Early in my writing career, I became infatuated withÂ writersâ€™ social media. Â It was huge! Â It was exhilarating.Â There wereÂ blogs, magazines andÂ chat rooms, forums, workshops and videos. Â Â My email inbox soon overflowed with book reviews, conference and workshop announcements, writing contests and calls for manuscripts. Lists of â€œmust-havesâ€ â€œcanâ€™t misses,â€ â€œto-doâ€ and definitely NOT â€œto-doâ€sâ€™ arrived in droves from agents and publishers.
Every serious writer has a â€œplatformâ€, I discovered. Â So I built a website, set up an author Facebook page, a Twitter feed, joined Pinterest, Instagram, Tumbler and LinkedIn. Â But this was only the barest beginning, I soon discovered. My blog and Facebook page had to be current and trendy, my Â â€œtagsâ€ had to be carefully selected to Â â€œdrive trafficâ€to my sites from the top search engines. Â My social media sites must be regularly monitored, â€œlikesâ€ reciprocated, posts updated, tweets returned, comments enthusiastically answered; all this to ensure visibility for agents and publishers. Â My Facebook news feed was endless. Tweets constantly scrolled past my web browser. Â My â€œPlatformâ€ had morphed into aÂ demandingÂ monster. Social media had become unsocial.
It was impossible to sort through this avalanche of information, much of which was redundant and/or contradictory. Â One source insisted outlining is necessary, Â another advisedÂ Â simply to start writing. Â There were advocates of starting a novel at the end, the beginning, or the middle. Â Some saidÂ that a writer thatÂ doesnâ€™t achieve a respectable word count Â per day is not serious; others emphasized the importance of Â reflection. Â Â There wereÂ Â videos and workshops on â€œscaffolding,â€ â€œPOVâ€, Â â€œPillars,â€ â€œDevices.â€ Â The jargon alone was intimidating. Everyone professed to be an authority. Â How could IÂ know who to trust? Â And assuming I actually managed to writeÂ a novel in the midst of this confusion, Â could I get it published? Â Is my themeÂ â€œhotâ€ and trendy enough? Does it address the right target audience? Should I e-publish? Blog my book? Tweet it? Get an agent? If so, how do I choose one. Can I afford it?
I was lost in a byzantine social media maze.Â What began as fun and exciting had become a chore. In the odd moments I found to write, I found myself posturing; trying to appease the writing and marketing gurus now residing full-time in my head. I began to question everything about my story, itâ€™s structure, the POV, the characters, setting and time period. Â I suspected I should drastically revise the manuscript or trash it and start over. Or.. Maybe I wasnâ€™t a writer after all.
I had lost my voice.
The suddenly one morning, I work up unable to speak. Â Although I wanted to continue to Â compulsively push ahead, Â now I Â had no choice but to stop and listen. Â The timing, along with the absence ofÂ other symptoms led me to suspect a connection between my physical and writing voices. Perhaps they both needed time to heal.
So I â€œunplugged.â€ Â I took naps and long walks Â with Jake, my Boston Terrier. I journaled, listened to music, and visited friends. And I read books. Biographies, historical fiction, literary classics, modern novels, mystery, fantasy, non-fiction, books by great writers and poor writers. The Kindle store loves me. And gradually my voice returned, physically and figuratively.
I love social media. Itâ€™s given me writing buddies, mentors and a wealth of information.Â Â The internet is an invaluable resource. Â Writing seminars, workshops and online magazines are delivered directly to my laptop. There are online proofreading and editing programs, Â templates for story writing and outlines for character development. Google or Siri can answer almost any question I can think up. These are powerful tools, unheard of as recently as a decade ago. But any powerful tool can also wreak havoc. Iâ€™m only aÂ clickÂ away fromÂ the mazeÂ I just escaped. Â So I identified a few sites I have grown to trust and respect and â€œunsubscribed,â€ â€œunfollowedâ€ and â€œun-likedâ€ Â the rest.Â Â And so far I have resisted the temptation of clicking on every flashyÂ new Â site. Â So far. ….
AndÂ Iâ€™m back to Â my story. Â After all, Iâ€™m the only one thatÂ can write it.