While I was out of town and during my re-entry phase, my online time was greatly curtailed. I only blogged once or twice, tweeted rarely and updated by Facebook status even less. In effect, I took two giant steps off the grid. Oddly, I find that I’m not missing it that much. In fact, I’ve had a helluva time getting motivated to dip back in to Twitter. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, I did. But without it, there is a great, lovely silence in my life right now, an absolute absence of noise and distractions, as if someone turned off that television that was constantly playing in the background.
Then of course, guilt set in. OMG, I’m not doing Every. Possible. Thing. to sell my books every single day. Panic! Horror! Guilt! Trust me, it’s raining self-recriminations here in Southern California.
Which in turn precipitates a whole new set of recriminations:
1. What if all the online selling and promoting basically takes place in an echo chamber? On all the sites I visit and all the twitter accts I follow and all the blogs I read, I see the same names over and over again. What if we’re all preaching to the choir? What if the only people listening are those who are also interested in selling their books. I mean, sure, a lot of conversation takes place, and they can be interesting conversations, but by the same token, it sometimes feels like the sorts of conversations one has at a single’s bar; they aren’t obscuring the reason we’re all there.
2. I know there are a few people who have achieved astronomical book sales through their blogging or brilliant platform building, but just how many of them write in my field—specifically middle grade novels? Not very many. In fact, maybe even zero. I know there have been some YA novelists who’s online presence has really helped them build a readership, but most of their readership is online, very few middle grade readers are, and if they are online, they’re not on twitter or Facebook.
3. Which leads me to wonder just how many books I’ve sold through my online presence. Ten? Fifty? One hundred? What if the emperor really has no clothes? Or is only wearing a pair of fancy underwear? What if those who’ve sold tons of books through their online presence are the true outliers and there is little hope of replicating their success? What if I’m channeling all this well-intentioned energy right down a drain?
In fact, this conundrum reminded me of a great book I read a few years back called The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. She talked about the sheer amount of energy women spent chasing an abstract ideal of beauty that was constantly shifting—and rarely shifting toward the women’s favor—and just how much energy woman lost in that pursuit.
So this week as I contemplated re-starting all my online engines, a similar concern was running through my head. What if all this energy is in pursuit of an unattainable goal? What if I spend so much time chasing the wrong goal?
Which all goes back to needing to find a way to balance our time and energy. I look at some of these people who tweet all the time and while I love their tweets I do wonder, when on earth do they write? It occurs to me that maybe it’s like those friends who used to like doing their homework with the tv on, versus those who do not.
And the reason I’m doing all this soul searching is, quite frankly, I’m tired. I’ve just come home from a long, hugely productive and overwhelmingly positive series of school visits, I have a book due in (gulp) four months, and a finite amount of energy to spare. I also know that I sold more books in those two weeks than I have sold in all my years online, so it just put me in a pensive mood about where we spend our energy.
For now, I think I have to be content to let my cyber-socializing swing in cycles. People who love and thrive on all the social networking as marketing tend to talk about the value of the conversation, and yes, there are extremely valuable conversations to be had online, fascinating discussions to participate in, and lessons to be learned. There are days when I love the heck out of all those cyber conversations going on out there. Usually when I am elbow deep in copy edits or galley proofing. But other times all those conversations are simply a huge distraction. Like when I have a book due in (gulp) four months. My blogging feeds my writing in that I blog about the writing process and wrestle with writing issues and demons there, so it is a good adjunct to writing. The other avenues are less so.
So I guess I'm struggling to give myself permission to back off my social networking for a while so I can write the next book. And on some level, it annoys me that I think I need permission. But that's what happens when you're raised Catholic--you need permission for everything. (Also forgiveness, but for now I'm talking about permission.)
However, since I have finally gotten to a place where I am feeling fast and loose with the permission giving, I thought I'd share some with you:
You officially have the Shrinking Violets Permission to lay down your social networking burdens and write. Or read. Or enjoy the ensuing silence. Starting now!