At the end of last year my novel had received enough rejections for me to start forgetting about being published, accept the dull pain inside me and get on writing the next one.
But I was getting easily distracted. My new smart phone didn’t help. Facebook was the main culprit and time flew by as I logged in up to fifteen times a day, poring over photos of third cousins’ children’s communions, neighbours’ dogs, websites called The Bastard Weather and videos of entire wedding parties falling into a lake.
I found myself getting sucked into the relentless exchange of social interaction and its feel-good factor. Who doesn’t feel loved at the sight of five or more notifications on their news feed and who doesn’t die a momentary death when no one ‘likes’ their dazzlingly witty post, photo or personal blog?
But the minutes I was spending on social networking were starting to add up. It was quality time that should have been spent with family, reading or writing my new novel.
In his book The Klaus Project, the writer Jonathan Cranzen criticised the frenzied need to interact with others instead of spending time with our own thoughts.
“Who has time to read literature when there are so many blogs to keep up with, so many food fights to follow on Twitter?” he asked.
Zadie Smith has spoken about her problem with online distraction too. In the acknowledgements page of her novel NW, alongside her thanks to her family and friends, she also mentioned Freedom™ and SelfControl™, two software programmes that she uses to block internet access.
So as the New Year dawned I started to think about regaining control, about reaching for the deactivate button. But then in January I found a publisher for my book and my relationship with social media changed from near divorce back to passionate honeymoon period.
As well as Facebook, I’m now on Goodreads, Twitter, I have my own website and I’m on a number of writing websites as well. It’s exhausting. My book isn’t out until September but I’m zipping around in cyberspace finding ways to promote it. Gone are the days when marketing was the sole domain of the publisher. Now the writer has to be involved. I’m enjoying most of the promotional stuff at the moment but like most writers, what I really want to do is shut myself away and write my next book.
While I can’t ignore social media I can control my intake. So I’ve decided to switch off during the day. I’m leaving the internet phone at home when I go to the library to write and I’ve cancelled my internet registration there. I’ve gone back to a not so smart phone on which only family members can reach me in emergencies and I try to limit my online access to a couple of times in the evening.
It feels good to be free again. My skin has improved and the hand tremors have gone. But it’s only been a short while. Like they say in the twelve step programme, I’ll just have to take it one day at a time.