Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Writer's Hiatus

Other possible titles for this post:

  • I Have Written 5x the Number of Words in Crits as I Have in My Own Book This Month, and I Must Scream
  • The Stretched-Too-Thin Author and the Deathly Deadlines 
  • Writer Wars Episode One, But Really Four Because Reasons: The Social Media Menace

No one can ever claim modern aspiring writers aren't busy people. Because these days, it's not just about the writing. It's also about the networking, blogging, platform building, peer-critting, peer-reading, twitter-devouring, mega storm we've thrown ourselves into - not because it churns ye olde creative juices, but because we've been told time and time again that it's necessary to success.

While flurries of agent and author blogs show widespread contradicting opinions on the matter, the resounding message spread across the aspiring writer net is: build a platform. Be visible. Be engaging. Dislike for the recent trend has been the subject of many an article, like Meghan Tifft's "An Introverted Writer's Lament", which asks: "How did [writing] become so interminably social?". Now I'm not about to turn this into one of those "Social Media is Bad M'Kay?" articles, because despite the laments, the aforementioned mega storm is key to many a writer's success.

Building a platform is the first step to building a network, engaging with your audience, and drawing in potential readers for your magnum opus.  As is (this one especially, I'd argue) building relationships with writer peers, exchanging critiques, and reading your contemporaries' works. It's all tools in the toolbox of a writer's career, but one has to wonder if being a writer is more made up of these things than actual writing these days.

In the first week of this past August, I came to the realization that is the first alternate title listed above. Funny as it is (to me at least), it was true. I had written nearly five times as many words of critique for my peers' works than I had written on my book. Between these crits, this lovely blog, my twitter, facebook, Scribophile, captainhood of a critique team on Scribophile, modhood for the same, and, oh yeah, that little diddy called a full time job, I was getting hardly any actual writing done.

All around me, my peers struggled with the same, and some of them - on top of everything else mentioned - have kids to boot. Many lamented similar themes on open forums or twitter or facebook, all while continuing to use the very things that sucked away their time. Like me, they saw the value in the platform they built, the relationships they'd sparked, but also saw the dip in productivity, the lack of words hitting the page.

In the beginning of August, I realized: I'm not a writer unless I write.

Nothing is more important to being a writer than actually writing (and maybe reading, too). Your blog can fade, you can lose twitter followers, those people on your favorite forum might not recognize you as well as before, but that all hardly matters in the face of doing what writers do best: writing. While everyone has their own circumstances that makes what I did next more or less possible, I took a break. I slipped away from social media for a while, from trading crits with my awesome CPs, and just focused on my stuff. 

So my contribution to the writing-advice-can-sometimes-be-wrong bandwagon, a la this article on why suggestions to write every day are ill-advised, is: it is a-okay to take a break. It is perfectly acceptable to escape twitter for a while and to work on your writing, because that above all else is most important. You are, after all, a writer.