Last week Joss Whedon, writer, director and all-round cool guy, quit Twitter rather suddenly. The speculation was that he left because of criticism of his interpretation of Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but Joss shot that theory down. According to Joss, he abandoned the Twittersphere because of all the noise that it brings:
“I just thought, Wait a minute, if I’m going to start writing again, I have to go to the quiet place,” he said. “And this is the least quiet place I’ve ever been in my life. … It’s like taking the bar exam at Coachella.” (Joss Whedon as quoted on Buzzfeed)
It’s an issue I’ve been grappling with myself. How do you write when every article that pops up on Twitter is either attacking your genre or declaring the death of the industry? How do you keep up with a hundred different conversations happening between your three hundred friends every single day? How do you block out the noise and write?
That’s not to say there aren’t wonderful things about social media. Writing is a lonely pursuit. I’m doubtful I ever would have made it this far without the warm, generous, amazingly talented friends I met online. If I’d never read those blog posts about writers overcoming obstacles to achieve great success, who knows if I’d have ever overcome my own obstacles. If I hadn’t seen the courage of my writer friends day after day, who knows if I’d have found courage of my own.
For creative people the world can be fairly neatly divided into things that feed us and things that take from us. Things that aid the work and things that are destructive towards it. And, if we let it, social media can set up camp in the second category and never leave.
Part of the problem for me is I’ve always been that girl at the party standing in the corner, holding her purse. I’m easily overwhelmed in large group situations. With so many voices clamoring to be heard, who will ever hear mine above the din? With so many amazing, bubbly, funny people in the room, how can this quiet, introspective girl ever find her voice to speak?
I’ve been mulling this over for about a year and I’m finally coming to some conclusions. If I haven’t been around as much, that’s why. For me, taking a step back was key to finding my way forward. Rather that just being swept up in the tide, I’m going to cultivate a social media experience that works for me.
My Social Media Manifesto:
– Aids my creative process rather than taking from it
– Suits my personality
– Connects me with friends (and one day hopefully readers)
– Adds to the world in a positive way
Here’s what that means for me:
This refers to both design and approach. I’ve always worked better in a clean environment, so I’ve changed my blog format to reflect this. I also want to change what kind of things I post, and where. More on that below.
Aids my creative process rather than taking from it
Pinterest and Instagram have done great things for me lately. I love how they allow me to create and cultivate beauty, and I plan to use this as I move forward with my blog. Look forward to shorter, more frequent posts that merge my twin joys of visual media and writing.
Suits my personality
I love Twitter for many reasons, but lately I’ve been struggling to make it through my feed. Some days I don’t look at it at all — it’s too overwhelming. But if large groups of people make me uncomfortable, why not find a way to break those large groups down into smaller, more narrowly defined spaces? I’ve started using TweetDeck and I can’t recommend it enough. Now, my critique partners and IRL friends are in their own list so I never miss their news. My hockey friends are in another, news sources in a third. There is a list for industry folk, for when I’m in the mood, and one for writers at a similar stage to me in the publishing process. I choose which room I visit on any given day and suddenly I can breathe again. Expect to see me on Twitter more often now.
Connects me with friends (and one day maybe readers)
Friendship is, after all, the point of social media. I want to find ways to continue to keep up with the people I’ve made personal connections with online, while isolating the non-helpful voices. Lately the room has felt so loud I can’t even hear the voices of my friends. I want to change this, and TweetDeck is helping.
Another thing I’ve considered, but am still unsure about, is mirroring posts on Tumblr. I know it’s a great way to make connections and reach readers, but I don’t know if I’m ready to keep up with another site, or if my posts really belong over there. I’m pretty happy just hanging in my little corner of the world, even if Twitter likes to inform me blogs are dead (mine’s still kicking!)
Adds to the world in a positive way.
Original content is important to me (another reason I’m unsure about Tumblr). Connecting to people on an individual level is important to me. Sharing my true self, rather than a social media mask, is vital to my happiness. If I’m going to contribute to the online world, I want what I say to be important.
I suppose what it all comes down to is this: Doing one thing joyfully is better than doing five things half-heartedly. I really believe that. Choose the things that grow you. Social media is your online home; cultivate it carefully.
If something is hurting you creatively, cut it out without mercy. Writers feel a lot of pressure to promote themselves, but none of this helps you if you have nothing to promote. Do the work. Ignore the rest as best you can.
I really encourage you, if you’re a writer feeling the pressure to join the social media train, to sit down and figure out what you really want out of the experience. Make sure the life you live online helps you live a full, creative, joyful life. Don’t accept anything less.
So tell me, friends, how do you balance social media and your own creative pursuits?