Don’t Feel Guilty About “Playing Around” Online

Chiang Mai wat and yellow buddha

Inside a Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.”

Lawrence Pearsall Jacks

 

What’s the most common advice you hear at writing conferences? That it all takes a lot of work. That there aren’t any shortcuts. That you have to put in the time.

Of course, that’s common advice about all types of things in life. People even talk about how much work is required for lasting, romantic relationships.

I don’t want to pick an argument with those who defend the value of good, hard work.

However, I would like everyone to stop feeling guilty about the time they spend “playing” online—especially on social media.

Yes, of course it’s possible to waste a lot of time on such things. But it’s also possible to PLAY and WORK at the same time.

If your play is building stronger connections to other people, opening your mind up to new possibilities, spreading the word about what you do, or helping you understand things about yourself and your writing, then continue to play.

If your play is allowing your mind time to work out difficult problems, giving you an opportunity to recharge, or reducing stress, then continue to play.

If your play is not at all serious or productive, and has no point whatsoever, then continue to play. That is real play, after all. (And sometimes, as Americans, we’re just too damn serious and insistent on productivity.)

Caveat: There’s a difference between play and escaping from or avoiding things we fear.

Hopefully you know the difference. (Refer to the quote above.)

Posted in Creativity + Inspiration, Life Philosophy, Social Media.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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Val
Val

An absolutely fantastic post. I am going to print this and tack it to my bulletin board (a place where I gather together my inspirations!).

Well said and I hope others will be set free as I was!

Pocketapocketaqueep
Pocketapocketaqueep

Good points. I am a writer and I have ADHD. This means I have ample gifts of procrastination and work avoidance. I find this a difficult question since, having ADHD, I find holding down one job and maintaining some kind of order in my own thoughts, feelings and imagination very difficult without trying then to do the work required to write. Being insensitive to all kinds of foods-yeast, sugars, dairy, preservatives and colours etc all trigger a busy head, an agitated restlessness, Walter Mitty/Billy Fisher type intrusive daydreams and an abstract anger-means that I need to cook daily & organise… Read more »

Pocketapocketaqueep
Pocketapocketaqueep

Good points. I am a writer and I have ADHD. This means I have ample gifts of procrastination and work avoidance. I find this a difficult question since, having ADHD, I find holding down one job and maintaining some kind of order in my own thoughts, feelings and imagination very difficult without trying then to do the work required to write. Being insensitive to all kinds of foods-yeast, sugars, dairy, preservatives and colours etc all trigger a busy head, an agitated restlessness, Walter Mitty/Billy Fisher type intrusive daydreams and an abstract anger-means that I need to cook daily & organise… Read more »

Karenselliott
Karenselliott

Thumbs up on this post! Excellent!

Janet Oakley
Janet Oakley

I’ve been up since 7:00 working and playing or playing and working as I catch up with writer friends, hit twitter for research, read articles at museum social media. What exactly am I doing? Only my Muse knows.

Deborah Niemann

Excellent and so true! There was one day more than a year ago when I felt guilty that I had spent way too much time online, although I had accidentally happened upon a call for speakers at the Mother Earth News Fair, which was to be held in Pennsylvania, and I suggested a couple of presentations. A couple months later, I was asked to present. And when I was speaking at the conference, an acquisitions editor from a publishing house came up to me and said she wanted to talk to me about writing a book for them. Thank goodness… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous

Thanks for the clarification. I am reminded of my education in child psychology… children learn through play. That is the reason humans play long into adulthood. The more creative the individual, the more passion for play. And silly is good too. IMHO. 

Nathalie Lussier

This is my first time here, but I wanted to say “hear hear!” 🙂 I love the idea of combining work and play, it’s definitely one way to keep things fresh, and open yourself up to new points of view. 

And double brownie points for the distinction between play and avoidance!

Anonymous
Anonymous

The perfect article for the (almost) end of a long week! It’s easy to forget the value of “playing” online while under the pressure of deadlines.

When I read this article, I smiled like I do when one of my favorite songs comes on the radio. It’s been a nice bright spot in my day. 🙂

Clare Kirkpatrick

Ooh, I like this! Thank you! You’re so right. I’ve made connections with so many wonderful people, and learnt so many fascinating things by ‘playing around’ online – all things that have helped and informed my writing. It’s all good 🙂

Michael Veason
Michael Veason

Very interesting article. I have several passions that I’m sure some look upon and can’t tell if it’s work or play for me. It’s unfortunate that none of them are part of my income producing work.

Ruth LeFaive

This Jacks quote has stayed with me since I first read it here.  The inspiration is going to have transformative impact. Thank you so much, Jane.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Double thumbs up to connecting with like-minded folks as well as those who help you stretch and grow as a writer. I can cite many examples of clients, friends, and colleagues who made just the right connection via social media at just the right time for something they were working on. Great post, Jane!

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[…] That aside, here are three things you need to get right before you start trying to “get something” from social media (as opposed to just playing around, which is a meaningful goal in itself!). […]

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[…] I read this quote at Jane Friedman’s website: “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his […]

barbara blackcinder
barbara blackcinder

Completely agree with your attitude towards playing. Adding guilt to it just defeats the benefits of playing.