheat.

    PJ, your compliment is taken in the way it was intended. ; )

  23. James Scott Bell

    Great advice as always, JT. When I counsel new writers on marketing and promotion (which they all have their knickers in a twist about), I say filter everything through ROE — return on energy. You have to be objective and cold hearted in your analysis, because most of the time you’re wasting time, without the requisite return.

    And always I say, write the first thing each day (depending on schedule, of course). Get your quota done, then you can fool around. But don’t ever let that fooling interfere with the quality of your personal and family relations.

    I like what Michael Bishop once said. "One may achieve remarkable writerly success while flunking all the major criteria for success as a human being. Try not to do that."

    Thanks again for the post, kid. Have a great Nashville weekend.

  24. Ron Heimbecher

    Right on target JT. It’s not only internet, but text messaging, Blue Tooth headsets, and a zillion other distractions.

    I find myself wishing for metaphorical hip-waders daily, sometimes hourly. The worlds I create and the stories I tell are almost exclusively on-line, with thousands of supporting words, images and documents that need to be in place before I even begin the actual storyline. I’m in the rapid current of the internet many hours every day, and often swept temporarily away from my planned path.

    Fortunately many of my diversions provide the beginnings of more stories, more worlds.

  25. Rebecca Cantrell

    Thank you for saying this, JT!!! The Internet is a charming, cute entity that can suck up all your time and leave you with a thousand tweets and no book. Monday-Thursday I leave the house during my writing hours and I go somewhere that doesn’t have Internet. I’ve found the only way I can manage it is to remove myself (yes, I do take my iphone and check email every so often while I’m gone).

    I am very tempted by Alex’s idea of getting rid of it completely and having to make a conscious effort to use the Internet, instead of the other way round. Hmmm….

  26. terri tiffany

    Thank you for a great post. Just today I wrote about the sincerity of all the online promotion marketing formats as well. We need to stay real with our Facebook, etc. friends and keep the numbers real as well.

  27. J.E. Taylor

    JT – great post and I, like you, have stripped down my Facebook down to the essentials – I don’t play games online – I don’t accept invites to send flowers or faery or even throw sheep anymore. It’s just a networking tool and the whole purpose I had when I signed up on Facebook and MySpace was marketing. MySpace has lost it’s sheen but Facebook has become a great resource along with being a collassal time sucker. It’s new, shiny, easy to use and for the most part amusing – but I do find myself surfing more than I should, mostly to decompress from the day job and get into writing mode.

    When I’m in writing mode – I can go days without looking – but when I’m in edit mode, that’s when I hop around. Edit a little, blog a little, tweet a little then go back to editing – but then again, I don’t yet have writing contracts and committments, so I’m not on any timetable yet. When that happens I’m sure I’ll modify my behavior to get what needs to be done in the timeframe it has to be done. But in the meantime, if I’m not writing or reading, social networking is much better than decompressing in front of the TV. At least there is some human interaction – albeit online – but interaction just the same.

    JD – I absolutely agree with you – if someone gets my attention – I’m more inclined to go out and purchase their book. I have both writers and potential readers hooked into my network along with friends, family, backspace folks and co-workers – and I filter as well.

    So now that I’ve put my two cents in, I need to get back to editing! Thanks for the thoughts JT!

  28. Jeff Abbott

    This blog entry is a must-read. Way too many people spending way too much time on Facebook and Twitter. Like JT, I wonder when they get their reading and writing done. And people who are spending more time on social networking than with their family — that’s just a sad situation. Thanks for writing this, JT.

  29. JD Rhoades

    I am very tempted by Alex’s idea of getting rid of it completely and having to make a conscious effort to use the Internet, instead of the other way round. Hmmm….

    I read somewhere that the Amish actually do have telephones, they just don’t have them in their houses. The phone is shared among several families and is kept in a shack between farms, so that you really have to make an effort to use it, and have to think about whether the call is necessary. Maybe we should all keep our Internet-connected computers in a shack in the yard….

  30. JT Ellison

    Ken, right on!

    Jim, I like that a lot – Return on Energy. An excellent phrase. I tried the writing first thing in the morning, but it didn’t work at all. But it’s excellent advice for everyone to try, if they can. That way, you’ve always hit your word count and can afford a little goofing off time.

    Ron, I think that’s the trick – if you’re going to do it, let it influence your writing positively. USE what you surf for. Then it’s research!

    Rebecca, if you’re on a Mac, download Freedom. It totally works.

    Terri, great point. It’s not hard to spot the folks who are just going through the motions online.

    JE, it sounds like you already have an excellent handle on this : )

    Jeff, thank you. It’s worrisome, really. And I’ve been over-marketed to lately, so it was really preying on my mind.

    Dusty, I’m in. I think we should have to think about every action we take. I love to be spontaneous, but it’s also nice to have the tools to help prioritize.

  31. Laura Benedict

    Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! For an ADHD writerchick like me, social networking is as mainlined heroin is for an addict.

    I’m not surprised this post struck a chord with so many writers–you’ve asked us all the right questions. For me, Twiiter is that immediate gratification and acknowledgment that I can’t get from a reader sitting in his living room 500 miles away reading my work. How embarrassing it is to admit I would even want such a thing. I knew I was in trouble when I found myself in the shower trying to think up clever tweets instead of plot details. Ick. Time to re-evaluate.

    Thanks for the tough love, honey!

  32. Carla Buckley

    JT–pour me a glass of that gorgeous wine, I’m coming over. There are a few other areas in my life I could use your help with…

  33. Jim Winter

    Twitter is an enormous time suck I can’t afford. Facebook can be, but I generally only check it at short intervals a couple of times a night. I haven’t exactly divined what use Twitter is anyway. Other than Sarah Weinman’s tweets, I haven’t found anything I really want to read that I have to have in less space than a text message.

    Or maybe I’ve just gotten more efficient with my time these days.

    Which doesn’t explain why I’ve rewritten this comment four times now. =)

  34. RKCharron

    Hi 🙂
    I have learned to just click off the Internet for a set amount of time that I devote to writing.
    When I am not writing, I go online for a set amount of time.
    I don’t watch TV – I watch my shows on the computer (no commercials).
    I read before bed. 🙂
    Thanks for a great blog post.
    Also thanks to all the terrific comments.

  35. Terry Heath

    I’m surprised and flattered to be included in your list of resources! I must tweet this right away, of course. It inspires me to meet my Tweeter #writegoal today.

    Seriously, this post is very good and too true.

  36. Courtney Clift


    This is obviously a hot-button topic, but I think the bottom-line is achieving a balance. I keep 3 windows up on my laptop at all time: My Home page with NYTimes link and the (NON)fiction book I’m writing on health care. I am a huge writer, reader and fan, but I have never written anything I felt I needed to publish (all my "novel" attempts!) before my tome on this important and timely topic.

    I try very hard to keep the book on the "front" window and only periodically check my email (with Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn notifications) when I go to do some research (usually medical terminology/spelling because I’m OCD like that..haha) and check the Times headlines or visit their health blog THE WELL. It is easy to get caught up and schmooze, but I think if you are organized and ignore most application requests (all mine are from before starting this book) like you said you can do both.

    There are friends, "friends," fans, other writers, and childhood acquaintances/old friends that offer perspective (at least for me) and make me an even better, smarter writer. Stoking the muse is about finding inspiration in the world and these days fortunately, the world wide web.


  37. Jody W.

    I like to write in long, quiet stretches and only WISH I could train myself to do the spurt thing! Lord knows I’ve tried. I usually make negative progress and get snappy due to interruptions, so it’s not worth it so far.

    My social networking, which I CAN do in spurts, increases when my kids are with me and decreases drastically the 2 days a week I have time alone. I’m strict on those days! Right now the cartoons are blaring and there’s a potty-resistant toddler screaming in the middle of the floor. I wouldn’t be writing anyway. The trick is making sure to utilize every segment of time that IS long enough, like their naps, instead of staring at twits and blogs in a toddler-induced haze.

  38. JT Ellison

    Jim, I find Twitter so much more informative than Facebook. Most of the reporters I like have accounts, like Tim O’Brien at the New York Times. He tweets some great stuff, things I learn from. I use it for news, and keeping up with many folks I find interesting.

    Rob, sounds rather idyllic!

    Terry, nice to meet you!. Mary-Frances Makichen turned me on to your blog, and I think it’s just great!

    Courtney, you have more discipline than me. I’m an all or nothing – either on the net, or off. I can’t keep the temptation away ; )

    Jody, that’s one way to do it. All I have to worry about is the cat.

  39. bowerbird

    edit the wordcount on this to half of what it is now,
    and it will be a gem people point to for a long time.


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  41. globalgal

    Too much social networking? Try moving to China – even if I wanted to discuss the price of tea I can’t, at least not on Twitter or Facebook. They’ve been blocked since July 2009. It’s nice to have a little extra free time, although I don’t suggest tyrannical censorship as the answer.


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