Monday, February 7, 2011

Social Networking--Help or Hinderance?

A few years ago, I heard about this new marketing concept called social networking. Being an independently-published author, I'm always looking for different ways to promote myself and my works, and thought, "Hey, this sounds like a winner. The perfect way to reach hundreds of people I wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to connect with." Immediately I set out to establish myself on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I even checked out MySpace and considered filming a book trailer to place on YouTube. "If you're gonna do it, do it right," I told myself. Several times a day I logged in to check status updates, send tweets, and accept friends and followers. It seemed not an hour would pass without my doing some sort of social networking activity. I found old friends from days gone by, made new friends, and became a social networking diva. I was sure to begin selling more books than I'd ever imagined. Everyone would want a copy, and I might even connect with a big publisher who would sign me to a million dollar contract. Yes, I would become a household name, all because of social media.

Then one day I woke up and realized one important element of the equation was missing. I was so caught up in trying to promote my books via these sites that I had neglected to keep writing! I was telling everyone to buy books one and two in the series, and that book three was "coming" when, in reality, I hadn't even begun the manuscript. What was to happen when everyone in my social media circle had read the first two books and there was no end in sight for the third? I also realized that much of my social networking had nothing at all to do with my books or the fact that I was an author. I was so caught up in Sally's new puppy or Joe's wedding photos that I was using up the valuable free time I once used to pursue my passion. Social networking for me had become more of a hinderance than a help.

The moral of the story? There is a time and place for everything. If you want to participate in social networking, then by all means, go for it. Have fun, talk to your friends, enjoy your time. However, don't forget to also set time aside for writing. It may mean limiting the number of minutes (or hours) you spend on Facebook or only 'tweeting' three times a day instead of ten. It may mean actually writing out a schedule for your day and making sure you stick to it. Some have even gone as far as to set a timer when they 'log on' to their networking site--when the timer goes off, they move on to the next task. As it did for me, disciplining yourself to use your time wisely may take some effort, but in the end, you will be glad you did---and so will your readers.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Looking Up

Above my desk hangs something I call my inspiration board. To anyone else, it probably appears as nothing more than a giant corkboard filled with pictures, newspaper clippings and the like. When I look at it, I see all the things that give me a reason for writing.

The idea for my inspiration board came last summer during a low point in my writing career. Somewhere along the way, I had convinced myself that no one wanted my books, my public speaking abilities were mediocre at best, and, due to a severe case of writer's block, I had lost the gift God had so graciously given me--if I had ever truly had it at all. Tired of wallowing in self-pity, I decided to give myself a pick-me-up and, with cash in hand, headed to my local Office Max for some new office furniture and supplies. A glass desk, padded chair, and the aforementioned corkboard accompanied me home.

As I set about the work of remodeling my office, God set about the work of changing my attitude. The top of the desk's attached shelving unit provided the perfect place to showcase my ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Silver Award certificate--proof that I really had "the gift" of writing. My two published novels, which I tucked away just a shelf below, reinforced that fact. Continuing to arrange and rearrange the room, I happened upon my file box where God pointed me toward a folder labeled "Fan Mail." I began to read the contents, and my heart was warmed by the notes which had so lovingly been penned by those who had been touched in some way by my work. Each one told me that there were plenty of people who loved what I was doing--and they were eager for more. Next came the "Reviews" folder; again, more reinforcement that I was, indeed, doing something right. Lastly, God decided to remind me that I, like many other authors, had a dream of seeing my stories on the big screen someday. I smiled and laughed at His sense of humor right then--Chuck Wicks was playing on my CD player--my "real-life Mitch." "Okay, God, I get it," I said aloud. "Thanks for reminding me."

Today my inspiration board is filled with those wonderful reviews, some of my cherished fan mail, a few of my newspaper interviews, and yes--pictures of Chuck. Now when I become discouraged, all I have to do is look up to be inspired, to know I'm worthy, and that there are people depending on me to keep going. Looking "up" is what I should have been doing to begin with.