Social Networking and the Writer

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by Elizabeth Baines













Here’s a conversation I’m constantly having with myself:

What a godsend for the writer, social networking! Remember those days when you had none of that power to spread word about your books? None of those amazing networking opportunities?

It takes so much time, though. Time away from writing, which, after all, is the thing I’m supposed to be doing…

Come on! Time management! Allocate an hour or so in the day.

But, actually, isn’t it rather frowned on to use Twitter and Facebook etc simply for self-promotion? I mean, I know it’s the books I’m promoting, not myself, but there’s a fine line, people don’t like it if you’re just popping in each day to spam them about your books and then cutting and running … it could even be counterproductive and put them off your work altogether! You need to hang around, make conversations, discuss issues, get interested in other people’s concerns…


Oh yes, that’s true. And if you’re only intermittent you’re out of the loop … but it’s not just about the books is it, anyway? Look, face it, you can’t just be an invisible author nowadays. This is the reality of the market: people want a whole package which includes the author. Your books will sell a whole lot better if they’re associated with an interesting attractive personality people feel they know.

Oh for God’s sake! Why do you think I became a writer in the first place? To cut through all that sort of crap – to get away from things like personality and down to words and ideas!

Yeah, well, times have changed. Learn to work with it. Everyone else is doing it; where will it leave you if you don’t? You owe it to your publisher, your books and yourself…

But it’s not just time. Here’s the real thing: it takes up so much thought and creativity. And to write properly, I find, to create work with pulse and conviction, to make a vivid, emotive world that truly draws the reader in, you need to be free of such distractions - hasn’t Zadie Smith said she doubts that any really good work ever came out of a room connected to the internet, and didn’t Jonathan Franzen even need earplugs and a hyperbolic blindfold? And once you’re in there, inside that obsession, that dream – well frankly, I end up doing things like putting my gloves in the fridge, I forget to talk to the kids leave alone all those interesting Twitter contacts…

Mm, it’s a problem. You can see people ending up writing less than they might have done otherwise. Or maybe writing more superficially: you can even see it changing fiction, to its detriment, altogether. Maybe you should log off then…

Well actually, hang on, there’s a really interesting discussion about it on the internet, let me find the link



Photo credit: Tim Ellis

6 comments:

Vanessa Gebbie said...

and how do writers read this very interesting post, unless they are on the internet?

Sue Guiney said...

Man,do I struggle with this. Since my last novel was published social networking has been my full-time job. But I've given myself until my book tour is done. then when I start writing the next book, I swearI will limit myself to writing in the mornings and doing the Internet stuff in the afternoons and evenings, I did manage to keep that schedule once before. Hopefully, I can do it again.

Jane Eagland said...

I was going to comment and say that I struggle with this too. And then I hesitated because I thought why would anyone care what I think?And then I thought you'd like to know that someone was reading your post... I like social networking if it leads to personal connections; I'm just bothered that apart from it taking up too much time it creates an illusion of connectednes.

Mike French said...

Hi Jane thanks for leaving a comment - my way of dealing with this is to turn everything off on my laptop apart from word and go to a different room in the building so I'm not writing in The View From Here office.

Elizabeth Baines said...

Thanks for your comments, all.

Mike, I do that last as well. However, I find it's not just a question of physical space but psychic space - the former can help the latter but it's not foolproof. Maybe it's just a personal problem of mine - the fact that I find it so hard to do other things and write - and sometimes I think I need to train myself better. But then I do also know that it's only when I succeed in getting into the 'zone', excluding everything else, that I produce my really good writing.

Lady B and Little H said...

This is cerainly a slippery slope. As an aspiring writer, I find myself spending a lot of time reading blogs and other "stuff" on the Internet.
A room without Internet connection is certainly the way to go. And in addition set of a limited period of time each day to browse the net and write in your blog, Facebook, on Twitter and and and...