I’ve become that reader who flips to the back of the novel first, and though I confess to sometimes reading the ending before the beginning, mostly what I do is read the acknowledgements pages.
To an unpublished writer, they’re fascinating. I pore over them, read and re-read them, excavating them word by word and layer by layer for the clues they offer up–tiny tidbits of extrapolated information that may serve me in my quest to make writing my full-time career.
I’ve learned many blog posts’ worth of lessons from the acknowledgements. They’ve inspired me, perplexed me, entertained me, and sent me scrambling to research authors and agents. Perhaps the most important wisdom I’ve gleaned, though, is that every writer’s journey is unique. There are no maps.
One of the elements of writing as a career that I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about lately is social media. I’ve encountered writers at all possible points on the spectrum, from the ones who avoid it completely to the ones who’ve embraced it with unmistakable flair and balance their time between creating and reaching out with tremendous ease.
I’m a Luddite by nature, and with each step deeper into the electronic jungle, I have to brace myself. I’m a bit slow, always late to the online party. My instinct is to retreat, to withdraw, to protect myself and my privacy, to germinate the seeds of my ideas in silence.
But instinct isn’t always our best servant, and as I’ve pondered the role that social media should play in my career, I’ve come to the conclusion that I shouldn’t be one of the recluses and hermits (though I adore all recluses and hermits, and have in fact just finished drafting a novel about one). My M.A. advisor liked to remind her students that “a certain sense of discomfort is necessary in order for learning to occur,” and in my case, I have a lot to learn.
I’ve found, though, like probably many, many people, that instead of using social media as the powerful tool it can be, I’ve been letting it use me. I don’t want to be a tool. So I’ve spent a lot of time lately rethinking my use of social media, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to use it as the tool it is and not as a source of entertainment.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with social media as entertainment, but for me, I’ve found that it gets in the way of my creating. My particular use of it lately has not been in line with the minimalist ideals toward which I’m striving–to have/use only that which adds value to my life. As I tracked my time over a couple of weeks, I found that I was spending way more time puttering around the interwebs than writing. Self and I had a come-to-Jesus meeting. It got a little ugly. One of us may have shed tears. I’m not telling you which one. As I continue to query agents and get signs that I’m at least on the right track, I’m feeling the momentum building. As I begin to collaborate with other writers and artists, the momentum builds still further. I want to keep this momentum going. I don’t want to derail myself, and the best way to keep on track is to stay on the rails. So I’m shifting my attitude toward social media, and my use of it. Here’s the plan:
- Twitter: Carry on. Avoid rabbit holes. This is already a pretty focused place for me. I was fortunate to have a couple of Twitter-savvy writer-friends “show me around” there and introduce me to other writers. My Twitter feed is pretty much a collection of creative peeps–authors, agents, illustrators, musicians, etc.–and it serves as a great reminder that I’m not in this alone. Still, I need to remain diligent in my use of it and not fall down every fascinating little rabbit hole that appears.
- WordPress: Carry on. Avoid rabbit holes. I’m trying to be more intentional about what I read, not falling into the trap of perusing every “Freshly Pressed” article out there, no matter how compelling and/or shocking and/or hysterical the title sounds. I think my blogging is doing what I want it to do at the moment, mainly in terms of providing meaningful connections with other writers and readers, and keeping me in the habit of writing regularly.
- Facebook: The tricksy one. Oh, so many rabbit holes. I love you, rabbit holes!! This one’s a huge time-suck for me as a writer, and ironically it’s largely because I’m a writer. I love stories. All the stories. Everybody’s stories. Stories are sacred, and it feels wrong to just flick past the bits of stories that people put out there on their Facebook walls, so I tend to compulsively read and “like” and comment. I crave connection, and this is one place to look for it. But I always find myself longing for connections that are deeper, and so I’m going to start limiting my Facebook use to primarily writing-related endeavors. I’m part of a few FB groups I’ve found tremendously valuable, but I need to stop looking to the Book of the Face for entertainment. Not because all the faces on it aren’t lovely and precious to me, but precisely because they are. There are so many adorable baby cheeks, so many worthy causes, so many grumpy cats whose disgruntled expressions speak volumes to my soul…….but I expend so much emotional energy caring so much about all of it that I’m not leaving enough for the work that only I can do–the stories only I can write. So I’m going to make the leap I’ve been considering for a long time. I have an author page that I’ve been tinkering with, though I’ve not really put it out there for public consumption. I’m going to take the plunge and transition to using FB more as an author, and try to activate the potential I have to bring good things to people via that platform. I’m hoping that this more focused attitude toward and use of Facebook will help me to become a more focused writer, and also provide a platform for offering the best that I have to offer, instead of a stream of random thoughts and images.
- Other stuff: Pay no attention to the rabbit holes behind the curtain. Pinstagrumblr, etc. I think I’ll keep my focus, for now, on the platforms with which I’m already comfortable. No point in getting all crazy-like.
With all my social media, I’m planning to continue doing the things I already do that support the work I’m focusing on, the work that brings value to my life and, I hope, to others’. I’m continuing with my #365photoproject–#365rootsandwings–and with blogging. But I want to make the move toward using social media with more intention, so that it supports my work rather than interfering with it.
Thoughts? How does social media impact your work? Does social media challenge your focus with its sparkliness? What strategies have you developed for keeping your focus where it needs to be? How do you use it to further the work that only you can do? And, for the love of all things good and wonderful, how do you not fall down the rabbit holes?? I’d love to learn from you.