Author and ALLi Advice blog editor Debbie Young makes the case for self-published authors to occasionally turn their backs on the ever-hungry beast that is the world wide web.
As indie authors, we sell most of our wares in a marketplace that never sleeps. In theory, at least, we are able to reach new readers 24/7, all around the world, without leaving our homes. But with this privilege comes a never-ending action list of online marketing tasks – and a ton of related stress.
Build a website – blog and guest blog – tweet and retweet – pin and repin – share an update – share a story on Wattpad – like for likes – schedule some posts to reach other parts of the world at their busiest times – schedule some more to get ahead of yourself – check your sales stats – tweak your keywords….
Sound familiar? Yes, we all know we should prioritise. Ring-fence marketing time, limit online hours, protect writing time. But how many of us are that disciplined? Not me, I confess. Even for those with the best time-management skills, the pressure can still build up, because the internet is always there, begging to be fed.
The Virtual City that Never Sleeps
In most other kinds of trading, there is enforced downtime. Few shops are open 24 hours a day, every day of the week. Most countries have public holidays when all stores must close by law. When I used to work in the commercial world, I used to love Bank Holidays, because they meant everyone would be out of the office, so I wouldn't feel like I was falling behind for taking a day off.
By contrast, for the self-employed author-publisher, it's hard to take a day off from the internet. If we do, we worry about what we're missing. We sneak online through the backdoor – our smartphones – to just check those Amazon stats one more time, or to see who's unfollowed us on Twitter, or to feed our tweet schedule.
Who Needs Big Brother Anyway?
It's not that we fear Big Brother is watching us. Actually, we, the authors are generally the ones doing the watching. But too much time online can make us feel more tense, more anxious about our chances of success, more concerned about comparing our lot with other authors' success. Worst of all, it distracts us from the most important thing that we do: the writing.
Addictions creep up on us slowly, and an internet habit can quickly becomes an addiction, and an antisocial one, morphing imperceptibly from invaluable tool to covert bully, driving us like slaves to feed its endless appetites.It's only when we fall into a black hole of unconnectivity now and again that we recognise its stranglehold.
A power cut, an internet outage or a trip to a place with no mobile signal can feel at first disproportionately disastrous. But if it lasts long enough, our mood swings the other way as we savour our short-lived freedom, and our creativity goes into overdrive. When do I get my best ideas? In the shower, or driving, or walking, or pushing a grocery cart. Never in front of the computer.
Only when we step away from the machine do we realise how energising life unplugged can be. It's like having an electronic surveillance tag suddenly removed.
Permission to Unplug
So this summer (or winter, if you're in the southern hemisphere), be bold. Give yourself some offline time and relax. When you return to the web, you'll feel more energised, less jaded and more enthusiastic, and what time you do spend online will be quality time, not begrudging drudgery.
Go on, pull the plug. You know you want to. I promise you the internet will still be there when you come back, and so will the readers.
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How do you manage your online time to keep it a positive experience? We'd love to know your top tips!Why #authors should turn their backs on the internet now and again by @DebbieYoungBN #selfpub Click To Tweet