As authors we have learned to multitask on social media like pros. We write that novel, bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, promote our books out the yin-yang, all while keeping our readers thoroughly engaged. We’re on social media what seems like twenty-four seven. However, can we take on all the various duties intrinsic with being an author, and keep the home fires burning, too? Absolutely.
The technological era has furnished us with an astounding array of social media and writing tools, as well. Still, we are entangled by a readership that expects us to humanize ourselves by social media engagement (because honestly, readers don’t want to be bombarded with pleas to “buy my book,” without first knowing who you are and whether they like you or your writing enough to plunk down $5 for it). Technology has allowed us to routinely accomplish these feats, oftentimes in our pajamas, while waiting in line at the grocery story, and/or at some family event.
Our capacity for productivity may be at a level that keeps us relevant to readers more consistently, but when keeping up keeps us tied to our social media at the expense of our familial relationships and friendships, it goes against everything we hold dear. Because let’s be honest, while most readers, by and large are gracious, even when they don’t think your work is very stellar, for a minority of them (whom we tend to listen to more than that vast majority), we are only as good as our next book. And many are compelled to let you know it, and not so kindly sometimes I might add. So authors, I want to share with you what I am doing to strike more of a balance in my life.
Increased Engagement With Loved Ones
Sometime after publication of my first novel, I became increasingly less engaged with my family and friends. I was a wife who was less attentive to her husband, and a mother who sometimes didn’t see or speak to her children for days. Even though for the most part, my husband and I are empty nesters, I still have two children who live in the area that I need to cultivate adult relationships with. Contrary to what they believe, and how I have conducted myself since they have been out of the house, they need me, and I need them.
My dear daughter who lives farthest away is the one who rather inelegantly brought it to her mother’s attention that she was not present in the moment, even when having conversation with her long distance. “You’re preoccupied,” she said. “You must be working on your writing.” And she literally spat the word “writing,” like it was distasteful to her.
Let’s just say that, after that, I made a conscious effort and adopted an unwavering commitment to spending a reasonable percentage of the time I talked to my children or my husband, fully present and doing just one thing–talking to them. Even though the multitasking fairy on your shoulder will say you could be doing more.
Five Ways You Can Balance Life With Social Media
1.) Sacrifice Productivity Sometimes
Lost quality time with your family and friends is like lost sleep. You can never get it back, even when you try to sleep longer to recoup it, it’s just not the same. Embrace the fact that you could lose some time on social media that could result in a book sale, but that’s not always a given, and is certainly not the end of the world.
2.) Make Some Time in Each Day Sacrosanct
Before you begin those daily author activities that cry out to you like a siren’s song upon rising, do not make social media the first thing you gravitate to when you rise and when you retire. Take some time to debunk, to meditate, to pray, or whatever your morning or evening ritual would normally be were you not an author who has an adoring public waiting for you. Take a moment to be grateful for what you have. Make breakfast for that husband you’ve been neglecting. Read to your children at bedtime, or call those birdies that’ve flown the nest. Connect and reflect on what a great life you have.
3.) Give Your Undivided Attention to The Person In Front of You
Never underestimate the value of listening. The best gift you can give your children is your undivided attention. They have an intrinsic need to be heard, as do most humans. Stop having that riveting conversation on Facebook, or Twitter, and make eye contact with your husband, child, or friend. Make that person in front of you feel like they’re most important to you at that moment. There is nothing more disheartening than being made to feel like you don’t count. Writing your novel and readers on social media are not more important than your ever-present family and friends. Even if writing is your livelihood, don’t make it more important than those who will love you even if you aren’t wowing them with your next plot, or aren’t a NYT bestseller.
4.) Family Tradition Is King
Don’t eschew holiday meals, family meetings, movie weekends–anything you’ve always done with your family for your time on social media. Enthusiastically participate in these events just as you always have, and don’t fake it, or wish you were posting pictures of your characters on Pinterest. Your family will notice. So, keep your family connected through these traditional activities you’ve always done together. My children and I have always shared our love of books and movies. I discuss books we enjoy in common with my daughter, and the boys and I have had a long-standing tradition of going to openings of action movies together. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gone into work the next day sleep-deprived from a midnight movie showing. But every lost second of sleep was worth it to me.
5.) Stop and Smell The Roses
When was the last time you delighted in an afternoon of lying prone on a hammock, or even on the grass, allowing your senses to run amok? Engage in mindless relaxation and cultivate every detail. Be still and smell that fragrant rosebush, or that cluster of honeysuckle on the vine. Your senses should be savored, because they are the very essence of being alive. Live your life out in nature sometime, not always chained to your PC, smartphone, or iPad.
As an author myself, I know doing all these things all the time isn’t possible when deadlines are looming and you’re under a contract to produce a book. However, you’ve immersed yourself in social media because it is necessary, but you can set the standard for you own use, then model that behavior to your children, your husband and friends. When you choose to physically engage as a parent, spouse, or friend, you’re reminding them to not allow social media to be their substitute for live human interaction.
Social media has become a necessity for authors who want to stay connected, but we should always be mindful of striking a balance between being present electronically and in person. If you practice the five steps I’ve enumerated above to strike that balance, it will pay forward in dividends that should impact your family for generations to come.