Balancing Act

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this is me doing a headstand. i have been practicing yoga for years. this is just one of the many random things you’ll catch me doing because i can. and yes, this requires balance. it’s the balance on the grid i can’t manage so well.

I’ve always been honest with you.  I am having a hard time balancing myself on the whole social media thing.

I recently returned from 10 days of being off the grid and it was like food for my soul. This vacation came on the heels of writing furiously for “Camp NaNoWriMo” (National Novel Writing Month) and almost maniacally for a month straight. During that month, I also managed to write blog posts, almost as a treat to myself to change the tempo, write about some real things and simply get things off my mind. A couple posts were well, totally and completely random.

During NaNo Camp, when I wrote, I wrote about 6k words a day and I never let up the intensity of what I was doing.  I holed myself in my office for several hours and played music to evoke the proper mood and tone.  I said a prayer to my muse and to God asking for guidance and support and clarity.  I requested that I stay on task and that I do what is good and honorable.  On my final day, I wrote 4k words in less than two hours and even I was surprised by how the novel ended.  Oh, and I put on about five pounds and I kept at the writing.  I was told by someone that what I was doing was pointless.

The vacation was right on time.  I loved being off the grid.  As much as I enjoy the online experience, I always enjoy, and prefer seeing and touching and employing all my five senses in the actual experience of being with the people I know (I don’t taste/eat them, I eat with them, and the smelling sense is passive… my olfactory system picks up the people… admit it: yours does too).

On my personal Facebook page, I have the luxury of being in real-life contact with a great majority of the “friends” I have and I always enjoy our real contact.

After vacation, I didn’t go online for almost two more days because I knew that once I did log on, it would be for a while.

So when I did go online, I was online for a long time.  Even though I logged off, I would log back in.  I started a post about what I learned on vacation that started out as very heavy and heady.  On my way back from picking up my son from tennis camp, I realized that I needed to lighten up that post.  So I wrote the humorous post that I did publish about what I learned while on vacation.

But my need for outreach didn’t end there: after I posted, I stayed online to check my stats for visits to the page.  I’m admitting a lot here, and it’s hard to say because it’s akin to a neurosis… not an addiction, but a weirdness in that I would like to be validated through the online world and hear me now: if my kids or my best friend told me what I am telling me (and you) right now, I’d tell them to not bother.  To let it go.  To see their value in themselves and that their basis of “appreciation” or “validation” was extrinsic and completely out of whack and that the amount of “hits” or “reads” or “fans” has nothing to do with their essential value, talents or gifts in this tangible world we have been granted a finite time to live in.

I can rationalize this all I want and say my interest for “outreach” is because of my professional public relations grooming, to see if I “nailed it” when I posted.  Or I can chalk it up to my BA in Writing.  Or I can claim it’s because I’m a social animal (which I am: but I realize that I recharge from actual human contact), or that I’m just genetically inclined to Write.  But Writing is not necessarily or actually at all: the same as Being Online.

But I didn’t say to myself what I’d say to my kids or friends.  I checked to see if people “liked” the post on Facebook.  I went on my Grass Oil fan page on Facebook to see if anyone shared it.  This neediness went on for about an hour and I’m not excited to admit it.

Blog stats … I saw myself saying, “just one more check for hits and then I’ll shut down…” and when I heard myself say it outloud, that is when I finally shut down.
I have wondered about this interest of mine for a while and I think the only way to shut it down is to become hypervigilant and beat it.

So I see a crossroads: the intersection of my online experience impinging on my real, tangible, off-the-grid life and vice versa.  Am I alone in this? Does anyone else have this concern?  Is it time management? Yes, obviously.  Set a timer? Sure… I just have to remember to do that.  Hyper vigilant. I also can’t use my writing as an excuse to be online.  I wonder: if I treat the writing as a “job” then will I be better about my time management?  But then I have another conflict with authenticity… it’s not a “job”; it’s an interest.  A job earns income.  In the final analysis, I see that what I’m dealing with is a value issue. And very likely a dopamine response…

.  .  .

I am realizing that the online thing is more than a balancing act for me, it’s almost an identity concern, in that I am having a need to see myself validated through the online experience.  I won’t say “crisis” because I think that word, the fact that it even exists, is bullshit.  We create our own crises; issues don’t suddenly become a crisis.  It’s because we ignore things that allows the “crisis” label to be exploited and then all shit hits the fan.

Energy crisis.

Crisis of faith.

Political crisis.

Healthcare crisis.

Diabetes crisis.

Debt crisis.

All this stuff is always brewing, we just decide to play backgammon instead.

What I’m dealing with is a “concern” (and I’m not using my PR background spin machine to rationalize it); but I will say this: the nanosecond the social media experiences I am concerned with become a crisis is the day I’m offline for a year.  And sipping mai tais on Oahu…

And if you ever hear me refer to my flesh and bone friends as “my IRL friends,” I want you to point at me and laugh heartily. (I learned about 4 months ago from someone I overheard that “IRL” stands for “in real life”) … I don’t operate in that world. All my life is real. I might squander it, but make no mistake: everything I do has a consequence.

.  .  .

I am a Writer. I have finally enabled myself to say this.  Just giving myself permission to allow myself to think about being capable and prepared to admit it was like, y’know, like HUGE, man.  And I’m good with it.  I have another thing to help explain myself.

That said, I’m not a marketer, a spin master, a social networking maven nor am I terribly interested in garnering massive amounts of attention.  I just wanna write and create and move on.  Is that so bad? So, that’s part of my concern.  But then the trappings of “value” come back in to play.  If I didn’t care about what people thought, why would I share it?  This is deep stuff, it’s sorta circular. For me, I will consider it until I don’t anymore.

Value.  Success.

Success.  How does one (and this is a personal determination, which is why I like it) define success?  What makes you successful?

Let’s define “successful” first:

successful |səkˈsesfəl|

adjective

accomplishing an aim or purpose : a successful attack on the town.

• having achieved popularity, profit, or distinction : a successful actor.

I like the first notion; the one about accomplishing an aim (I’m not terribly fond of the example they gave).  I did that with “Camp NaNoWriMo.”  I met the goal and now I have a bona fide “WIP” (work in progress), which I am farming out to few interested readers (a*hem) for their feedback.

What’s my goal with this tome?  I would like to say, well: to share it.  To publish it and I dunno, sell it? Sure! Why not? I’m game.

(I mean, why does a woman get pregnant? Surely not to stay pregnant… she does it to have a child, raise the child, educate the child and then be able to lean on that child during her golden years, providing she was good to her child.)

So I’ll work to sell the book.  Ok.  That’s a “job.”  But here’s where I get stuck: I feel that the first notion’s contingency on the second notion: “having achieved popularity, profit or distinction” sucks the wind out of the first notion’s sails.

That secondary notion is essentially taunting, “So what.”  Did Michaelangelo (and no, I’m not comparing myself to him, but then again, why not?) have to deal with that? I’ll have to read more about him.  Did anyone (besides a detractor or two) think he sucked?

It’s as if that secondary notion is waiting around a corner and trips that first notion, or shoves it in a locker, or puts its head in the toilet to give it a swirly, or reaches down into its pants and gives it a wedgie.  So the so-called quandary for me then is this: I distinctly hate, am loathe to, dislike and otherwise am annoyed by that bulleted, second notion of the definition.

For all creative types: musicians, artists, actors, painters, poets, writers, sculptors, mimes… That secondary notion is a bully and in the 21st century of social media, and to me: the work of self marketing, dealing with that bully doesn’t automatically help the first notion’s cause.  You can market yourself to the moon and back: tweet, tumbl, Pin, digg, LinkedIn, Facebook, Wiki and contort your eSelf into oblivion and your efforts could still be null.

And so now it’s my turn: “Now what, social media?”

I envy my hero F. Scott Fitzgerald: all he had to do was write and drink and vacation with his rich friends.  He didn’t have to sweat launching a fan page or a ham radio station.  Of course, there was his beloved Zelda to deal with, but I can be my own Zelda if the proper circumstances present themselves. Oh! What fun that would be!

I could do all the eMarketing possible and my book could still not be profitable. Does that mean that it is or I AM therefore “unsuccessful”?:

unsuccessful

adjective

1 an unsuccessful attempt: failed, ineffective, fruitless, profitless, unproductive, abortive; vain, futile, useless, pointless, worthless, luckless.

2 an unsuccessful business: unprofitable, loss-making.

3 an unsuccessful candidate: failed, losing, beaten; unlucky, out of luck; informal: losingest.

No. I am not a failure or the losingest. So the solution, as in many all of our life concerns, lies within.  I can reframe my relationship with social media and my identification with my “Work”: begin tweeting, go to Pinterest and all the rest or I can cut my jib, so to speak, and stay where I am: OK with Things as They Are… until they change.  That, my friends, is the rub.  No sense creating chaos in preparation for something that might not ever happen… And there’s all the sense in the world in just being OK with being OK.

I have determined thus (as I write): If I become annoyed that my online experience is seen as dominant over my tangible, breathing oxygen, using the bathroom, eating a sandwich, petting the dog, caressing my child world then it’s time to get the hell offline.  If I see that my tangible world impinges on my “enjoying” my online world, it’s time to get the hell offline.  The online world is a 24/7 experience.  Emails we write can be held onto for the next day, week or month or year.  The Machine makes us believe that we need to respond now – just because we are able to.  What I need to remember is that an ability does not equal a mandate.  A whiny bladder is a mandate, a child is a mandate, a dog that nudges is a mandate, a growling stomach is a mandate.  A hit on a blog is a nice to have; a fan on the page is a nice to have; a “like” on a blog is a nice to have; a reblog is a nice to have and they are good for the ego but they mustn’t define us.

Wow… I think I might’ve just sorted all that out.

Thank you.

6 responses »

  1. Yet another “Wow!” from me. You have just stated all the reasons why I’ve been concerned about adding Twitter to my list of social networking sites.

    I hate having to spend all that time online to “build a platform” and market myself. I just want to WRITE for goodness sake! But, I know it must be done if I ever really want to be published (and I REALLY do)…So, Twitter it is. If I ever figure out how to use it correctly, I will be sure to look for you.

    • Stacie, you can do this. And because there are no “likes” on it or your Twitter posts, it simply fades away. It’s not that it doesn’t matter, but it becomes like … I dunno, a dirty dish that needs to be dealt with and then put away. It’s very liberating. I’ll have to add that concept to my post — I meant to talk about the lack of the “like” feature. My suggestion: make your “handle” (name) about you. I changed my blog title about 2 weeks ago because I realize that I’ll be printing under my name and so it all has to coalesce. Do you know Kristen Lamb’s blog? (She’s a Texan.) Check her out. She’s great. Look me up! Have fun with it… We are supposed to enjoy this stuff, not let it get us down. -Molly

      • I haven’t seen Kristen Lamb’s blog, but I’ll be sure to check her out.

        I’m on Twitter now, in case you haven’t noticed (or in case I didn’t do something right). I searched for you there with the “@mollyfieldtweet” and you didn’t come up, so then I clicked on your follow button on your blog and viola! I’m assuming the capitalization has something to do with it.

        Thanks for the advice; I’ve been tossing around the idea of changing my blog name. I sort of feel a little silly. I guess I still feel like I’m “playing writer” instead of BEING one. But then again, maybe if I change my blog name, I’ll actually start to FEEL like the writer I know I am. Hmm….

        Thanks for letting me talk it out.

      • no problem stacie. i am happy to help if i can! you’re several years younger than i am (could probably be my daughter as i’m 44) and you sound so clear about what you want i envy you! it helps to talk these things out and have an ally.

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