We Are Never Getting Back Together

I’ve not written a single blog post since the world melted down and began pouring itself over us all like molten lava. Anyone who’s been alive recently knows what I’m talking about, so I won’t bore you with with sentence fragments like, “In these unprecedented times…” By now, heaven help us, the times are precedented.

I only stick my head out of the hole I dug a few months ago (whew! That was some foresight on my part) in order to say I’ve quit social media, specifically that dumpster fire known as Facebook, and I swear I’m not ever going back, no matter what. This is no biggie, of course, except that I also have a manuscript that’s being shopped to publishers as we speak. Being on Facebook seems to be the kind of virtue signaling publishers like. Seems to suggest you’re trying, that you understand how much selling books is your responsibility and not theirs.

But nothing, no book deal, not even a million dollars (I mean this), is worth being “connected” in this particular way. Especially not after the molten lava.

As my teenagers would say, stepping away from Facebook is my way of YOLO-ing it. In other words, I’m throwing caution to the wind, shaking my fist at The Internet, and quite possibly lowering my chances of getting traditionally published (even though everyone knows social media doesn’t sell books), and I’m super, duper not sorry.

I’ve decided that I want to be sane. Sanity is boring but peaceful, most of the time. If I have to choose between it and a book deal, I choose the former.

I’ll let you know if it makes any difference in the end.

P.S. I hope everyone is safe.

The Ennui of Presence

As I delve deeper into novel writing (and rewriting), I find myself growing quieter online. It has something to do with needing to limit mental distractions, yes, but it’s also about keeping my thoughts from draining out in a slow dribble to people I don’t actually know, thereby dissipating any creative energy I might have. The more I don’t say, the more I create, is what I guess I’m getting at.

The elephant in the room, of course, is that one needs an online presence in order to find readers for her work. I get that it’s boring to metaphorically turn my face to the sky and rip handfuls of hair out while a Hans Zimmer soundtrack plays in the background, but just know I’m over here doing it.

This guy has an online presence. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Because the less time I spend reading other people’s half-formed thoughts (and sending my own into the ether), the better I write. Or that’s my hunch, anyway.

There is absolutely no point to this post, except that I wish I knew what platform building actually is (and, yes, I’ve taken the marketing courses, so I know what experts say it is). I wish I knew if all of it had any real purpose or if it’s some Kafka-esque exercise in futility, and it turns out we’re all just wasting massive amounts of time while become dumber and less motivated to do anything real.

The irony isn’t lost on me that I’m sending these half-formed thoughts out into the ether for people I don’t know when I could be writing…

Surviving the Social Life

Am I allowed to say something that’s already been said a million times?

Okay. The internet is mean. Social media, at least. Twitter specifically. I’ve only dipped my toe in the social whirlpool in the last couple of months. Even then, I only did it because you know what “they” say: you have to be searchable to survive.

I can’t even call it a love/hate relationship cuz there’s no love.

Most of my interactions have been pleasant enough, up to this point, because I’ve worked hard to keep them that way. But today I felt the Twitter wind in my face when I least expected it. I’m not cut out for this kind of anonymous conflict (and, to be clear, I didn’t court it with thoughtless or mean words. I asked a follow-up question on someone’s post). I’m not a troll, but I was treated like one. The whole exchange left me confused and sad.

It’s one thing to develop a thick skin because I’m sending my manuscript out to publishers who might not understand it or (worse) ignore it. That kind of toughness makes professional sense, though it’s not easy to cultivate. It’s another thing to try and change my personality.

Today left me wondering if social media toughness is something I need or want to develop. And let’s say I can’t. Then what? Do I avoid the whole scene altogether? Is that publishing suicide?

What I know is this: writing is extremely important to me. But so is emotional wellness. I want to be published. But I also want to feel safe.

I continue to wonder if both things are possible.

On Getting Real

Everyone says a writer needs to be vulnerable with her readers–even if she’s making up a story. In fact, she should feel a little nervous about what she puts on the page if it means she’s telling the truth.

grayscale photo of woman covering her face by her hand
Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Pexels.com

On the other hand, we live in a culture where people share stuff that may titillate but doesn’t necessarily inspire others or elevate the conversation. And then there’s the (I believe) competing idea of professionalism. Do we really want to get deep with the authors we admire, or do we want a little distance? (I, for one, do not care about Graham Greene’s favorite beverage).

Still, I have to admit I consume vulnerable writing like I eat candy corn, which is to say, once I get started I can’t stop.

I’ve been following Penelope Trunk’s writing for years, and she seems like an emotional train wreck. I don’t say this to be hateful. She says it herself. She overshares and it often gets on my nerves, so I go long seasons of cutting her out of my life. But I always come back. Being emotionally vulnerable in your writing may not make others respect you, but it does make for good reading.

adult alone black and white blur
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

So I’ll share what I thought I wouldn’t: an agent turned down my manuscript last week. She included a personal note that felt like a backhanded compliment, but it stung and made me feel like a creative imposter. I didn’t know if I should say anything about it because what if that isn’t professional? But if Penelope can talk to the internet about being incompetent at life, I guess I can admit this.

Honestly, I don’t feel better now, but maybe it’s not about me, anyway.

On Surviving ‘Big Opportunities’ Part Deux

I’m back from the ACFW conference. After going to bed at 9 p.m. for the last two nights, I feel like I might be getting back to normal (it’s a process that involves a little crying here and there). The conference was rewarding, but it pushed this introvert fairly far as I shook hands, flashed my lanyard, and explained what my novel is about to people waiting to tell me about theirs. Each night I fell asleep with my mouth open, Golden Girls blaring on the hotel TV, while other conferees partied and swapped business cards.

Some takeaways: be prepared that your best laid plans might not be the ones you stick with, and that’s okay. Be nice to people, just because, and let them be nice to you. Don’t keep eating the spicy dessert because you can’t think of anything to say to the table full of strangers.

close up of human hand
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

More takeaways: my novel is interesting to agents. I will have to write a proposal. It’s good to be humble, but it’s also good to put yourself out there. Just because you want to keep “creative control” doesn’t mean you can’t compromise in order to get some help. Everyone defaults to Facebook when it comes to social media and building a brand except for one person, and she said YouTube was better. I’m trying to decide which of those I find more horrifying.

Final takeaways: my teenagers got taller in four days. God is good to me. I really, really like my own bed.

A Way Out

Oh, my goodness. Just when I’d made up my mind I needed a couple or three social media accounts in order to build an author platform, Austin Kleon comes along and reminds me why I don’t want to.

The conundrum (and, yes, I know it’s boring to bring up) is that to be a creative with an audience, you have to find people who might benefit from your work. In today’s world, that means finding them online. But to find them, you have to spend time thinking up ways to virtually “connect” on social media when you’d rather be exchanging ideas with an actual person.

And, look, you have to make the connecting feel real. Not too real because that’s weird. But certainly not fake.

photo of women taking picture
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

You have to do this while everyone else in the entire world is also connecting in the same giant room, at the same time, and you have to try not to feel too depressed that no one’s listening to anyone else.

It’s like going back to high school, only meaner, plus you will never graduate, and the principal is selling your data.

There’s got to be a better way to find your tribe. I don’t know what that way is. I’m just wanting to believe it exists.

Austin?