Author vs Social Media

Hey all, Dani here for my regularly scheduled post. If you have the time, please check out my post from yesterday. I’m trying something new and your comments will be very helpful.

Today though, I want to talk about something that is likely an issue with a number of us writer types out there…the giant time suck of social media.

Now look, I know that social media is important for reaching out to fans, old and new, and it helps to get all that important info of your books and blogs and everything out there, but I also know (because I’m very guilty of it) that social media is a major procrastinator tool as well.

We spend a lot of time posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, our blogs, etc. Granted, yes, there are some authors who have friends or personal assistants or whatever who can take on some of the social media presence burden, but for us little self-published people, all the work falls on our shoulders.

Let’s not forget that some people actually can keep focused and just log on for a couple minutes to respond to comments, write up a post or two, and then log off and hole up in the writing cave. Sadly, I am not one of those people, though I wish I could be. It’s something to work on. Maybe I’ll get there someday. Anyway, I mean to get on, post and respond to comments, and then if I’m lucky 10-15 minutes later I can close the windows and open up my manuscript and get to work.

Instead, I log in and then get distracted by the news feed, and posts from friends, and news articles with catchy headlines, or hey, oooh videos…and the next thing I know I’ve been online for over an hour and have accomplished next to nothing.

So, how can we find a balance between our work writing novels/stories/poems and being present online?

Back in college I used to set little goals for myself…basically, write that 3 page paper and then you can watch that episode of your show you missed last night, or answer those ten forensic science homework questions and you can log into Facebook for a while. Mostly it worked, but I know there would be times where I’m writing a paper and after about a page my mind would wander and I would have to take a few minutes to scroll through my news feed before I could focus again.

Maybe that could work for you. Set a word count goal or a time goal and write until you have reached that goal. Then, allow yourself 10-15 minutes to check social media. There are some helpful tools if this method is your style too: WriteorDie, Written? Kitten!,  750words, and 4thewords just to name a few.

Write or Die is a fun app that is available online for free, or you can buy the desktop version. You can set a time goal or a word goal and then if you hesitate too long in your writing you will be motivated by a pop up screen, or your screen can turn an angry red color, or it will play an annoying sound until you start writing again, or if you’re feeling sadistic then you can set it to start removing the vowels from your writing until you start up again. I have used Write or Die for a number of NaNoWriMo sessions and one time I actually managed to write 10,000 words in a day.

If Write or Die seems a bit too consequence filled for you, then maybe try Written? Kitten! This handy tool rewards you for writing. You can set it for kittens, puppies, or bunnies, or you can edit the URL so you can insert any sort of cute image you’d like. Then you can set it so you’re rewarded every 100, 200, 500, or 1000 words. When you reach that goal word count (like 200) then you’ll get a cute picture of a kitten or a bunny or a puppy, whatever. Then after the next 200 you’ll get a new picture. Written? Kitten! is also a very minimalist site so you won’t get distracted by other things (hopefully).

Then there’s 750words. I used this for a while during grad school and it was pretty cool. After you sign up, you are encouraged to write at least 750 words every day. Your results are marked in a scoreboard–sort of. It’s kind of like bowling scores…if you don’t reach 750 words you earn a spare, but if you do reach 750 words you get a strike. Do this for several days in a row and you can earn an achievement badge. There are even badges for being an early bird or night owl writer, and for writing your 750 words in just one setting.

Finally, last year during NaNoWriMo I learned about 4thewords. It’s kind of like 750 words, but if instead of bowling scores, it was like a D&D adventure. Writing words earns you experience points and coins. But you can choose to go on a “quest” and hunt monsters. Each monster has a certain health number; you defeat the monster by writing a number of words equal to their health number in a certain amount of time. Now, unlike the other options listed above, 4thewords is subscription based. You can get a 30 day free trial to check it out, but after that it’ll cost between $10-20, depending on which subscription length you’d like.

Of course…the other option for writing is to just avoid social media and the internet in general. Here’s where I’ll mention a cool app called Freedom. You can choose to block yourself from certain social media sites or the internet in general for a certain amount of time, and Freedom will not allow you to load any pages. Now, I know that Freedom can be worked around, whether that is using another device to access the internet, or by actually restarting your computer, but if you don’t try to cheat, Freedom can be helpful. And since you can choose to just block stuff like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, you’ll still be able to hop online to do research if necessary, or you know, if you’re one of those people who writes using GoogleDocs or something.

Freedom has a free plan that allows you to use Freedom on one device, with limited sites for individual blocking and it can block all of the internet. Then they have two paid options, one for $2/month and one for $3.75/month, but both are billed once a year (so $24 or $45). The cheaper one allows Freedom on three devices, while the more expensive is unlimited devices. They both allow you to schedule Freedom session in advance, utilize lockout mode, and assign different schedules for each device. The more expensive option also allows you to use mobile blocking, and to have access to discounted productivity courses from the partners of Freedom.

I probably need to get back to using Write or Die again…though I did enjoy my free trial of 4thewords, so I might just buy a subscription. When I trialed Freedom it didn’t have as many options as it does now, so it might be worth looking into again. Anyway, I hope that you find some of these productivity tools helpful. And if you know of any other ones, please let me know.

Now, I should probably log out of my blog and get back to writing.

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