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Life Is More Than A Series Of Tweets. On Taking A Break From Your “Platform.”

Writers feel so much pressure to be constantly connecting with others online and off; they are encouraged to treat each new follower and “friend” as if they could be the person standing between failure and success.

Like a hamster running on a little wheel, it spins and spins, never slowing down.

So when do you just… stop. Stop Tweeting, stop blogging, stop sending emails, or even checking your email at all? When do you stop researching, planning, strategizing and talking?

A writer I work with was recently confronted with exactly this dilemma: “Can I just stop for awhile?” After 6 years of blogging, of developing an audience and a wonderful platform, of publishing books, of doing so much, Barbara Techel is taking a sabbatical.

Here is her first blog post from April of 2007, and here his her latest, announcing her taking some time off.

She and I have worked together through a couple of my online courses, spending months together helping her craft her platform and connect with readers in meaningful ways. So when she called and asked about the idea of just STOPPING, my gut is she expected me to talk her out of it.

I, of course, didn’t. I encouraged her to absolutely take the time she needs, but to simply let her readers know what to expect. Protect your personal space by taking the time, but honor the connection that others feel to you by not keeping them in the dark. People may worry!

Recently, I shared a blog post on WriterUnboxed.com about the need to reject “best practices” and the idea of fitting in. That you don’t want to “go viral,” you instead want to focus intently on individuals, and forging relationships that are about so much more than the sale of a book.

Are you overwhelmed? Most people I know are, including many of the writers I work with. A lot of the work I do with them is to provide clarity for them that reduces the overwhelm, and gives them focus to connect with readers in a way that feels right for them.

While taking a sabbatical may or may not be what you need, honoring your own needs is critical. Life is more than a series of Tweets. Creative professionals are usually on a journey, and the books they write (or paintings they create or songs they sing) are representative of one moment in a longer journey.

Awhile back, I wrote another blog post titled The Creative Process: Not Everything Needs to be Shared, with these thoughts:

  • Our creative work need not be shared.
  • Our creative work need not earn a profit.
  • Our creative work can be a slow and personal process, and it’s effect internal, not external.

And oftentimes, all the “best practices” that promise easy success take you off track. Your journey is your own. This is why everything I do when working with writers includes a lot of personal interaction – because your goals are unique, your challenges are unique.

I want to leave you with two powerful examples of the value of not fitting in: this video by Ze Frank:

And this illustrated blog post by Allie Brosh, where she talks about her own sabbatical, and battle with depression.

Thanks.
-Dan

  • carol stanley

    This is great and thanks for sharing all this information.

  • Wonderful, as usual.

  • Barbara Techel

    Thank you, Dan for writing about how important a sabbatical is and for sharing my first and last post. Wow, I didn’t think to look at my very first post, which made me smile and gave me another nudge of hope to what lies ahead for me. Thank you!

    I believe no matter who we are we need to give the gift of stopping long enough to really listen and shut out all the noise. As artists and writers, though, I am seeing how crucial this is to our creativity.

    This was a hard decision for me to do this, but as I come to the end of the first week of my sabbatical, I see even more how imperative this is for me to do. I have ideas in my head that are flowing like never before. My job now is to capture them for myself in my journaling and follow what feels right when the time is right.

    And you are right… I did think you might talk me out of it, but I’m so glad you didn’t. But I knew you would understand and that is why I felt comfortable and trusted I could reach out to you.

    Finishing up Road Map to Readers class with you only reaffirms this for me. When I return from sabbatical with what I’ve learned myself in self exploration and through your courses, I feel is going to benefit me greatly. In a way, I feel like I am coming into the quiet of my life and going deeper not only with my connection with animals, but my fellow humankind as well. This feels really good.

    Thanks for everything, Dan!

    -Barbara

    • Barbara,
      Those first ever blog posts always get lost, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE looking them up to see what has and hasn’t changed.

      Thank you SO MUCH for the check-in, and the very kind words.
      -Dan

  • MegMillerWrites

    Love this! Wonderful read. You can’t do it all or it starts feeling like a rat race, which isn’t conducive to good writing mojo. 😀