Friday, May 14, 2010
A fellow author was asking about social media this morning and I reflected on my constant struggle to be plugged in or just go dig in the garden. Actually, I enjoy both, to different degrees, and they each have their demands. Being a visible Internet pied piper can be exhausting, and if you're good at it, it requires even more time as people's expectations rise. You become the crack pipe your followers are constantly sucking on.
In one of my more crass moods, someone was talking about a recently deceased OD celebrity, and my comeback was "Well, that's what we PAY them for." In a way, that's true--they pay the toll for all the attention, adulation, wild wealth, fame, drugs, sex, tabloid content--and clearly some handle it better than others, such as Betty White at 91. But it's also a case of "They lead the wild life so we don't have to. They flame out to make a beautiful meteor streak across the sky that we can 'ooh' and 'aah' over." Outwardly jealous on the ascension but secretly glad it's not us on descent.
The same way with social media. Some people tweet every single detail of their lives, several times an hour, from the cat making a cute mess on the kitchen counter to the famous person they just saw. It must be exhausting, and I don't know whether it's narcissism or simply the way they feel connected to their fellow human beings. Strangers pass each other on the street, more connected to the device with which they are texting to distant friends about being on the sidewalk. These observations have been made before, and being narcissistic, I wonder how it all fits my life. I have a cell phone, but it's one of those lifeless TracFones that I barely know how to operate, and it's lost half the time. I resent it. It's more for me to be found than for me to find anything. I can't imagine having it as a constant live wire.
I strive for visibility, or at least some acknowledgment by friends and readers, yet I don't want to share the full extent of my life. I want to be a member of the community yet many of my passions are outside the mainstream. I cultivate a simple Taoist spirituality yet my chosen career demands that I seek attention. I want to be relevant without being one of those annoying yip-dog leg-humpers we all know and loathe.
Personally, I don't care if Iron Man 2 sucks or not, yet every newspaper, blog, and web site in America was obliged to do something on it. Same with Twilight. I am not sure whether people talk about it because it's easy common ground or that they are genuinely interested. American Idol horrifies me, but there's a deep passion for it. Here at work, it's the first topic of conversation each morning. To me, the cow manure in my garden, and the fact my corn is coming up, is far more interesting.
I greatly enjoy the one-on-one interaction of email. I've always done better with written communication than speaking or acting, and nothing thrills me more than to discuss ideas with someone, whether it's my book, their book, somebody else's book, or even social-media theory. I am all about ideas, not time-killing entertainment, and I guess that's the heart of my struggle. I know I'm not alone. Plenty of writers just want to write and be left alone.
I have a laptop, and I will probably get a little cool tablet or netbook in a year or so when they are plentiful and cheap. My business includes selling content for all these devices--books, comics, and probably soon to be video and the elusive, murky "transmedia content" that publishers keep hinting at. My job is to keep up, to plug in, to be ahead of the curve. I missed the Kindle boat last year because I wasn't tuned in. Some authors made a ton of money or got other great opportunities by being first to the party. I don't know if that fervent, fertile atmosphere will ever be replicated for e-books, though surely there are other trends in digital content just ahead, such as the explosion of indie comics, and then direct-download indie movies.
For the first time this morning, I realized that a traditionally published author's job is to write books, but an indie author's job is to sell books. Huge difference. And right now there are a million self-published authors out there. Somebody's always working harder than you, typing faster, meeting more readers, proliferating pixels.
Hmm. Tough decision. I'm uploading this post, tweeting, FBing some links. In the meantime, go listen to my interview on Seattle Geekly, which is also on iTunes on all those phone thingies and probably devices I don't know about. I'll be live at Fanaticon in Asheville NC Saturday (May 15) and then on the Funky Werepig Blogtalk radio show Sunday night at 9 pm EST.
By coincidence, searching for a graphic for this blog, I found a poignant post by TV writer and producer Alan Spencer.
Now I'm going out to the garden to reflect on it all.