Monday, November 16, 2015

Why You Might Want to Opt Out

Why You Might Want to Opt Out

by Leslie Colin Tribble

Last week I posted (Nov. 6) a list of some of the amazing classes and challenges available to writers of children's books. If you desire to improve technical aspects of your craft, seek inspiration or want to engage with others in this positive, encouraging and amazingly helpful community, then that list will help you find what you need.

But instead of signing up for every class, or joining every Facebook group, maybe you should opt out.

 Last year I felt compelled to be a part of the group. I signed up for lots of writing opportunities - most were free but some I paid for. I wanted to add my voice to the community and thought this was the best way for me to get lots and lots of writing done. After all, if you're engaged in a challenge or class you'll actually be working on a manuscript, right?

Not necessarily. I discovered I wasn't disciplined enough to do the work for whatever group I was currently involved with and work on my stories. Or I start out great - developing a story idea, make a few revisions, then I'd totally fizzle out so that now I have several very rough manuscripts hiding in folders on my computer.

I've talked to other writers and they sympathize. Many say something to the effect that all these great writing events are keeping them from doing their real writing - it's keeping them from sitting in the chair and actually writing.

Joanna Penn, bestselling author says, "The biggest writing challenge continues to be actually sitting down to write." 

It's nice to know I'm not alone, but now that I understand how hard it is I have to be even more diligent to keep myself in the chair.

Let's face it, we writers are wonderful procrastinators. How many times have you sat down at your computer and had the same experience as Megan McCartle who penned this:

"In the course of writing this one article, I have checked my e-mail approximately 3,000 times, made and discarded multiple grocery lists, conducted a lengthy Twitter battle over whether the gold standard is actually the worst economic policy ever proposed, written Facebook messages to schoolmates I haven’t seen in at least a decade, invented a delicious new recipe for chocolate berry protein smoothies, and googled my own name several times to make sure that I have at least once written something that someone would actually want to read."

I laughed at this because I don't know about you, but that's so me. So in an effort to cut down on those distractions that keep me from actually writing, you won't see me registering for online classes or challenges. I really want to publish a book and no longer are the sands of time on my side. I guess publishing posthumously is better than nothing, but I'm pretty sure I'd rather read it to a group of kids than have someone else read it. 

I'm also pulling back from social media. I read several articles on the subject and found myself really agreeing with Steve Pavlina:

"As I did this, I began considering that maybe I should drop Twitter and Google+ as well. I thought about it carefully and decided that I really didn’t want to spend any more years of my life sharing things on social media. I basically asked myself which scenario seemed best over the next 10 years — going social media-free vs. continuing to use it. It wasn’t really a difficult choice to see which alternative was best. The thought of investing another decade in those services made me cringe."

I know lots of people who are social media mavens. They're incredibly adept at using the platform and really, that's impressive. But that's not me. I agonize over what to post so that it will be engaging. I even ask my 20-something year old daughter how she would caption something because I know my words are stilted and *sigh*, old-sounding. Now I'm checking in about once or twice a week and it's very freeing. I'm not pressured to 'like' everything my friends post, and I only post if it's something that really is important to me (usually photographs).

Considering I'm already very easily distracted from writing I completely agreed with Steve Pavlina when he wrote this:

"I also dislike how social media conditions my brain to be very distraction prone. Too often I’d find myself engaged in some activity and impulsively checking accounts — much more often than I needed to. Have you ever experienced that?

How many times have you checked on some account or other in the past 24 hours? If every social media check was equivalent to a shot of alcohol, would you be considered an alcoholic?"


When I'm honest with myself, I realized I used to check Facebook (I'm too long-winded for Twitter) simply as something to do. I'd even see what was for sale on my local FB Classifieds group, even though I certainly didn't need a broken lamp shade (I have my own, thank you!). Think of how much writing I could have gotten done with those 5, 10 or more mindless minutes given to social media. 

My business card and email signature says, "Writer," not "Social Media Checker."

Note: All images taken from Bryon Collins' article, "25 Valuable Lessons From Seriously Successful Writers"


  1. Leslie, You have walked the walk and i a know I am one of those way too connected. I am going to limit myself come Advent as a time of waiting. I will write more. BIC.

  2. Leslie, you have given us something to think about this morning. I so identify with your words, writer friend.

  3. So true...balance, balance, balance! Thanks!

  4. Yes, Leslie - 2016 is going to be my year of "opting out" and getting more BIC time. But first, one more challenge...

  5. So true! Doesn't it seem like there are more and more writing challenges showing up? Perhaps for me the best idea is to schedule social media time and try not to let myself wander around online.

  6. So true! Doesn't it seem like there are more and more writing challenges showing up? Perhaps for me the best idea is to schedule social media time and try not to let myself wander around online.

  7. Leslie, you have pinpointed one of my problems-too much media! I keep trying to pull away for longer periods. Some days I succeed and other days I fail. I'm going to continue my pursuit of more time to apply to my BIC! Great post :)

  8. I can definitely relate to what you said. Gives me something to think about. Thanks!

  9. Yep. Nice post. I'm finding that I can't keep up with everything, so I'm cutting back for the new year. I've got to get things done.