Have you ever read The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins? It’s a Dr. Seuss story, set in feudal times, featuring a poor boy named Bartholomew. One day while riding through a market, he removes his hat to abide by the law. Once he does, another hat appears in its place. The same thing happens repeatedly, each hat appearing more extravagant than the last, until eventually, the king offers him reprieve and riches for the spiffy 500th. Finally, the boy can breathe easy! The prize was worth the stress and confusion.
Bartholomew reminds me of modern-day writers. Each time we move forward in our careers, we expose more of ourselves, gaining riches and, very often, stress. Every achievement—finishing a draft, landing representation, publishing—seems to invite an additional part-time, or even full-time, job. But we still only have one head!
As some of you know, I first delved deep into social media engagement upon my agent’s suggestion. And holy schmoley, did it feel like a ton of work. I researched the various platforms like crazy and raced through Kristen Lamb’s books in two days, spending the little sleep I could manage in between dream-tweeting. I’m pretty sure I looked something like this:
Since then, I’ve learned ways to fit social media into my writing life without going padded-wall crazy. Over time, it’s felt less like enigmatic work, and more like an enjoyable blessing. I’m sure many of you can relate.
As with most aspects of our careers, it’s important to utilize social media practices that work for us individually. I thought I’d share practices that seem to work well for me, and invite you all to chime in with your fabulous thoughts.
The following habits help keep me productive and sane—pretty simple and straightforward:
1) Save social media for warmups, breaks and cool downs. Social media is for authors what stretching is for marathoners. Our blogs, Twitter and Facebook shouldn’t rule our time, or take precedence over our primary writing. Saving social media for downtime and breaks helps on multiple levels. Shifting gears helps keep our other brains and work fresh; engaging in social media can bring respite, support and fun.
2) Write your most important work when your brain works best. I went into detail on this topic in an earlier post. Basically, working hardest mentally during our “golden hour,” or when we tend to feel the sharpest and most creative allows us to make the most of our time. (I’d personally rather wake up at 5am and work like crazy until mid-day than write at night, when my brain is somewhat mushy.)
3) Take breaks from it ALL. This has been a tough one for me to master, but I’ve learned that working non-stop doesn’t help anything. We can be more productive, creative and efficient if we allow ourselves wiggle room and, you know, that thing called life. Music, friends and my dog help me stay semi-balanced. I’m super grateful for that.
4) Learn to say ‘no.’ This is a biggie. Saying ‘yes’ to too many other tasks or events says ‘no’ to writing time. While breaks and days off are invaluable, they won’t do much if we have scarce work-time left over. If you’re overextended, try cutting back, or ask others for help. If you feel guilty, remind yourself that self-care makes us more enjoyable to be around. (Totally true for me.)
5) Be yourself. Aiming for popularity rather than authenticity doesn’t work well on-line, in my opinion. If we view social media as an extension of ourselves, we don’t have to try so hard—which can stressful and time consuming. Since people tend to recognize and appreciate authenticity, being ourselves naturally attracts engagement and support. If you’re like most writers I know, you enjoy supporting others. So if for no other reason—of which there are many—do that, too.
6) Savor the path. Back to Bartholomew: the prize is in the bedazzled journey. If we enjoy the process, and aren’t crippled by fear or self-doubt, our treasures will only brighten. Sure, we might (okay, will) get criticized along the way. But if we take it all in stride, write because we love writing and remain gentle with ourselves, we’ll reap less stress and more joy. Every day may not be sparkly, but embracing the whole shebang can make it all worthwhile.
Related links you may find helpful:
5 Quick Facebook Tips for the Busy and Shy, by Gene Lempp
25 Things Writers Should Know About Social Media, by Chuck Wendig
I is for Introvert: How Do You Know if You’re an Introvert or an Extrovert? (and how it affects blogging), by Jenny Hansen
Have you found ways to manage social media without feeling stressed or lost for time? What works best for you?