Sunday, December 19, 2010

Introvert's Holiday Survival Guide

Tis that season again, the season where introverts everywhere must dig deep to find the energy needed to survive the holiday--or pray they get snowed in!

In an effort to give you some tools to survive the holidays, I am re-posting our Introvert Holiday Survival Guide! 

1. Find a quiet spot in your day, even if it is just for five minutes, and allow yourselves to just be…still, calm, centered. At least for five minutes. A true gift to yourself.

2. Tell everyone you’re going Christmas shopping, but instead indulge in an hour alone with a warm, soothing drink as your only company. No, it's not being selfish; you will have more energy and heart to deal with all your holiday demands if you take care of yourself! Trust us on this.

3. Give yourself some time this holiday—even just fifteen minutes—to do some writing or dream or make big plans for the coming year.

4. If your time is too frazzled to actually make progress on your manuscript, consider personal journaling or maybe even character journaling. Journaling your character's thoughts and feelings can be a great way to stay connected to your WIP without having to actually produce pages. In fact, one of my favorite writing exercises one year was this: Choose a character you’re currently working on and write his or her Christmas wish list.

5. Don’t forget ear plugs. They can be a lifesaver. Especially when the TV is blaring, the kids are playing too loudly, or the snow-blower is going down the street.

6. Don’t forget to plot—plot for a few hours solitude, plot for a quick escape, plot to get everyone to leave early. . .

7. Naps! Either a long luxurious two hour nap where you sleep hard enough to get bed head, or quick refreshing pick-me-up of a 20 minute cat nap, allow yourself a luxury of a nap. Special Perk: Writer + nap = work. (Or at least, that’s what I’ve managed to convince my family.)

8. A plea on behalf of all the introverted children out there in the world—for introverted children, having to get up in Santa’s lap and TALK to this perfect stranger, usually IN FRONT OF other perfect strangers can be the six year old equivalent of public speaking.

9. Fill your holiday well by doing the things that make your holiday feel complete and yours. Remember, this is not self-indulgence, it’s self-preservation. It’s also a way to honor the spirit of the holidays in a way that has personal significance for you. Better yet if it is something that no one else really cares for: a local production of The Nutcracker, Watching Love Actually (my favorite Christmas movie EVER), a certain collection of holiday music that makes everyone else groan when you put it on.

10. Don’t forget to recharge your batteries—and no, we don’t mean Duracell or Eveready! We really can’t state this one strongly enough. It’s something introverts have to be vigilant about during the best of time, but during the holidays, it is critical! Take the time to recharge your battery! Do not risk depleting your reserves! (Yes, that’s an order. Or maybe just a sternly worded warning: Whichever makes you most inclined to follow it.)

11. Enjoy the dead zone between Christmas and New Years, when life kind of stops—or at least slows down. It’s a fallow, fertile time when we’ve just capped the year with a celebration and have yet to start the new year with all its resolutions, plans, and intentions. It’s a time for dreaming, reflecting, of reviewing and savoring. If you haven’t had a chance to refill your well or recharge your batteries, grab some time now, while everyone is in this lulled state.

Wishing everyone a fabulous end to 2010 and an even MORE fabulous 2011! We will be signing off until next year (I have a mss due on Wed., and haven't EVEN started getting ready for Christmas yet!). We'll return on January 10, 2011 with lots more thoughts and interviews and profiles.

(Also, if you are a regular Shrinking Violet blog reader and have a book coming out in the firsts three months of 2011, send me a quick email with a copy of your cover. I'll be updating the sidebar for the new year!)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Online Persona Workshop Week Eleven: Wrapping Up

Phew! You made it! You stuck with this workshop for all eleven sessions! Hurray YOU! (And yes I know, eleven is a strange, untidy number, but that’s how the cookie crumbled.) Hopefully you’ve gained some insights not only into why and how you are online, but also discovered some of the different layers and aspects of your self and how they might interact with your professional online presence. If not, well, you can repeat the course as many times as you’d like and no one will be any the wiser. ☺

Someone had asked a few weeks ago in the comments what sorts of numbers and metrics to shoot for in terms of followers. How many new followers/friends should we aim for each week? Month? Year?

The truth is, while I love measurable metrics as much as the next person, (Hel-lo Amazon Bookscan numbers!) I’m not sure this is the best way to approach your list of followers & friends. The thing we’re after here is building meaningful connections. It is much better to have a small, dedicated, truly interested group of 500 friends & followers than it is to have 1,000 who are all just mutually following each other to inflate their numbers. So . . I’m not going to answer that question. I think a much more effective approach—and saner—is to focus on the quality of the interaction between you and the community you are building.

Having said that, I also know it will not be enough to satisfy the truly metric-centric among you, so I will say that there seems to be a general sense that if you can garner 1,000 dedicated followers, that then you begin to have something. (If you Google 1,000 followers you’ll see lots of talk about it, but basically the concept revolves around a committed, dedicated core of true fans, not mutual number-padders.)

The truth is though, not all of us will find 1,000 followers—at least not for a long time. It takes a lot of work and stick-to-itiveness, very much akin to building a writing career. It will also depend HUGELY on your genre and who your ultimate audience is. Genres that are able to interact directly with their audience online (YA, romance, fantasy) will be able to build a following faster than those who rely on gatekeepers (PB, MG).

The vast majority of us will have friends and followers who find us after they’ve read our books and decide to seek us out online. We want to be sure and have a solid presence ready for them when they do. Another, smaller percentage of us will manage to build a significant online presence that will then lead our friends and followers to our work. You have to decide for your own self and your own path where you will put your energy. Where you WANT to put your energy. For every person who found a book deal through their blog, there are many more who sold the book first and developed on online presence to interact with the readers that book brought looking for them.

Where do you want to spend your emotional and creative resources? This isn’t a trick question and there isn’t one right answer. You have to do a cost/benefit analysis of how maintaining an online presence fits into the current stage of your writing career. If you are getting up at 4:30 every morning to write before work, then falling asleep at night sometimes before your kids do, then time is probably your most precious resource right now and best not to squander it. Better to spend your time learning the craft and pursuing your dream. But if your engine is set to high idle and you’re just raring to go, by all means, dive in and being putting some of that energy to work for you in building a social media presence. You can absolutely have a two-pronged approach to establishing your career!

By the same token, as an introvert, if your day job or family demands simply consume all your social energy, then you have to really think about whether or not you can be effective online if you’re socially drained before you even log on. On the other hand, if you feel isolated and alone and desperate for the company of other writers as you journey on your path, then you probably have a lot to gain.

One other thing that I think is worth mentioning is that there have been a rash of brilliant, honest, and soul-bearing posts lately about the ups and downs of the writing life and its demands. From the soul sucking experience of being out on submission for months and months to the very human feelings of envy and jealousy that nearly every writer experiences, to honest, realistic exposés of what the reality of being published is like when compared to our dreams. Take the time to read these posts and let them be an important counterbalance in your head to the constant inner whispering and urgings to go faster, do more, don’t fall behind, they’re pulling ahead, she has more followers, he has more blog readers. Just. Stop. Don’t only listen to (and try to keep up with!) all the success stories you see on the internet, but use the experiences of those who are willing to be honest as cautionary tales of what to avoid.

Most especially, don’t spend so much time and energy focusing on the cliques you don’t belong to and the friends & followers you don’t have, that you ignore or take for granted the ones that you do.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Online Persona Workshop Week Ten: Friends and Followers

Because we all start from different places and come from different stages of our career, I’ve tried to bring a variety of guest bloggers on to talk about how they built their community of followers and friends. I have intentionally avoided including anyone who has thousands and thousands of followers because here at Shrinking Violet, it’s all about the baby steps.

Today we have some more tips and suggestions from Lisa Schroeder, Sherrie Peterson, and Becky Levine. As you read today’s tips, you’ll notice some repetition of suggestions and themes. This is not an accident; there really are a few key things that you simply have to do in order to build a following, no matter what stage of the game you’re in.

We’ll start with Lisa Schroeder, who not only has published four YA novels, (Chasing Brooklyn, Simon Pulse 2010) but a MG series and a picture book as well. Inevitably when I’m reading a comment at another blog that makes me nod my head and marvel at the wisdom and insight, it is one of Lisa’s comments. Her top two suggestions for cultivating online connections are:

1) Take a genuine interest in other people and connect with them as much as possible from a human perspective, not just an author perspective. Comment on blogs when you read something you find interesting, even if it's just to say thanks.

2) The best blogs are inspirational, educational or funny, or a combination of the three. They give something back to the blogging community. Be intentional about your blog while being true to who you are.

Sherrie is a pre-published author who started blogging about two years ago and totally impressed me with how quickly she developed a friendly, polished blogging presence and impressive following. She attributes her blogging and online success to the four Cs. (Also? She just landed an agent this week, a HUGE step in any writer’s journey! If you get a chance, do check out her excellent post on why you shouldn’t give up.)

When I first started blogging I found a Comment Contest hosted by Mother Reader and Lee Wind. The idea was to visit blogs of the people participating and leave a comment in the spirit of driving more traffic to little-known blogs. I signed up and visited at least three different blogs every week day for a month. I commented on posts that interested me and quite often, the people I visited would visit my blog, like what they saw, and become followers. You don't have to be part of a contest to comment on blogs. Just be sure that your comment is sincere. Instead of saying things like, "Great post!" let the author know what specifically you liked about it. Meaningful comments build relationships between bloggers.

Make sure you have information on your blog that people want to read. Think about the blogs you follow. Do you go there for writing tips? Interviews? Book reviews?For the author's sense of humor? Find your own niche and then add your personal flair. Blog readers tend to gravitate to blogs that infuse personality with useful information. Nobody wants to hear every detail of your personal life, but if they get a sense of YOU, then they'll have more of a personal investment in your site.

Pick a schedule and stick to it. I've never posted a schedule on my site, but if you look at my Google stats, you'll see that most of my hits come on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. People know that those are the days I have new posts up and they come looking for them on a regular basis. If you can only post once or twice a week, that's okay. You don't need to make excuses for your busy life, just make sure that you consistently provide great content for people who come to visit.

Cooperating with other bloggers for special events like the Comment Contest I spoke of earlier will drive traffic to your blog. Whether you decide to sponsor a contest with a few blogging buddies or sign up for Agent Appreciation Day or another type of blogfest, working with other bloggers raises the profile of everyone involved.

And we're going to end with three terrific tips from Becky Levine, the author of THE WRITING & CRITIQUE GROUP SURVIVAL GUIDE (Writer's Digest--January, 2010) and is one of the most connected people I know of online. (Seriously? I don’t know how she does it and often wonder if she’s developed the secret to cloning and simply hasn’t told us about it.)

-Take a few seconds to leave a comment on an update or three that you agree with, that made you laugh, that hit a chord. People will notice you're there, be happy for the comment, and will come back to read your updates and get to know you better.

-Go ahead and take a tiny risk every now and then. Put something out there that's funny or friendly or just goofy, and don't worry about whether everybody will agree with you. We're usually much harsher in judging ourselves (negatively) than anyone else will be.

-If you're in doubt as to whether you "should" post a particular update, or make a specific comment, think about whether you'd feel good about saying the same thing out loud, in public, face-to-actual-face with this other person. People can get their feelings hurt, or become angry, just as easily in a virtual world as in a "real" one. And in social networking, there is a much bigger crowd watching and listening.


And just in case that isn't enough terrific advice, I've got some links!

A recent #YALITCHAT on Twitter that discussed social media.

And Jane Friedman always has fascinating things to say about being online. I don't always agree with her (although often I do) but I always love to hear what she has to say. Here's a link to some of her posts on building an audience. Her suggestions can be a little overwhelming for an introvert, so only pay attention to those that resonate with you. (Always a good guiding principle.)