With the sudden influx of social networking sites has come a number of concerns from just about everyone, be it about privacy, productivity, even the ability to make meaningful relationships in the real world. These are all legitimate concerns, and ones that should be considered if one decides to join a social network (but let’s face it, most people today are part of one).
The good news is, it can actually be a healthy activity for aspiring writers. Frequently updating a Facebook or Twitter status is much like writing down a stream of consciousness, which is an exercise that writers sometimes use to help with writers block. Many people go throughout the day thinking about how to post about something amazing or terrible that just happened, or ponder a specific topic they’d like to share with others later. By actively engaging the mind to deliberately write thoughts down, people are developing their writing skills, whether they know it or not.
An important element of being a writer is practice. Very rarely do I wake up in the morning and have my head filled with perfect stories, phrases, and vocabulary. More often, I sit at my workstation for long periods of time, hoping for inspiration and feeling like my brain is bleeding. Even when I have great ideas, it seems easier said than done to get them out on paper without spoiling them. One of my professors, Dr. Todd Petersen, suggests an exercise he uses to get the mind flowing. This consists of carrying note cards with you everywhere you go, and writing thoughts, observations, and ideas on them throughout the day to use later.
This is a great exercise, but in a world of electronics, carrying around note cards all day can be a little old fashioned and cumbersome. Beyond that, most people who do use social networks do this exercise already with status updates (this method is a lot more accessible and organized). This is perhaps an even better way to log thoughts and inspirations, for the writer is not trying so hard to come up with impressive ideas. Friends and family members can also add their own comments and give feedback, as well as share concepts that others can develop.
Having a wealth of ideas to choose from can be vital when it comes time to actually start a project. Annie Dillard, author of The Writing Life, demonstrates the importance of putting ideas into action when she said,
“Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.”
Whether one uses Facebook, Twitter, or some other exercise, it’s important to write every day even if it is just a few clever one liners. The internet is what you make of it, even as far as social networking goes. It is possible to spend a lot of time online and still be productive. The art of language is everywhere, and you just might find it in places you never thought you would.