Your jaw is tense. You can feel the headache beginning behind your eyes and at your temples. The muscles at the back of your neck could be packed with lead.
You glance at your wrist watch. They’ll all be home within the hour and you have so much writing left to do. Your gut tightens and you begin thinking of all the ways he or she or they cut into your writing time. You’re not only nettled, you’re anxious, and you’re resentful.
By the time she or he or they push through the front door, you’re snapping and irritable. Later, if you have any sense of what is good, you’ll feel sufficient conscience and you’ll apologize to them for your brutish behavior. It’s not their fault that while you had precious time in which to write today, you wasted that time on Face Book or Twitter or YouTube, or some other form of social media. There’s nothing worse for a writer who wanted to be published to look back on her life and think: “I could’ve been a contender.” The competition in the publishing world is tremendous, and not everyone will make it. Waste time daily fooling around on social media, and you’ll cut your already slim odds to traditional publishing in half.
You didn’t intend it. You never do. You’re just going to sit down for a sec and see what your “friends” are up to on Face Book, and by the time you realize there’s no more time left for writing, you’ve scoured the Internet and posted 17 political memes, 3 videos of cats becoming startled by their reflections in mirrors, and 8 positive affirmation memes that other Face Book addicts will feel warm and fuzzy over but which they will never apply to their lives any more than you will. What a waste of time. No wonder you hate yourself.
But you don’t have to hate yourself. Instead, redefine yourself.
You are a writer. You write. Your loved ones do other things, but you, my friend, are a writer. Don’t neglect your family and loved ones, certainly, but guard your writing time as well. You have no time to troll Face Book for two or three hours every morning. You have no time to Tweet clever 140 character remarks throughout the day. No one gives a flip that you had a cobb salad for lunch, and if they do, that’s creepy: don’t encourage them by snapping pics of your food! 🙂 We’ve all done it! Instead, write well while you eat your cobb salad, focus on the perfect words, the anguish, the elation, and get those choice words on paper—or suffer the emotional and professional consequences of Face Book Addiction, Cell Phone-Texting Disease, Email-Checking Dysfunction: self-loathing and a needlessly stalled writing career.
The #1 way for a writer to cut down on self-loathing and a needlessly stalled writing career is to cut back drastically on her dependence on social media and allow herself the benefit, boon, richness, and beauty of unfettered creativity and quietness in her pursuit of writing.
Get free of the laboratory rat behavior inherent in racing to the computer and snatching up the mobile phone at the sound of pings, chords, buzzes, and 80s disco ring tones, desperate for that metaphorical piece of cheese. You are a writer. Finally, finally, apprehend that reality and act on it. Turn off the damned phone, or, at least, set it to ignore social media alerts during the time you’re pursuing your daily craft.
Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Yes. That is true. That is true.
The writer feels a particularly sharp distress, an urgency to release the uneasiness of a story not told. And when you waste your precious writing time on nonsense such as hours spent on social media, anyone close to you might end up becoming the unintended target of your self-loathing, and you’ll go to bed frustrated every night, kicking yourself for squandering valuable writing time.
Stop allowing the culture of social media to distract you from what you should be doing: keeping your living environment peaceful, healthful, beautiful; connecting deeply with your loved ones. Scratch the cat under the chin, rub the dog’s belly, and make the most of your writing time.
Here is a fifteen minute TED Talk on Stillness. If you have a little time today, this offers an encouraging look at all the benefits of regularly pulling back from those activities which sap the creativity and thoughtfulness from your life. What strikes you most about the revelations offered here? Have you any encouragement to offer other writers on the practice of mindfulness and stillness?