The writing life is supposed to be all about silence and solitude. This was exactly how it was for me, for years. I wrote in my notebooks, showed my work to a few trusted readers, submitted stories and gathered a ton of rejections. That was that.
I’d never dreamed of publishing more than half a dozen stories. Novels were things to be read, not written. I still can’t believe I wrote and published You Beneath Your Skin, or that The Blue Bar will be out in the world this year.
Now that I’ve finished writing three novels (one of which is in a freezer) and almost two-books-worth of short stories, I long to find my way back to that hermit-like existence, where my only deadlines were self-driven.
I’m an ambi-vert, an introvert at most times and an extrovert on rare occasions. I have very few real-life friends but dozens upon dozens of online friends and while that’s hugely rewarding, it sometimes fraught. Written communications don’t translate too well, so I feel like I must be careful. In a very divided world, I feel wary of expressing my opinions other than when veiled in my fiction. Screen-friendships have been a boon during pandemic isolation, but sometimes hugging a tree or petting a dog feel so much more rewarding than staring at a screen even when chatting with a kind friend.
And then there’s the constant strain of having to be available. On some days I post a picture on Instagram and immediately receive a dozen queries about whether I’m moving countries. Those to whom I owe work are also on social media and though they may not be watching, I feel their gaze.
All of this of course can be moot–I could, in theory, switch off all social media and simply retreat into isolation. I’ve done that before, gone on a hiatus, but I feel the need to strike a balance now. On the one hand, social media doesn’t really move the needle for book sales, but on the other, it helps create that elusive thing called ‘brand.’ We authors have so much stacked against us, and so little we can do to help ourselves–social media feels like something we can ‘do,’ at least, to find more readers. Objectively, it is a losing battle. The internet is saturated with sales pitches, and social media is geared to make you spend more time on them than you want to.
Sometimes, it feels criminal not to participate, for instance one of my idols who has just finished reading The Blue Bar put it on this STUNNING list on Booktrib about 11 books for our perilous times. The Blue Bar doesn’t even have a cover yet, and it is a generous gesture from a much-lauded author, who I have been privileged to feature on this blog. So off I go to share the post, because, of course. How can I not?
To me though, social media is more about the community, the people I have come to think of as friends, and who prove their friendship again and again through moral and tangible support. And even beyond that, it is undeniable attachment. All of you on the blog, for instance, are precious to me beyond any sad little brand-building efforts I might make, and when on hiatus, I’ve often been tempted to check your blogs, to find out how you are. It is a double-edged sword, because there are so many of you, and only one of me, and I’m not able to keep up even though I want to. More guilt, that I let go of when I can.
Social media for writers is a tricky thing. How do I balance the community that I love with the writing that is crucial? And of course, not to forget the rhythms of daily life and chores. I’m trying to learn how to cope, because now my deadlines are not my own, and my publishing timetable is far less within my control.
These are good problems to have, for sure. None of my stress is beyond my own tiny self. I’m at home, have enough to eat, and am loved by my immediate family.
I just need a good routine, time management skills, and discipline, but none of them have proved easy. Even now as I dictate this blog post while taking a short break from work (my wrists have swollen up due to a few months of 16-hour work days— I have family history of bone trouble and am not a spring chicken)–I keep thinking about the proofreads on The Blue Bar I need to get back to, which, sadly enough, can’t be dictated.
What about you? How do you balance your day job or your writing with your online life? What tricks for time management work for you? Do have any advice for me?
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