Platform and Social Media Must Not Be Your Center

The Writer's Workout

Today’s post is excerpted from The Writer’s Workout: 366 Tips, Tasks, & Techniques From Your Writing Career Coach (Writer’s Digest, 2011) by Christina Katz.

With so much emphasis on the social networking aspects of creative careers these days, you might expect an expert on author platform building to promote an extremely social approach. But I focus on the creative person as an expressive individual instead. I want to help you cultivate creative confidence and express literary ability through writing. This is what belongs at the center of your writing career. Period. Here are three tips on author platform that give you an idea of my philosophy.

1. Eschew Branding

The second you put “my brand” at the center of your writing career is the second you suck all the air right out of your creative process. Many preach the gospel of branding for the benefit of creating fans, but from the perspective of creating, branding is the kiss of death.

Being a brand is like having to walk around wearing a sandwich board. No sooner do you become a brand and it’s going to get old, bring you down, weigh heavy on your creativity, and potentially even hurt business.

So don’t let those who insist that writers brand themselves take away the expressive, evolving pleasure of your natural dynamic and turn it into something packaged, phony, and forced.

As soon as you feel like you can’t follow your creative spark, you are going to wonder why all the branding baloney being served up all over the place ever sounded like a good idea.

Put your natural creative dynamic at the center of your writing career and you will soon wonder how you became so engaged, prolific, and productive. Your career will evolve naturally, unhindered by labels. Most importantly, you will be able to serve your audience and grow in a natural way.

2. Maybe You Should Work on Your Platform Later

Are you eternally frustrated by the siren calls to hurry up and build your platform before you’ve had a chance to find your legs as a writer?

Forget that nonsense! Find your writing legs first and work on your platform later, when the timing feels right to you.

There is only one logical time to start working on your platform and that is when you feel moved to do so. Even if you are the most reclusive writer in town, I believe that you know on an intuitive level when the time is right to start ramping up your platform.

The right timing usually coincides with the desire to take your work public. But don’t forget to give yourself time to adjust to the learning curve. Just because we decide we are ready to learn about something, it still takes time to absorb and apply all the lessons.

When I built my platform in advance of my first book deal, nobody told me to do it. I did it because it was a natural part of my creative momentum. What was bubbling up inside was ready to come out and be shared. I was seeking and building an audience intuitively.

Would it help your writing to shut out all of the yammer and calls to action that can be found everywhere and that only serve to throw you off your game?

Now that we have the Internet, we had better get used to the chronic calls to action. And we better get used to ignoring all but the quality messages we don’t want to miss.

Because the alternative is living in a constant state of overwhelm.

3. You Should Not Be  Constantly Available or Accessible

For writers, social networking represents excellent opportunities. We can poll our networks, create hubs of students, and participate in a virtual roundtable discussion that never could have happened in the past.

There are benefits for our networks, as well. They can connect with people whose work they admire and discover what they are actually like in real life. For example, if you are my friend on Facebook right now, you know my husband is directing a musical, my daughter is playing her first leading role, and that I am very busy writing this book on top of my regular teaching and writing load.

But what I’m not is constantly accessible because if I were constantly available I would not be able to run my writing career. Instead, I use social networking as a way to be in touch with those I want to connect with without taking on any pressure in the relationship to perform tasks or accommodate behavior I did not explicitly intend or invite.

I do not follow the advice of marketing gurus, who might advise me to milk every ounce of tolerance out of my network of friends and followers. Instead my behavior is professional and consistent, while occasionally sharing some of my personal life plus some of my offerings.

I use the Internet as a tool to connect with others where we can hang out, take a break, blow off steam, vent, and find refreshment. And that’s why I don’t get sick of it, because I don’t abuse it or worship it. I see social networking as a tool that we are very fortunate to have.

Social networking is a place to chat, to share, to decompress—and the folks who want to turn this lovely water-cooler break into a constant marketing machine are going to wear out its good graces.

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