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?

Why Indie Authors Have to Stick Together

I’ve heard self-publishing “experts” say time and time again that no big difference exists between an author going the traditional route or the indie route.

Ahem — I beg to differ.

Therefore, here are the reasons why us indie authors have to stick together:

1) We have to pay for EVERYTHING.

Editors, designers, copyright filing, advertising, and yes, book tours.

2) And let’s just admit it. Major traditional publishers have one gargantuan advantage over us: connections.

Connections to major media outlets (like the New York Times and Entertainment Weekly), to librarians, to book store owners, to distributors, and to online influencers.

3) No one takes us seriously when we’re starting out.

4) Those dang literary pirates want to steal and sell our stuff!

5) We’re a bunch of anti-establishment rebels.

Of course, we take on this load because we have SO MUCH MORE CONTROL. Over everything.

  • Creativity
  • Legal rights
  • Marketing
  • Design
  • Presentation
  • Pricing

But man, for an indie author trying to make it, you guys know this is an uphill battle! I don’t care what anyone says, going indie is a tougher climb. And this, my friends, is why we all gotta stick together.

While you’re here, did you know I published my debut novel six months ago? “The Apollo Illusion” is a science fiction dystopia about a future society’s frightening overdependence on technology. Learn more by clicking here!

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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 …

Journalists Just Want to Tell Stories. Today, Some Died for It

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I used to be a reporter at a small daily, community newspaper like the Capital Gazette. We had maybe 14 reporters, and we were like family.

I couldn’t imagine living through a shooting with that family, watching some of them die. Today, I cry with the reporters and staff at the Capital Gazette.

We don’t know the motive behind the crime yet. We don’t know if the alleged shooter was a disgruntled worker, a terrorist (foreign or domestic), or the crazed spouse of an employee. The police did say the suspect mutilated his fingertips to avoid identification, as reported in this article from the Baltimore Sunso that leads me to believe this was planned and malicious (versus a potentially angry worker).

Regardless, I know one thing for sure: journalists just want to tell stories, and today, some died for it.

*** When I was a full-time reporter, this was never a fear of mine. ***

But things have changed, and it breaks my heart. For those who don’t know any reporters personally, let me explain a few things:

  • Most reporters are completely non-violent people and just want to find the truth.
  • Most reporters are empathetic storytellers who want to give a voice to the voiceless.
  • Most reporters believe in nothing more than freedom of speech and the press–more than politics and more than religion.
  • Most reporters are “crusaders” who believe in the mission of holding those in power accountable, and protecting the innocent.

I once thanked an active-duty Soldier for his service to our country, and he said to me, “Shari, thank YOU for your service. Not enough people say it, but as a journalist, you’re serving too. Thank you.”

I cried.

 

 

An Open Letter to Mike Pence on ‘Life’ and Universal Health Care

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Photo courtesy of Sage Ross via Flickr

NOTE: After working in healthcare communications for eight years, this is a subject I felt compelled to write about publicly in light of recent political developments. I’d initially written this letter in January, but refrained from publishing it because of my career. The time has come to speak out, however, so I feel the need to publish this disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post, and on this blog as a whole, are my own and do not represent any other person, business, or entity.  

An Open Letter to Mike Pence on ‘Life’ and Universal Health Care

Dear Vice-President Mike Pence,

I read your quote from the March for Life event on Jan. 27 this year in an article from The Atlantic, “We will not rest until we restore a culture of life in America.”

I’m glad to hear you say that, because this opens the door to let Congress know we want health care for all.

Even after the Affordable Care Act was implemented, 29 million Americans went without health insurance in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2015” report. This means nearly 30 million people could not access or afford treatment for conditions ranging from a sinus infection, to a heart attack.

Before the ACA, however, it was much worse. In 2008—during the days of pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps—nearly 16 percent of the U.S. population went uninsured, compared to only 9.1 percent in 2015 (source: U.S. Census Bureau).

If we’re going to talk about restoring a culture of life, let’s start with this, because many people are forced to choose between paying for their food or paying for their medicine. I’m one of them, having agonized over whether to visit the emergency room and risk bankruptcy, or stay home in a potentially life-threatening situation.

In one case, while I was studying journalism in college, my father—a music teacher—could no longer afford to keep me on his health insurance. Before I could find another plan, I became sick with mononucleosis and needed treatment. Yet, no doctor or clinic would see me because I didn’t have insurance. At the same time, insurance refused to cover me because of my pre-existing condition.

More recently, a family member—who would prefer to remain anonymous—may be forced to leave retirement simply for employer health benefits. She is a retired teacher and a type 2 diabetic who receives her health insurance through the Federal Exchange. However, with Congress’s plans to repeal the ACA, she’ll be forced to work full-time because she can’t afford the state’s $600-per-month premium and she’s too young for Medicare. Once the ACA is gone, she will have a “pre-existing condition” once again.

You see, Vice-President Pence, in my world, life matters too, which is why health care is a right and not a privilege. I hear politicians preaching their morals time and time again, but their actions do not reflect their words. I’m going to make it easy.

The time has come to get serious about a universal or single-payer system that leverages public-private partnerships. This will ensure cost control of sky-rocketing drug prices, allow practitioners to concentrate on treating and healing patients, and still offer businesses opportunities in the private sector. France demonstrates an exemplary standard of this model, so much that the World Health Organization ranked them as number one in the world for health systems.

I’ve worked in journalism, media and communications for more than 10 years, of which eight were spent in healthcare communications. I have seen this issue from all sides and am confident when I say, this proposal could be a real solution.

I am ready to help restore a culture of life in America, Vice-President Pence. The question is, are you?

3 Lessons from My Year Without Blogging

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I’ve been back to blogging for a few months now, but before that, I stepped away from the blogging world for a year to finish my novel.

When I re-launched Rogue Writer, one of my longtime blogging buddies, Nina Badzin, commented, “I would love to see a post on how it felt to step away and how it feels to be back. Did you stay off social media a lot more, too?”

Nina girl, I can always count on you for writing prompts! Thanks to Nina’s question, I’m now writing this post. So here are the top three lessons I took away from my year off blogging:

1) If you’re working on a larger creative project, DON’T BLOG. It will get in the way of your goal.

I make my living off freelance writing, social media strategy, and content marketing. So trust me when I say this confession was hard for me to publish!

When I stopped blogging, I was working a full-time job as social media manager for a large health insurance company. I worked 50-hour weeks. During that time, I was also chipping away at the novel which I’m now pitching to literary agents.

I had only a few hours of writing time each week. If I’d continued blogging, none of that creative energy would have gone toward my novel, and today, I’d be blogging about how I want to finish my book.

Blogging is fun, but it can sap energy and time which you may need to reach a larger goal. There will always be room later to pick up where you left off on your blog.

2) Taking a blogging break allows you to just enjoy life. Seriously.

When you’re blogging every week (sometimes more), you get caught in the constant need for fresh content. You’ve developed an expectation among your followers that you’ll publish new stuff. After awhile, that pressure can add stress to your life, rather than release it.

When I stepped away from blogging, I felt a sense of relief. My mind wasn’t constantly “on,” and I was able to immerse myself into the world I created for my book. THIS was relaxing. I also enjoyed life a bit more, not having to turn every experience into a piece of online entertainment.

3) You step back and use social media for its original purpose: to be social.

While I was blogging, I tended to use social media for promotional purposes. Build my presence. Increase engagement. Yada yada yada.

But when I stopped blogging, I also stopped posting to my public profiles. I occasionally posted, but it was never on a schedule. Instead, I stuck to using my personal Facebook profile, where I connect with “real” friends and family. I commented on pictures of my friends’ kids, posted photos of my cat, and shared my progress toward finishing my book.

This type of interaction proved to be much more gratifying, and sometimes even fed my creativity!

Have YOU ever taken a blogging break? I’m curious, what did you learn from it?


Hi! I’m 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. Oh yeah, I also edit novels for self-published authors or writers needing help before querying literary agents. Are we friends yet on Facebook and Twitter?


Death to the Spoon Gnomes!

Is it just me, or do microscopic gnomes sneak into your kitchen at night … and steal all your spoons?

Because each time I clean my dishes, or open my kitchen drawer, I find less and less of this very necessary utensil. Not only does this happen to me, but my boyfriend suffers as well. He quietly revealed to me last week that all his spoons have been disappearing, mysteriously.

I feel like whipping out my old, investigative reporter hat, and following the clues. Because this question is driving me berserk:

What happened to all the spoons?

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After nights of lost sleep and cortisol-filled panic attacks, I’ve come to one, discernible answer.

It was the gnomes. 

The evil spoon gnomes. And they all must DIE.

How dare they sneak into my house, without my permission, and take my hard-earned silverware while I’m asleep! They fool the cats, they trick the dog.

But worst of all, when the spoon gnomes strike, you can’t sip soup. Or eat cereal.

Or consume ice-cream.

NOOOOOOO!

So, my friends, I implore you. Spoon-lovers of the world unite! And death to the spoon gnomes!

If only life were this easy …

Chester on couchI know, right?

I guess this is what I get for spoiling my cats. By the way, meet my gray tabby, Chester.

Maybe I’m finally understanding what my parents felt like during the weekends, working their asses off while I laid in their bed, watching Dirty Dancing every freakin’ day.

But seriously, don’t you wish your life were THIS EASY?

Yea, I thought so.

 

The Secret to Getting Treated Like Royalty … FOR ONCE

If you’re freakin’ tired of being pushed around by your boss, or spouse, or just life in general, then you could use a little royal treatment. Right?!

So … if you wanna get treated like royalty for once, become a juror.

Oh, you think I’m kidding?

I just had my FIRST jury duty experience this week. Ever.

I was prepared to be spat upon, emotionally molested, and convicted of indecent exposure by nothing more than a raised eyebrow.

Then, of course, I reminded myself that I wasn’t on trial. This tends to happen with neurotic, overactive imaginations like mine. You get a tummy ache, and it’s automatically cancer, accompanied by imminent death.

But back to this whole jury thing …

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I finally read the back of my summons the night before my scheduled doom. And, to my pleasant surprise, I learned that jurors are the judicial equivalent to the Queen of England.

Seriously. First off, the courts opened 15 minutes early, JUST for the jurors. The security guards literally unlocked the doors, scanned the numerous desperate faces begging for relief from the bitter cold, then announced a special entry for “Jurors Only!”

All other infidels would need to remain locked outside, on the unforgiving concrete, until 8:00 a.m.

Upon entry into the palace, I learned that jurors are allowed:

  • Validation for free parking
  • Complimentary coffee
  • A breakroom and fridge JUST FOR THEM
  • Breaks any time they want
  • To bring their own food

That last item, that’s the killer part. Because no one else is allowed to bring their own food. Not police, not witnesses, not even lawyers. Only the jurors.

Should you happen to enter with a lunch box in your hand, the security guards will part ways and announce,

“Here comes the juror! Let him pass!”

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They even gave us a movie theatre.

And they didn’t play those crappy airplane movies, either. They showed Oscar-nominated films, people! From directors like Cameron Crowe and John Madden.

Oh yea, and did I mention how we got a personalized welcome from a JUDGE?

I think the next time I’m suffering from lack of self-esteem, I’m gonna show up at court and beg to be a juror. Because sometimes, we all just need a vacation.

Is Your Blog the Equivalent to Long Division?

OK, writers … this one’s for you. Sometimes, you just can’t write about “passive versus active voice” anymore.

And—let’s be real here—there are only so many ways to reveal “the secret to getting more comments on your blog.”

BORING!

My blog stats proved it. They were pathetic. They were navel lint. Which is why, one day, I finally broke:

“F- it!” I screamed. “I’m doing a blog makeover! And I’m scratching all that professional crap. I’m going rogue.”

Today, I’m over at Lynette Benton’s blog, Polish and Publish | Tools and Tactics for Creative Writers. And I’m writing about the transformation of MY blog: “Why a Blog Makeover Might be Just the Thing You Need.”

So if you are anything like me three months ago—ridiculous blog stats and an online platform equivalent to long division—you just might want to head on over and read this.