Social Media Kills Creativity

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Here’s a controversial topic for your Monday.

I contend that social media hurts creativity. Change my mind.

Yes, I understand the irony of writing a blog post about this topic, if you consider WordPress a social media platform.

I thought about this while browsing my Instagram feed over the weekend, scrolling through endless photos of vintage book covers and pictures of author’s laptops exposing their word-count related victories. I feel like the modern writer (hobbyist or professional) needs to be more wary of the negative impacts of social media.

One of the earliest (and best) pieces of writing advice I ever got was “don’t talk about your work until it is finished”. Meaning, complete drafts and only show them to a select few trusted peers like an editor or critique group until they are ready for a wider audience. Social media and the incessant chirping from marketers about “building a platform” run totally counter to this.

Social media is all about instant gratification, and a feedback loop of exposure for quick responses. Alex Posen wrote a great piece about this on The Creative Hours, and I am buying what he is selling. Ideas need time to gestate and change without outside interference. I see so many “aspiring authors” posting raw first drafts on social media and I just want to scream “STOP!”. It may feel nice to show people your accomplishments, but it’s a trap. As soon as you invite a wider audience into that process, it becomes compromised. I don’t feel like that intrusion is worth a few “Likes” or the occasional comment.

My other, more curmudgeon-y, reason is simply a matter of the strange, nearly universal narcissism that social media has spawned among creative-types. Yeah, the irony alarm is about to sound again, but I had to say it. Most people (myself included) are just out here having fun tossing our thoughts and words into digital space. Very few authors are gaining a regular new readership and selling large numbers of books via social media. The ones who do have usually found success via other channels already. For every one success story there are millions of people posting about how they just can’t find the time to finish (or start) that 1st draft.

This isn’t to say social media is all bad. I love spending a few minutes each week interacting with this community, or looking at old horror movie VHS artwork on Instagram. The takeaway is you need to be vigilant and selfish with your creative hours, and realize these platforms are time-sinks BY DESIGN. Don’t let them compromise your creative process. As J.T. Ellison puts it, “don’t let social media kill your creative spirit”.

What is your take on social media? Do you feel like it stifles your creativity, or is it something you couldn’t possibly live without? Let me know down in the comments.

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The Power of Verbs

I’m a big proponent of writing exercises and writing prompts. This post from Deborah Lee Luskin is a great example of how verb choice can alter and determine the tone of your writing.

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Power of VerbsVerbs are the engines that power your sentences.

Here’s an exercise that will help you learn the power of verbs.

See if you can make the following paragraph more interesting by changing the verbs. Challenge yourself to show this narrator either speeding through her day or dragging through it by the verbs you choose. If you like, post your revision in the comments below.

I got up this morning: I got dressed I got coffee and a bagel when I got gas. I got the news on the radio, and I got the mail on the way down the hall to the office. I got through my email before my ten o’clock meeting, but I got a phone call from a client so I got to the meeting late.

After the meeting I got through the HR about my health benefits, because I got a bill for my last…

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Writing as a Daily Practice

An excellent post from author Libby Sommer. I’ve written in the past that I don’t adhere to the “write everyday” philsophy, but Libby’s post is a good counterpoint. I never thought of simply “writing just to write” without it being attached to a project.

Libby Sommer, Author

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Writing as a daily practice is a way to exercise the writing muscle. Like working out at the gym, the more you do it, the more results you get. Some days you just don’t feel like working out and you find a million reasons not to go to the gym or out for a jog, a walk, a swim, a bike ride, but you go anyway. You exercise whether you want to or not. You don’t wait around till you feel the urge to work out and have an overwhelming desire to go to the gym. It will never happen, especially if you haven’t been into health and fitness for a long time and you are pretty out of shape. But if you force yourself to exercise regularly, you’re telling your subconscious you are serious about this and it eventually releases its grip on your resistance. You just get on…

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Elements of Style

Following up on last week’s post about “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” I wanted to post up what I still consider the single most valuable craft book in my collection. Elements of Style by Strunk and White. The cheapest, most portable, and infinitely useful little book on “the rules of writing”. It’s also a centerpiece in my kit of writing essentials for under $20 I outlined in an earlier post.

If you don’t own this book (in print), fix that. It will make you better.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

Just finished reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. This is a fantastic resource for any author who is struggling with editing their own work or looking for some new knowledge. Written by two professional editors who have been through many a slush pile, it contains excellent advice about the craft using examples that are clear and easy to follow.

The examples are the strongest asset, as they are in context of actual works, not just one-off sentences like many editing and grammar books use.

Highly suggested if you or someone you know is deep in revising that manuscript.