For a long time – years, I’d say – I’ve been restless within every time I used social media to promote my work as a burgeoning writer. Everyone told me early on, “You have to use social media. You need a platform in order to be deemed credible with publishers. Get on the bandwagon and learn how to best maximize your efforts.”
Guess what? This drained me. I did heed the advice of veteran authors, many of whom are well established in the Catholic sphere of creative writing. But I did not feel right about it all. In fact, it made me hate being online. Every time I signed up for Twitter or Instagram or Pinterest, I just felt bogged down by the ins and outs of each platform. They’re all so different. And why was I doing all of this – spending an exorbitant amount of time and energy that I wanted to use writing instead on managing over half a dozen accounts? All for what goal?
I thought it was going to make me more visible, more accessible. And I initially wanted that. I hated how some writers who become celebrities (in their own minds at times) seem so impossible to reach. I didn’t want to become one of them.
A few weeks ago, Ben and I took a much-needed long weekend trip to Michigan in order to relax, enjoy some great local food and wine, and visit a new friend of mine from the Catholic Writers Guild. While we chatted over brunch on Sunday, she enthusiastically shared with me a book she had read – twice – about improving your ability to think deeply and work more meaningfully.
I was intrigued.
The book’s title, Deep Work, made sense to me. I am drawn to deep work as a writer. I am first and foremost a deep thinker, and thinking always leads me to inspiration. But how often do I get sucked away by five or ten minutes here and there where I hop on Facebook with the intention of glancing briefly at what others are doing, only to be swept away by the deluge of information, gossip, and tragedies that leave me feeling more depleted than energized?
I wanted to read this book. She loaned it to me, and I devoured it in about a week and a half. The result? I feel a renewed sense of identity as a writer. In fact, I feel as if perhaps I’ve adopted an entirely different identity as a writer, because I no longer see the necessity of being on every social media platform in order to self-promote (which I loathe).
Now I am contemplating which social media platforms to get rid of altogether, as well as how I can use the remaining few more intentionally and sparsely.
Deep Work by Cal Newport explained so clearly how our brains have been rewired through the fast check-and-go mentality of scrolling through our smartphones. They’ve not been rewired for meaningful work. They’ve been rewired for inattentiveness and lack of focus. This has been recently validated by psychological research, and it doesn’t surprise me.
In the past four years, I feel most alive when I am able to hole myself in a room and allow my mind to truly be influenced by deep thoughts. When those thoughts are transferred into written words, they flow so effortlessly and smoothly. And I am swept away by the sheer beauty of creative writing in these moments. The problem that arises is adopting the (erroneous) societal belief that social media is a necessary aspect of my life as a writer. It’s really not. In fact, it’s become an incredible distraction to me, and I am relieved that I’m not alone in this.
And now that I have learned this and honestly believe it for myself, it will completely transform the way I write. In fact, it already has. I have been pondering ways to make my time meaningful rather than filling the five or ten minutes I have with idle scrolling or posting. And I have confidence that the result will be more powerful, prolific, and purposeful writing on my part.
Text (c) Jeannie Ewing 2017, all rights reserved.