Why I’m Cutting Back on Social Media as an Indie Author

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This is me on a hike with my boyfriend months after getting sick.

A week before Christmas in 2018, a virus attacked my brain stem.

Technically, it was my vestibular nerve, which is responsible for communication between the eyes, inner ears, and brain. The condition is called vestibular neuritis (yes, you can Google it).

The result of this random, weird sickness was the world wouldn’t stop spinning and the horizon constantly quivered like riding a Shake Shack. I couldn’t drive, walk, read, cook, sit in a chair at a table, look at a phone or computer screen–and worst of all, I couldn’t write or work.

I took family medical leave for two months before I could return to my full-time job. And when I started coming back to life, I realized something:

Social media was giving me anxiety.

Which is kinda a conundrum, since I’ve worked as a social media manager. And I’m an indie author, and we rely on social media to help sell books. Nonetheless, every time I jumped onto Facebook, I no longer saw my friends having a fun hike or taking a family trip to Northern Arizona.

I saw activities I could no longer do and feared I would never be able to do again.

So I Decided to Quit Facebook for a Month

I also cut back on Instagram; same with Twitter (to be fair, I stopped using Twitter regularly a year ago).

Slowly, I found myself concentrating inwardly again: on my emotions, on my relationships with close friends, family, and my boyfriend. Life became a constant state of meditation, reflection, and observation as I worked to reduce the immense anxiety that consumed me during the recovery stages of this awful sickness.

And I found myself living in the moment more.

The Science Backs Up My Feelings, Too

Today, I’m slowly working some social media back into my life, but I like the way I feel when it’s not a dominant factor. I also realized that I value my privacy. I don’t mind sharing certain personal stories (like this one), but I want to control how much of my life is discussed publicly.

Maybe my subconscious knew these things years ago, when I wrote the first draft of my debut novel, The Apollo Illusionabout a future society’s frightening overdependence on technology.

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Either way, even though I might need social media to help promote my book, I’ll be more conscious of how much I’m using it in the future. I like feeling better. Don’t you?

Screaming is What We Do Best (As Writers Writing for Nothingness)

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Photo by Aditya Doshi,, https://www.flickr.com/photos/avdoshi/8612921803

DO YOU EVER FEEL like writing nothing for the sake of nothingness, in a black hole of a vacuum of ideas, pandering and rambling about rambling in pure space and time, because the blank page mocks you into a fury?

BECAUSE RIGHT NOW, I just want to write, and type, and stumble over words, words that I collect and hoard like a dog with bones, words that make no sense of the senseless as they fumble together on this post, and I spit them out in neither passion or indifference, but rather—confinement.

CONFINEMENT OF MY MIND, or of my heart, or of my life, or of my time. Maybe of madness, or genius, or whatever word they throw at us who dream but can find no outlet to scream.

SCREAM. YES, SCREAM.

For screaming is what we do best, in silence, when no one will listen; but quiet now—do you hear?

The voices of a million years …

What It Feels Like When Someone Wishes Me ‘Happy Hanukkah’

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Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. This was taken from outside my home, looking into the front window.

I grew up in a conservative, Christian state where most people say Merry Christmas. And that’s fine.

I usually say Happy Holidays. I never take offense to a greeting of the season, regardless of how it’s spoken. But something warm and precious emerges when someone wishes me Happy Hanukkah.

Let me paint a picture for a moment:

When you grow up as a religious minority, you’re used to society overlooking your holiday. It’s nothing that bothers or insults you. Therefore, you never think twice when someone gives you a Christmas card, or a Santa hat, or an ornament. You appreciate it.

Yet, I’ve never forgotten the boss who bought me a Hanukkah card my first year on the job—accompanied by a bottle of wine—or the friend who texts me the first night of Hanukkah every year. Precisely because I don’t expect it, when someone wishes me Happy Hanukkah, they enter a special place in my heart and mind.

For me, those two simple words permeate deeper than the typical holiday greeting.

They say, “I see you. I recognize you. I understand this is your holiday, and I want to acknowledge that.” They say, “I accept you. I welcome you. And I hope you have a lovely Festival of Lights.”

I make it my mission to wish people whatever holiday they celebrate. For most of my friends or colleagues, I say Merry Christmas. I’ve wished a Happy Kwanza. And I say Happy Holidays when I don’t know someone’s religion.

Rarely, however, do I receive a Happy Hanukkah. When I do, it makes my heart dance. I rejoice in sharing the miracle and delight of my holiday with others, just as so many spread Christmas cheer wherever they go.

I know people do not say Happy Hanukkah for a variety of reasons: they’re shy, or they’re unsure of the correct greeting, or they think I also celebrate Christmas. Some people just don’t know. That’s okay.

But for the occasional person who acknowledges my holiday directly, thank you for making my smile glow just a little brighter.

Yes, I’m Angry. But I’m Choosing Love Anyway

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Courtesy of El Payo via Flickr

Let me start with this: I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. In fact, the man has the rare ability to crawl under my skin like lice and turn my blood to lava.

Despite these feelings, I have chosen to resist and fight back with the strongest action of all … love.

On the day of President Trump’s inauguration, I posted a single quote to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in response to the eruption in our country:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

This is perhaps my favorite quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., and no other words more adequately described how I felt on Jan. 20, 2017. Since then, I’ve watched hate grip this nation from all ends of the political spectrum, and while I’m not going to deny my anger, I’ve grasped for these words with greater fervor now.

A close friend of mine from childhood who is Christian said she has chosen to make love her battle cry. As a Jew who is more secular than religious, I decided to join her. My friend said love is not always an easy choice, and she’s right—which is why choosing to love, rather than giving into hate, is so effective.

President Trump goes against every core value I’ve been raised to believe.

  • My father paid my way through college working as a music teacher and I grew up on the stage, yet President Trump wants to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • I have a profound respect for nature, yet President Trump wants to gut the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • I believe health care is a right, not a privilege, yet President Trump is pushing Congress to disband the Affordable Care Act.
  • I’m a former journalist—launching my career with the First Amendment in my pen—yet President Trump calls citizens like me the “enemy of the American people.”

His lack of empathy for those who are different than him, or believe differently than him, or oppose him politically, appalls me. Yet rather than label other Americans who have labeled me, I stand here on this page, and I am declaring to you, President Trump: I CHOOSE LOVE.

I will not lose friendships over this election and I will strive to speak from a place of reason, rather than anger. I will funnel my dissent into saving animals, helping my family and giving to those in my life who need it. I will stand up for minorities or refugees and call my representatives in Congress to keep you in line. I will celebrate life alongside my Muslim friends, my Christian friends, my Catholic friends, my Jewish friends, and my Atheist friends. I will aim to understand those who are different than me. I will use my writing to provide a voice for the voiceless.

I will love, President Trump, and I will look for the light inside every American, whether they voted for you or not. In the words of another MLK quote that I admire, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

#LOVEWINS

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Preparing to Say Good-Bye

Saying good-bye is nature’s cruel joke, and now I’m preparing to say good-bye to my best friend and my writing companion of the past 13 years.

Chance “Mazel Tov” Lopatin, also known as Mr. Man.

Headshot of my cat Chance
My cat, Chance. Photo credit: Oscar Barrascouth

For those of you who have been following my blog for years, you may remember Chance from the viral Freshly Pressed post, “My Jewish Cat and the Art of Guilt.”

Why am I writing about Chance today? Well, it’s simple: nothing else is on my mind. I can’t write about my novel, or social media trends, or books to improve your craft, or literary agents. None of it would be possible without Chance’s love over the years.

Chance is 15 years old. He’s lived with me for 13 of those years. I met him when I was just 20, a few months after moving out of my mom’s house. He was a stray who appeared from a bush, like a mirage, as I prepared to go grocery shopping.

I never made it to the store.

Chance has been more than a pet. He’s been a soul mate.

Me with Chance. Photo credit: Oscar Barrascouth
Me with Chance. Photo credit: Oscar Barrascouth

From ages 20 – 27, my life was not the most stable. I moved eight times in four years. I attended three different colleges. Through it all, Chance was the one constant. He was there for college parties, roommates, college graduation, first professional job, first major break-up, finding love again, the Great Recession, buying my first house, severance and unemployment, and finally, quitting Corporate America to launch my business.

He has been my ultimate source of comfort, my weapon against anxiety disorder, and my most trusted confidant. While in college, Chance even woke me one night, warning me of two intruders who’d just broken into our apartment.

A year-and-a-half ago, Chance was hospitalized when he became diabetic. I visited him every day. When the vet tech brought him to the visitation room, Chance rose from the dead like a Phoenix, regaining his appetite and his will to “talk.” I remember the vet tech saying, “I’ve never seen a cat who loves his human so much.”

Chance has also been my writing buddy.

Chance cuddling with me while I worked from home.
Chance cuddling with me while I worked from home.

This has been especially true since I established Shari’s Ink in September last year. Chance could never cuddle with me enough. Writing with him on my lap always made the process more warm, more soulful, more joyous. Yes, it is possible.

But nothing good is meant to last. That’s the irony, and cruelty, of life.

The sophisticated duo: me and Chance. Photo credit: Oscar Barrascouth
The sophisticated duo: me and Chance. Photo credit: Oscar Barrascouth

Chance is now growing very weak from end stage kidney disease. The looming eye of death is ever watchful. When the moment comes to say good-bye, you may not hear from me for a week or two. But at least you’ll know the reason why: that a mortal cat has passed on, while a legend has been born.

Chance, the legend
Chance, the legend

My name is Shari Lopatin. I’m a professional writer, editor, journalist, and social media strategist with a decade of experience in media and communications. I live in Phoenix, Ariz. and blog about finding a literary agent, writing tips, social media or tech trends, and sometimes current events. I also edit novels for self-published authors or writers needing help before querying literary agents. Connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.