I recently read on Twitter that social media was too much of a distraction for writers and, as a result, writers should steer clear. Although I understand that tools such as Facebook and Twitter can be time consuming and, therefore, take away from the time spent on putting ink on paper – I also felt that this was a rather one-sided viewpoint. After all, it’s up to the writer to determine when and for how long they spend using these tools – and to determine how to benefit.
Let’s face it; these things can easily be kept to a minimum. Facebook only requires one or two snippets of something interesting a week at most, and Twitter can easily be scheduled outside of writing time. Blogs definitely take longer to write but so long as your readers know how frequently you intend to blog, you can blog every fortnight, or even once a month, if that’s what fits with your schedule. Be clear and write well and you’ll have a good blog. Simple.
But, even more importantly, I felt that this claim that social media should be avoided by writers missed a crucial point; social media can be used to aid your writing in many ways.
Firstly, you get to make contact with other writers, publishers and agents. This creates a valuable support network which I personally find to be of life-saving proportions. It’s not just a good way to get to speak to people who interest you, who can help you with your writing & point you in the right direction, but you get chance to build up friendships with people who understand the joy/frustration/elation of being a writer. And that’s valuable whether you’re published, almost published or just starting to think about the idea of getting published. As successful self-published author and blogger Catherine Ryan-Howard says “Building a social media presence is the single best thing a writer can do for his or herself outside of writing a great book. It enables you to build a readership, connect with other writers, agents and publishers and even sell your work. Better yet, it’s fun!”
When it comes to establishing an online presence and selling your work, this doesn’t mean bombarding people with hard sell; after all, people will just get annoyed and ignore you. But as you build relationships, people gain an interest in you and your work. You have an outlet to advertise the stuff you’ve done and the chance to gain more of a readership. In addition, you can get noticed and maybe even be approached by an agent, an editor (this happened to me) or a publisher and – fingers crossed – secure yourself a much-coveted book deal. Think Twenty Major, Maria Duffy and Beaut.ie – all people who secured a book deal in one way or another through their social media presence.
Finally, you can find out information that you need or bandy an idea around with instant results. Twitter is particularly good for this because you can direct the question to people you think might know the answer. And with questions thrown out in general, the replies are usually fired back at you pretty quickly. This is great if you’ve come to a sticking point which is distracting you. If you’re worried about the time taken, don’t be; you don’t need to sit there waiting for a reply. Send out the question, get back to work and then check your @ messages when you have time.
So although social media could be a distraction, it doesn’t have to be. Just be mindful of how and when you use it and make it work for you. Like anything else, it’s only a distraction if you want it to be. And, as Sarah Webb pointed out recently; there’s always an ‘off’ button.