Early in my writing career, I became infatuated with writers’ social media. It was huge! It was exhilarating. There were blogs, magazines and chat rooms, forums, workshops and videos. My email inbox soon overflowed with book reviews, conference and workshop announcements, writing contests and calls for manuscripts. Lists of “must-haves” “can’t misses,” “to-do” and definitely NOT “to-do”s’ arrived in droves from agents and publishers.
Every serious writer has a “platform”, I discovered. So I built a website, set up an author Facebook page, a Twitter feed, joined Pinterest, Instagram, Tumbler and LinkedIn. But this was only the barest beginning, I soon discovered. My blog and Facebook page had to be current and trendy, my “tags” had to be carefully selected to “drive traffic”to my sites from the top search engines. My social media sites must be regularly monitored, “likes” reciprocated, posts updated, tweets returned, comments enthusiastically answered; all this to ensure visibility for agents and publishers. My Facebook news feed was endless. Tweets constantly scrolled past my web browser. My “Platform” had morphed into a demanding monster. Social media had become unsocial.
It was impossible to sort through this avalanche of information, much of which was redundant and/or contradictory. One source insisted outlining is necessary, another advised simply to start writing. There were advocates of starting a novel at the end, the beginning, or the middle. Some said that a writer that doesn’t achieve a respectable word count per day is not serious; others emphasized the importance of reflection. There were videos and workshops on “scaffolding,” “POV”, “Pillars,” “Devices.” The jargon alone was intimidating. Everyone professed to be an authority. How could I know who to trust? And assuming I actually managed to write a novel in the midst of this confusion, could I get it published? Is my theme “hot” 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. 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, it’s structure, the POV, the characters, setting and time period. I suspected I should drastically revise the manuscript or trash it and start over. Or.. Maybe I wasn’t a writer after all.
I had lost my voice.
The suddenly one morning, I work up unable to speak. Although I wanted to continue to compulsively push ahead, now I had no choice but to stop and listen. The timing, along with the absence of other symptoms led me to suspect a connection between my physical and writing voices. Perhaps they both needed time to heal.
So I “unplugged.” I took naps and long walks 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. It’s given me writing buddies, mentors and a wealth of information. The internet is an invaluable resource. Writing seminars, workshops and online magazines are delivered directly to my laptop. There are online proofreading and editing programs, 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. I’m only a click away from the maze I just escaped. So I identified a few sites I have grown to trust and respect and “unsubscribed,” “unfollowed” and “un-liked” the rest. And so far I have resisted the temptation of clicking on every flashy new site. So far. ….
And I’m back to my story. After all, I’m the only one that can write it.