Plugging in Again….A Little Reluctantly

Did I say I was taking a three-week break from blogging? Yes. Yes I did. But three weeks became five weeks. And while it feels good to get my writerly juices flowing again and put some ideas into words, I’m also dragging my feet a bit.

My blogging break was necessary to accommodate some specific events, including a new puppy, three kids transitioning from school days to summer days, a week-long beach trip, a three-day camping trip, and some travel to promote my book, No Easy Choice. And while taking a break did indeed give me more time to stand in the yard encouraging the puppy to do her business, relax on vacation, and accompany kids to swim lessons, the best part of my blog hiatus was being unplugged from the online/social media world.

For the past five weeks, I have checked e-mail only once or twice a day (often not actually opening messages to read them if they weren’t urgent), rarely checked on Facebook, read only a half dozen or so blog posts or online articles written by others, and didn’t even open my Twitter feed. It felt great.

For these five weeks, I focused almost exclusively on what and who was right in front of me—my family, laundry and yard work, preparing meals, a puppy wanting to play, whatever novel I was immersed in at that moment. I focused barely at all on what and who consumes so much of my time and attention on regular working days (which, because I work from home and don’t keep highly regulated hours, ends up being almost every day)—my own words; the words of other writers (including writers whom I read regularly and have a friendship or working relationship with, and those whom I envy or disagree with); who is reading what I write; how readers respond to what I write via Twitter, Facebook, comments, or blog stats; and the dozens of blog posts and articles that appear each week touching on one of my own core subjects (about which I inevitably ask, “Do I need or want to write something in response to this? If so, what?”).

The result? I felt less anxious, less focused on how I’m doing as a writer compared with others, less frantic and discombobulated, less worried that if I failed to read or respond or write something timely, I’d be left out of important conversations that could further my career.

I am tempted to stay unplugged, to deactivate my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and unsubscribe from all those blogs. When a fellow writer recently told me she is considering suspending her blog altogether in the coming months, I wrote in an email to her, “Blog suspension sounds a little bit like heaven on earth to me right now. I am amazed at how much calmer my interior life has been with so much less online interaction.”

But I also know that social media is one of the most useful tools available to authors like me who need to both grow an audience and seek new writing opportunities if we wish to make an actual career out of stringing words together in a way that really reaches people.

So I’m not unplugging altogether, although I may cut down on the number of blogs I subscribe to and be more conscientious about only checking e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter a limited number of times per day. For the rest of the summer, I’ll be blogging two or three times per week, with the goal of returning to a four- to five-day-a-week schedule once my kids are back in school.

But being mostly unplugged for five weeks has given me a taste of a different rhythm of life, one that revolves more around my family’s schedule, the weather, and my moods and energy, and less around the latest viral blog post, my Twitter feed, and blog stats. It’s a rhythm that feels good, and I’d like to figure out how to maintain it while also moving ahead with my writing career. If any of you who read this blog have figured this one out, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

 

 

 

About Ellen Painter Dollar

Ellen Painter Dollar is a writer focusing on faith, parenting, family, disability, and ethics. She is the author of No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Faith, and Parenthood in an Age of Advanced Reproduction (Westminster John Knox, 2012). Visit her web site at http://ellenpainterdollar.com for more on her writing and speaking, and to sign up for a (very) occasional email newsletter.

  • http://culturerebel.com Connie Jakab

    sounds heavenly, Ellen! Scientists are saying there are many more links to anxiety due to the enormous amount of information we receive online. I was off last week, and I echo your sentiments. To be honest, I loved being free from the hussle! Thanks for a refreshing post and a reality check :)

  • http://kingdomcivics.com/2012/07/06/o-canada/ Tim

    “For these five weeks, I focused almost exclusively on what and who was right in front of me—my family, laundry and yard work, preparing meals, a puppy wanting to play, whatever novel I was immersed in at that moment.”

    What a great way to live, Ellen.

    Tim

  • http://Www.kewp.blogspot.com Katherine Willis Pershey

    I genuinely missed your presence here, Ellen, but I am so glad – and more than a little envious – that your time away was so fruitful and eye-opening. I enjoyed the blog world before publishing a book. Before it was just a fun way to interact with friends and read interesting stuff, and now it’s this weighted never ending source of anxiety – scattered still with interesting things and good writing and great people, but anxiety-inducing nonetheless.

    • http://www.ellenpainterdollar.com Ellen Painter Dollar

      Thanks for missing me, Katherine! Definitely good to know. And I know what you mean about how having a book to promote changes the quality of your interaction with the online world. I just had dinner with a fellow writer, and we talked about how blogging is a big help for building platform for your first book, but in many ways can then interfere with whatever projects come next, because it produces a lot of work (reading, responding, commenting, publicly commenting on news stories, etc.) as well as anxiety. I wish I knew how to find a balance so that I could get what is energizing and helpful from cyberspace without getting caught up in what is anxiety-producing. I’ll let you know when I figure it out :)

  • Amy Henry

    So glad to hear I’m not the only who feels this way. Many writer types are a bit reclusive by nature and for us to have to constantly be ‘out there’ in self-promotion is exhausting, just thinking about it. I’ve only recently started subscribing to other blogs because I had to many sitting in my inbox, guiltily calling at me. And Twitter? I have an account, but just can’t do it. Not yet anyway. Over, overwhelming. And peace of mind and being present where I am isn’t worth giving up. And what writing isn’t going to happen because we’re out there clicking away on all these various media sites? No answers, but feel this post heavily. Since you’re a published author, I would love to see you occasionally keep writing about this, how you deal with it, what you find most helpful and worth spending time on, etc. Thanks, Ellen.

  • http://www.painandspirituality.blogspot.com Carol D. Marsh

    Hi, Ellen: I am currently on a 3-week (unintended, unplanned) hiatus that began when our internet went out for 8 days after a big storm. No email, no fb, no blog, no nothing virtual. All I did was ask Tim to check my email from his work computer to see if I had anything from school. Ahhhhhhhh. And now I cannot get back to my blog — have posted nothing since internet returned 2 weeks ago. So I really appreciate hearing that you have some ambivalence about this, too. Yet I also realize that it is not the internet that is inherently anxiety-producing or distracting, it is my own attitude toward it. It’s about the way I fit it into my life and whether I allow it to spike me into behaviors that I later regret (obsessing over a blog post, checking too often for a fb or email reply, being unable to focus on a task at hand). I like your idea of limiting the number of views per day. And I also find that my little dog is a great and constant reminder that I need to get up, close the computer and play.


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