Will Social Media Kill My Writing?

Now that’s a provocative title, don’t you think? That’s not what you usually see on this blog. I’ll look at this question from two perspectives that are totally my own: the time suck that is social media and its role in a writer’s marketing.

Is this our future?

The Time Suck

Everyone knows social media is time-consuming. And the more outlets you use, the more time you spend with them. Now, most writers work and have family and friends who shouldn’t be ignored. That’s been true for centuries. The responsibilities and pleasures of those major life commitments leave limited time for other endeavors. Still, writers traditionally found ways to balance time between the non-writing and writing sides of life.

We can’t do it all forever.

But in today’s world, more time is spent at work. With cell phones and internet, are you totally free from work responsibilities? The 8-hour day is a myth for many. And if you have children, every generation since the 1950s has been presented with more extracurricular activities than the ones before it. How much time do you spend shuttling children from one activity to another? How much harder is it for today’s new writer to find time to write? A lot, I would argue.

Despite these heavy demands on our time, writers are told to embrace as many social networks as we can. It’s the rare agent or editor who says pick one and focus on it. Some writers handle this by simply tweeting or updating their FB status when a new blog post goes up. But does your audience grow if you only post blog updates? It’s just as easy to follow the blog. To do social networking well is to devote several hours (at least) to each media outlet.

I spend about 15 hours per week to write two blog posts, reply to comments on those posts, and read and comment on other blogs. That’s 15 hours per week just for blogging. That’s 15 hours I used to spend writing my works in progress. Is it any wonder they’re still in progress?

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, maybe I’m just stubborn, but I can’t give up more time to other social networks.

The Marketing Dilemma

Oh, but JM, we must also tweet, pin, link, and face to build our brand and develop an audience before an agent or publisher will deign to sign us. This might be do-able if new social media outlets didn’t arise all the time. How many of you heard of Pinterest before last year? And others lose popularity. What have you done on AOL recently? We just master one form and then we’re told to learn something new. How do we keep up? There’s a constant learning curve. Excuse me — but when am I supposed to write my books?

Oh, wait. You didn’t mean this kind of marketing?

So writers engage in social media to market and reach people. But how many of us do it well? Even with “how to” books out there, few of us were marketing majors. There’s a lot of wasted time and effort. Personally, I’m turned off by blogs that do nothing but scream, “Buy My Owner’s Books!” Hey, can we take this slower so I get to know you first? But bloggers who cover every topic under the sun several times a day in addition to their books are hard to follow, too. I don’t have time for all of that.

What Works For Me

If any social media gurus read this post, they might leave a comment saying, “Tough cookies. Suck it up if you want to be successful.” Most likely they’d just roll their eyes and move on to “smarter” writers.

But I know my schedule. I know my limits. And if I’m going to finish my books and get them published, I must spend most of my free time on them. I’ll continue to focus on blogging for reaching an audience. It gives me the most “bang” for my social media buck. I’m not limited to 140 characters and trying to be clever with them. I don’t have to worry whether FB places all my updates in my friends’ news feeds. People don’t have to sign up for anything to read my posts.

And in doing what works for me, social media won’t kill my writing. The books will be completed. And they will be published. Waiting to dive into other outlets on my part won’t kill social media, either. For now, it’s a standoff.

What are your thoughts? Have you struck a balance between social media and your writing or other endeavors? Can you do it all and still have a life and time to write or create?