How to Miss a Writing Career and a Whole Lot of Other Things…

The importance of social media for a writer can not be ignored.  As we are learning, it is essential for our careers.  That being said, even social media needs to be a balanced, well planned, addition to your writing and illustrating schedule.  Everything within reason, right?

At times, practically everyday, I’ve been known to waste usable writing time on twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc… And, I seriously DO NOT have any time to squander.  Don’t get me wrong, if you are spending the majority of your time on social media in the focused, productive ways that my co-bloggers and I have been working diligently to share- please continue.  All of us at SCBWI applaud you.

Social media is a tool, a very useful tool, when used productively and with purpose- which, yikes, I haven’t always been doing.  How am I going to accomplish the long list of goals I have for the upcoming year- Especially, if I spend too much time perusing social media, my phone, and the internet?  The answer is, I’m not.

In my pursuit to find focus, I began to observe my daily habits and the habits of my family.  What I saw was astounding, and slightly heartbreaking.  I am missing out on a lot of quality writing time (not to mention family time).  And, it’s a two way street.  My children, all teenagers, are also missing out.  Why?  Because, during the rare “free time” that we get, we are consumed by our electronics- our cell phones, laptops, and i-pads.

And, are we happier for it?  I would say, “NO.”  On the contrary, this constant interruption, distraction, and comparison is actually hindering us. This watching type of existence breeds anxiety and self-consciousness.  When we are tuned into all the devices that foster escapism, we are not truly living in the present.

As a mother, I’m constantly monitoring whether or not my children get enough vitamins, exercise, and quality experiences.  Are they challenged?  Most importantly, are they happy and will they understand how to make themselves happy- that they have to choose it?  I want them to see the greatness that lives in every tiny moment, in every breath- to stop being external observers and choose to be active participants.

I want to foster thankfulness in my children and I realized that unless I find a way to encourage them (and myself) to tune in to the present, their thoughts are going to be stuck in the past or drifting to the future.  I need to find a way to slow it all down, or the present will continue to slip away-unnoticed and unappreciated.

Beyond all the practical reasons that living in the now is beneficial for daily living, it can also enhance creativity and productivity.

Living in the now requires discipline and, for whatever reason, I’ve been lacking  that lately.  So, I’m on a mission to get it back- like immediately.  For a portion of the day, I’m choosing to minimize activities that dull my awareness: television, internet, daydreaming, and (dare I say it) books.  These are all escapes that foster a lack of real connection.  I’m relegating them to the position of accessories and choosing not to make them priorities during this specific period of time.  My new mantra will be, “avoid distraction.”

Also, I realize that in order to improve my performance, I need to stop thinking about it so much.  What?  Seriously, if you are anything like me (which I hope is not the case) you can think too hard about what you’re doing and actually perform worse on your chosen task.  I have several half completed novels sitting on my desktop that are perfect examples of this. This year, I vow to complete them (or a couple of them)- one by one without re-reading from the very beginning every time I boot up my computer.  I’m just going to finish the suckers without obsessing over the editing.  At least, I’m really going to try.

As artists, many of us have honed our observational skills.  But, have we taken it to the next level? The key is participation, not just observation.  The world is constantly changing and just making ourselves aware of these subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) changes can ground us in the here and now.  Also, those fresh thoughts, fresh images, fresh ideas ARE WHAT AGENTS AND PUBLISHERS ARE LOOKING FOR.  They want to hear the unique voices and see the images of people who view the world differently.

The ability of the human mind to separate itself from the present is one thing that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.  That pays off in terms of learning from the past and planning for the future.  But, unless we learn to harness all that momentum, we’ll miss out on a lot of happiness that’s taking place right here in the present.

So, stop reading this blog and get to work people:)

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3 Responses to How to Miss a Writing Career and a Whole Lot of Other Things…

  1. Mike Crowl says:

    I applaud your reasonable approach to the social media side of writing! As I write this on my laptop, I am propped up in a recliner, the television is on, and my wife and daughter are chatting, occasionally mentioning my name, at which point I glance over my glasses and join in. It’s tough these days to get that dedicated family time, so savor it while you can.

    Your observations on “over-thinking” things gets me into trouble at work all the time, so that is something I’ve been working on. Sometimes it’s just better to dig in, let the greatness come out, and fix things up later. You never know. You might even get that brilliant, creative twist on your story that just wouldn’t come out before. I’m finding it fun to work without a net!

    As I read blogs, pages, books, and other sources on writing, I find it really difficult to figure out how much engagement with social media is enough, and how much is expected. Let me just say, your post is very well done and very much appreciated. Thanks!

  2. Larissa Graham says:

    Thanks for your kindness. I envy your ability to “work without a net.” It is a skill I’m still developing.

  3. Laura Bowers says:

    Yep, as someone whose boys are both in college, I can’t agree more! Time goes by so quickly and I value the memories made with my family a thousand times more than published books on my shelf or perfect blog posts. 🙂

    Balance. That’s my goal this year. Finding balance!

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