Two things have happened lately.
- I have been on social media less because of my eye-diagnosis.
2. I’ve been a bit happier & have had more time.
I look at all the work indie authors/publishers have to do to stay relevant online. I see how the minute they stop they are forgotten. So in that sense it’s ephemeral and not lasting. We put in so much work and the minute we stop it stops! How does that make sense?
I was forced to stop being on social media as much because of my eye-diagnosis. I had never enjoyed social media much. I like being off-line more. Being chained to technology doesn’t feel good. Whilst I used to work in publishing full time and did so for hours, I don’t care to be on a computer all the time.
Being forced to be off-line more, freed me personally from the chains of expectation. I didn’t want to keep up with the 20 year olds who spent 18 hours a day online posting constantly, I don’t get enjoyment or satisfaction from Instagram (I hate it actually) or Facebook (ditto) I did it for my jobs.
WordPress I always found different. I love reading and writing. WordPress of all the social-media-sites (it really is so much more than that) was the only one I ever felt invested in. I choose to spend what little time I spend online on WordPress. I’m reading a lot more of your work and spending zero time making fatuous memes where you’re spending literally hours cropping and putting your work into little encapsulated boxes in the hope of gaining someone’s attention for a second.
A famous writer acquaintance of mine once told me some really good advice:
Even with a MASSIVE social media following only a miniscule percent of your ‘followers’ buy your work. Mathematically that seems to imply having a ton of followers will bring more sales, but in reality, the time you have to spend online, ‘garnering’ those followers (which is what most people do when they do reciprocal likes) takes SO MUCH TIME which you could have spent creating/writing.
The glut of authors selling their work online exceeds the interest individuals have in either the genre or purchasing multiple books.
(This applies to poetry not to fiction).
The five ‘famous’ authors I know, spend the least amount of time on social media platforms for this reason. It could be argued ‘real’ writers want to write.
It may seem like an oxymoron: (a) if you need a large social media following to get published yet (b) published (real) authors spend the least amount of time online. But it’s not because, a lot of people claim to be an author when in reality they’re someone who has time to write and does so. Being a writer means doing more than putting little memes and generating a following and publishers know that.
So whilst a degree of social media presence IS necessary, with the exception of young authors (who do live and die by social media) most ‘real’ authors WRITE and spend less time on social media as a consequence.
Obviously retired people and others, who are bored and spend hours online can’t be compared to say, someone who works a full time job and writes in their spare time. It’s the difference between a hobby because you have nothing else to do, and writing because you are a writer. Both can be legit writers. Interestingly most ‘famous’ or well known writers I have met, tend to work full time jobs and it’s the discipline of their writing that perhaps makes their writing even better. Yes I’m talking about you Tremaine.
When you go through bookstores online you could be forgiven for thinking ‘everyone is a writer’ and you wouldn’t be wrong. Since self-publishing and vanity-publishing is so du rigor these days. I belong to the old school perspective of what constitutes a writer, I think it takes immense focus and effort and TALENT.
That said, it doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with who is published. Often if you are: Young, beautiful, trendy, of the moment and adept at spending absurd amounts of time on social media you can secure a publishing contract, even make it to the top. Is this the same talent as say, a really hard working talented author? I don’t think so, but that’s been true in the art world since the beginning. It’s not always the most talented who succeed.
Fortunately it’s harder to ‘fake‘ the art of writing than say, the art of painting. So whilst there are terrible artists who succeed (to the disgust of those who can paint and have worked hard) I think there are less authors who can’t write who succeed. Some notable exceptions exist in poetry and most of us know who they are when we see them in the best sellers list and wonder how such insubstantial, short poetry can be so universally popular!
But a writer of fiction, to succeed, is usually talented. Thankfully.
I wrote poetry for years but never fooled myself into thinking I was a poet. I write poetry for catharsis and like a diary and also to express things I’m thinking about. Some of the poets I read aren’t very talented, although most think they are. I think I can write well at times, but my intention is too subjective and to be a really talented poet you need to be as objective as subjective. Able to write on subjects that have nothing to do with you. Even confessional poets must be able to do this. Hence someone like Jane Dougherty is a ‘real’ poet, ironically she doesn’t think she is, which I find reassuring and real.
I have a day-job so I didn’t just write poetry, therefore it wasn’t necessary for me to justify my existence through my poetry. Now that my eye-sight is failing, I am forced to cut back on how much time I spend online as well as change out what I used to do. I had literally just begun to realize I wanted to move away from poetry (employing it as I always have, as a refuge for emotions and no more) and begin to write more fiction. I have written one fiction novel (as yet unpublished) and begun another. I felt this was truly my goal above all else including my day job.
Whilst editing is edifying and mostly helping others get published and publishing on valued subjects, means a lot to me, I know I cannot work on this as I used to, because of my eyes. I will have to cut way back. It strikes me as ironic (a sign? Fate?) that just as I decided I wanted to spend less time editing/poetry and more on fiction/novels I find out about my eyes. My initial (negative) thought was: It’s a sign I’m not meant to write prose and should stop writing altogether. The only reason I didn’t do one of my infamous knee-jerk reactions and shut everything down, was I had committed to having a poetry book published by Finishing Line Press and that’s not until 2022!
My second thought was: Maybe it’s a sign I’m being published in 2022, staying my hand from making a rash decision. Maybe my eye-diagnosis doesn’t mean give it all up but CONCENTRATE on specific paths. Those days of over-doing it and working too much need to stop, for my eye-sight’s sake. The other thought I had was: Maybe I should be doing more psychotherapy (which doesn’t involve as much sight-based work, although you’d be surprised) instead of publishing/editing/writing but whilst I don’t live for writing like some people, I keep returning to it, so it must mean something to me.
I’m still navigating the changes but I’ve gone from a very deep well of despair and depression at hearing my eye-diagnosis to feeling I’m going to be the exception to the rule. Maybe this is wrong-headed but it’s how I’ve chosen to see it for now. It’s how I can cope. Especially given a frightening lack of support and family. I think seeing how much time I gave people in the past, who then were not there for me, has helped me want real.
Whilst the majority of my close friendships are people I met in real life, not through social media, there are some exceptions and they are very notable and worthy. I’m not saying everyone shouldn’t be on social media but for me personally, cutting back drastically has been the best thing I’ve done in a long time. There’s something very triggering about it for me, which is weird as I am usually so unflappable. Maybe it reinforces a sense of loneliness and isolation that I don’t feel when I’m getting on with it. Maybe social media is a stark reminder of how I don’t fit in. Either way, I haven’t felt that on WordPress which I think is great and I believe it’s because REAL writers are here, and they’re not making memes for 2 second claps and adulation, they are really writing.
Thank you to all who write on WordPress. Yes when I was banned from following WP sites, due to some unfair algorithm that decided I had followed too many people in one day and was completely unable to give me a second chance, I did take my site off WordPress and loop it back in via WordPress Reader, which does drastically reduce the number of people who read (I haven’t figured out why this is though? Let me know if you know!) and like your work (maybe it’s harder to do if your site is offline?) but despite this, despite how few people read, I am grateful to each and every one of you.
Somehow I hope to finish at least one more novel before it wouldn’t be smart to spend that much time on a computer. I don’t like the audio options for people with bad vision. I also intend to keep editing via my position @ Indie Blu(e) (IB) Writer-in-Residence @ Borderless Journal Guest Editor @ The Pine Cone Review. But I will be cutting way back on how many projects I take on. This year alone IB put out six books including three massive anthologies, we all agree it’s a little too much.
I can’t speak for everyone, but personally I have that drive to prove myself, maybe in part to make my mom proud of me even though she doesn’t have anything to do with me. I know that’s terribly childish but I’m just being honest. I’m going to try to remind myself that I shouldn’t get caught up in the ‘worth cult’ of these days, where we’re only as good as the last thing we did. That’s simply not true, I don’t believe it of others, so why am I subjecting myself? Much of it has to do with living in America, feeling as an immigrant I have more to prove.
When I grow up (!) I hope I am the kind of person who: Is content. Who doesn’t have intrusive thoughts of needing to do more. Who isn’t bored easily. Who doesn’t feel they’ve not achieved enough. Who can be peaceful and focus on those lasting valuable things like: Real friends. Giving back. Caring. Empathy. Contentment. I hope I can get rid of the voice that always says I’m not enough and can be proud of just being me. I’m not there yet. I may never be.
I want to cut the tie to comparing myself to people who are prettier, richer, have more friends, have more fun, don’t have depression and are loved by their families. I want to grow up. For me, due to not being strong enough to do it by myself, spending less time scrolling through IG or FB really helps. Why that petty shit even matters I can’t fathom. I think like most of us, I have a vapid side, easily affected, and a deeper side. I want to cultivate the latter. It may not bring me book contracts or many friends but hopefully, those I have, will be for life.
Thank you to all my real friends here. You know who you are and how much I value you, am inspired by you and treasure you.