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Social Media Hurts My Brain (or Why I Hate NaNoWriMo)

Social Media Hurts My Brain

Okay, so I know, I know this right here, what I’m doing – writing a blog post – is a form of social media.

But I have to say, sometimes is just hurts my brain.  Yesterday, for example, I found myself listening to a social media guru.  Then I found myself on a site called Tweepi managing my Twitter account and getting instructions to flush the unfollowers while simultaneously following people who would instantaneously follow you back.  (In the end I couldn’t flush the unfollowers, it just seemed wrong.)

It was like an out of body experience.  I suddenly realized (I know, I’m late to the game) how odd it was that the social media guru was telling me that all we want is  the appearance of thousands of followers – no matter if we actually cared what anyone was tweeting or not.  It was all a big appearance game.  I quickly got off the site and went to talk to my cat – who totally cared what I really had to say in 40 characters or less.

As my cat and I chatted, I realized why I’m drawn to certain voices in social media and not others – because so much of social media is caked in the inauthentic.  I think that’s why it captures our attention when we read someone who is – in some way – telling the truth.

So in this post I will tell you a truth.  A few of you know this truth, but I mostly keep it to myself because it seems so against the ways of a writing coach.  But today, I’m just going to let it all hang out.

I kind of, sort of, hate NaNoWriMo.  There I said it.

I mean I get it, I support the idea behind the whole thing.  Get your inner critic out of the way and put words on paper.

The problem is that in December I get two things:

1)      Packets of really poor writing.

2)      Calls from depressed writers.

I thought it was just me until I chatted with a couple of agent friends of mine.  They openly shared that December had become a bad month for them as well.

Where Nano goes right:

  • It encourages writers to get in the game.

Where Nano goes wrong:

  • It’s a step on the path, not the entire race.

Two days ago an excellent writer called me very upset because her agent didn’t like her NaNoWriMo musings.  Her first novel had been well received so she was confused.  I asked her how long she had worked on her first novel.  She stated three years.  I asked her how much planning and how much rewriting that novel took.  She started to laugh.  She got it.  She said she was going to hang up and begin her first rewrite.

I often find that we, as Americans, want to McDonaldize our writing.  We want to write a novel in 30 days or build a platform in 48 hours or bang out a script in 21 days.  We want to be able to find one clear system, pour our brains through it, and have it come out as a McMasterpiece.

I also find that there are a lot of pied pipers out there who will play upon the writer’s hopes for swift satisfaction.  I once had a client tell me that he was promised a completed book in 48 hours if he spent a weekend in Sedona and paid $5,000.  Another client was always searching for the silver bullet to fast track his art.  He spent thousands in seminars only to realize he had to patiently learn the craft and follow his intuition.  A third client told me he hated himself because he daydreamed so much.  He was regularly churning out good work, but he felt he should push himself to experience less time in his head, and more time with his fingers typing.  I asked him what was wrong with daydreaming.

“Come on, Marni.  Daydreaming is not words on the page,” he said.

I begged to differ.  “Never discount daydreaming.  It’s when the muse speaks.  It’s when the silence happens.  It’s the gap between the crazy to-do list of our over-packed lives.  It’s the source trying to get your attention.”

“Oh,”  he said.

I guess what I’m trying to say is – watch out for the “experts” who tell you they know all the answers or try to oversimplify the process.  Yes, many guides can offer tools and insights, but it is your job to sort them out and integrate them one by one into your writing tool box.  You are the guide.  Trust no one above that.

And also, time is not your enemy.  Enjoy the life that is writer.  Sure – create and stick to some deadlines, but make them reasonable and do your best to be playful along the way.   Rewriting time can be hella creative if you ask me.  I’m sorry NaNoWriMo – I know you mean well.

I think that was my first rant.  It felt good.

Happy Holidays from your Writing Coach,

Marni (Oh, and if you stare out the window or let your mind wander while you are watering your begonias or taking your dog for a walk tonight, consider it writing time well spent)


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