Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"Hand-held, analog, and quiet"

Bear with me while I get into some personal stuff that may seem not related to books or writing topics (ultimately, it's all about that).
One way I'm slowing down

This year my sole New Year's resolution was to be a good friend to myself. Not because I'm short on friends -- I have amazing ones, including some awesome co-bloggers -- but because I'm finding myself craving more quiet fulfillment. More appreciation for what I have, less anxiety about what I don't. Here is how I detailed this resolution in Microsoft OneNote (my new favorite office assistant):

  • Meditate to help manage depression and anxiety, rather than escaping through meaningless activity, such as binge watching Vikings (nothing wrong with Vikings, but all things in moderation) 
  • Spend less time on meaningless activity in general (i.e.: social media) so I have more time for writing and reading
  • Better food, less alcohol, more sleep, so my body feels better and my head is clearer
  • More play and fun with my partner and kids
  • Use an encouraging voice for self-talk rather than a critical one 

As I launched into 2015, my attempts to shift my own behavior shed some light on a few things. One of these was a fact lots of us are discovering: being plugged in 24/7 is an addiction, and as such takes some serious focus to overcome. The second realization I came to (thanks in part to an insightful partner) was that I was spending far more of the time outside of my day job commitments worrying about what was going to happen next with my writing career, or scrambling to keep up with promo for my existing books, than I was actually writing.

Tougher than both of these was the realization that the promo I was spending so much time on (while always feeling I wasn't doing enough) didn't actually seem to be helping.

After a lot of ruminating on all this, plus plenty of hand-wringing, I refined my idea of what it means to be a good friend to myself. When I looked at my life, what I saw was a lot of busy-ness and anxiety, and the fact that one by one, I was cutting out all of my favorite activities to make room for things I felt like I HAD to do. First I stopped reading. Then I stopped writing. Then I cut way back on yoga, which helps keep me sane. I don't even want to talk about how much I worked while my kids were trying to interact with me.

What I needed was to stop putting so much pressure on myself. Move slower. Find quiet. Reconnect with my creativity and passion. Let the rest of it -- stuff like book sales and brand building -- take care of itself as I participate in the activities that really matter to me.

Goodbye book promo

I keep up minimal activity on Twitter and Facebook because I have bloggers and genre colleagues to whom I owe support, and because some readers look for me there. I spend more time on Pinterest because I actually enjoy it and find that it stimulates me creatively. And I write blog posts, here and as a guest, because I think part of valuing my readers is giving them a chance to get to know me. 

Beyond that, my primary focus for book promo is going to be creating more content. I no longer believe that social media promo helps the midlist author. (This was backed up by several publishing industry experts at Digital Book World this year.) I'm getting back to basics and putting my faith in building my list.

Hello offline activities I really enjoy. 

As a first step, I've committed to not reaching for my iPhone every time I have an idle moment in my day (such as waiting for my daughter's bus, or waiting for her Kung Fu class to end). I'm also more intentional about when I get online when my daughter and step-daughter are around. Is there a time-sensitive piece of business I need to conduct? Fine, but communicate how long I will be, and at the end of that time, get offline.

I'm reading again, yay! Actual books, because as much as I appreciate the convenience of my Kindle, I still LOVE holding a real book in my hands. I enjoy walking to my neighborhood library to pick it up, and the satisfying clunk it makes when I drop it in the box after I've finished it.

I'm recommitting to my two favorite yoga classes. Not vigorous flow classes. Not hot yoga. A yin class and a meditation-focused class that force me to slow down, breathe, and listen to my body. Nothing wrong with the more energetic forms of yoga, just not what I need right now. I move fast enough as it is!

Just today I made a commitment to coloring. In coloring books, like a kid. Before my daughter was born, I colored for relaxation. After she was born, I colored with her. After listening to an NPR interview with Johanna Basford, illustrator of top selling adult coloring books Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest, I bought myself a new set of colored pencils. Because as she says in the interview, "It's something you can do that's hand-held, and analog, and quiet." I LOVE the feel of those pencils. I love just looking at them and reading the names of the colors.

And finally I've vowed to spend less time talking about writing (when will sales pick up? will I get another contract? should I indie publish my erotica series or go with a small publisher? should I try a more popular genre) and get back to actual writing. Whatever I want. Whatever makes me happy. If readers like it too, bonus points!

How about you? How has technology changed your life, for better or worse? What kinds of "hand-held, analog, and quiet" activities do you enjoy?


  1. VERY interesting post, Sharon. As someone who is just a few steps ahead of me on that ever-shifting path to "success", you always have wisdom to impart! In the last few weeks I have often wondered if any of the things I'm doing are accomplishing anything substantial. Am I really reaching readers? Am I selling books? Or am I just making myself crazy? Too often, I think, we end up talking to each other and trying to sell each other books! And, like you noted, most of us are too busy to read, promote AND write. Choices have to be made. Why not choose to be sane? Creativity can only come from that place of quiet, IMHO.

  2. Thanks, Donna! I agree. The spinning takes its toll. And like many writers, procrastination is a big struggle for me. Social media makes it even more challenging (look, kittez!), and then also we're able to tell ourselves "it's marketing! it's work!"

  3. Sharon, as one who's had the chance to glimpse what may be your next work, all I can say is--Yay! It would be so awesome to see you finish that one. It's such an amazing premise.

    I think a lot of social media is now equivalent to white noise. There's just so much of it that it's become this constant background buzz that's very hard to be seen, read or heard above. Most experts will tell you the best promo is to write the next book. I need to cut down on my non-productive career-building activities in favor of my productive career-building activities, and I think writing should be my focus, not my last priority.

    And I agree of all the social media outlets, Pinterest is the one I enjoy most, comes the easiest, and makes me feel most productive.


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