Monday, May 12, 2014

Author Unplugged: How I Escape the Internet

I've always known that I was not a fan of the world wide web. It intrudes upon my solitude and invades my quiet life. Even though it remains on my computer, tucked away in my office, I feel it stretching it's electronic fingers into my world when I'd rather it stay away. 

Even before my days as a published author, I found no great pleasure in spending enormous amounts of time online. I didn't participate in social media, and the only blog I kept was a personal (and private) one to share stories with friends and family. Then I was told that an online presence was essential, even required, to be taken seriously as an author. This seemed counter-productive since I believed that writing was the only thing required to be taken seriously. 

Unfortunately, this career of writing and publishing that I've chosen requires some contact with the electronic world. From writing the story to publishing and then marketing, there's no complete escape. There are mornings when I secretly devise plans to make a break from social media, email, and internet. Then just as quickly, I remind myself that to give up all of those things would be to give up what I love to do. In today's publishing world, whether self-publishing or with a publishing house, if an author is to make a living and sell their work, they must compromise. They must find a balance. 

I've recently discovered mine. At the time of writing this post, I have written out my plan (I do better with lists and written goals), and will wake tomorrow with the firm goal of implementing it. This may take some time as a gradual ease into change is sometimes more beneficial than an abrupt one, but I'm going for a big change to my daily life. 

One hour per day. Just one.

One hour to fit in social media marketing, blog posts (both reading and writing),  responding to website emails, and internet research.

Now, I do have to occasionally break my own rule. I might be in the middle of edits, and a question to my editor can't wait, or I'm coordinating an event with other authors. Because of this, I like to give myself 15-20 minutes to check email once more at the close of the day. Not social media, but emails. 

What happens if someone sends an email that needs a response? It will have to wait until the next morning

What happens if I have a new book release? I spend an hour promoting, conversing, and interacting, then I close my internet browser

What if I need to research something that comes up in the middle of an afternoon writing session? My many notebooks and pens are put to good use. I jot down notes and questions, and then take care of research the next morning. 

What if I don't have time to fit in research, emails, and social media all into one hour each day? Prioritize. Answer the question, "What is most important?" Is it essential for you to spend more than 5-10 minutes on social media that day? Are the emails pressing or can they wait? Would that hour be better spent researching rather than socializing?

There are authors who have already figured this out, and then there are those who take the time to respond to every comment on Facebook or answer every Tweet. There are those authors who only visit their social media accounts one a week or hire someone to do that for them. Then there are some who happily spend a few hours a day on forums, online groups, and visiting blogs, and still manage to write their books.

You have to do what works for you.  

This new format seems to work from me. Cutting that hour down by half would be a dream, but I'm not there yet. It's a tough balance to achieve, but the extra time gained for writing, gardening, reading, and outdoor activities enrich my life and imagination far more than extra time surfing the internet. 

Whether an author or not, how do you balance your time online with the real world?


  1. I'm struggling with that balance, too. In addition to reading blogs from the authors I enjoy (email and facebook), I now have to have a facebook page and a newsletter for our business. Which means more research and reading through blogs, articles, etc. We're closed Sundays and Mondays and I'm trying very hard to stay away from the business side of things for at least those two days. It's a struggle!

    1. It is a struggle, Karen! I'm going to take this "unplugged" thing a step further though. I'm taking a full social media break (except for this blog and newsletters) for the rest of May. It's a risk, but I can't get to know anyone from one-liners and meme's anyway. I love connecting with people on blogs because you can get a little more in-depth, but social media is always a struggle for me. I hope you can find your balance! Staying away on closed days is a great first step. Thanks for sharing.