Tracking the Mythical Beast

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We writers are given a lot of conflicting advice about almost everything, but especially about social media. An active presence there is either something absolutely indispensable without which publishers will refuse to look at you, or a bottomless time-sink which will keep you from writing forever. They are both true to some extent, which is pretty much the definition of a conundrum.

The online schmoozing is necessary because almost all book advertising is done online now, and no matter who your publisher is, most or all of this will fall to the author. If nobody knows you online, you have a big problem. And if your follower count isn't high enough, there are a good number of publishers who will turn you down right there.

On the other hand, we are also often told that good writing trumps all, and anything that distracts us from our writing is of the devil. And social media are about as distracting as you can get. By the time we've chased down all those interesting links posted by our growing legions of followers and socialized with the ones who like to socialize, our writing time has zipped past with nary a word to swell the count.

And so it comes down yet again to Balance, that mythical creature that hangs out with unicorns, somewhere on the other side of the rainbow. Our Hero's Quest is to track down this beast, harness it, and gallop happily into the sunset. I'll let you know when I've accomplished that.

In the meanwhile, I have found a hoofprint. In the settings of my iPhone. You know, the little toggle switch to turn off cellular data. I can't turn the phone right off—I don't have a landline. But I can prevent the constant notifications about emails and Facebook comments and Twitter replies from coming in and cradle my notebook instead. Social media can wait for downtime. And that is what I am going to be trying to do to for a while. Feel free to ask me how it's going. And if it takes me a while to answer, you'll know that my strategy is working.