I’ve done it before. It’s time to do it again, but I’ll do it differently this time, and I’ll ask you to join me.
In the summer of 2014, I deleted my Facebook account. Wiped it clean out of the interwebs and then blogged about my decision. Sadly, my story Seven Days to Sanity: Regaining My Life after Killing My Facebook Page went unnoticed by my hundreds of friends, many who complained they didn’t know where or why I had “gone.”
I’ll explain myself better this time, this first day of October 2016, this first full day of our fall trailer vacation in Moab, Utah. I’ll try to ignore the incessant whining of a snarf-dog left behind by its family in the Battlestar RV parked next to us.
Mike and I enjoy listening to podcasts. He’s downloaded hours of them on every topic onto his iPod, which makes travel time pass quickly and gives us lots to discuss. Yesterday, on our journey to our favorite campground, we listened to James Altucher’s interview of Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Before the podcast ended, I knew what I had to do.
I’ve been telling everyone I know that I’ll finish Waterwight II (at least in beta) by the end of this year, and although I’ve made great strides in outlining and noting spectacular scenes, I’ve not yet written beyond the first chapter.
It’s not that I’ve been doing nothing while ideas and dreams sneak up on me. Marketing Waterwight: Book I while re-releasing “Miss?” and publishing Haikus Can Amuse! and writing my first spooky novella during a 3-Day Novel Contest over Labor Day weekend have kept me as busy as anyone with a full-time job, yet I know I can do more. People have convinced me I need to keep in touch with my audience to maintain interest in my work, yet after years of daily Facebook/Twitter/Instagram interactions with daily (hourly!) “Likes,” I’ve not seen the same numbers translate into sales and reviews.
At some point, people who want to sell their products need to reevaluate the time and money they spend on marketing. My time is now, and my evaluation tells me the time I spend on social media is distracting from the time I should spend working on my craft.
Newport points out the lingering effects of distractions, especially those we delude ourselves into thinking we can handle. Of course I can multitask! I’ll just take a quick peek at my Facebook, my gmail, my Instagram, and then get right back to writing my next chapter. So why does it take me so long to refocus my attention? Because I can’t. I can’t multitask without consequences, and the consequences of taking my attention off of a big project—even for just a moment to count the number of new “Likes”—are significant and detrimental.
I know this is true because of my 3-Day Novel experience. I wrote The Hare, Raising Truth: A Naughty Tail in 32 hours. It’s 19K words, a fast-paced novella, and I never once opened my social media while writing it. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever written. Check out my post about my write-a-thon experience: “Feeling Lucky?”
What does that experience tell me? It tells me I could finish an 80K novel in about four long weekends of focused work, and that’s pretty darned exciting. It’s what I must do. Pigs will never fly until you color their wings.
Would Samuel L. Clemens have completed Innocents Abroad if he’d had a Facebook account? Well, probably, because I’m attributing far more maturity to him as a writer than I have, but it might have taken him longer. When I think about the time I’ll retrieve by stepping away from my media-crack, I might actually be able to finish reading Innocents soon!
So while I’m not going to delete my social media presence, I am going to step away from three platforms that distract me horribly—Facebook (my strongest crack), Instagram and Twitter—until I complete Book II. I will continue to create and distribute my mid-monthly newsletter (let me know if you want to be added to my list) and will post blogs like this one on my website ( www.leadvillelaurel.com ), and I will check my email each morning before disconnecting, so you can still contact me if you’d like. I suppose I’ll still post my 22 push-ups on the 22nd of each month because I vowed to do that to keep alive awareness of veteran suicides (and I’m posting Mike’s 22 because his phone can’t), but that’s it.
My goal? I want you to be totally excited about reading my next novel, and that means I have to write it! I have to do the “Deep Work,” which I cannot do if I’m constantly posting trivial things.
And boy-oh-boy, will it be a relief to step away from all the political animosity choking social media this election year. Yes, it will.
And here’s where I’ll ask you to join me. Join me in stepping away from your greatest distractions. You’ll need to be honest about them, and you’ll need to be strong. If you want to produce something noteworthy, you must focus on it with your heart and soul. Are you ready? I am.
If you like my writing, you might enjoy my books! Check them out here, and thank you!