Social media gets a lot of bad press (often, paradoxically, in posts on social media!). Rather like television or violent computer games, it seems to now be held responsible for many of our social ills. Too much time on Facebook, we are warned, leads to our making negative comparisons with our compatriots, lowered self-esteem and a rising sense of isolation. Irresponsible sharing of unsubstantiated posts engenders the perpetuation of lies, negative bias or discriminatory and inflammatory social trends. Spending too much time embedded in the virtual world of your phone means you might miss out on valuable real life experiences. You’d be forgiven for thinking that everything in the social media world is poisonous.
But this sinister view is not the whole truth. For writers in particular, the online world provides a wealth of timely information, news and social comment which not only assists you in keeping up with industry trends, but also keeps you in touch with the zeitgeist. You simply could not replicate this through TV, books, or magazines/newspapers alone.
Social media also provides a platform for finding your “tribe”, for linking up with other like-minded people (unconstrained by geographical location), sharing ideas and supporting one another. For writers, who are usually (by necessity) lonesome creatures, it’s particularly invaluable – as I’ve found this week.
You’ll probably notice I’ve not posted here for a while. And you might deduce (quite correctly) that there is a positive correlation between the number of posts on this blog and my writing output in general. So yes, for a number of reasons I’ve shied away from all things writing-related for a few months. And, as you’ll probably know, the longer you’ve not written, the harder it is to get back into it.
What has made matters worse is that I started off at the beginning of the year in a burst of creativity and wrote thousands of words in the first couple of months. I had a schedule and I stuck to it. I was disciplined. Then I decided to take a break to recharge my batteries – thinking I would go back to it later with a fresh eye.
Roll on seven months and there’s me finding myself unable to pick up a pen (or open the laptop) – frankly even to consider myself as a writer at all. My attendance on Twitter’s #WritingChat (8pm every Wednesday evening) had dwindled as I felt too shame-faced to take part. This week’s topic was the quarterly reviewing of goals.
Oh, goals. Those things crafted in a burst of New Year optimism which I’ve not dared look at for months? So I sent a brief apologetic tweet – feeling unable to take part. But the “tribe” weren’t having that. A host of positive responses began pinging into my feed – I should draw a line under the last few months, accept them for what they were, re-frame my goals and move on. If I was too scared to go back to the big project, I should start small. Just a line or two.
Later I had a sneaky peek at my original goals list. Yes, it was bad. But actually it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought. I’d made positive steps towards a few of the items on the list. Perhaps some things were salvageable.
And the following evening I was ‘direct messaged’ by a fellow writer – just gently checking up on me to see if I’d written anything that day. It was just the nudge I needed. Granted, I didn’t write anything new that evening, but I did start typing up and editing a story I’d drafted longhand a while back.
So I’d like to say a huge thank you to the #WritingChat community, and to the writer who contacted me directly (you know who you are!) – it was hugely appreciated. Because social media is not just there for all the bad things in life – it can also bring people together in a positive, supportive way.
While I can’t guarantee a sudden burst of creativity, I don’t now feel quite so intimidated by the thought of sitting at my desk. Just looking back through my file of unfinished drafts has reminded me of embryonic stories I’d forgotten all about. I’m still a writer, even if a little lapsed right now!
And hey, at least I’ve written this post! 😉