Finding answers in silence

We’re all busy

Who believes they have way too much to do and not enough time to do it? Raise your hands. Yep, even you all in the back of the room multitasking as we speak. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

If you ask anyone what they are doing, regardless of what they say, the gist is that they are busy. If they aren’t busy, then they are really busy, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll find someone who is truly experiencing that life-swallowing sensation of being extremely busy.

I get it. There’s a lot to do. Like A LOT. Some of it is necessary to survive, like earning a living enough to keep the heat on and food in the fridge. Some of it is important, like making sure clothes are clean and some of that food is actually good for you.

Then there’s the stuff that’s actually not important, but we’ve assigned importance to it. You know where I’m going with this. Things like compulsively checking social media and trying to get lots of likes on that cat picture you posted. You know the one.

Now this is the kind of silence I’d love. Anyone have a boat I could borrow? Or a lake? Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

Taking a necessary break

For the last five weeks I’ve stepped way back on my social media posting because of one really terrific reason, my kiddos were home. Year-round school has a handful of benefits, most of which stem from reducing the number of kids in already overcrowded classrooms. Allowing mom to run her authoring business isn’t one of them. Something had to give.

In the past, I’d fight to keep the same posting schedule in addition to all the other authory things that needed to get done. It always resulted in frustration and anxiety. This time, I let it slide. While I enjoy interacting with strangers and the practice can be helpful to help people find my books, in terms of effective marketing and producing more books, it falls last on my priority list. When the kids are home they are my first priority. After that comes all the other stuff, like staying on top of deadlines and making progress on my new books entering the world this year.

The funny thing about social media is that it’s an all consuming affair. Trying to stay current with everything means you have to check it constantly. The urge to scroll for another few minutes, to post, to interact, to like, to be liked, and so on – can eat you alive. It even sneaks into bed with you as ideas for posts creep into your thoughts as you drift asleep. The energy and time this requires can’t be measured – except that you get less done during the day and can’t figure out why.

Be still and let deeper thoughts flow through you like a breeze, you might be surprised what you find. Photo by Samuel Austin on Unsplash

Lessons from the silence

What did I learn? For starters, no one really missed me. My noise was just more noise in an already noisy place. My followings and numbers and all those statistics that geeky folks like me like to track didn’t change or plummet. The world didn’t end.

What did happen surprised me. In the quiet space left in the wake of stepping away from social media, I had the freedom to consider if all that posting was doing me any good in the long run. My normal posts had no goal other than interacting. It often felt like talking into a void and hoping to be heard. In my hurry to make noise, I missed a huge piece of the puzzle – creating a way to continue the conversation once I found someone who wanted to listen.

My goal is to find like-minded readers who love the same things I love and more importantly, keep them happy and supply them with more stories and books that they will enjoy. Now, my efforts are refocused to help those readers find me. What that means is that I will be sharing more of my shorter fiction to more people – including you, dear readers.

I will have to return to the noise of social media, it’s inevitable. But, now I feel like there is an end goal in sight and a plan in place. I’m no longer making noise, I’m seeking connections.

A whole post about Silence and not one mention of this guy? This must be remedied. By the way, does anyone know why are there tally marks on my arm?

What will you find in the silence?

Have you ever dared to step away and see what happens?


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Social Media – The Baby Elephant is Doing it Wrong

I’ll admit that I’m not the ultimate guru at maintaining my social media presence.  I don’t spent countless hours reading and responding to other posts, I don’t tweet, or even post on Facebook all that often.  With that in mind it’s no surprise that I don’t have tons of interaction with my blogs. You get what you pay for.

The goal of having these platforms is spark the interest of my fellow readers so that one day when I finish my *%#$ book I’ll have a few friends that might be interested in reading it.

With that in mind I attended a Facebook for Authors class. According to the teacher I first need to pay for ads so that people come and see my stuff.  This is a great idea for those who have product that they are ready to sell.  When I get to that point perhaps I will.

The other bit of advice was to follow the 15-15-70 rule. That is, no more than 10 – 15% of posts on Facebook should be asking anyone to buy anything. Around 10 – 15% should be asking people to go read something, like this blog, and the other 70% of posts should be engaging with other people on the site.  If you look at my feed right now it’s more like 100% please go read my blog posts.  Oops.

Then we had a lengthy discussion about what should be discussed on blogs and Facebook.  This he called finding your culture.  What kind of people am I looking to attract? What topics would they want to talk about? What would I be interested in talking about?  This is one area I can improve on this blog.  Frankly, not everyone is interested in hearing about my adventures in parenting land.

Last but not least, he also told us that having a picture with a person in it will result in more clicks.  Which means poor baby elephant has been doing it wrong!

I best remedy this –

cuddlyelephant

Baby elephant wants to cuddle!

Inspiration Online

With everything else going on in my life, chances are I’m not going to be able to take a flight around the world anytime soon to seek out inspiration from places that are similar to the settings featured in my book. Medieval castles and villages are hard to come by here in the West.  The oldest things around here are indian cliff settlements which while fascinating, aren’t what I need.

I’m lucky in some ways, mountains and forests do feature prominently in by book and I happen to live within one of the most stunning mountain ranges in the US. They don’t call them the Rocky Mountains for nothing.

For everything else I’m stuck with the wonders of the internet and I have to admit I’m getting pretty good at finding pictures and videos that help me better envision the places my characters find themselves.

If you would like to check out a few of the things that inspire me, check out my Inspitation for Writing Pinterest board.

Here’s one of my favorite finds:

Hambye Abbey

Hambye Abbey – I love the pillars and the play of light across the grass.

 

Losing Momentum, Finding Balance

Tightrope

I can’t believe it, I’ve done it to myself again. I’ve been drawn in by an illusion and have become lost in a false sense of reality.  It’s a vicious cycle, I’ll start a new project or get a terrific idea and find myself obsessing over every detail and spending every last moment possible working and tweaking and fixing and whatnot.

Currently, I’m coming down from a brief obsessive cycle of trying to keep up with all the blogs I follow.  I want to read everything and comment on everything and be a presence in the blogging sphere. Problem is, I follow dozens of prolific blogs.  Reading and catching up with what everyone is doing takes a huge amount of time.

The obsession before that (which I’m a little ashamed to admit) was playing Sims.  My little digital people needed me to take care of them!  It took about two weeks to realize how pointless it was spending time playing a game that ultimately didn’t go anywhere.

Before that I learned everything I could about the use of essential oils.

Somewhere before that I spent endless hours attempting to create a following on Twitter.

Before that, while it was still cold and miserable around here, I fixated on what I would plant in my garden.

Earlier, I experimented with freelance writing jobs from text mills such as Textbroker and Copify.

Now I’m seeking balance.  I really want to finish writing this book, it’s been hanging over my head for way too long.  But, I also want to build up a strong fan base here using the blog and other social media.  I used to suffer from the delusion that all it took to become the next big thing was to publish a decent book.  After a few years of working the field, attending conferences, and rubbing elbows with other writers, I know that dream is like playing the lottery.  Sure, some people will strike it big right out the gate without all the hassle of building a fan base; but, the rest of us have to work to succeed.

When I started blogging back in 2010 I worked my tail off trying to get a post up every day and managed to do it for nearly a year.  I spent so much time on the blog that I didn’t realize that I was no longer working actively on my WIP, it was always in my mind but meeting my self-inflicted deadlines for the blog took priority.  Now, three years later, I know I don’t have time to post daily and still make progress on my book.  Three posts a week is still plenty.

I don’t nearly tweet as much as I should, but I do tweet the important stuff.  If I’m stuck somewhere with nothing better to do I’ll go over and interact with whoever is tweeting items of interest.

There’s Facebook in there as well. I’ll admit I prefer reading Facebook to Twitter because the things my friends post there are generally more interesting.  While I’m not nearly as active on my author page as I should be, I’m ok with it.

It’s important to have priorities or the things that matter most don’t get done.  My writing priorities start with working on the book, then blogging, then everything else.  That is, until the next obsession rolls around…