Are you on Facebook when you should be writing?

I love Facebook, just love it. My friends and family are there, and I keep adding new friends. I have hundreds. At any moment, I can post something and get reactions within a few minutes. The red numbers keep popping up on my page, and I just have to see what they said.

Every morning after I check my email, I go through Facebook, reading, liking and commenting. I promise myself I’ll only spend a few minutes there before I get to work. I set the timer. But there’s always more. Oh, I have to look at this video, listen to this song, wish this person happy birthday. The timer beeps, I turn it off, and keep clicking through Facebook.

I find some good stuff, articles and links that I can use in my work, but I delay actually getting to my work. Often, the postings get my emotions all in a whirl. This morning, for example, the first thing I saw was a photo of family members at Disneyland—without me. I miss them, I’m homesick, and I want to have fun, too. I read about a friend’s serious medical problem. Then I read that another friend won a big award. Another friend published her book. Another is doing a reading. Me, I have nothing to brag about this week. Hey, I stayed on my diet, sort of, for one more day. I feel bad now. I don’t feel like writing. Let me just watch this puppy video . . .

And the day is ticking away. Does this sound familiar to anyone? I actually get more deep writing done when I’m at my Dad’s, where there is no Internet connection. I do get Facebook on my cell phone, but Dad gives me the look of disapproval every time I pick up my phone.

What I’m saying is, we have to set some limits. Write first. Save Facebook and other social media for dessert. We need them these days for all kinds of reasons, but we shouldn’t let them get in the way of our writing. There’s nothing on there that can’t wait, not a damned thing.

This post was inspired by an article from The Writer Magazine to which I found the link on Facebook. Read “13 Rules to Maximize Writing Productivity,” then disconnect.

Now let’s go write.

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Once upon a time—Yeah, but can you Google it?

Once upon a time—

No, wait, you can’t start with that. It’s too vague. What about the five W’s, who, what, where, when, and why? What is the URL? Can I look it up on Google? Has it got a Facebook page? What do you mean it’s just a story and that’s the point? Show me where I can find it on my phone.

Those five-year-olds are getting much too sophisticated.

Okay, I’m making this up. I don’t have a five-year-old in my life. The only person I tell stories to is my dog, and she’s fine with whatever I say as long I keep petting her belly.

My mother used to make up stories. I can’t remember a single one now, but they were good. They were tailored to the audience, so they probably all featured a little girl like me. They weren’t too long because Mom was tired and I needed to go to sleep. They had action and suspense and a happy ending. If I looked restless, she added a new plot twist. There was no editing or revising, no marketing, no platform-building, and no, you couldn’t look them up on Google or Facebook.

I think sometimes we writers have lost the freedom of just telling a story. We worry so much about making it perfect that we get tongue-tied. We worry about what it’s going to be, where it’s going to go, and how people will receive it. If we could just forget all that and tell stories because it’s fun or because we need to get this story out of our heads, we could all write more and probably write better.

Many writers hate the sound of their own voices and worry about getting stuck, so they are reluctant to just tell stories to other people or, God forbid,” record them. But I think we need to get over that. Try telling a story, something you make up or something that really happened. Tell it to yourself in the mirror. Tell it to the dog. Tell it to your children or grandchildren. Tell it to your voice recorder. Just let it flow. Follow the rivulets of thought wherever they go. You never have to share it with anyone if you don’t want to.

If it’s good, tell it again. You’ll remember the important parts. Maybe write it down. Eventually, if the story is worthwhile, it will get edited, revised, marketed and hooked up on social media. But meanwhile, the story has value just for itself, just for the fun of telling a story.

Try it. See if it works for you. Start with “once upon a time.”

Here’s a link to a TED talk on storytelling. Check it out when you have time.

Now go write.