My last pair of deadlines nearly did me in. Truly, there were times when I wasn’t sure I was going to make them. Since I have yet to miss a deadline, that would have traumatized me utterly. So in a desperate bit to free up enough time and limit the distractions in my life, I radically unplugged.
Now I have unplugged for a day or two in the past, taken a cyber vacation, but this was different. I did a very daring thing: I un-bookmarked all my normal writing blogs and industry haunts. Just deleted them from my bookmark list and toolbar.
And you know what? It was hugely freeing. I felt this great big whoosh of energy come into my life. I discovered I loved all that quiet. I didn’t miss my daily distractions one single bit. Because in retrospect, that’s what they were. Distractions. And that revelation had me reevaluating the way I use my time on the internet.
The truth of it is, at one point in time, I loved talking about books and the industry and literature. Well the truth is, I still love talking about books and literature. However, as a published author, I feel that a lot of my conversation is restricted. This is a small industry after all, and authors always find out when someone publicly says something less than enthusiastic about their work. That makes it very hard to enter some of these conversations.
I also used to love keeping up on the industry and what different agents and editors were looking for. But once writing became my full time job, something shifted. It was no longer energizing or uplifting or stimulating, or even due diligence. It became a weight on my creativity. And now that I do this for a living, that creativity has an honored position in my house; front and center.
I am also not one to step into a hot topic and therefore tend to avoid the kerfuffles and occasionally vigorous conversations that swirl around the cybersphere. Recently a writer received some criticism for not making a public statement regarding a controversy pertaining to her book. Some people felt it was her job to argue for her book; she should have expected the need to engage in back and forth regarding her work. Honestly? The mere thought of that horrified me. I would rather have my wisdom teeth pulled than engage in a public dialog about my work. There is no way you can win that one. If you are lucky enough to have the objectivity needed, no one will believe that you do. But few people are that objective to begin with.
So I discovered that a number of my previous cyber haunts were mostly habit, they weren’t feeding my current needs, the needs of my career, or my publishing goals.
Yes, there is value to keeping abreast of market and industry considerations. To a point. But oftentimes people get waaaay too focused on that, long before they need to. Often before they’ve even finished a first draft of their manuscript. I am also very happy with my current agent and editor, so I don’t feel compelled to know what Publishers X, Y, & Z are looking for. There went another dozen sites and blogs.
I paid close attention to what sorts of interactions I was missing and have now decided to take some very smart advice from top marketing guru Seth Godin to heart. He talks repeatedly about excelling at one thing rather than diffusing your energies ineffectively over many. If you blog well or are a great tweeter, consider using the other platforms to support that primary focus, rather than spreading yourself too thin over all of them. I enjoy blogs, even though many claim they are passé. I like the longer length of the blog format, for both reading and writing so that is where I am spending my energy.
I know there are many introverts who use it successfully, but Twitter still strikes me as a very extroverted media. You have to enter into hundreds of conversations at once, and as Deva Fegan said in a recent blog post, sift through mountains of data to find the few applicable nuggets. Twitter advocates will tell you that being a part of that conversation is where the true benefit of Twitter lies, but to me it is the cyber equivalent of a ginormous cocktail party with all of its required small talk, so I've decided to take my publicist's advice and use it to augment my blogging rather than feel it is something I need to fully embrace.
Now clearly these were my criteria and what worked for me, but I thought I'd share some of the questions I asked myself when considering which blogs and sites to eliminate. Maybe you’ll find them helpful at some point when you want to re-evaluate your cyber habits and see if they are in line with your own publishing goals.
Which blogs/sites/platforms feed my process? Which don’t?
Do I really need this type of information at this point in my career?
Is this information stuff I can actually do something with? If not, does it add too much anxiety or background noise?
How does it make me a better writer?
Does it make me more effective in reaching my intended audience?
Does it pertain to my specific marketing path and personal career goals?
Mitali Perkins is someone who has become quite an industry presence, but she also tweeted over 50,000 words last year. Another blogger I know spends 30 hours a week on her blog. Look at your own personal career goals and ask yourself if this is really where you want to spend your energy. It is very possible that it IS where you want to spend your energy, and if so, fine. But just make sure it is your choice and your decision, not a default setting. It all boils down to our limited amounts of energy, and this is especially true for introverts.
I'd be curious to know what blogs/sites/haunts other introverts have on their must read list. Most especially the ones you do simply because you love them or they feed some part of your process or soul. For example, one of mine is Nathan Bransford's blog, even though I am not in the market for an agent nor do I think he represents what I write--but I love his blog voice and his general outlook on life and all things publishing. I read Deanna Raybourn's blog because I love her books and her daily blog voice simply entertains me. What about you?