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Why Social Media and Novel-Writing Don’t Really Mix

Announcing exciting developments with “Blog the Adventure”

Blogging a Double Life

One of the curious things about the culture of social media is that it requires you to live in two places simultaneously.

One life is spent in the real world of a car or an office cubicle or a dental chair.  The other is spent thumbing a running commentary into your smart phone: “I’m habbing by bizdub teef webooved.”

The most trivial of such commentary used to echo only in the crowded libraries of our own minds. It used to be relevant only as firewood for dreams about dentists extracting your wisdom teeth in an office cubicle. Now such private thoughts are broadcast from satellites that straddle the world. Now everything is potential fodder for a tweet, Facebook rant, or Pinterest pin.

This is not the tomorrow I expected. I grew up thinking that the future would be ruled by the technology of gadgets: laser beams and robots and chocolate pills that make you thin. I thought it would be the hardware that would change the world, not the software. Instead, the world is now ruled not by the tiny keyboards in our pockets, but by the artificial limitations of those keyboards. (140 characters, anyone?)

The “now” of our sharable moments is defined by our impulse to divide reality into the realms of

  1. What-is-Happening, and
  2. how What-is-Happening can be categorized, shared and exploited

Of course, writers have always made their living by dividing their time between two worlds. The goal was to lose yourself in your work so that your readers could get lost there too. Only recently have we tried to not lose ourselves, to be in both places at once.

I’m not casting stones at a twittering culture, or lamenting what the world has come to. (I do that privately.) Rather, I’m explaining why my blog sometimes goes for months with no new post.

I don’t want to live both places simultaneously. Give me one or the other. If my reality is constantly interrupted by a perceived need to vent my every thought, then something in my reality needs to change. I need to sleep under the stars or give blood or carry my dog.*

And if the fantasy world of my latest book is less interesting than the process of talking about it, I need to rethink my characters and plot. If I feel the need to leave Narnia every ten minutes to comment on it—if I’m really more interested in my own commentary than in a world that connects the sons of Adam with the Emperor Across the Sea—then I’m probably not really in Narnia after all. I’m in someplace like Omaha, but without the zoo.

In short, I rarely blog when I am lost in the creation of a novel. I find it hard to write about what I’m writing about unless I can see how it will connect with the reality of my readers.

Fortunately, this blog need not be a closed playground. The OYAN community is a tremendous resource, and it has occurred to us more than once over the past year that the collective experience of so many talented young writers ought to have a place here.

In the coming months, expect to see guest posts from other writers, including several of the older** OYANers. I think you will be inspired.

Maybe you will even tweet about it.


* I used to walk my dog, but she is so old that she only goes two blocks before plopping down in exhaustion. I always end up carrying her, like Jesus carrying a lost sheep, or, depending on my mood and her smell, like Jamaal Charles stretching a football across the goal line.

** By “older” I mean young enough to know who Justin Bieber is, but not young enough to take him seriously.

This Post Has One Comment
  1. Thanks so much for posting that, Mr. S! I’ve been finding the very same thing to be true. 🙂 I’ve been rather conflicted about that, but seeing how you deal with it gives me a sense of relief that I don’t blog as much as I once did.

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