I realised something pretty fundamental at the start of this year and it was this: 1+1+1+1+1 does not equal 2. I was burning out trying to do too much and feeling constantly that I was failing. I had to decide what I most wanted to do and why. The answer was, write, and for the love of it.
I therefore made a conscious decision to stop doing some stuff I enjoyed so as to devote my limited spare time to the thing I loved most: writing. That meant giving up my beloved reader blog and pretty much all my other online activity. I slashed my Google Reader subscriptions to 14 sites (all of which I still faithfully read though rarely comment on), all but gave up Twitter and abandoned my then nascent attempts to start using Goodreads and Facebook.
It is yielding results. I have just completed the second draft of a book I started only 6-7 months ago (hence me taking a night off and writing this post tonight) and I’ve written a short story in that time frame also. That is swift for me. Bear in mind, I have a demanding job and 2 children so my ‘free’ time rarely starts before 9pm, including at weekends. By avoiding online activity, not watching TV, having a pitiful social life and not getting as much sleep as I ought, I’m able to secure regular, if limited writing time.
I have no doubt I’m doing the right thing, but I do miss the contact with online friends. And even after so short a time, I feel like I’m losing the ability to communicate as readily and confidently with them as I once did. During recent, brief visits to Twitter, I’ve found myself swithering over whether it’s appropriate to reply to tweets, suddenly unsure of the proper etiquette (though in fairness, that’s not something I’ve ever been entirely au fait with). As I’ve run my eye down the lists of tweets, I’ve also been struck by how very little content is there. The stuff I’m interested in is swamped by endless promo tweets and it drives me away, even though I know it’s my own fault for deciding to follow fairly indiscriminately.
All this has got me thinking about lots of stuff. About what I miss about being online (content, community, trusted opinions, a sense of connection) and what I don’t (promo, inability to find the content I want, inability to reach an audience, poor content, time commitment). Unfortunately, my solution to the problems of being online has largely deprived me of the benefits.
It’s got me thinking, too, about how I as a writer can connect with readers in the future. In the past, as an active member of the community, I felt I had some goodwill, I suppose. I felt my blog contributed something to the community by way of content. It wasn’t much, but everything that was in there came from me and was genuine – an honest attempt to grapple with the genre and being a reader and what those things mean to me. But what about now that I’ve gone to ground?
There are no easy answers, I think, but if you think you can make 1+1+1+1+1 equal 4 or even 3, do let me know. Though chances are, I won’t believe you.
Image: Roberta F. [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons