A couple of years back, I closed comments on my blog and removed email access. When I started using Twitter as an amalgamation feed for my blog, I decided to make it clear in my profile that I don’t read @-replies. And I’m not on Facebook. All of these were rather soul-wrenching decisions, I’m afraid — firstly because I was aware that it would come across as unfriendly and unwelcoming to some readers, and secondly, because it meant I would stop receiving such wonderful notes and messages from fans of my books, stop having so many opportunities to connect with my readers. I asked for a lot of advice from friends and colleagues each time I made one of these decisions. Everyone I asked, even the people I expected to lean the other way, told me I should do it, because the people who knew me best could see how much social media was interfering with my writing.
The problem is that I couldn’t do it halfway. If people were writing to me, I wanted to be there, reading and responding — but the volume began to grow to the point where I was doing social media instead of writing. I suppose I could’ve stopped reading comments and emails and simply pretended I was reading them — except that I really couldn’t, because it wouldn’t have been respectful to my readers. (This is why I’m so straightforward in my Twitter profile: I don’t want readers to think I’m reading things I’m actually not reading! It would feel insincere.) I thought about getting an assistant, but that would have been quite a lifestyle change for me, and I suspected that my writing would suffer; in order to write, I need a more simple life than that.
I admire writers who can balance the writing and the social media aspects of their lives so well. Regretfully, what I’ve learned about myself as a writer is that I don’t have that skill for balance that many writers have. I can’t create the bubble I need to write my books if I’m also completely connected to social media. And I have to write my books. It’s my job, and also a huge part of my identity.
(I’ll also mention one other not-insignificant reason why I made this decision: as a female writer who creates female characters who sometimes (sometimes!) choose to have sex outside of wedlock, not to get married, not to have children, to self-sterilize, generally to make their own decisions rather than do what society tells them they’re supposed to do, a disturbing number of the emails I received, back when I was receiving emails, were from haters. And seriously, who needs that? The flip side of this coin is that unfortunately, now I don’t receive those wonderful emails from women thanking me for presenting these types of female characters, either. But I know you’re out there, readers — I meet you at festivals and receive snail mail from you — and you sustain me.)
Festivals and events are extra-special to me now, because they’re my opportunity to connect with readers. I’ll also point out, for anyone who hasn’t noticed, that you can write me a snail mail letter — the address is behind this link. I get the most WONDERFUL snail mail letters!
And that’s that. Thank you, readers, for embracing the work of eccentric and introverted writers. :o) Now, off I go to write…