authors

What I Learned From A Month of Social Media Abstinence

I was considering titling this post “Social Media: Gift or Curse?” but I thought that sounded a bit overly-dramatic, so I went with a statement of simple fact: What I learned from a month of staying off all my social media.

Social media.

Some people love it, some people don’t care.

Some people are gurus and linked in and synced up, and others wouldn’t know what to do with it if it danced naked in front of them.

Some people are on it every day, some people don’t use it as all.

And every gradient shade of grey between.

What is its purpose? Is it vital? Just because it exists, does it make it right? Should we live without it? Could we live without it? What impact does it have on our lives? I’d wager these are questions most people don’t ask.

I have mixed feelings on these matters. On a personal front, I believe the net effect of a growing volume of virtual reality is detrimental to reality reality (see “The Reality Bug”, Pendragon series, D.J. Machale.)

However, as an independent author, I would say social media is important. It’s a way (possibly amongst the best ways, and certainly the most far-reaching way) we can get word out of our amazing books, without having to beg and grovel to traditional publishers, who, I may remind you, have turned away the likes of J. K. Rowling 12 times and told her “not to quit her day job”, so they obviously don’t know everything.

I’m a pragmatist, and I prefer to take a middle-of-the-road view-point: I think like most things, social media has pros and cons.  Pro: last month, I connected with an author in Italy, via twitter (that particular line in my bio is accurate, which is not to say the other bits are inaccurate, but some people may find the information in my author bio hard to believe – but it’s all true, I swear). Con: one can waste a lot of time  on things that don’t really contribute to one’s life. In your twilight years, are you really going to look back and say “You know, I’m really glad I spent those hours looking at memes and satisfying my curiosity about those click-bait articles?”. This could just be me, but I don’t think so.

I do try to ration and schedule my social media time, and almost all of that allotted time is spent on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is mostly for personal things – I do have an author page, but it’s honestly more an extension of my twitter account. Reversely, Twitter is where I let my #writerslife out, with everything from #amwriting, to #writersproblems and #books. More recently, I’ve added to my social media presence by joining the Instagram community*, as authordragonbeck, and again this is a professional #indieauthor account (it took me a while to get the hang of the whole hashtag thing, but as you can see, I’ve become a master).

In the month of July, I participated in the #authorconfession and #MythCampNano games on Twitter. For this, I had to be on my Social Media every day, as the entire point of the thing is to connect and interact, and obviously to answer each day’s question. In order to balance that, I did an experiment and gave up social media – meaning Facebook and Twitter – for the month of August (for the sticklers who noticed that I posted blogs during this time, featuring the fruits of my Ink Slingers Guild writing exercise – yes, I wrote and posted blogs. However, wordpress allows one to post to Twitter, which in turn is linked to Facebook, without having to actually going onto either of those platforms, so I’m not counting that against myself).

This is a record of my findings of Social Media Abstinence:

No one died as a direct result. The world continued to turn. The sun did not go out (although there was an eclipse). The zombie apocalypse didn’t start (or if it did, I didn’t notice).

I experienced definite withdrawal symptoms. The first three days were the worst, with jittery cravings to “just quickly check”. The days after that were better. After a week, I no longer felt compelled to log into Facebook just to see if anything exciting had happened that I should know about. At the second week, it was a vague half-thought that passed as quickly as it came.

I relaxed. At some point in the middle of my experiment, I recalled I’d heard (some time ago) that if you were feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, just don’t watch the TV or read the newspaper for two weeks and see how you felt afterwards. As I don’t watch TV or read a newspaper, I didn’t think that applied to me. I have now reevaluated that consideration. Getting away from the drama is very calming. I highly recommend it.

On the 20th of August, just shy of three weeks into my experiment, Facebook texted me letting me know that a friend had shared a link, and letting me know that I could “see it here”. For the last 3 years, Facebook had never texted me to say anything, yet over the course of the next week, Facebook sent me messages each day, letting me know “so-and-so commented…” and “so-and-so updated…” and “so-and-so shared…” I guess Facebook missed me more than I missed it.

I noticed an interesting phenomenon: I only thought about checking Facebook or Twitter a) when I had completed one task, and hadn’t yet decided which task to do next (boredom) or when I had quite a few tasks that needed to be done, and I couldn’t decide which to do first (dispersal) or when I had picked my next task, but there was some reason I couldn’t begin that task for 5 or 10 minutes (waiting).

I read more.

I organized my bookshelf, and did my filing.

I played my guitar for the first time in over 3 years. I have no calluses left on my fingers, but I can still do a G-major chord.

I still had friends. I still saw them. We had tea. It was nice.

I got the second edition of my first novel done and the editing/proofing of my fourth novel done distraction free (i.e. no need to log in to let the world know “Finished a chapter so I’m going to get a cup of #coffee to reward myself #writerslife #editing #lovecoffee” and fifteen minutes later “Chapter six and I feel like my eyes are bleeding out of my head #writerslife #writersproblem #amediting #amwriting”) and this was soo much faster and more efficient. (Note to self: remember to repeat this when rewriting/editing/proofing any novel, please and thank you.)

Finally, after 31 days of my little experiment, came the big moment when I re-entered the matrix for the first time in a month. What was I going to find? Would anyone remember me? Would I remember anyone? Did I even know what my password was anymore? Was the answer to all life still 42? I still can’t answer that last one, but this is what greeted me:

And twitter:

Yes, I had missed things (like a boat-christening ceremony, which sounded like fun). And a couple other events. But not much – there were only 2 notifications per day. So would I do anything differently? I think not.

Conclusion: social media is revolutionary for independent authors (and other artists and artisans), but don’t let it take over your life. What’s in front of one is more important, and I don’t mean a phone screen. Take a break every once in a while. Take an extended break. Go outside. Talk to someone face to face. Play chess (on an actual board). Buy someone flowers. Learn how to greet someone in Klingon. Actually greet someone in Klingon and see what reaction you get. Or keep scrolling and liking and posting those selfies. This is not a sermon, this is just a statement of my thoughts based on my experience.

And I admit, as the fourth book in my fantasy series is about to be released, I am now going to dive back into social media with open arms, starting with all the amazing things that happened last month (coming soon to a blog post near you). And I am once again participating in #authorconfession!

So, what do you think? What are the pros of social media? What are the cons of social media? What tips do you have for minimizing distractions and getting more done?

❤ DragonBeck

*For those clever enough to catch that most of my Instagram pictures were actually uploaded during the end of July/beginning of August, which was partially during my social media black-out, there’s an explanation which doesn’t render my experiment invalid: I don’t have the Instagram app on my phone, and thusly I was unable to upload my (awesome) collection of writerly pictures. So, I emailed them to my sister, who logged on to my account on her phone, and uploaded them for me with the captions and hashtags which I had put together. It was my birthday present, and may have been bending the rules, but I don’t think it was outright cheating, as I wasn’t technically on social media 😉 I’ve been told my content is pretty cool, and you can check it out here: https://www.instagram.com/authordragonbeck

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The End

Here’s the last one – just in time for the Ink Slingers Guild meeting tomorrow. This writing exercise reminds me a little of Stephen King’s Dark Tower, which is what happens when you give this fantasy writer a word like “technology” to work with (thank you Brandon).

Die (my word), technology, mouth.

After the age of technology had died, passing in flame and ash and leaving the
shape of the world changed, rivers dry and flat lands where mountains used to
be, only a few remembered how things used to be. Martin reflected on this as he
stood at the mouth of the cave, the dark forbidding and complete. No sound came
from inside, it was as if time had stopped and swallowed whatever lay beyond.
The midday sun burned down, heating the back of his neck where his cowl had
slipped off his head, but even this did little to make the cool darkness
appealing. Martin would have rather roasted alive than stepped foot within, but
he had made it this far on his fated journey. He would continue, but only after
a rest, a moment spent gathering his thoughts and steeling his will. The legends
did not say what awaited him at the end, only that he must go, for if he didn’t,
the silver monsters would return, and this time they would leave nothing of the
world at all. A slow deep breath escaped Martin’s parched lips, and he took his
first step towards his last days on this earth, no more knowing what lay between
him and the end than he knew of the end itself.

________________________________________________________

The rest of my life has been put on the back burner of late because I’ve been working on getting my fourth book ready for release, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the Dark Tower movie – it’s at the top of my list when I’m able to resurface into the real world.

Have you seen the movie? What did you think?

❤ DragonBeck

That Went Dark…

A few people went dark at the last ISG meeting. I was one of them.

surprise, flower, bungalow

“It’s just here,” Sarah whispered, pushing through the bushes with Robbie on her
heals.
“We’ve been walking for hours,” the boy complained.
“We’re close, just a few more….there!” Sarah pointed, and waited for Robbie to
crawl up beside her.
They peered through the bushes, one face eager, the other grumpy.
“So what?” Robbie finally said. “It’s just a bungalow.”
“It’s a fairy house,” Sarah insisted. “See the lights around the edge? They’re
just floating there.”
“Fireflies,” Robbie said.
“In the middle of the day?” Sarah gave him a look. “and see the flowers?”
“I see the stupid flowers,” Robbie rolled his eyes.
“Did you see them change color?”
“They’re just moving in the wind,” Robbie started to say, then he stopped and
peered more closely at the flowers around the little house.
They winked in the sunlight, changing from yellow to pink to blue. Robbie’s
mouth dropped open, and Sarah smiled triumphantly.
“I told you so,” she said with a smug toss of her hair. “What do you think we
should do?”
“Get out of here, of course,” Robbie said, nervously starting to back away.
“Didn’t you listen to any of the stories?”
“Yes, but-” Sarah turned back to the house and found herself staring into a
hideous face with lumpy teeth and tiny eyes.
“Surprise,” the face said, and reached for her.

____________________________________________________

❤ DragonBeck

Alibi

The last ISG meeting was quite productive of dastardly schemes to rule the universe, including (but not limited to) an audio book of Guardians of the Path: First Magyc, promotional activities and world-building. More details will follow when they have security clearance.

We only managed to do two writing exercises, so I’ll try to have some other fun stuff for you between now and the next meeting to make up for it.

Snow, glow, tenure

“You can’t kick me out. I have tenure!” the short man in the grey suit shouted
as he jumped up and down, still not managing to come any higher than the elbows
of the four burly men in uniforms, standing with impassive faces as the short
man ranted.
An elderly gentleman also watched, stroking his long beard, which seemed to
glow with a silver light. Eventually he held up a hand. “Now, now, my dear
Gindel, must you make your parting so dramatic?” The little man called Gindel
stopped and shot a glare up at him.
“Don’t you dear Gindel me,” he said. “Where’s your loyalty? What about all the
time we spent building all this together?”
“True,” the other said with a sad smile. “But you seem to forget that it still
needs care and attention.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Gindle demanded with a suspicious look. “It
means you never come out of here. You just tinker and meddle, you don’t even
know what effects you create with your activities.”
“I do too!” Gindle countered.
“Did you know there was snow last August?” the elder man said calmly. “Or that
the Tuesday before all the fires in the kitchen suddenly exploded and demolished
that wing of the building to rubble? Don’t shake your head at me Gindle, you
know your experiments can have far reaching effects.”
“No,” Gindle was still shaking his head. “Listen, Tobble, I was visiting my
mother in the city last Tuesday. I wasn’t even here!”
______________________________________________________

❤ DragonBeck

You can’t die twice

And the final exercise! Warning: ends on a cliff-hanger…#sorrynotsorry

whisper (also my word), forgetful, moist

The thought stopped Jedrin cold. Now he was going to have to rethink his entire
plan from a whole new perspective, wondering if his steps had been predicted and
planned on, or not. He spent several moments going over this, before he
remembered to stop himself. The witch had told him that death was forgetful, and
if he wanted to make sure his plan came to fruition, it was crucial that the
other man’s face remain clear in his mind.
Jedrin was just going to have to carry on with the plan, but he was going to be
more cautious. Cautious and intelligent, we’ll make a good pair, the other’s
voice whispered to him, and Jedrin smiled a savage smile. When he emerged fully
into the Overworld, into the moist air just after a storm, it became easier to
move. He floated, almost flew, and it was easy to find the other, as he had kept
the jewel with him, as Jedrin had known he would.
Jedrin watched the other man for a long time, savoring the imminent revenge, and
was surprised that when he tried to move forward, some invisible force held him
in place. He struggled, and it was that which drew the attention of the other
man, who came over and smiled the same cold smile he had when Jedrin died.
“I wondered when you were going to be turning up again,” he said, his voice very
polite.
Jedrin remained calm despite this small twist. He had a great advantage over the
other man – one couldn’t die twice.
“Are you very sure about that?” the man said, his eyes gleaming.

________________________________________________

On a slightly different note, I hope to have news regarding book four of the Guardians of the Path series very soon! The line edits are coming along, and I am working on a little project to get First Magyc ready to become an audio book – wish me luck!

❤ DragonBeck

Underworld

Here’s my second exercise from the meeting. If you go to my previous post, you’ll get the first part of the story. 🙂

Pale (not pail – my word), tired, sharp

Jedrin opened his eyes, his body feeling strange and heavy. He looked down, and
saw the pale form, but when he touched it, it seemed solid enough. A smile grew
on his face. The spell had worked. He stood up, a wave of tired dizziness
threatening to send his flying to all corners of the room. This was going to
take some getting used to, he thought to himself.
He looked around at where he found himself, and for a moment he was disappointed
– he had hoped that with a bit of luck, he would have remained near the
Overworld, close to his now dead body, but no spell was that powerful. This was
undoubtedly the underworld, dark rock, and a whistling wind that seemed to come
from everywhere and nowhere at once. Sharp clicks sounded here and there, and
glowing balls of a tired sort of light bobbed, disappearing as others appeared.
Jedrin started up, feeling the pull of the underworld as he ascended, his eyes
burning, his mind fixed on one thing – the face of the man who had killed him.
Jedrin didn’t mind so much – there was a plan, and being dead was part of it –
but it irked him that the other had thought him so foolish and easily betrayed.
As he started planning the man’s unpleasant end, another thought occurred to
Jedrin – what if he wasn’t as smart as he thought, and not the one doing the
playing, he was the one being played?
______________________________________________________

❤ DragonBeck

Tryst and Death

This Ink Slingers Guild meeting started out with a discussion of Eddie Redmayne vs. Tom Hiddleston (Tom won). Then followed some seriously cool plans for world domination, which will be unveiled shortly.

My exercises are another continuation, and I hope you enjoy this first part.

Record, pace, test,

He wandered through the silent halls, where the history of the world was
recorded on tapestries and murals, from its beginning, springing forth from the
well-spring Herdor in the realm of the gods, and its journey down the great
river, where it came to rest among the stars. So absorbed in the tale of
pictures that he didn’t see his contact standing in the shadows, waiting and
watching with glittering eyes.
“You’re late,” a voice issued forth.
Jedrin started, and paced himself as he moved towards the other, slow enough not
to seem subservient, but fast enough not to raise ire or test the patience.
“I had to make sure I wasn’t followed,” he told the other, whose name he still
did not know. “Good,” the hidden figure praised. “Caution and intelligence.
We’ll make a good pair.”
Jedrin nodded, knowing that he was trusted just as much as he trusted his
mysterious partner. “Did you bring it?” the other continued.
Jedrin nodded, and took the magic jewel from the pocket in his jacket. He felt
the knife slide into his ribs, and he stood gaping, watching with wide eyes as
the figure stepped from his hiding place, baring his face to the light. The
person removed the jewel from Jedrin’s outstretched hand, nodded his thanks with
a cold smile, and was walking away as Jedrin dropped. Jedrin burned the memory
of the man’s face into his mind, each detail etched hard enough to carry to the
underworld, and then his life force fled.

__________________________________________________________

Next part coming soon, unitl then,

❤ DragonBeck

Invigorated

And the final exercise from the last ISG meeting – I’m looking forward to the meeting tomorrow. Enjoy!

Thug, hoodie, relinquish (my sister’s word – as one of us pointed out, keeping it classy).

Jesper walked down the dark alley, eyeing the thug in the black hoodie walking
towards him, stubbornly unwilling to relinquish his right to walk at night. The
young man with the greedy glint in his eye began to wander closer to the middle
of the alley, and Jesper tried with all his mental power to convince the
unfortunate man to just pass him by. No such luck. With a movement that was
quick and graceful from too many hours spent practicing, the would-be mugger
pulled out a knife and waved it in what he thought was a threatening manner at
Jesper.
“Gimme your wallet!” the boy demanded.
Jesper tried to think of another way to do this, but the kid had asked for it.
“No,” Jesper replied calmly, his nonchalant manner calculated to irritate his
assailant.
It worked perfectly. The mugger stepped towards him, knife up at a dangerous
angle, and was now close enough for Jesper to grasp. He used a light touch, his
fingers closing around the kid’s wrist with a whisper, hardly any pressure
brought to bear on his flesh, but it was all Jesper needed. The will went out of
the criminal young man, his face going slack, his eyes blank. It only took a
moment for Jesper to drain the body of the curious life force that propelled it
through time towards the nebulous goal of the future and an eventual death. When
Jesper removed his fingers, the body slumped to the ground, the knife clattering
sharply on the cement, and Jesper walked on, feeling invigorated.

____________________________________________________________

❤ DragonBeck

Hunter and Hunted

The third (of four) exercises of the last Ink Slingers Guild meeting – we are really getting very good at these!

Clean, spray, speculate

She stood, starting at the bloody floor, speculating on how best to clean it. It
would’ve been easier if he’d done it correctly, she lamented. But he’d missed
the first time, and the creature had gotten away, dragging itself halfway across
the room with pitiful yowls before he’d gotten himself together enough to finish
off the job. The fact that it had been days and the blood had dried on didn’t
help either, she continued her morose train of thought. It would have been so
easy the night it had happened, a quick spray of water, and it would send the
blood rushing away. Now she was going to have to scrub, and she was exhausted
just thinking about it. She dragged herself over to the sink, and picked up the
wire brush. Staring at it for a long time, she tried to think of another way, an
easier way. You could just leave it, a little voice whispered. No, she shook her
head. It would start to smell after a while. It had already begun to smell. It
would attract the others, and then everything would go from bad to worse. It was
hard enough to defend her territory without purposely bringing others sniffing
around. Just as she was about to set upon the floor, a scrabbling sound from the
back of the broken down little cabin brought her hackles up, ears twitching
madly. For a brief moment she had the hope that it was just a branch brushing
the roof from a breathe of wind, but little whines of excitement told her it was
more sinister than a tree.
_______________________________________________________

❤ DragonBeck

Dreams and Reality

And the second ISG exercise from a week ago – it was a vampiric sort of evening, as I recall. Enjoy!

Dream, ruins, vampire

She walked through the ruins, picking her way through crumbled archways and
broken walls, being careful not to trip over slabs of stone, or half smashed
statues. In her dream, it had been much easier – she simply floated over the
wreckage in a ghostly form of herself. In her dream, she also knew exactly where
to go, pulled along by an unseen hand that tugged her deeper and deeper into the
ancient fortress, a relic of a forgotten time of magic.
Now that she was really here, she couldn’t seem to find her way, and she was
sure she had traipsed down this very corridor at least twice before. Then she
turned the corner and her heart sped up. This was the room. The ceiling was high
above, cobwebs drifting down like filmy silver curtains. The walls were adorned
with paintings of mythical creatures that time had swallowed, dragons and
unicorns and vampires with glistening fangs and glowing eyes.
The object she sought was down the end of this room, she knew, instinct telling
her she was close, so close she could taste it. She walked all the way to the
end, her feet making dark prints in the dusty floor. The far wall loomed out of
the darkness, and she stopped, her shoulders sagging in disappointment.
The pedestal wasn’t there, nor was the precious gift it held. Only a clean spot
on the floor showed anything had ever stood there.
__________________________________________________

❤ DragonBeck