how small steps can make you a published writer and social media ninja
In her talk about how digital media empowers writers, thought leader Jane Friedman namechecks this site – and me. Which is awesome, and so thank you very much Jane!
(That, however, is beside the point. I just wanted to brag.)
She also stresses the importance of a long-range view when it comes to the use of social media to promote yourself and your work, because most writers, she says, give up too soon. They throw up their hands and say, This isn’t working!
But social media and fiction writing have this in common: you have to stick with it.
You have to persevere.
Jane points out that it took her own blog about 16 months to gain any traction – and this is with the support of the Writer’s Digest brand to back her up. (Do you read Jane’s blog,? Because you totally should.)
This, by the way, is what successful people do, according to Brian Tracy and other success gurus: they have the ability to think far into the future, and act accordingly.
Every big goal breaks down into small chunks, into simple next-action tasks. The challenge with both writing and platform is to weave those next-action tasks into the fabric of your daily routine.
To make them a daily practice.
To commit yourself to the process.
You can set aside a time and place for your practice – or you can imagine it more like a river that runs through your day.
You can write around the edges and the gaps of your routine.
It’s common knowledge that a page a day turns into a book a year. But even a page can seem overwhelming when you sit down to it all at once. It can trigger the freeze-or-flight response of anxiety that leads to the great hairy dream-killer known as procrastination.
Try thinking smaller.
Carry a notebook or invest in one of those cute little netbooks and keep it with you throughout the day. Treat it like your pet. Feed it when you have the chance. Give it love. A paragraph here, a paragraph there, dashed off in those fifteen- or twenty-minute gaps of time staggered throughout anybody’s day, can easily assemble into a page. Or two.
This approach to writing invokes the Rule of Forced Efficiency: when you have such a compressed period of time, you don’t think about it. You just do it. You bypass the censor in your head and get stuff down on paper. You execute. You deliver a deliverable.
Another advantage is that you train yourself to think of your story as a thread that you can pick up at will. Part of your mind is always mulling it over. You’re in frequent contact with the story, your attention returning to it here and there throughout the day; and whatever we put our attention on, grows. And grows. This keeps the process moving along. Each step throws off enough light in order to see the next step. We move forward almost without thinking about it (we don’t have time to think about it).
Your online platform also breaks down into small daily steps. An interaction here and an interaction there. Bite-sized tweets and status updates. Bits of ideas, information, insight that collect into blog posts (which should generally be less than 1000 words, although certain bloggers – ahem – break this rule with wanton and reckless abandon. A pox on them).
Small daily steps. Every day.
When you’re consistent like this, you become a constant and familiar presence in those spaces where you live online. People like consistency. It builds trust. And the trust gap is what you need to close in order to persuade them to one day take a chance on your work. Even free stuff isn’t free, because it requires the investment of somebody’s time – and time, as they say, is money.
So don’t think in terms of an overnight success. That will only kill you dead.
Think in terms of a drip-drip-drip kind of growth. Micro-actions. And micro-interactions.
Just make sure, as Jane points out, that you have a hub, an online home: a place on the web where people can go when they’re curious about you and want to stay in touch with whatever it is that you’re doing.
Think in terms of putting out. I’m talking, of course, about value. Give the people some amusement, some information, some entertainment, some community. Give them a reason to give a damn.
Just add time.
And you’ll score some big victories.