Musician and performance artist Janelle Monae makes music the way I want to write: totally out of the box and genuine. If you have not watched her video for the song Tightrope, please do not pass “go;” head directly to YouTube. . . or watch it here. 🙂
Talk about truth and singing from the heart, watch what happens starting at 1:33 when Janelle Monae sings, “I was made to believe there’s something wrong with me.” She released this video as-is. Why? Because it’s deeply honest.
Which artist would you like to write fiction like?
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!
Something unusual happened when I served jury duty a while back, not just that I was excited about it. I struck up a sort of friendship with a fellow juror — I don’t recall her name, so we’ll call her Ann. She was very different from me, worked as an accountant, was years older, married, with children, while I was still years from all that.
Despite the differences, Ann and I were conversational, conspiratorial. She was friendly, albeit a little aloof. I was flattered, I guess, that she seemed interested in what I had to say. She was smart, well-spoken, dressed in expensive clothing and nice shoes – I didn’t recognize the brands, just that they weren’t from Payless or Target. When the trial was over, Ann invited me to a gathering at her house. Vague, just a “gathering.” I didn’t want to be rude and ask what kind of gathering, opting to chalk it up to that’s how rich, white working moms invite people over.
So I drove to Ann’s house, which was lovely. And large. At 4, 000 square feet her home was nearly 10 times larger than the apartment I lived in. Clean, new, not-thrift-store-bought furniture, a sunken living room. Ann met me at the door wearing only a smile.
Just kidding. Wanted to see if you were still paying attention.
Actually, Ann was dressed fine, sort of business casual. She led me from the foyer, through the sunken living room, back to a large den where twenty or so people of all ages milled about. A few light snacks were laid out on a dining table, and there were – I don’t know – packages of things, boxes, pamphlets. The event had an unusual vibe. The other guests weren’t unfriendly, but it all sort of reminded me of when I was nine years old in small-town Virginia and had just started Majorettes (remember baton twirling?). The girls and our moms had all gathered at the coach’s house for our first meeting. None of us really knew each other yet. Ann’s “gathering” kind of felt like that.
Then Ann started pitching Amway products.
Amway, the pyramid scheme multi-level marketing company in which sellers at the top get a cut of everything sold by people under them. The more sellers you recruit the more money you make. Simple as that.
I was a mark.
I’m slow sometimes, but I get there eventually, as my friend Marcia would say. I now saw the gleam in Ann’s eyes, the dollar signs. Her invitation had nothing to do with friendship or a desire to chat about our shared jury duty experience. Ann had seen nothing special in me. Feeling foolish and betrayed, I left.
A couple of months later, would you believe, this super cute guy asked me out to a “friendly gathering.” “What kind of gathering?” Vague response. I pressed. “I’m doing well with this business networking thing (or whatever euphemism the cult members employees had for it at the time). Maybe you’d like to check it out with me.” Sorry, cute guy, Amway is not my idea of a good first date. Next.
It’s easy to recall those memories when now, as an aspiring author, waves of advice crash all around me to promote, promote, promote. Start even before your book is sold, the blogs and tweets and writers’ magazines say. Show agents and publishers you know how to work the ‘net, that you’re the queen of social media, that you’ll be able to promote your book when it’s published. I get it; if you have no audience then you may as well not have a book. But what the advice-givers don’t mention is that this whole networking, community-building process could easily turn us into a bunch of Anns.
The artist’s lament? Sure. I want to sell books, but I won’t sell my soul. I love communicating with people in the online writing and reading community, sharing insights, fears, successes, and passion for literature. I don’t ever want to lose that. If, in this blog of mine, you ever see me mutating into an Ann, please, dear reader, slap me upside the head (in writing, please). Thank you.
P.S. If your name is Ann, I’m sorry I just tarnished it. I actually really like the name.