When I was young, I wanted to be a writer. So that’s what I did. I scribbled in notebooks and typed in Word documents. I gave the stories to my friends who loved them, probably because they loved me, and this in turn encouraged me to believe that writing was what I should do with my life.
Fast-forward a few years when I attended my first writer’s conference (at an amazing place called Glen Eyrie – you can see a little bit of it in our intro video here on the CP main page!). We talked about story structure, plot, and character development. We worked on writing.
But I was astonished at how often I heard the words “social media.” Wait, wait. We had to publicize our stuff? I guess it’s common sense, but I’d never really put a lot of thought into it. Maybe it was similar to giving it to my friends when I was younger. I could do that.
Then we had to develop a platform. Okay… Mine would be about writers who are addicted to hedgehogs, coffee, and the color turquoise. That would be fun, right?
A meaningful platform that would help us launch our books. Oh. That kind of platform. Well… That could be trickier.
And so I started working on my platform. I started a Twitter account, I got a Tumblr account, this kind and that kind of account. I spent hours coming up with the right handle. But I still didn’t have the words to describe my platform, the reason I was writing, in one sentence. So I started using the accounts I had as simply social fun things. And they were fun. Posting witty status updates, commenting on others’ wittiness. I discovered other people who wanted to be writers, too. It was great fun. But in the midst of all that, the writing I was doing wasn’t the kind I’d started out to do. I was posting 140 characters, when I should have developed at least 140 character outlines. (Writing nerd humor.)
Don’t get me wrong — social media is effective, but it must be tamed and used properly. Otherwise it has the ability to take over and distract from our goals.
So how do you draw that line between tool and distraction?
Fast forward again. I’m married, have a kiddo, and I get to focus on living life more than I used to. It might feel like piles of laundry and never-ending emails and budgeting and cheerios in my purse. But it is life. Not an account I signed up for and can leave dormant (which is what happened to my Tumblr account, because I don’t really get Tumblr).
When I do have time, I don’t have the luxury of setting up camp at my favorite coffee shop and typing for hours. (For the record, if I didn’t have a husband and baby to keep me busy, I’d probably have a career to take care of and nurture, so this is a stay-at-home/working/self-employed issue.) If I want to write, I have to use my time wisely. This means scheduling in Facebook and Twitter posts, not just writing time.
Meet my planner. It is both my beloved and my warden when it comes to my life. It helps me rein in the social media and aids me in my main focus, which, according to this picture, includes writing during baby naps and making dinner.
This time of year I use Lent as a time to put things aside. I grow more aware of my dependence upon my relationship with God, and my need to purge things from my life that aren’t necessary. When I do this, my focus in life becomes clearer. While I might not give up my social media for Lent, focusing on “the big picture of life” can help me decide to what extent I should limit my screen time.
Platforms make a huge difference when you are an author. But without your writing, which is essentially you on a page, your platform is just a nice idea. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the social/promotions/followers aspects of writing, consider getting back to what made you love the craft. See how far you get writing with just a pen and paper. It’s often the simple things that can help us accomplish the most.