Picking Up Things Instead of my Pen

This post is not endorsed by facebook. Nor twitter. Though it is because of twitter I’m writing it. Just noticed I’m up to about 7100 tweets. So I did what any rational dude would do: opened my calculator app, multiplied “7100” by a guessed-at average tweet-length of 120 characters. Where that gets me is:

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852,000 characters. So what I did then was open the latest novel I’ve written, which I’ve now pared down to 97K words or so, and did a character count on that:

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And that’s not counting spaces, as I was trying to be generous—also, I was trying not to get suddenly despondent. Still, the numbers don’t lie: since November 2010 (gulp), I’ve written nearly two novels’ worth of words just in tweets. But, yeah, let’s say retweets are counted in that total, and chip a big chunk of characters off such that I’ve now just written one fairly long novel’s worth of characters, that add up to words, that add up to sentences and paragraphs and scenes . . . involving characters, which, to me, are people.

Not just exactly thrilled with that: I’m losing people, here. And, before you get nervous, no, I don’t want to be one of those users who logs onto social media to badtalk social media. Social media serves whatever its purpose is, which I think this pretty much explains:


I’m one of the ones eating those donuts, I mean. Yes, I’m the farm animal in this pretty terrifying meme (it conjures “Bloodchild” for me):


But, too? It’s fun to hang out with friends. And, yeah, in this weird and modern world, I do consider it actually hanging out, to all dogpile a thread or whatever, like this (talking hair metal on facebook, with friends—not sure about privacy settings on there, so, if you can’t see, sorry).

Anyway, didn’t mean to go all critical on social media, or blame it for stealing words from pages, any of that. Any time you’re not getting words on the page, it’s always and only your own fault, I say. But, what’s kept me a little bit on the straight and narrow are these two pearls, from a couple writers I respect:

There was a day when I looked up and realized that I had become someone who professionally replied to email and who wrote as a hobby.  I started answering fewer emails and was relieved to find that I was writing much more — Neil Gaiman


Every word on your blog is a word not in your book — Sherman Alexie

Main other thing I hold myself to? No, two things—three, three—that I just lucked onto from years of doing this:

  • If you care about what you’re doing on the page, then why not give it the good part of your brain? This can mean the morning hours for some, or, for others, it can mean not using all your wit down at the bar, such that you drag home wordless, storyless.
  • Stay off Goodreads. Not because it breaks your heart or knits your heart back together, but because we’re wired to privilege the negative over the positive, such that the cheap/accurate shots come to serve as a chorus each time you come to write. And you’ve probably already got enough voices in your head, yes?
  • The real test of whether you’re a writer or not, it comes at one in the morning. You either wade across to that keyboard, or you don’t.

At which point—this night’s test is coming at 9pm, looks like, when I told myself I’d be watching Shane—I’ll quit entering words into my blog, and tab over to the thing I’m writing, see if I can’t burn it an hour two closer to done, so I can start the next thing.




Author: SGJ