The Disillusionment of Twitter

I know that as a writer I’m supposed to be enamored with Twitter but the truth is I can’t spend a significant amount of time there without feeling terrible about myself. My feed is full of other authors, more well-know and more successful authors, and every day someone else is landing an agent or having an amazing sales day or launching a new book or sharing the amazing review they just got. Twitter is becoming less of a means of communication and more of a personal billboard and all it does is force me to indulge in that dreaded soul-sucking past-time called comparison. So I step away and I block it out. And while it’s the only way I can get any writing done I’m also not building any relationships and I’m not interacting with the people who matter most–readers. So how can we find the balance between engaging on social media and maintaining the right head space for writing, all while not becoming overwhelmed in the process? I’m not sure I know the answer to that question but I am learning more ways to cope with the stress that envy and disappointment bring and how to celebrate others’ success without discounting my own.

Step One: Know Your Limits.

When I’m in the middle of writing a first draft being raw both emotionally and creatively is a necessity. For two months I’m as open as a sore and sometimes getting the words out is just as painful which means that this is not the time to put myself in any kind of situation that could possibly lead to some kind of mental breakdown. Which means no checking my blog stats or monitoring my sales or constantly refreshing my twitter feed and dwelling on all of the people who have lives way cooler than mine. Comparison is the thief of creativity as well as the thief of joy and when your psyche is as delicate as an egg shell engaging in things that don’t fill you up or make you feel good about yourself just aren’t worth the risk.

Instead, learn to celebrate your own small victories, congratulating and encouraging yourself one word at a time. But not just for the words themselves but for the very act of creating, for being brave enough to make something no one ever has before. Even if you have to sit at your desk with your eyes closed, focusing only on the feeling of the keys beneath your fingers. Focus. Focus on you and no one else. Because there is a time and a use for social media but there is also a time for you. There is a time to step away from it all and in order to become successful finishers we must learn the difference. For our health, for our creativity, and for our sanity.

Step Two: Skip The Tough Love.

This step is all about respect. When it comes to writing I’m incredibly hard on myself, punishing myself with negative thoughts and comparisons and bad habits whenever I don’t reach my word count or didn’t accomplish as much as I’d planned. I used to categorize it as tough love but the truth is it’s just toxic. Because forcing myself to salivate over the success of others doesn’t motivate me. It terrifies me. And not just because it fills me with so much doubt and this crippling longing that I’m afraid will never go away, but because it’s so easy to get lost in it. It’s so easy to get on twitter or facebook or wordpress or kindle boards or amazon and spend an eternity over-analyzing every move and every piece of data and every author and trying to figure out where you’re going wrong.

It’s so easy to make yourself feel like a failure that sooner or later you start to become one. Because sooner or later you start to entertain the idea of giving up and if you keep indulging in these self-destructive comparisons, sooner or later you will. Failures aren’t the people who tried and lost it all. Failures are the people who never tried at all. And if you’re spending too much time on social media, letting yourself spiral into deep disappointment and self-loathing, and your excusing it as some kind of twisted form of motivation you’re not hurting anyone but yourself and you’re only prolonging the success that could be yours if you just had the self-discipline to get off the internet and get back to writing.

Step Three:Stay Away From The Things That Hurt You.

The concept is so simple it’s biological. I know we’ve all heard about or maybe even lived out the scenario of our mother telling us not to touch the stove top because the burner is on. Unfortunately though, throughout the history of mankind, the warning is usually never enough. So we touch it anyway and guess what? We get burned. We blister and it hurts like hell but it’s that pain that we carry with us long after the burn has healed as a reminder to stay away from things that might hurt us. It’s a survival mechanism, really, and we’re fairly good at it when it comes to physical adversaries. But for some reason we’re not so good at it when it comes to emotional ones.

As humans, and especially as creative ones, for some reason we like to dwell on things. We like to drown in our own sorrows and the urge to pick ourselves apart is like this awful twenty-first century tick that sends us out in a frenzy to buy every new product or endorse every new program that might somehow make us better. But if we really cared about bettering ourselves we would treat our time and our thoughts and our bodies like they’re sacred. Because they are. And we need to fill them with things that build us up rather than tear us down and we have to learn the kind of self-discipline and self-respect that allows us to say no. To close that article or that email. To put that magazine away or to stop listening to that judgmental family member who makes us feel worthless. To get out of that toxic relationship with men and with women and with food.

To protect ourselves like we’re worth protecting.

This need to constantly judge and degrade ourselves goes way beyond abusing social media and so do the traumas. But if we can start there, if we can learn to set boundaries with the small things first, then maybe we can use them as leverage when it’s time to build bigger ones.

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12 thoughts on “The Disillusionment of Twitter

  1. Aubrey Cann says:

    Twitter is definitely a dangerous one for me. I’m getting better at not feeling bad about myself when I look at it, but it is tough to see all the book deals, agent signing, cover reveals, and bestsellerdom of everyone else.

    • I know what you mean and for the longest time I always felt so torn between wanting to devote more time to it for fear of missing out on whatever everyone else was involved in and blocking it out completely for fear that it would totally derail my progress. Now I think the best thing for me to do is spend my first drafts in total hibernation and only use twitter when it’s absolutely necessary. I know that means that I’m not necessarily utilizing it in the best way but right now staying positive and protecting myself from destructive thoughts is way more important. Besides no one actually makes any money on twitter. You make money from books and you can’t focus on your own work when you’re constantly worrying about someone else’s.

  2. I love twitter, but I’ve been using it for a long time before I ever considered trying to sell my own work. For me, the key is just to follow people who genuinely interest you or make you laugh, connect with other people who share your interests and just put your own thoughts and feelings out there. Maybe I’m not using it 100% right as a selling tool, but it helps it stop feeling like a chore and I have a higher level of engagement with my followers.

    But it is hard to watch other people succeed when you feel like you’re not where you want to be yet. Maybe it helps to remember that from the outside, people are looking at you and thinking how together, disciplined and successful you look as well 🙂

    • I think this is really good advice. I only got a twitter account last year and since I had no idea how to use it effectively I decided to just follow people that I was interested in learning from such as other writers and bloggers. Eventually as I slowly started gaining followers and subsequently following them back, I’d managed to build a community that’s almost 100% writers. Which means that sometimes my feed is full of incredibly helpful information and other times, like I said, it’s just this big flashing billboard for everyone’s success. Maybe one day I’ll have the time to devote to managing it better but while I’m in the middle of this first draft twitter is just not a safe place for me to be. But I will definitely try to keep things in perspective like you’ve suggested. I know you’re so right about people on the outside looking in and thinking that I’ve got my stuff together just as much as everyone else. It’s all an illusion of course haha but it is nice to hear.

  3. Twitter can be a hugely helpful tool but it depends how you use it. You don’t want it taking over your life so there’s no room for writing – that’s counterproductive obviously. But I’ve found it really useful to promote my writing and my blog.

    I know it’s easy to compare yourself to others when you log on and see what people are posting. Actually though, I find I have that problem more with looking at other writers’ blogs and reading about them having sold 100,000 books etc. That gets me feeling really low. But as you’ve often made the point, we just have to get over that and focus on ourselves and our writing. That’s the only way we’ll really improve. 🙂

    • I guess I just haven’t figured out a productive use for it yet. I know the time will come when it will be instrumental in me connecting with readers but right now it’s just a distraction. And wow that’s a huge number. Whose blog are you looking at?? Haha see, looking at blogs is a little more motivating for me just because I feel like its easier to see the journey. I like following authors and learning how they reached their success and that how is so important, which is something you can’t really get from twitter.

      • The blogger in question is an English author Joanne Philips. I’ve been in contact with her. She’s really nice and has been supportive of me and my writing. And yes it is interesting to see the journey other authors are having through following their blogs.

        • Oh yes! I follow her blog as well. She’s someone who’s success definitely fascinates me. I read something the other day actually that was listing the differences between successful authors and amateurs in terms of positivity and one thing they mentioned was that successful authors aren’t threatened by the success of other authors but instead look to examine their particular “formula” in the hopes of replicating it in some way. I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy following other author’s blogs because I love that behind the scenes look at how they became so successful, which is way more motivating to me than just seeing the end result.

  4. Julie Israel says:

    Sound lessons. The unhelpful tendency to compare was one of many reasons I stopped using Facebook (apart from a fan page).

    You are so right about the self-respect and avoiding negative influences! One thing I find useful to remember is that I am doing something incredibly different from most people, and that part of the trade off of that is that I must be my own advocate. I must validate myself– in my decision to be a writer, in my writing, in the long and treacherous journey toward publication. I have to believe in where I am and know that it is enough.

    • And it’s one of the many reasons I haven’t even created a facebook fan page haha. Trying to juggle too many social media accounts would only overwhelm me even more and I’ve learned by now that when it comes to writing and engaging with readers and marketing I should only stick to the things I’m good at and that I enjoy. I just don’t think in tweets and because my first instinct isn’t to share every aspect of my life on social media maybe that means it’s just not the most comfortable environment for me. I have a feeling that will change once I find my audience and twitter becomes my means of communicating and interacting with them but until then I’ll try my best to utilize it less and write more. LIke you said, that’s the best way that I can exhibit true respect for myself and it will be my first step to being an advocate not only for my work, which I have to believe is important, but for my health.

  5. evanatiello says:

    The mantra we all should live by: “Stay away from the things that hurt you.”
    Thanks for reminding me.

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