Right, this is going to be quick. Why? Because this post is about not wasting time on social media and it would be deeply ironic if I then proceeded to waste time on social media writing about wasting time on social media.
We writers are constantly urged by pundits to network, build a brand, and generally put ourselves out there. This is known as “planting lightening rods”: one day a tweet may be endorsed by JK Rowling, a Facebook post may grab an agent’s attention, this blog may be read by a bored editor. At least that’s the theory.
Then I read cobbler, stick to your last a short article by American ghostwriter David Moldawer (ironically, following a link posted in a Facebook Group). Moldawer acknowledges the attraction of those lightning rods; he understands that publishers don’t come a-knocking and businesses have to be visible. But he nevertheless makes a devastating observation:
It breaks my heart to think of all the writers—and filmmakers, musicians, designers, inventors—who created even one less thing because of time, effort, and emotional bandwidth invested in the work of social media.
Moldawer urges us to build what he calls a positive Black Swan strategy. Black swan events are rare happenings of extreme impact but low predictability; the “unknown unknowns” of life. The outbreak of war in 1914 and 9/11 were Black Swan events. An editor chancing on this blog would be likewise – except now it wouldn’t be because I have anticipated it happening and Black Swan events are only retrospectively predictable (viz the Great War).
A positive Black Swan strategy is to accept uncertainty, and embrace serendipity by exposing ourselves to new opportunities, in all worlds. It’s being insatiably curious and healthily sociable. It means enjoying doing what we do for its own sake.
It means producing work that is the very best it can be – and that ain’t going to happen if we squander the most precious resource of all: time.
Here’s David Moldawer again:
When you invest money, you start with a limited quantity. Lots of people got rich on lucky bets, but if you invest in a handful of lucky-looking stocks to imitate that success, you will have no more money.
Time is different. We can keep making the same mistakes with our time and energy and, sadly, we just run out of life, eventually. We don’t get better at our work and we don’t create as much stuff as we could have, all because we squander our precious resources chasing someone else’s path to success.
I gave up my day job in 2017 because the decades were racing past and I was already a good 20 years past the average age at which writers are first published (ones late thirties
are, apparently, a good age at which to win that publishing contract). I am running out of life and yet I still spend time in the toxic Hotel California that is Facebook and sitting on the sidelines of the over-excited party that is Twitter.
I need a positive Black Swan strategy.