As writers we know how hard it can be to stay in the writing flow and not succumb to the eighth deadly sin, procrastination. But with people now hanging out on Facebook and Twitter for up to six hours a day and the average user creating 90 pieces of content a month, it can be hard to stay in the writing zone and out of tempting hyperspace.
We are repeatedly told the importance of social networking in preparation for a publishing contract. Publishers want as much free publicity as possible and having followers on your blog, Facebook profile and Twitter account shows that you are able to interact online and already have an (albeit small) audience ready to read your work. Many serious writers know this already. Margaret Atwood has almost 134,000 followers and the Brazilian author Paul Coelho, has 1,157,000.
But these are two big household names and for the rest of us trying to get published, get noticed or simply put our writing out there isn’t social networking simply a distraction from writing? It’s so easy to follow a link and end up reading an interesting article from The Guardian about the new top twelve British novelists. (That was me recently and if you want to read more then click here http://bit.ly/i8B9ei) Ha, see how easy it is!
Too quickly it can become a distraction and soon you could be wondering why you left your character drinking coffee that tastes like coppers in a 24 hour café on Brighton seafront. The connections that were there half an hour ago can be erased when we become distracted, lose momentum and freefall into fanciful social networking.
Treat it like a work colleague not a best friend
I’m no expert on social networking and up until last week when I gave my novel to its first reader (I’m awaiting feedback, but that’s another blog post entirely) it just felt like a distraction from my writing. But now I’ve got some time to submerge myself in the world of Twitter for www.bethewriteryoudreamofbeing.com and my other profiles. I’ve read some interesting articles about the best way to tweet, gain followers and generally become popular among peers.
Before using EFT, I struggled with what to write, who would listen and how much to share, but one tip that stuck with me is to: treat the time spent online as if you are in a virtual office. Which led me to think about how we interact in an office.
You wouldn’t spend all day chatting to a work colleague in the same way you talk to a friend over a glass of wine. The conversation does not need to be constant and should be entered in when you:
- have something meaningful (or funny) to say
- it’s work related and
- it will help the other person in some way with their own tasks.
This simple tip has helped me manoeuvre away from spending hours on Twitter, following links and running out of time for my other projects. I’m still trying to build this habit – as you can see we only have a handful of followers for @bewriteon – but interacting with other writers, reading their blogs and joining in events such as the 10K day is building up a support network of other writers and has helped my own writing practice.
Finding the support of other writers: 10K writing day
This website holds two 10K writing days every month where writers can check in at various points of the day for international support and even to flaunt a high word count. It’s not a ‘serious’ event but is one example of the links you can follow on Twitter and end up finding a technique that could help your own writing.
Whether this 10K day is going to work for you depends on the type of writer you are, the genre you are working in and the stage of writing you are at. Ros and I have different views on this as when she is working within the poetry genre, a daily word count of 300 words is pretty impressive. Even working on prose, her usual daily word target is 800-1000. I, however, tend to write a huge amount quite quickly and edit heavily afterwards.
I also have a sales background and a profound love of targets so striving to hit a big number works well for me. On the January 10K day, I jumped out of bed and put on my favourite writing T-Shirt which has the slogan, ‘be careful or you’ll end up in my next novel’ written across it. I had also stocked the cupboards with high energy snacks (i.e. cake and chocolate). This approach paid off as I managed two SEO articles and edited three chapters of my novel which came to over 9000 words in nine hours.
Personally I loved the interaction with other writers who are also pushing word counts and posting supportive updates on their coffee breaks. When you throw EFT into the mix and tap for inspiration throughout the day, it clears your mind and gets you into the inspirational flow.
By joining Twitter and being focussed in your approach to find tips, opinions, and techniques you can soon build up a support network of other writers. This can be invaluable when searching for ideas for new blog posts, agency submission letters, competition deadlines and even when you just need some cheerleading from other writers. It is after all a solitary world that we writers live in and sometimes a quick connection can boost morale.
Free web-based software that can help you organise your mind
Still struggling to see how you can make Twitter your friend rather than foe? Try this free software and brain dump EVERYTHING on the first page. Then prioritise it doing what is called a Daily Target Praxis, catch ideas on the fly through the Dream Catcher, store tasks for later in your Mental Lock Box and set short, mid and long term focus points so that you can measure yourself against your goals.
I’ve even put things like ‘do washing up’ or ‘pay cheques in’ as often when I’m writing they buzz into my head and distract me. When you sign up to the site, they will send you A LOT of emails about their products but I send these to the spam filter and just use the free software available.
Simpleology.com helps you identify ‘time leeches’ and ultimately pinpoint where you are spending (or wasting) your precious writing time. Are you someone who has to check the live feed on Facebook every five minutes? Would you be better to allocate two 30 minute slots per day to post or read information? By exploring your own relationship with social networking you can discover new ways to make it work for you.
By becoming focussed in your approach to Twitter both in time and content research it can become a valuable friend who helps you with new writing techniques. Being honest and sharing witty updates rather than dry business chat can create an organic growth of followers and the precious list that publishers are after. Admittedly I’m still a beginner but by taking a focussed approach I can see how this social network can become my friend. Not a best friend you understand, more a work colleague.