Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Monday, July 30, 2012

The Power and Danger of Social Media

Power Up Your Brain, from Big Think

I'm a huge fan of Big Think, and I click through to read almost all their posts. This one about Powering Up Your Brain nudged me a little further down a thought-path I've been treading for a while: what can I do to foster my creativity and boost my writerly productivity?

I've tried setting word-count goals and doing early-morning free writing and playing with short story lengths and dozens of other "techniques" to feel around the edges of my writer production. Since I fancy making writing my career from here on out, figuring out my own methods for writerly production is much more than an idle goal.

How does this relate to Social Media?

The Power of Social Media - Connection
Being connected isn't a requirement in today's world, but I think the benefits can be enormous. I can't even count the lessons I've learned, opportunities I've garnered, and rewarding friendships I've made, being a part of the connected world of social media. Two examples from just this last week:

A month ago, a local SCBWI writing group friend, who I knew casually, mentioned on FB that she and her family had spent the weekend learning to throw knives. Intrigued, I asked where you can take knife-throwing lessons in the suburbs of Chicago (our home), and one thing led to another ... last weekend, my family spent an afternoon at her house, drinking tea, becoming better friends, and sticking black, sharp, throwing knives into a homemade target. So. Fun. (Plus, you know this will become a scene in a future story ...)

I posted on FB that I was looking for a high school location to film a live-action trailer for my Mindjack series. A previous connection had hooked me up with an award-winning producer/director, but she lives in NYC, so we were scouting for locations in that area. A friend connected me to an actress/teacher friend of hers in NYC, who connected me to another friend in a NYC school called (I kid you not) "NYC iSchool" - the coolness factor of filming there shot off the charts, and after a round of emails, it looks like we may have found our shoot location. So. Excited. For. This.

These things simply wouldn't happen if I didn't invest time in being connected.

The Power of Social Media - Information Sharing

Making connections is the obvious benefit of social media, but information sharing, to me, is even more compelling. I read an article last summer in the WSJ (wish I could remember the author) about how advances in society have always revolved around enhanced communication of information, the thesis being that increased communication allowed wholesale advances in society and standard of living. The development of written language allowed us to communicate over long distances and time, the printing press sped it up, and now the internet has pushed it to light speed. We can communicate and collaborate with anyone on the planet, no matter how few and far-between we are. 

More from Big Think:
Collaboration helps us adopt smarter, more creative solutions in less time than it would if we attacked every problem in isolation. That’s why (Princeton Neuroscientist Sam) Wang believes that one of the best ways to confront a tough task is to cross paths with colleagues.
This is why groups like the Indelibles, Kindle Boards, Writer's Support 4U, WANA, YAlitchat, and dozens of others I could list are so valuable for writers: it's like the writerly version of Home Depot ("You Got Problems? We Got Answers."). This goes doubly true for a fast-changing field like indie publishing, where you can't find answers on wikipedia, but your fellow in-the-trenches indie authors have them.

The Danger of Social Media
The problem, of course, is that you can't spend all your time hanging out by the virtual water cooler with your friends. I love the Indelibles, but sometimes the email barrage can be overwhelming. I'm a regular hanger-on at the Kindle Boards, but the lure of hanging out there can easily soak up all my writing time, especially in the summer when there is precious little of it.

Then there's the addictive nature of social media, when you start habitually checking your sites for updates and information. When checking your email and updating your FB status becomes not just something that you make time for, but something that's so ingrained in your life that you start to get the shakes when you don't have access to WiFi (and by "you" here, I mean "me" and "OMG what is my problem, it's just FB, I can live without it, really!")

Forget about balancing work and life, balancing sociability and productivity is the new "life challenge" of the 21st century - and those who find a balance that works for them will be more successful than those who don't.

In that spirit, I'm taking a two week break from the interwebs - partly to prove to myself that I can do it (!), partly because I want to enjoy the summer with my kids before it escapes into the fall, and partly to have less distraction from my writing (and see what the effect is on my writer production). It's an experiment! :) But hopefully, unplugging will help me to find that elusive balance that will keep me in the game for the long haul.

Wish me luck!

p.s. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves in the comments - I'll be off-line by the time this posts.


  1. I love being connected, but you're right: the danger is that you can't let go and it ends up taking over your life! I think a break is very healthy. Enjoy yours!

  2. Mostly I'm just shocked you made it this far in life without throwing a knife. Next thing you'll tell me you've never thrown a bolas.

  3. That's great about the video. Can't wait to see it. Enjoy your time off!

  4. I unplugged the internet, but it plugged itself back in and said its name is Sky Net.

    1. LOL! I better start prepping my underground bunker.

  5. It's such a small world! Every connection you have leads to several more, and it's amazing what you can accomplish with that circle of people supporting you. I'm super excited to see how your book trailer turns out, and it's great that you were able to use your social media contacts to help you (plus 1 for social media!). It can definitely be addictive -- I set strict limits on my FB time, otherwise nothing else would get accomplished. I'm also a bit shy of using Twitter for the same reason.

  6. there's definitley positives and negatives to social media. we have to make sure we find the perfect balance, but that can be difficult.

  7. Couldn't agree more. I'm still working on balance. The toughest part about being an Indie author (And I've been traditionally published and am now, for the first time, trying Indie) is that you need social networking to market your book. I both hate it and love it. The best part are the people I meet. The worst part is the time it takes. Ah well...

  8. I wish you luck! You're a braver soul than me in that regard. Have an awesome vaca.
    Catherine Stine’s Idea City

  9. You are TOO COOL! Knife-throwing??? LOL! Amazing. Love it. And I can't wait to read about it in a future novel...

    Yep, social media is awesome, but it's also a time-suck. I'm on the fence about moving over to Twitter. Uhh... Everyone says I should tweet more, but I just don't see HOW you balance. That one.

    Have a great break! See you when you're back~

  10. It's been a while since I've been on your blog and I forgot how good it was. Will be back more often from now on ;-)

  11. As with most advances in society, it has its pros and its cons. The fact your social connections have led you to great experiences, family fun and a chance to shoot an awesome book trailer display the plus side. The addictive nature isn't such a plus :-( But learning to work out a balance can be the most beneficial thing of all.

  12. Great minds do think alike. I just wrote an article on this. It will be on Arlee Bird's blog later this month. Gotta go check my brain and sign off. :-)

  13. I'm just getting back online with summer coming to an end, but finding balance is going to be difficult. I need to make sure I ahve time to write.

  14. Ooh, a two week break sounds marvelous. Enjoy.

    I wanted to tell you how very much I appreciated your comments on Adam Heine's blog a few weeks ago. (Yes. I'm slow. *__*) You helped me solve many problems I'd chewed on for awhile. Mourn Their Courage has been in the works for close to twenty years and I'm feeling those years like a weight holding me down from further innovation. The detailed concept you gave was INCREDIBLY helpful. Thank you!

    1. I'm so pleased it helped! Critiques are so important to help writers reframe their work, see it through someone else's eyes, so they can see what needs to change. It's awesome that Adam offers the opportunity for writers to get just that! All summer, I've been doing something similar, giving away 5 page critiques on Critique Wednesdays - I hope you'll stop by to enter before the summer escapes into fall! :)