Over the past couple of years and more specifically this calendar year, a lot of my energy has gone into assisting organizations and individuals (including me) with strengthening social media practices.
Hoping to answer the question: "How do you build online community?"
And then, actually doing it post by post, tweet by tweet, share by share.
Most recently, I've joined the social media team at Feed The Children. Exciting new things are happening in the communications department and next week I look forward to telling you all about our newest project launch!
I've also assisted individuals as well as small groups of people with growing their online presence. (As my bio says, I'm known for making folks disciples of twitter . . . strange but true). As an aside, if you want to have a conversation with me about this, feel free to contact me through the email address under About Elizabeth.
All this strategizing about social media has got me thinking about my own writing life in conjunction with it.
So to writers who say they want to go to their bubbles of offices and deactivate their WiFi to meet their deadlines, I beg to differ. I believe I am a better writer because I am a social media practitioner. And it's not just because I'm procrastinating. Here are some thoughts:
1. You really can say a lot in 140 characters.
When I first started tweeting, I was overwhelmed as many new to twitter are that I had to something in less than a sentence or two. How was that even possible (especially from overly verbose me)? But the more I wrote and edited tweets I found myself going through a daily editorial exercise without even thinking about it. There were words in a given sentence I didn't need. There were abbreviations that I could use instead of other words. And I saw that it didn't take a long paragraph to convey emotion, passion or even conviction. 140 characters was enough indeed.
2. Clever humor is so attractive.
When is the last time you read someone's post on Facebook or someone's tag line on Instagram and laughed out loud? Maybe I just have found some really witty accounts to be associated with, but reading other people's funny posts pushes me. It pushes me not only to laugh more (it is good not to take life so seriously), but also to think of ways to craft more appealing sentences myself.
Sure, I could just say, "I'm watching the Miss America pageant tonight on tv. Trying not to be snarky." But it is way more inviting to conversation with others if I say something like, "Irish dancing is always cooler than a tutu. She's looking at all the other contestants and saying top this #missamerica" Simply put, participating in social media stretches my creative muscles and I believe my longer prose thanks me later.
3. Practice, practice, practice.
In the weekly discipline of keeping up a blog, perfectionism goes away. A blog is never meant to be perfect. It just is. So the best thing a writer can do happens: there are words on a page.
When I have conversations with writers who wrote prior to the "post your every thought online" times such as these, one of the most positive reflections I hear from such writers is this: you don't know how lucky you are as blogger to have so much practice! And it is true a blog is great for trying out any new ideas. It's great to see what ideas stick and which ones don't.
And, while the act of blogging and sharing your writing on other social media channels can easily lead to narcissism or not taking the necessary time to churn out rich thoughts that more established publications can provide-- a blog is good because it keeps you writing and conversing with your community of readers. Practice does not make any writer perfect, but it does keep us moving in the right direction.