Offline for awhile may leave a somewhat indefinite timeframe in the minds of my readers. To be honest, I simply need a break from the online world. This break begins today and ends when I feel ready to open my hands and put them on the keyboard.
I hope that each of you had a joyous Christmas. Let’s look forward together to 2021, and a possible end to the pandemic as the vaccine makes its way to each of us. The past year has been hard on everyone, and sometimes that sense of oppression by uncontrollable forces requires us to hibernate for a time.
Remember how important self-care is, and practice it as you see fit.
The northwest has enjoyed some early spring weather this year. On each clear and sunny day, Husband Bob has been outside cleaning and decluttering our yard. We love our mini-forest but each rain and wind storm brings down needles, fir and pine cones, tiny boughs, medium-sized limbs.
At some point, this gets under Bob’s skin and he HAS to get out there and clean it up so the debris doesn’t get ahead of him. Still not able to get out and help him I stay inside and work but I’ve begun to notice that my housekeeping has slackened a bit over the last two plus years. It’s time to get busy!
Spring cleaning usually makes us think of home. But what about our work spaces? As writers, we often overlook that space. I know mine needs a good cleaning and decluttering, but where to start. Today let’s look at what you can do to enhance your writing space.
1. Author Website
Yes, your website! As writers, we are careful to keep content current and regularly produced, but what about the following: your bio, your photo, old content in your sidebar(s), broken links, page load speed, recent backup, delete unnecessary plugins, activate any plugin updates, check site’s responsiveness on mobiles and other browsers. Many components of our websites are often updated. If we’re not keeping those updates current, our sites will not function well for our readers.
Although your email program likely holds a lot of data, it is still a good idea to go through your email system and delete unneeded folders, no longer needed emails just sitting there, newsletters you don’t subscribe to any longer, and perhaps consolidate some duplicate folders under different names.
Another and perhaps hardest step in managing your email is to unsubscribe when going through new mail to those mailings or newsletters which you consistently delete without opening.
A large variety of “clean my pc” software exists online. However, be cautious and make certain you know what you’re downloading. One last piece of advice not to be ignored: if you are not already doing so regularly, backup your computer often.
4. Social Media
Time to make sure certain things are up-to-date in this part of your writing life. Check profiles on social media, settings, check apps attached to your Facebook author page to make sure they’re working, make sure videos and/or trailers are loaded to author pages on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook author page, etc., and check groups on LinkedIn and Goodreads to determine which ones you should leave (i.e. not active or productive) and search for new groups to try.
5. The All-Important Desk
Last but not least, what about your desk? Is it clutter-free? Are stacks of paper stashed all around, on the floor, underneath? Sort out that paper! If you have physical file folder, place any related paper there. If you don’t need it, recycle it.
If you’re not sure, start a temporary folder as a holding place for these. If there’s a chance you’ve filed any of the paper to Evernote or OneNote or another app, take some time each week to doublecheck those apps for that piece of paper. And if it’s there, get rid of it. I’m guilty of this last one, and I’m working on this now.
There are many other steps we can take so that each morning we can walk into a space ready for us to write. It was impossible to cover everything in one blog post.
If you have a suggestion about cleaning and decluttering, please share it below in the Comment section.
Last spring I, along with others, took a Lenten break from social media. When I returned, I wanted to know more about my presence on social media, including my blog. That’s when I turned to Frances Caballo and engaged her to check my social media sites as well as my website.
The results of Frances’s assessment provided good information, both positive and some not so positive. Eager to see what I could do with her suggestions, I moved ahead full tilt. And as reported in this post, I noticed some rising numbers and growth changes.
Frances even provided a schematic or schedule for posting to the social media sites I use. I have worked hard at prescheduling using Buffer and Hoot Suite. Of course, before you start scheduling, there is the step called curation, which also takes time. After curating and prescheduling, I felt an overwhelming strike against my writing time. Not only against my writing time but against my ability to keep up with certain blogs where I believe my community contacts are strong.
As a result, I’ve learned some things about myself. Most of them I already knew; some of them I didn’t realize until now.
1. I don’t like numbers, and I dislike counting them even less. I never liked math in any form growing up. I still don’t care for math which leads me to my newest discovery about self: it’s all about numbers. Not only do I not like numbers, I like analyzing and counting them even less.
I have heard all the arguments about numbers of followers, social analytics, and platform building. But I’m not sure I agree totally with their arguments. It seems those who enjoy social media and do well at it, and therefore accumulate the necessary numbers for a proper platform, are number lovers and counters. They enjoy the thrill of the chase. Everyone seems in the big race to see who can get the most followers, friends, likes, shares, and on and on and on. None of this holds any great interest for me.
I want to spend my days writing, not counting and analyzing numbers.
2. I’m an introvert who does not like crowds any better online than at a social gathering. Yes, I am an introvert. I’m happily married to an introvert. The good news is I can make myself “perform” at a social gathering doing the mix and mingle dance, but I don’t like it. My husband says I’m better at this than he is. On social media, the party or gathering includes people who follow you who have no profile info posted, the ones who want to sell you Twitter followers, SEO and marketing experts, software application outlets, and the beat goes on. I equate these to the dinner hour marketing phone calls we receive. I prefer to spend any time I have beyond writing communicating with those writers and readers I’ve come to know blog-to-blog outside the confines and requirements of social media. Lately, I feel I have lost touch with these fellow writers. And yes, spending time with them means I’m safely hidden away in my writing corner at home with my laptop and my kitty.
3. Lest you worry about me socially, I do have a few writing friends I gather with personally here in Portland and workshops I enjoy attending. Through the time social media extracts from my days, I had less time to spend with these people. I quickly learned I preferred being with these few than with the masses on social media. Sometimes it’s over lunch, over coffee, or browsing one of our great bookstores in Portland. We talk writing, share our work, and even give time over to fostering friendship between us. It’s the way I like to do business and friendship.
4. Some of the time I spend on social media detracts from my continuing education in the art of writing, and I consider ongoing education prime to my efforts. With the writing community available to me here and just down I-5 South, I have so many opportunities. It is often difficult to choose which one to take advantage of first. There are multiple Meetup Groups for writers in Portland, as well as Willamette Writers and Oregon Writers Colony, with Indigo Editing and PDX Writers offering workshops and classes, and people like Gigi Rosenberg, author and artist coach, who have found Portland to be the place they want to craft and teach (more about Gigi in #5 below). With all these entities offering so much, how can I spend time on social media and not increase my knowledge of my craft? Personally, I can’t, and I won’t.
5. A short time ago Gigi Rosenberg wrote an eye-opening and inspiring blog post, Be Your Own CEO. This post made an impact on my feelings about how I spend my days. In the post, Gigi talks about one of the assignments she gives when coaching artists. The assignment comes in two parts as you’ll see when reading her post. I decided to work through the assignment, knowing already what the answer would be. Mine is the same as Gigi’s. And this is what she had to say:
For me, the one thing is to finish this revision of my memoir. Everything else in my life needs to support that one mission. Because I am the CEO of Me, Inc., and what I say, goes. …
Everything else is going to revolve around that one thing I want. Because I want it and I’m the boss of what I want.
Now, I know what you’re saying: That’s pretty selfish. Not really. We all want something, and most often we want it badly. So badly we are willing to do almost anything to get it. Why shouldn’t a writer, musician, artist, aspiring doctor or lawyer, other professionals, star athletes not do the same?
6. None of the above have mentioned my life outside of writing. In order to cram everything into a 24-hour period with 5-6 hours of sleep each night, I have ignored my husband, necessary work on our small businesses, cleaning our home, cooking at my best level for two meals each day, making proper time for personal devotionals and prayers, forsaken my music participation with my husband, and for the most part have given up my love of needlework (quilting and knitting). Cutting out these things meant I had enough time for social media, the blog, and some of the book. Nothing about that seems quite fair, at least to me. There should be an hour or two each day to enjoy another creative outlet. And I’m going to do just that. Let’s not forget we should all be committed to our health and physical well-being, and I’ll admit I’ve been neglectful of mine of late.
7. The decision is made, and no one can change it. I am going to spend the bulk of my waking hours writing–my memoir, short creative nonfiction, blog posts. Also, I will take back my domestic duties (which I enjoy) and clean my home, do the laundry, and cook decent meals and in good weather help Farmer Meyer with the outdoor work. I intend to make sure nothing is left undone about the two small businesses Bob and I run. Church and daily prayer and devotion will take a greater priority. This is what I want to do, and I choose to do it.
I know there will be naysayers about the time needed for social media. Others will debate whether or not a person has to count numbers or not. Some will argue that I’ll never sell a single book without platform based in a grand social media presence. Even more will disagree with the time I spent on social media providing enough time to pick back up the chores at home and the things I do for others. And there may be some who will find something to say I haven’t even thought about yet.
They are entitled to their opinions. That’s why we choose to do all we can to keep this country free. However, as we used to say when we were kids, “Nobody is the boss of me!”
No, I’m the boss in this office, and I get to choose what priorities I set. I’m also allowed to choose which tasks I don’t need or want to do, especially if I find them hindering my best efforts in my chosen creative outlet, writing.
I hope you’ll find a moment to join in discussion and conversation below.
On February 16th I announced my intention to honor the Lenten Season by stepping away from social media. I began my “leave-taking” on February 18th. I returned last week having been away for a total of seven weeks. Here’s what I can share with you:
I do not regret one minute away from social media.
I breathed easier, wrote more, spent more time with my family, and found rich blessings in everything I saw and heard.
I missed my social media connections, and I found myself thinking about taking a “peek.”
Together, Bob and I focused on the Lenten message in our morning devotionals.
Bottom line, I relaxed a lot.
And then one day I stepped outside my usual box called “Comfort Zone” and emailed my friend (and probably yours too), Frances Caballo, the mastermind behind Social Media Just for Writers. My email had one purpose behind it. Ask Frances to help me!
I have always stumbled along creating my blog, creating accounts on several social media sites, attempting to understand what I’m doing on each of those sites, and questioning if my blog was as user-friendly as possible. One of Frances’s many talents and services is analyzing social media profiles and pages and providing you with a written assessment and the next steps you should take. I knew I needed Frances to work with me to improve.
Frances looked at each of my social media accounts and my website, within several days provided me a typewritten assessment with suggestions about social media and my site. Her tips were outlined with clarity and the benefit of technological experience I don’t have. I am a happy social media camper and blogger now. Because of Frances, I’m moving through my postings to each account with ease, scheduling using HootSuite and Buffer, and I’ve updated my blog. Here’s a testimonial from me on Frances’s site.
And now here’s a word from Frances:
I can take a more in-depth look at your social media. For $297, I will examine your social media profiles and pages closely and write an assessment and next steps for you to take.
Your audit will include a complete review of:
Your Facebook page posts and About Section
Keyword placement on your LinkedIn profile and a general review
Analysis of your tweets and tips to improve engagement
Suggestions on how you can get more out of Google+
A review of your Pinterest account with suggestions for new boards
A review of your website and blog with ideas for improving them
Perhaps you already have someone like Frances working with you on these issues. However, I am so pleased with the work Frances did I could not help giving her a shout out on my blog.
Recently, my “I’ve met her in person” and online writing friend, Shirley Showalter, and my online writing friend, Kathy Pooler, reported in respective blog posts here and here about their Lenten plans as well as experiences at a writing retreat they attended. As I read their blog posts, I began to ponder anew my commitment to observing Lent. I’ll receive ashes on Ash Wednesday and help with communion several times during the days leading to Easter.
But personally what is my commitment? Where do I need to learn restraint? Where can I find silence in my life to focus more clearly on God’s role in my life and my role in the lives of others?
I went back and re-read Shirley and Kathy’s posts. In them I found a depth of commitment in several of their thoughts and sentences. I would quote them, but I want you to find them for yourselves.
Here I’m making my Lenten stand, having discussed my plans with Husband Bob, partly to give accountability by having shared it with others and partly to give accountability to God and my family and home:
Effective February 18, 2015, I’m stepping away from all social media. Yes, this includes Twitter and Facebook, which I have already moderated to a degree over the past month or so.
Prescheduled blog posts will appear via social media due to the beauty of scheduling ahead on the blog. I will make myself available to reply to any comments, but I won’t be commenting on the blog posts of others. My newsletter will go out as planned in March.
I am committing to leaving home at least twice each month, if not more, to work in solitude and silence on my book, a gift I’m writing for all those hurting from abuse but to also spread an important message God has taught me. I hope to set up a much-needed writing schedule and a stronger commitment to this book.
I want to allocate more quiet time for Bible reading and prayer.
And I’m giving up chocolate!
Granted I have been forced to step back before due to family issues or family health issues. I have never made a conscious decision to make this kind of change when I am feeling renewed and so healthy for a change and yes, let’s add happy to the equation.
I will resume my regular schedule April 14th reporting what I’ve experienced and learned. I have asked Shirley and Kathy’s permission to join them, and knowing them they’ll respond affirmatively.
There’s nothing like good writing friends to inspire you.
Do you have plans for sacrificing something for the Lenten season? Do you want to ask me questions about this post? There is space below where we can have great discussion! Join us, please.