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Twitter & Missing Out

This year has been a difficult one in a lot of ways, but a busy (in a mostly good way) one, too. Which means I haven’t spent endless hours scrolling through Twitter like I used to.

Gratuitous autumnal Allegany State Park shot of a beaver swimming toward me.
Gratuitous autumnal Allegany State Park shot of a swimming beaver.

This is definitely not an anti-Twitter post – I am so grateful for what it’s made possible! I’ve met so many amazing writer friends and critique partners through Twitter, through contests and writing groups. In fact, I think I’ve met all of my CPs, past and present, through Twitter one way or another.

And the supportive writing community is immense. How encouraging is it to know, as a writer, you can peruse Twitter at any hour of the day or night and find others around the world also writing, editing, struggling with a draft, and celebrating over a finished scene? Even if you’re not interacting personally, hashtags like #amwriting or #amediting or any of the thousands of writing groups out there are such an unbelievable source of encouragement we’re privileged to have access to right now.

However.

Because this has been a really crazy year for me, and because I’ve committed to accomplishing more this year than in years past, I’ve not spent time on TweetDeck and kept up with the fifteen columns I have on there like before. I check in maybe once a day, sometimes once a week, and have a look at my top three lists for a minute, and that’s it. Occasionally I spend more than a minute – just now I scrolled around for about five, and instead of feeling enlightened about whatever topics are being discussed or who ate what for lunch, I felt like I was missing out.

This post is basically me having a stern talk with myself.

It’s not just that I’ve not had time therefore I’m missing all the info-sharing and friendly banter . . .  that’s been a constant for the past year for me. I also felt I was missing out because everyone on Twitter is telling me the good stuff – their book deals, their agent signings, their book tours, their awards, their cover reveals.

I want to keep up with it all, and I want to celebrate with them, but if I don’t religiously check in, I’m sure to miss tons of this news, and by the time I see it, I feel like a jerk for not having commented sooner. And yes, I do feel the temptation to compare where I’m at with their fabulous news. But I just can’t. Life is too short. Life’s too short to spend all of it on social media – but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss it. When I do check in, I love seeing what’s making people laugh and what people are excited about. It’s the greatest way to be involved and encouraging and encouraged without even leaving the house, and sometimes, you just can’t.

This is everyone on Twitter celebrating all the good stuff.
This is everyone on Twitter celebrating all the good stuff.

 

This is me.
This is me.

But everyone’s day is different, everyone has different priorities, and if it’s a choice between spending 6 hours editing my current manuscript, getting to the gym, and having dinner with my husband and maybe meeting up with a friend, or being online throughout the day but not meeting my work goals, I have to choose the former.

I wish I had an extra hour a day to spend solely on the long-distance, never-ending conversation. Especially as one who has emigrated from her home country to a new one. The vast majority of my friends are still in the U.S., and I have to be online to be in touch with them. But that’s the struggle (if it’s a struggle – I think it’s also a blessing that we’re *able* to keep in touch across such distance in such an immediate way) that comes with moving around in the world.

All this to say, if you’re anything like me and maybe you’ve been choosing to spend more time on your own work, and on your immediate circumstances, it’s okay to do that, and to not feel guilty. I envy people who seem to be able to do it ALL: get the agent, the book deal, write and edit all day, go to workout classes, spend time with their families and friends, AND get online and have a massive community around them to engage with – daily.

Until I figure out how to fit all that plus sleep and me-time into 24 hours, I have to accept that there are choices to make, and most days – until I get the book deal and need to be promoting, that is (*heh*) – I need to mostly focus on the immediate work in front of me.

Second gratuitous autumnal Allegany State Park shot.
Second gratuitous autumnal Allegany State Park shot.

I know I need to make more time for the online relationships I’ve been grateful to be part of. I certainly don’t want to lose them! But I think social media stress is A THING, and finding that balance between nurturing relationships vs. living solely online and slashing productivity is a real challenge.

If you have any suggestions or tips on how to balance this stuff, feel free to share! 🙂 Until next time x

 

 

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In Which I Gush About My Friends.

On our recent, second hike up Buachaille Etive Mor, Glencoe, Scotland.
On our recent, second hike up Buachaille Etive Mor, Glencoe, Scotland.

It’s been a crazy few weeks with this whole moving-house thing. Into our own house. Yeah. I’ll probably say that phrase about 500 more times before we sell it and move back up to Scotland. 😉 I’m often fond of tallying my many moves – this marks my 32nd that I can remember. Not because I love to move. I despise it, in fact. It always makes me feel unstable, and a little lost. I guess I like considering how many times I’ve survived it in the past, because I still have yet to feel like this is THE move. But for now, it’s a biggie.

On top of that, my writing time has been sporadic yet I’ve been burning with flames.. flames, on the side of my face.. breathing, breath – heaving… Okay. If you’ve never seen the movie Clue, you’ve missed out on this classic bit from Madeline Kahn (Mrs. White). A-hem. Yes, I’ve been on fire with things to write and thanks to some guy named Murphy and his law, that’s precisely when I’ve no time to do it.

That said, this past week a few friends – the kind I never see because I’m an ocean away – have been instrumental in helping me see I should not give up. Brad, Joy, and Kerry, thank you so much for the kind words. More than that, thank you for sharing your valuable time, and in some cases, own struggles with me. In general, I am so grateful to have wonderful CPs, and rad friends who might not write but don’t mind reading. 😉

In the midst of some recent annoying self-doubts, everywhere I’ve turned – the awesome writer blogs I follow, random devotional books dotted around the flat, a quote on a daily calendar my Mom thought to share with me – things keep jumping out that smack aside those doubts and tell me to just get on with it. So yeah… it’s been busy, but it’s been good, I think.

I hope your October is off to a great start, and if you’re a fellow writer, get those NaNo plans in place! 🙂

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Why receiving online feedback is fantastic. And why it can suck.

Oooh, controversial!

I recently posted the first few paragraphs of MS#1 online, on a website whose lovely writer host features regular contests that not only get agent attention, but allow readers to add their own feedback.

I know that I, more than anyone, need feedback to progress and grow as a writer. I’ve no shame in admitting this because it’s absolutely true! I need all the help I can get! High school English was a long time ago. I’m no grammar wiz. Often I make foolish mistakes and although I *know* better, my brain rushes through it without considering. I think a lot of writers do this. (Maybe? Or is it just me). Especially when we’ve written some parts so long ago that we don’t even properly see them anymore. Can I get an amen?

In this day and age we writers have more opportunity than ever before for exchanging feedback. There are thousands of websites for writers out there, with forums and mailing lists and match-ups for betas and CPs. Twitter and Facebook and other social networking sites help us find people who will tell us what we need to hear, in the way that helps us the most. I’m SO grateful to the people I’ve met so far, whose writing inspires me, and whose feedback pushes me! (You know who you are :))

But I’ve decided one arena in which a writer can trade feedback is not for me. The “contest.”

No one likes to receive flippant criticism. When someone tells me they think something needs to change, I’m delighted to understand where they’re coming from and make the change because it improves my story. I’ve had another person point to the same paragraph (possibly for the same reason, but I’ll never know) and basically say, “This sucks, I don’t understand it. I couldn’t get past it.” That doesn’t help me make it better.

So in this most recent contest, several of the comments I received were complimentary and encouraging, pointing out things they might change to improve, offering advice but also saying what they liked–all so very much appreciated. “This is where I tripped up, but maybe try this.” In leaving my own feedback for others, I chose genres and styles that I like to read, so that I could more easily suggest ways to improve. I don’t read much crime, so I skipped those.

What I don’t like is that contests like these are reciprocal. If your entry gets in, you are kindly asked to comment/critique on so many other entries as well. While this is requested in a spirit of fairness, it can backfire. It can cause pointless feedback because some people out there are just there to get feedback on their work and couldn’t give a flying patootie what other people do (and while I think the writing community is mainly generous and kind, those sorts of people exist everywhere). So they do it in a half-hearted, snippy, flippant way. And not only have I seen these responses confuse and frustrate other writers, you guessed it, it confuses and frustrates me. It’s easy to let emotions get in the way of clearly seeing work that is our heart’s expression. If someone says “this sucks”, then it must suck, right? Who am I to argue with Random Person X? And when you go down that trail, you’re liable to cut entire chapters out for no reason other than frustrated shame and self-doubt. But if that person is sitting across a coffeeshop table from you, typing an email, or responding in a forum, it’s much more comfortable to say, “Well, can you tell me why, and how you would change it?”

I went back and re-read a lot of the comments left on others’ work, and saw a bunch of similar feedback. It makes me want to go around to each and every one, clarifying what that person might’ve meant but didn’t say. Because nothing is more frustrating than thinking something’s wrong, but having no idea what or how to fix it. I can relate to this!

While I love getting my head down and charging full speed ahead, I need others along the path to see what I can’t see. Preferably others who *like* to help.

As a friend pointed out, often times these public critiques nurture bandwagon-mentality. “Yeah, I agree with Jane Doe up there. That paragraph is so out of place!” Well, did you think so when you first read it, or did you think so because Jane Doe said so? And I ask that in all seriousness. I need to know. I want to grow as a writer, but I find that situations like this cause more doubt than they do assurance that change is needed (or not).

And because these comments are sometimes made out of obligation, to tick off the numbers, they’re often things like, “Well, I don’t like this genre,” or “I can’t read books written in this tense.” Well…I don’t expect everyone to like the genre or tense I’ve chosen, and this is a contest for a variety of genres. It doesn’t help me to know that Joe Blogs doesn’t like present tense. I’m not going to change *that*. Sorry!

While I’ve gratefully received some beautiful gems in the feedback in this and past contests, I think the wrong mentality can easily be applied. In a forum, people aren’t given restrictions (usually) on how much to comment and critique. I tend to believe their feedback is genuine, and because their name is linked in the forum to their own posts, I can easily click to see what they’ve submitted. I think it’s safe to say everyone appreciates honest, helpful, friendly feedback. Sometimes it’s hard to swallow it, if it means making major changes. Tough; that’s life. And we want to grow, right? But it’s so much easier to anonymously post feedback on something because you have to, knowing that your identity isn’t linked to your OWN writing (in most cases).

I hope I don’t sound bitter! I’m actually happy because this means it’s one less avenue for me to explore, and makes it easier to focus on the blogs and avenues that I know do help me: one-on-one critiquing and specific forums. I feel much more at ease giving feedback in an email or chat or forum without feeling like 400 people just read a flippant remark and nodded, “Yeah. She sucks. NEXT!” I don’t need the world to see my writing before it’s published. Just the people who can help me make the changes I need to make to get there 😉

I will still love reading these kinds of posts and commenting on other brave souls’ shared work, because I know how good it feels to have someone put a finger on the things you’ve been unable to name, or for someone just to give you a pat on the back and say, “I like this; maybe try this here; clarify this; and keep at it!”

What feedback experiences have been the most helpful to you? Have contests worked for you? Specific online forums? Face-to-face groups? Emails between betas/CPs? I’d love to hear how other people seek out their feedback, and seek to give it. I LOVE reading others’ work and feeling like even one thing I suggest can help someone improve their story. It’s not always easy to receive, especially when you’ve poured years into something, but I don’t think it can be a truly solitary venture. Even if you work alone and never see your CPs face-to-face, it’s a fact that we get so close to our own work that we have to have others show us what it looks like, by lifting that mirror and telling us the things we’re not able to see with our own eyes. But I also think it works differently for everyone. So, sayonara, contests. Thanks for showing me how I work best.

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July #writemotivation

At the end of April I came across the hashtag #writemotivation on Twitter and while I’ve been a bit wary (read: uneducated) about hashtags in the past, this one caught my eye. A bit of research into it later, and I was signed up for the May #writemotivation. This meant that I was putting my writing goals out there, published on K.T. Hanna’s blog – the genius behind this group – and my own. Despite knowing I was getting married and and going on my “minimoon” in May, I made some lofty goals.

If you’re reading this, a writer, and are unfamiliar with #writemotivation, check out K.T. Hanna’s blog. I highly recommend you sign up next time around! The basic premise is keeping others motivated via Twitter and blog commenting and checking on on each other’s monthly goals. Writing can be so solitary, and I feel like this was just the social boost I needed. The people are LOVELY and I’m so glad to have found the group.

So since I’m not getting married this month (sadly, as it was a total BLAST), I am dedicating myself to getting the majority of the rest of my WIP first draft finished. Here are my July goals:
1. Finish new round of edits to MS #1.
2. MS #1 x5.
3. Finish edits to WIP to Chapter 9.
4. Write 10k in WIP.
5. Balance job hunting with writing, CP/Beta work, and blogging. Be realistic!

The last one might be trickiest. I’ve taken on another CP and another Beta – happy to have found them! But this means I’m still finishing (but delaying finishing, at the same time, as I’m enjoying them WAY too much) the OUTLANDER series, while reading several other WIPs/drafts of other writers. And regardless of my writing goals, I still need to spend time on the job hunt. I’m hoping we can relocate to Scotland so I’m looking for jobs there – but this job hunt-around, I plan to be very picky about what I apply for, spend an entire afternoon if I can on each application, and focus on what would be worth moving for. Also still looking for work in the Bristol area, though I feel like I’ve been beating my head against the wall in that respect for over 2 years now.

So I’ve got to be realistic, but I know I can do this. No big plans; I can’t go away this month because the UK Border Agency has my passport as they process my new visa (don’t get me started on the nerves!!), and part of me knows that even if I get an job interview this month, I don’t know how well it will go without my passport in hand to show them. So I’ve got plenty of time and NO EXCUSES 🙂

I will be doing the rounds on all my fellow #writemotivation writers’ blogs and Twitter and hope to see yours soon 🙂

Photo credit to Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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