Thursday, February 18, 2016

Perils of the Writing Life, or, the Dreaded Technology Loop

By Lisa Alber

Today (Wednesday as I write this) I had one of those weird writing days in which I got no writing accomplished. So let's talk about this--distractions. Especially social media distractions. Am I totally off the wall when I say that social media can suck the souls out of us?

Yes? No? Maybe?

All I know is that when it comes to doing the author thing, social media is mandatory. We need to be extroverts -- at least on social media if not in real life. And I don't mind this, in a way. I kind of like communing with people through Facebook and Twitter.

The problem is when I go nutty with it. Today was one of those days. Here's the context: I'm a contributor in a book project called EIGHT MYSTERY WRITERS YOU SHOULD BE READING NOW, which includes a sneak peek (yay!) of WHISPERS IN THE MIST coming out in August. It's a great project, and I'm honored I was asked to participate.

This week promotion for Eight Mystery Writers exploded. We've got two guest blog posts up on premiere mystery blogs (Jungle Reds and Femmes Fatales), a Facebook party with giveaways and special guest Hank Phillippi Ryan, free days on Amazon this weekend to promote the heck out of, a new Facebook book page, a #mysterious8 Twitter hashtag we're bandying about.

There's just a lot of coordinating and social media posting and word-spreading to do everywhere. Here's one example of coordination. Isn't it cute? I'm no graphic designer but I pat myself on the back for whipping up this banner for the Facebook book and event pages.

Nifty--but that's more time away from the writing. Plus, let's not go into the three blog posts (including this post) that just happened to come due--bam, bam, bam--this week.

I'm curious, are there any readers or aspiring novelists reading this post? If so, I'm here to say that I and a lot of my writer pals are amazed that we get our books written!

I'm a tad distractible to begin with, so when a promotional period comes around, I'm likely to take to social media like a fiend. Something takes over my brain. My thoughts skitter about on the surface of things: gotta do a Facebook post, oh gotta retweet, oh gotta join the Jungle Red Writers conversation, gotta post the Facebook party announcement EVERYWHERE, gotta promote a blog post ...

I'm convinced that the brain on social media is a different brain that the brain on writing. I'm talking brain patterns, synaptic firings, everything. When I'm writing, I'm deep in my creative process. There's no turbulence. It's the deep ocean compared to the choppy surface of social-media brain.

I end up feeling spazzy and frenetic. Yet, I can't stop. All of a sudden it's noon, and I barely remember the previous four hours. (Check out this funny video from the television show "Portlandia.")

It's as if my brain succumbs to an addictive drug. Even if I manage to wrench myself away from social media, I'm still pretty useless because withdrawal sets in. I find myself popping back in to check on comments, or retweet one of the other Eight Mystery Writers's tweets, or whatever. I keep checking and re-checking. (P.S. The seven other contributors? Fantastic writers all. What a joy to find new authors to read, am I right?)

Please tell me I'm not the only one!

Today, the only way I could fully disengage was to leave the house. As luck would have it, a friend called. I was all over meeting up with him for happy hour. Get me out of here!

I'm not usually this bad, I swear. Today was just one of those days. Tomorrow I'll be better, I promise.

Do you get stuck in technology loops sometimes? What do you do to get out of them? Is it just a matter of becoming better at compartmentalizing and sticking to schedules? Or do you think the brain does succumb to something?


katcoz said...

You've been doing a brilliant job. We remaining seven are truly grateful you put your brain into social media mode for us. I know that wasn't easy and on behalf of your loyal reader, I will be happy when you get the chance to go back to "writer" mode.

Lisa Alber said...

That's so nice of you to say, Kathleen! Thanks so much. We don't know what works and what doesn't, do we? We just throw everything out there and hope something sticks!

Jester Queen said...

My brain flatlines on social media. I crave clickbait articles. Some days. Other days, I use my powers for good, stay on exactly as long as I intend to, and achieve ONLY that which I came to accomplish. The problem is that I know not which I will experience until I have arrived at Facebook's blue gates.


Eileen said...

Oh, the online quizzes. How many romantic movies have I seen? What cocktail am I? Who is my spirit animal? I can't stay away from them!!!!

Lisa Alber said...

Jester Queen, I so hear that! I come with the greatest of intentions -- stick to business, that's all -- and then , and hour has vanished!

Eileen -- oh my god, yeah. Those drive me nuts! :-) They don't mean a thing, yet we ascribe meaning to them. I mean, you can go to (I think that's the handled) and create any old quiz you want for promotional purposes.

Edith Maxwell said...

I very much relate to this post, Lisa! What I find works for me on most days is to give myself my hour of internet time in the morning, usually by six (like right now!). Then at seven I turn it all off for an hour of focused writing. Then a break, then another hour. But true, release days or exciting days like when Agatha nominations come out - writing goes out the window.

Lisa Alber said...

Hi Edith! Oh yes, award nominations -- and congratulations on yours! -- I hope to experience a few of those crazy, frenetic, delirious technology loop days. :-)