Where Do You Live Your Life?

29 Aug

by Savannah J. Foley

~~~

In July I was lucky enough to be able to go on a retreat with some of the girls here at the blog. We talked constantly for five days about writing and writers, and this is something I’d been thinking about for a while that I finally voiced to Kat Zhang:

Don’t you think it’s funny that huge-name authors, like J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and Suzanne Collins, have humongous fan bases and best-selling works, and practically zero web presence?

Stephenie Meyer hasn’t updated her website with any sort of personal note since May 17th. In 2010.

J. K. Rowling did just launch Pottermore, but before that her most recent update was from 2008. She also has a barely-used Twitter account where so far all she has done is confirm that it is actually her official twitter.

Suzanne Collins’ website looks like it’s from the 90’s and has zero personal update information.

Why?

Why would these megastars of the writing world NOT utilize all the social media applications we’ve been told will make or break us? Here’s why I think it is:

They are living their lives in the real wold, not the virtual one.

And that made me wonder… where am I living my life? I was slightly disturbed to realize that most of my life is entirely virtual. I don’t have any friends in town; all of them are online. LTWF takes up a lot of my thoughts and energy, and I’m an active member of several online communities. I wasn’t disturbed from an anti-technology perspective, and actually I’m in the camp that believes all this technology has brought all of us closer together. But it’s a different sort of mind space, and it made me realize that… I love my virtual life, but I miss my life in the real world, too.

Here’s my issue with cutting off all my social media, though: I pride myself on being available. I have my gmail up constantly. I see everything the instant it comes in. On one hand, this is great; through gmail I get to chat with my boyfriend and my writing friends all day long. I’ve gotten some wonderful opportunities just by being able to instantly respond to something. But it’s also a big distraction. Every time something pops up I leave whatever I’m doing to see what it is.

The other weekend I tried writing with the internet closed down. No gmail. No Twitter. No Facebook. It felt good. It felt like the old days when I wrote in my room because I loved it, because I couldn’t stay away from my stories.

But could I live like that? Could I be like Joanne, Stephenie, and Suzanne, and not tell the internet at large what I’m up to?

I grew up posting to Fictionpress and FanFiction.net. I’ve always written ‘publicly’. I’ve heard some writers say they have to feel like what they’re working on is ‘private’ or they get too stressed and can’t perform. But I love thinking about my audience while I’m writing. I get so excited, and can’t wait to share it with you (though these days all I can do is tell you how awesome it is on Twitter, lol). I enjoy updating my word counts every day, and posting on Facebook about the awesome thing my character just did (like cutting off a zombie’s head with a circular saw).

I can take breaks and not check my media accounts, and it feels nice, but I don’t think I could ever go fully private. The internet is too much a part of my life. But I do sometimes think it would be nice to be completely unplugged, or to never have plugged in at all. Life would consist of my family, my town, my pets, and my writing, and that’s it.

But this also ties into something else I’ve been worrying about… social media and ‘branding’. During the retreat, Susan relayed a story about a writer who emailed her to ask if she really, really needed to have a website like everyone said? Susan gave a great answer: Only get one if you really want it.

Yes, publishers will probably want you to have a website, but that doesn’t mean you have to blog or update it constantly. It can just be a landing place for people who want to know more about you and your books.

Here’s the thing about blogging: Everyone is doing it, and it’s hard to do it right. I’ve struggled with blogging for a long time, because I’m not a social media guru, and I don’t particularly want to be an ‘expert’ on any one thing. I do love writers and helping out writers, but there are already so many awesome websites devoted to teaching about writing and publishing (like this one) that starting my own on the side would be pointless, and redundant.

Instead I decided I would just blog about me and my projects. After all, if you’re coming to my website that’s what you’re interested in, right? And it doesn’t matter if I don’t have a million comments or a fan club or 5,000 Twitter followers. If J.K, Stephenie, and Suzanne have taught us anything (from a social media perspective), it’s that you don’t need to do all that in order to have readers. All you have to do is write a great book.

And that’s where I want to live my life. Offline or not, I want to make sure that I’m giving enough dedicated, distraction-free time to my writing. So while I’m not going to unplug completely, I will cut down a bit, and accept that I don’t have to be ‘available’ constantly. I will allow myself to be busy.

Busy living. 🙂

~~~

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Her website and blog is at www.savannahjfoley.com. She is currently working with her agent to sell a sleeping beauty retelling about a girl who wakes up after a hundred years with no memory of her former life. You can read excerpts from her stories here.

Advertisements

23 Responses to “Where Do You Live Your Life?”

  1. Ladonna Watkins August 29, 2011 at 10:12 AM #

    Great post. I wondered the same thing. Yes, I think it’s good to blog and post, but a great book will bring in readers. And word of mouth is just as good as the interent. Thanks for sharing.

    • savannahjfoley August 29, 2011 at 11:13 AM #

      Something I’ve learned is that no matter how good your marketing or how many books they printed, word of mouth will always sell more books.

      • annafantastica August 31, 2011 at 2:08 AM #

        There’s also the problem of presenting an online personality that isn’t quite appealing and can become counteractive publicity. There are a few authors I can think of where I’ve avoided reading their books because their blogs left a sour taste in my mouth. A particular author I came across loves to brag about her “fame” (she’s successful, but not as much as she is in her mind!) and I was just so annoyed by her ego after reading her blog that I didn’t want to support her as an author (or human being!).

        A sober self-estimation is an important quality to me, and I think that one of the ways JK and the like benefit from not having much of an online presence is that they remain somewhat of a mystery. For all we know, they could be terrible witches who cook children on the weekends! 😉 (although I refuse to believe it)

        • savannahjfoley August 31, 2011 at 9:04 AM #

          Wonderful point, Anna! There are definitely some writers whose work I will never read because of how they present themselves.

  2. Suzanne August 29, 2011 at 10:13 AM #

    I loved this post. I feel the pressure for branding online, and it was nice to hear another perspective. You’ve also renewed my interest in joining my very small local writer’s critique group.

    • savannahjfoley August 29, 2011 at 11:14 AM #

      I’ve been feeling the pressure, too, so I decided to just relax and write. And you should totally join a local group!!

  3. Marina August 29, 2011 at 11:48 AM #

    Wow, I never really thought about it that way. Although I also think that successful writers avoid talking about their lives on the internet because maybe they want some privacy in their lives. I mean, they’re constantly talked about on TV, magazines and other places on the internet, so they definitely get more than enough publicity as it is. It’s some of the ‘not as’ popular and just beginning writers who want to share more about themselves, because no one else will (my opinion of course). Great post!

    • savannahjfoley August 29, 2011 at 11:00 PM #

      That’s definitely true; once you get to a certain level of fame I imagine there’s a desire to keep a lot of it locked down. Plus, I guess maybe it’s not necessary anymore? You don’t need the adoration of bloggers because you get your approval elsewhere. And there’s no point in self-promoting if your book has a movie about it coming out.

  4. Shawn Wesley August 29, 2011 at 12:57 PM #

    I would tend to agree with Marina.

    We, as writers, have to balance self-promotion with self-management. I think actively self-promoting is especially important for any author who intends to self publish. But we also have make sure we are writing too.

    Writing can be very solitary, but if we don’t live, what life can we bring to our words?

    • savannahjfoley August 29, 2011 at 11:01 PM #

      So true. It’s the age-old give-and-take of live vs. write.

  5. Andrea August 29, 2011 at 5:27 PM #

    I think that being online is a huge part of life for some people, but there’s balance. I just met up with an online friend offline for the first time, and it was an awesome experience. Go out and smell the roses!

    • savannahjfoley August 29, 2011 at 11:01 PM #

      My LTWF girls definitely count as online friends that I met offline, and it was awesome, too!

  6. Farrah August 29, 2011 at 5:56 PM #

    I was just thinking about starting a blog since I’ve read some literary agents really want potential authors to have one to assist with the marketing. And having more online presence through facebook and twitter etc.

    But then I realized that doing a proper blog would be a LOT of work. There are some people who have twitter feeds from a gazillion people and other blogs, I honestly don’t know how they manage to keep up with a 100 people and visit all their sites. (Maybe that’s some of you guys, kudos to you if you manage. I don’t know how you do it!)

    I’m just struggling with balancing real life, I know i’ll get suckered into a ‘virtual’ life if I start one seriously. But I’m definitely feeling the pressure of branding.

    Thanks for bringing this up. Was very interesting~

    • savannahjfoley August 29, 2011 at 11:02 PM #

      Blogging is a TON of work. I mostly half-ass it 😉 I find it really hard to visit blogs on a consistent basis; I’m usually one of those readers that hits up your site if you posted an article that got a lot of attention. Which totally makes me a hypocrite because I want people returning to this site and my site, but… it takes all sorts, right? 🙂

  7. AuthorVanessa August 30, 2011 at 9:59 AM #

    Savannah,
    I feel you. My first book came out in April and I had to jump on the ‘virtual’ bandwagon having never gone for a ride before. I enjoy blogging on my personal blog, but I only do it when I can. I wish I could write on it more but I find that if I’m posting a blog then I’m not writing other things. The ‘other’ things usually take precedence from my blog. I’m finding I’m posting literary related/arts related things on my blog the most. I know that the people who read are interested in this aspect of my blog…if they read the other, more personal things, then I’m happy too. It’s also a connection to family and friends who live afar, so there’s a lot of photography of my family on my blog as well. I write a weekly blog for our local newspaper too. It’s funny, I’ve been writing in a journal my whole life, which as far as I’m concerned, is my foundation for blogging, so transitioning to writing in a blog format seemed almost natural. The main difference, of course, is that everyone can read it! Mon dieu, being aware of what you’re writing is a huge part of blogging…once it’s out there, it’s out there!
    I try to find blogs to read, but it takes a lot of time. I end up stumbling onto them mostly, and then subscribing…and this is how I stay connected.
    But you and all the others who are commenting about ‘balance’ are right on. It’s all about balance for me too. And moderation. Some days, a ten-minute quick peak turns into an hour of surfing and reading!
    I must say that I fought joining Twitter for a long time. I still don’t really get the point of it if you’re not Britney or Snooky…but it’s yet another avenue to reach people, especially the younger generations.
    Anyway, thanks for writing. Keep up the great blogging!

    • savannahjfoley August 31, 2011 at 9:06 AM #

      I mostly utilize Twitter as a way to find those interesting blogs/articles I would never otherwise stumble across. Plus I get to read about what my agent had for lunch, which I find endlessly fascinating 😉

      Thanks for sharing all your thoughts!

  8. linda August 30, 2011 at 1:32 PM #

    Great point that you can be a successful author without being a popular blogger. That’s one of the reasons I don’t blog to gain followers or become popular, but because I like sharing my thoughts on reading and writing and getting exposed to various perspectives. I think I lived less of an online life before I moved halfway around the world from my friends and family, but now it’s my main way of staying in touch.

    • savannahjfoley August 31, 2011 at 9:07 AM #

      Linda, I think you have the perfect blogging balance going on though; you do it because you like it, and you’ve attracted a following through it, even though that wasn’t your intent. 🙂

  9. annafantastica August 31, 2011 at 1:58 AM #

    Living is the most important thing a writer can do — apart from, yanno, writing. 😉

    Recently, after coming across some horrible old writing of mine from my early teen years, I began wondering what has changed that has made me a better writer. The stories I wrote back then weren’t bad as far as prose, grammar, story, etc. . . but there was something missing from them that required thought to pinpoint.

    In the end, I came to the conclusion that what’s changed… is me. I’ve lived. I’ve experienced things. And those experiences have made me who I am — in thought, in action, and in application. With each life experience, you grow and develop and change irrevocably. It can be something small — an impressionable conversation with the barista at a coffee shop, a poor decision made in drunken stupor (not that I know about those 😉 )– or something large, like the death of a close friend.

    It also reminds me of how JK says that Harry wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the death of her mother. Her mother passed away and that event forever changed the theme, story, and characters that have worked their way into the hearts of millions.

    I’m a strong believer that there is beauty in every experience and every emotion — no matter how fantastic or heartbreaking. Everything that happens to you in life contributes to who you are. You only do yourself an injustice by withholding from life. I’m not thankful for the hardships JK faced, but I am thankful that she was able to channel them into something as incredible as the HP series. I can only hope that I can use my own experiences to create a story even a tenth as wonderful.

    This is much longer than I intended. Lol.

    • savannahjfoley August 31, 2011 at 9:09 AM #

      You’re absolutely right. It’s a paradox; if you’re living you’re not writing, and if you’re writing you’re not living. Having varied experiences definitely enriches your writing. It’s all those tiny feelings and connections impossible to explain to anyone who wasn’t there that give you knowledge about how people interact in the real world.

      • annafantastica August 31, 2011 at 8:18 PM #

        Yep. Of course, it’s quite easy to stay in and get sucked in by the internet and such. Sometimes I have to find inspiration to go out and experience things that aren’t on my DVR or the www 🙂

  10. Caitlin Vanasse July 14, 2012 at 12:59 AM #

    I mean, there’s Neil Gaiman who has an incredible online presence (and a very devoted fan base) but he often often often talks about how writing is his job, not all the other things.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Savannah J. Foley » Blog Archive » What I’ve Been Up To, or, My Life After Pub Crawl - July 13, 2012

    […] from the communities and networks that used to be a mainstay of my daily life. I was thinking about this article a lot, and I found myself actually living it. So what does a life disconnected look like? […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: