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Creativity & Productivity: Rethinking my social media and blogging habits

Apologies for the hiatus; I've been away most of this month at a writer's conference and then on an anniversary vacation.

Though fun and (esp. in the case of the SCBWI Summer Conference) inspiring, it's been a hectic month, and I'm REALLY looking forward to getting back to work.

And what is that work, exactly? My main short-term goal:

To rethink my social media and blogging habits.

I'm a social media addict. I've been a huge fan of online communities before the term "online community" even existed. These days, however, I'm feeling spread too thin over too many social networks: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Second Life, various writing and illustration communities, plus all the blogs I either manage or in which I participate as a collaborator.

No, I'm not going to quit cold turkey. Nor do I think social media is inherently a time vampire. It CAN be a time vampire, but in my own experience, it can also be a huge boon to authors and illustrators if properly managed. Most of the publishing opportunities that have come my way have done so because of contacts I've made through social media, or posting and reading blogs.

Recent opportunities, however, have convinced me that I need to better manage my time. There are SO MANY BOOKS I want to write, or illustrate, or write and illustrate. The awards I won at last year's SCBWI Illustration Portfolio Showcase (which resulted in a book contract and heightened interest from publishers) and the Sue Alexander Award nomination I just received for my YA novel in progress have been a much needed kick in the pants.

My long-term goal:


And to do that, I need to finish some projects and get them sent OUT there.

My interim goals:

-- To finish writing my YA novel. Whether or not it wins the Sue Alexander Award, the nomination has convinced me that this novel-in-progress has much more potential than my previous attempts. I've been working on my craft as well as benefiting from the critiques and advice of my MiG Writer group and some of my Torkidlit pals, and I believe that I'm a much better writer now than when I wrote my previous mss.

-- To finish my own picture book projects. Now that I'M BORED (Simon & Schuster, 2012) is nearly finished, I need to have more projects ready to send out: projects that I've written AND illustrated. I've been working hard at improving my illustration craft over the past year. I'm going to continue to work on my craft, of course, but it's time to get some new projects out there.

-- I also have several nonfiction book proposals I need to revamp and send out, such as the compilation of my writer comics.


In order to achieve my long-term goal, I'm going to be taking a hard look at how I spend my time online.

And yes, I do see the irony of blogging about spending too much time online. But I figure I'm not the only one who has this challenge. Some of you have likely found your own solutions.

I'll be posting on my progress (feel free to share yours!)...but not as often as I'd like to. If that makes any sense. :-)

Internet addict

Reader Comments (15)

I've been feeling similarly pulled thin by so many online communities, Debbie, and as a result I've decided to pause until I figure out what's really going to work for me. Right now, during this online pause, I'm working on finishing some requested edits to my novel, and spending time with the kids before they go back to school.

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTracey Baptiste

I love that first comic - that fits me to a T! It really is tough finding a balance, I work full time as a designer, freelance, am working on a YA novel and juggling twitter, Google+ and my blog. In addition my husband actually likes to spend time with me (silly man) and I feel that I must be the person to help everyone reach their own goals so I volunteer a lot for things (which reminds me I owe someone an email about a website design!). In other words - I feel your pain.

I was having a little spat with myself earlier (it's OK I went to art school and took that class "Talking to Oneself and Other Odd Things You Can get Away With as an Artist") about making a weekly time budget sheet which the artist in me hates (No! No! Restrictions arghhhhhh!!!) but the rational, levelheaded girl I like to beat into submission loves. Luckily I decided to listen to the rational girl and I have decided to sit down and do said budget sheet - tomorrow. No really I am. Stop laughing!

Happy Belated Anniversary BTW!

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShelley Koon

Hi Debbie. Great timing with your post as I've also been experiencing this dilemma lately. Maintaining a balance with everything required to be a writer these days can be quite daunting; the writing has to come first. Congratulations with winning the award nomination - it must be a great incentive. I wish you luck with your endeavours.

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie Johansson

Excellent post and excellent timing, Debbie, as I've just joined a platform-building campaign that will see me spending even more time on people's blogs for the next couple of months (I think it will be well worth it, but still...) I decided today, after larking about checking new blogs for much of the day, that I must put my writing first (duh!) and restrict the time I spend on the networking to a small window of time each evening. Your post (and your wonderful cartoons) have helped me with that. Thank you!

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterelizabethanne

Great post. I work full time so time management is something I really have to work at for networking and writing. I too was at the LA SCBWI 2011. Congrats on the award and nomination Debbie.

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

Yes... I've been feeling the same way. I'll check back to see how many responses your receive that agree that their blogs are taking up too much of their writing time. I love it too, but I have a book waiting to be finished. I'll check back to see how you're doing.... I'm writing my book too.

Good Luck....


August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLou Belcher

I've also retrenched (love that word) from a lot of activity on social medias. I found my mind becoming more and more scattered and it was becoming difficult to concentrate for long periods of time. I wasn't writing anymore, not in the long stretches I used to do. I haven't dropped everything, but I'm now doing more of what a writer should do: write.

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterM. D. Benoit

I do see the irony of blogging about spending too much time online.

LOL! I did the same thing.

I think a lot of us are re-thinking right now, about a lot of things. Big change will do that. I wonder if Google+ (which I love, love, love) was the tipping point to saying "ack! too much!" for many people.

Great post!

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersusan kaye quinn

Oh, how timely! Though not quite as involved online as you, I'm facing the same issue lately -- the need to re-evaluate my time and locations spent online and the need to come up with a plan/schedule for accomplishing what I want to do in the areas of writing and papercrafting. I admire you for going public with your plan and goals -- serves as a vehicle for motivation and accountability.

I look forward to following your progress and sharing ideas with you and your followers!

Good luck to us all.

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Stupar

Thank you for this post. I have read similar posts from a few other writers over the last couple of days, and I feel similarly. Perhaps it is the busy fall season ahead and all of us thinking about getting back to business, if you will, and the work we need to produce, and coming to the realization that while all of these social media tools are beneficial, perhaps we have reached the tipping point ... and, like with everything else, there can be too much of a good thing. It'll be interesting to hear more about how each of us find the balance that is right for us.

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Dalle-Molle

Hi Debbie! Writers can really relate to being involved with so many social media activities and writing communities to the point of not having enough time to write - which is supposed to be the main purpose. Social media can get so exciting that writers get carried away as they interact with more and more people in the online world.

Like all of you, I've had the same dilemma. The internet is the easiest way for writers to learn from and share with other writers. It takes a lot of discipline to be able to manage your time properly, especially if you are a freelancer and you have full control of your working hours. It’s challenging but I’m learning =).

Looking forward to your “progress reports”, Deb!

September 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShyxter

Debbie! A compilation of your writer comics simply must go at the top of this list! I am ready to pay for it right now. I want three copies for Xmas. How much is it? Seriously, let me go get my debit card...hurry. Pitch it! Everyone wants it. NOW.

September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristina Katz

And yo, people, it's not about what you don't do. It's about what you do do. Put the stuff you want to do at the top of your day. Don't do anything else until you have done your good work. Then, after you are done for the day, you can blog and network as much as you like. But first things first!

September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristina Katz

I'm right there with you, Debbie - I had some unplugged time the past couple of weeks and have renewed my pledge to be more balanced. I also recently read "Hamlet's Blackberry" (I'm posting a review on my site later this week #irony) which has also helped me reset my plans. This fall I plan to do a *lot* more writing. Good luck to you in finding the perfect balance!

September 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPJ Kaiser

Hi Debbie -

I hear you, I hear you!

I never joined FB - their ever-changing privacy policies scared me off over and over again. (And my friends' stories of how much time they were spending on it). But just the time I spend on Twitter and on my own blog still adds up.

So, since I never joined FB, I thought I'd give Google+ a go. I have not put much into it, however, and I'm not sure that there is much in there for me.

I think part of the problem is that there are just too many social networks. The people that are in my circles on G+ are basically the same people that I already know from Twitter. And they are posting the same things that I see from them on Twitter. So that kind of makes it easy for me... I don't see that I am going to get much "value-added" by being on G+.

I kind of think of my blog as a bit different from the social media things - I think of it more as a place where I can publish articles on whatever I want, and people can read samples of my work, and see what I am interested in, for free. I get a few comments on the blog, but not a lot - it is less of a platform for conversation than just a place for me to publish stuff.

But of the main interactive SM platforms - FB, G+ and Twitter - I am coming around to feel that being on all three is not necessary. And definitely being on all three (or even two) well is a huge time-suck!

Twitter has been really good to me. I have made friends there, I have made professional contacts there, I have gained access to huge amounts of info via who I follow. So I think my strategy is now: Do one of them well, and don't waste your time spreading yourself too thinly and trying to do them all.

For me, that one is Twitter.


September 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJacqueline Windh

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