As writers, most of us have four jobs: our day job, family life, writing, and social media. For obvious reasons, we have to spend time at our day jobs. We also have to spend time with our families because, well, relationships make life worth living. As for writing, that’s non-negotiable. Except it is. Even when our life’s ambition is to publish novels, we don’t always make enough time to write, and sometimes (often) the culprit is our fourth job, social media.
If you’re like me, you worry that you might be spending too much time on social media. Try not to beat yourself up about this too much. Marketing experts and industry specialists universally agree (I know, that surprised me, too) that, if you’re serious about building a writing career, social media is necessary. Authors must be visible to the public, accessible, and connected to what is happening in the publishing world.
Yay, so we don’t have to worry that we’re spending too much time on social media!
How Do You Know You’re Spending Too Much Time on Social Media?
Most of us have an innate sense for when we’re spending an unhealthy amount of time online. And our manuscripts definitely know because they’re not growing as fast as we’d like them to.
According to literary agent and writer’s-best-friend, Jane Friedman, “If it’s starting to drag on your resources and time to do other things more important to you (such as writing), then it’s time to re-assess.”
Why is social media so tempting?
“When we go on these sites, our underlying drive is to satisfy that innate need to connect to others. It comforts us and fulfills us to know that we are not alone.” Well put, Melissa Joy Kong.
Speaking mostly for myself, I’ll hazard a guess that writers are particularly susceptible to social media’s siren call. Since we writers are not the world’s most extroverted creatures (hence, we immerse ourselves in imaginary worlds), the “comfort” of social media is logically a huge temptation.
Now for the Big Question . . . How to Balance Writing and Social Media?
#1 Set Goals and Prioritize
Just like setting goals for your writing, also set goals for the time you spend on social media. Joshua Graham recommends that you “Make to-do lists every day and put tasks in priority order.”
#2 Quality over Quantity
Don’t try to do it all; stick to social media platforms you enjoy and do them well. If blogging every day doesn’t negatively impact your writing time, then go for it. However, Chuck Sambuchino suggests, “It’s very possible to have a platform with the ‘less is more’ philosophy, as long as you focus on the absolute quality of your efforts.”
#3 “Batch” Your Time
There’s this term efficiency experts use called “batching” time. This means setting aside blocks of time for, in our case, writing. During that time block, all you should do is write. Then you can set aside other blocks of time for blogging and each social media platform. You’ll get far more accomplished if you’re not constantly switching between blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and, of course, all-important writing.
If resisting social media during your writing block is too difficult, consider downloading the Anti-Social app ($15), which you can program to block overly tempting websites during time periods that you set.
#4 Frontload Blog and Social Media Posts
During your “blog time block,” frontload blog posts. For example, set aside each Sunday afternoon to write all your blog posts for the week. You can also write and schedule social media posts in advance using programs like Hootsuite.
#5 Set a Daily Limit on Your Social Media Time
What is a reasonable amount of time to spend on social media? “It varies from person to person” is an answer I hate, so I won’t say that. Instead, I’ll give you Jody Hedlund’s wise answer, which is: “The time we give to our writing should be greater than the time we spend on marketing.” This makes sense, right, writers?
Here’s my favorite answer. (Way to be bold with your very specific answer, Katie Wagner.) In her video blog, Wagner says you should engage in social media for “fifteen minutes, three times a day.” During each fifteen-minute social media block spend:
- Five minutes posting;
- Five minutes responding to posts from others;
- Five minutes reading and commenting on other people’s blogs and social media accounts.
There you have it. If you follow all these suggestions, you will never again have to worry about spending too much time on social media.
Well, except that we’re writers and we’ll always find reasons to worry. Plus, we’ll probably still spend too much time on social media. But even if you incorporate one or two of these suggestions into your daily or weekly routine, you’ll be making more time to write, which will move you ever closer to your ultimate goal of publishing novels.
If you’ve found other ways of balancing writing and social media, please share!
— Eve Messenger