The Next 100 Days Project

100 Days of Novel Revisions

In 2011, I went offline for a hundred days and blogged about its effects on me and my work. Now, for 2012, I’m going to do another 100 day project, but this time it will be attached to one of my goals, and that is to finish the revisions on my urban fantasy novel.

For a hundred days, regardless of what I’m doing (and where I am in the country), I pledge to open my manuscript every day and work on the revisions. If I can remove myself from most online interactions for a hundred days, then I can certainly spend almost a third of the year devoted to a story I love to pieces.

Some of this is going to be difficult because I do have some travel planned in January, February, and March. That’s part of the reason why I’m taking this project on now, instead of during lower travel times during the year, because I have no excuse. My challenge is balancing work (and life) with my original tales, and travel is just a small piece to that puzzle.

There are a lot of other reasons why I’m doing this, too, and some of those I’ll probably explore as we go. I’m going to blog about this in addition to whatever else I have planned, so it won’t be as much of an interruption for you as it was last time. (Thank you to everyone who requested blog topics, by the way. It helped immensely.)

The big thing to remember, is that this isn’t about how many words I pen or whether or not I get the revisions done, it’s about time. It’s about taking the time — regardless if it’s fifteen minutes or four hours — to put my butt in the chair, open this manuscript, and give it the love it sorely needs after my other obligations are done. Or, to put it another way, this 100 Days Project will take place after I punch out of my other work.

Wish me luck! The next 100 Days project will begin on New Year’s Day!

The Juggling Writer’s Social Media Blackout

Inspired by my 100 Day social media black-out experiment, author Christopher Joglund took the plunge and lived to tell the tale in two articles. The first is his initial wrap-up titled: 101 Days Without Social Media. The second is: After the Social Media Break.

There are a few things that really stood out to me in these posts. I thought this was a very powerful statement when Christopher says: “I like aspects of social media, but inside a couple months, I realized I could never see it again and be absolutely fine with that.”

Imagine. Maybe these tools aren’t that crucial to our lives. Maybe we (and others) are assigning value to them and, as a result, putting more time and energy into them because we think they’re that important. Christopher brings up the need to post updates and status for SEO (search engine rankings) purposes. Being in that world, I can definitely say that there’s a fair amount of pressure to do this. In my experiences, constantly posting social media updates to rank for specific keywords is pretty meaningless if there’s hardly any demand for that term and you don’t have a) a reason why you want to rank and b) quality blog content to begin with. (I could go on and on about ranking simply for the sake of ranking, but I’ll spare you that rant.)

What Christopher also shares is that social media was so ingrained into his daily routine, getting off of it allowed him to re-focus. Social media is a lot like gambling. You have to play to get “paid” or “rewarded” in replies, shares, retweets, opportunities and even money. For me, it’s that community feel that comes from my ability to connect with other people over larger and longer distances. In my corner of the universe, since I’m a part of the hobby games industry, that’s something I can’t do offline unless I go to a convention. For Chris, though, he wasn’t sure what, if anything, social media will do for his writing.

I also found this statement to be honest and compelling: “I can’t produce the quality of writing that I’m producing, lately, without the focus that comes from truly disconnecting from it all. Maybe you can, and I think that’s cool.”

For my own work, I’ve discovered that social media and the act of writing don’t mix well at all. It’s either rile up the crowd or create something for the crowd to be excited about. Two different mindsets (and separate jobs). Usually, when you see me online it’s because a) I have two monitors or b) I’m on a scheduled break or c) I’m using social media for a specific reason. Sure, sometimes I get carried away with the silly and stupid conversations, but that’s few and far between these days. Honestly, it often depends what’s more important to you. Is it crucial for you to be constantly talked about? Are you generating enough revenue to justify the time you spend on social media (and not writing or producing content)?

In his second article, Christopher also writes about the return of his ability to focus and the lack of noise. Loved reading that experience because I feel (and still do) exactly the same way. Taking a break from social media was the best thing I’ve done for my writing (and my sanity) all year.

I encourage you to give Christopher’s articles a read. Maybe a social media break isn’t right for you, but I’d love to see and hear from more authors who will take the plunge.

100 Days Social Media Black-Out: A Post-Mortem

Although my experiment has ended, the experience continues to ripple through my work habits, personal life and discussions with other authors. If you’re not familiar with the experiment, be sure to peer into my 100 Days: Social Media Black-Out Archives.

Several authors have come forward and told me that they were having the discussion about what social media was worth to them. A few of them, who are highly-visible, talked about the negative side effects of being too accessible, too.

Why am I telling you this? Because these conversations brought up a few, interesting points. The accessibility issue may be causing normally “sane” authors to act insecure with knee-jerk reactions or worse…sneaking doubts into the work itself. The sheer bombardment of information — both positive and negative — can be overwhelming, which is what happened when I wrote on the subject of insecurity and writing. Add opinions and snarky comments on top of that? It’s clear to me that information overload has its effects.

When I first heard the idea that being connected all the time allowed feelings of insecurity to flourish, it made all kinds of sense to me. I could even see how that played into my misplaced belief that I needed to be online for my audience, which was taking the focus off of my work. Being hyper-connected doesn’t work for me, so I’ve since figured out a better way to manage my time to focus on what’s important.

Since I first talked about my experiment, a few other authors have hopped offline to see how the lack of connection would affect them, too. Check out The Juggling Writer for Christopher Gronlund’s experiences. The kick-off post is entitled: The 50 Day Social Media Break.

That’s the key, isn’t it? When it comes down to it: there are no hard and fast rules about social media. You have to engage on a level you’re comfortable with. Community pressure, more so than what you’re doing right or wrong, is what drives social media gurus, experts and articles. The tools themselves aren’t all that important, except for the level of interaction. It’s your role within those interactions that creates a flurry of opinions and would-be facts.

Unfortunately, I feel this is something businesses, publishers and other professionals are still learning. The dollar signs people see when they talk about social media are starting to fade, as older, more relevant and direct forms of online marketing come back into style. The attitude is shifting from: Must be online twenty-four seven to monitor branding. To: Who cares if people are talking about your business? Guess what? People don’t necessarily want you listening. Sometimes? They just want to talk without fear that someone else is snooping in.

‘Course, the irony of that is that social media tools are still public, which is something even users haven’t quite figured out yet.

Another thing I feel a lot of us are missing, is that there is no such thing as one, grand online community anymore. Think “micro-communities” and “suburbs.” No doubt, one online community differs from one author to the next. An audience may be perfectly fine with the occasional “buy my book.” Another? May be pissed off the author even brought it up. This, moreso than any Tweet or message update, is why the people that are hyper-connected (myself included at one time) talk about the rules in an authoritative fashion. Some of those observations could be pulled out on a higher level because there are some good insights to be gleaned from them. Some of those comments are complete b.s., like when people say “You have to…” When that happens, replace the “you” with “I have to…” and you’ll better understand where that speaker is coming from.

Social media is a sociologist’s dream, really, because this is an example of peer pressure at its best and worst. We’re talking about tribalism here, not online marketing, which deeply affects creative individuals in different ways. (See: Tribes and Our Role as Writer for my take on the subject.)

I, for one, am happy with the rules I’ve established for myself, because I’m no longer a slave to the tools. That, to me, is more important than the “right” or “wrong” way to Tweet. To do that, I had to remove myself from the tools completely in order to figure out my “role” in the tribe and what I’m comfortable with. That may not be the case for you, but for me that’s part of what has been so incredibly fascinating about watching social media to begin with. Hmmm… Though I’m beginning to think my childhood aspirations of becoming Indiana Jones-esque are really shining through.

:)

[My Guest Post] More Insight on Social Media Blackout at SFWA.org

Wanted to pop in today to mention that, for my July article at SFWA.org, I opted to provide the results of my 100 day social media blackout and give readers additional insights I didn’t write about here.

Remember, too, that online marketing and e-commerce both have high learning curves. What you see/read online is often the free version of advice marketers provide to open the door to paying clients. The web changes often and dramatically — social media moreso. One, little change and that entire community you’ve built on Facebook could disappear. This? This is yet another reason why your website is more important than any other tool in your promotional arsenal. — SOURCE: The Results of My 100 Day Social Media Blackout at SFWA.org

I feel that this experiment achieved my goal of opening up the door “to” talk about these sorts of things and understand its value. Since I have a professional background in online marketing, I knew what to look for, which definitely helped shape my insights.

With the debut of new social media tools like Google+, an author’s relationship with social media will not only evolve, but shift and fracture depending upon how many audiences — personal and professional — we have. In terms of priority, though, while I like the tools and missed a few of my online pen pals, I know what benefit it has in terms of reaching new readers.

After all, the best way “of” reaching new readers is to write another story… :)

Learning How to Let Go: Social Media Blackout Results

For my closing post in the series about the results of my 100 day social media blackout, I’d like to talk about one of the best side effects of this experiment. And that is? Learning how to let go.

As I mentioned in an earlier post this week, I talked about how I was hypersensitive to people using exaggerated personas on social media to sell their books. Today, I’d like to point out that you, too, may be hypersensitive to things online in the form of comments, articles and headlines.

In the grand scheme of things, what is a bad comment worth to your life? Your business? Would you let a crappy review ruin your day? How ’bout a headline that you never clicked through?

Forums, mailing lists, comments, etc. are going to incur negative comments along with positive ones. The more popular you are, the bigger your business is, the chances of less-than-ideal comments increase. It’s not necessarily a sign of progress, it’s a sign that you’ve attracted the other end of the bell curve.

Having worked with as much data as I have, I normally don’t care about the one comment because I treat them as outliers. What I look for are patterns as opposed to the one-off snarky remark. Yes, I’m human — not an android — so comments made by people who obviously didn’t read through an article or have a knee jerk reaction based on a crappy assumption get under my skin.

But not as much as before.

I now feel that a good social media strategy — whether it be personal or professional — needs to include periods of black out or times when the social media/community manager is not online. The idea of constant connectivity and notifications might sound like it’d benefit you, but after this experiment I’m finding that it will actually hurt you over the long haul. Why? Simply because you run the risk of overreacting the more connected you are. You become, as I did with personas or as others have with comments, hyper-reactive.

The consequences of being hyper-reactive aren’t always good. Sometimes, people feel creeped out if they make a complaint and you’ve magically commented on their Twitter feed or Facebook page. Other times, it’s “expected” that you do. Other times, your comment may come across as talking down to that person or be overly sarcastic.

The other toll that this takes on you, may be in your writing. Timing is important to social media, but for articles? That aren’t ephemeral? It can really chip into the way your prose flows on the page and what words you use. This is especially true if you “trick for a click.”

I’ve often mentioned to companies and individuals that the best way to manage expectations is to have a social media or community policy. I cannot stress enough how important this is for everyone involved in a social media profile. I cannot. If someone is obligated to log in offline or respond to something twenty-four seven — that needs to be clearly stated because the other side of that? Is that monitoring also comes into play and that takes time. Perceptions can ruin relationships, so having these things in place before disaster strikes can help facilitate better discussions and positive expectations.

For many reasons, if anything this experiment has taught me that there is value in being offline. Like anything, having a good perspective requires balance and the ability to let the small stuff go. Without that, well… that’s when you may find yourself as frustrated with the tools as I was.

Hope you enjoyed the coverage of this experiment and the results.

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