Astronomical Clock (Astronomical Dial), Prague...

I read an interesting article on the Good Men Project site today: 12 Stupid Things People Care Way too Much About, by Mark Manson. I loved the article because sometimes, as authors, we get too caught up in petty stuff and lose our focus: writing our next book. Not only that, but social media has become both a crucial part of marketing, as well as a great way to procrastinate.

Here are the points that I want to highlight as it relates to writers (and a hearty attribution and thank you to Mark for his terrific article). I hope he doesn’t mind my riff.

Let’s deconstruct.

Stop wasting your time on:

1) Celebrity and Sports Gossip

When I started Twitter in 2009 (jeez, five years already? Crazy), I followed a few celebs…that is, til I figured out that not only did they write with a plethora of exclamation marks (I had the BEST COFFEE EVERRRRRRR!!!!!!!!), most couldn’t even define plethora. So I unfollowed them all.

Listen, I can be as starstruck as the next person (I’m cuckoo for authors and musicians, mostly), and when they not only follow me back but tell me they love me (as @JonathaBrooke did today — who, by the way is reading Broken Pieces and is also the bomb, not because of that but because she’s an amazingly talented freckled redhead who just turned fifty, too. What. I know I’m gushing. Shut up.), but I keep in mind that the main reason I’m on Twitter is to connect with readers.

That said, who knew Jonatha would become a reader? Certainly not me! I’m flabbergasted and stunned, as well as honored. What I love about Twitter is that it’s the great equalizer — where else in the world would she and I be able to interact this way? Maybe Facebook, but doubtful.

Point is, unless you have a inordinate amount of time to do nothing but follow gossip (or if that’s your job), stop following Bieber, Gaga, and (after the Superbowl, of course), the Athlete Arrest of the Day. OR, if you write about this stuff, great. Otherwise, you are putting off your real writing.

2) Politics (and I’ll add Religion)

I’ve written about avoiding these topics previously, and you can do whatever the heck you want. Ask yourself, from a business perspective, are you hurting or helping your book sales by engaging in these hot button topics? It’s not a rule, by any means.

It can be difficult to keep politics completely off our walls and streams. And, as I state in my article, if your books or blog are specifically about a political or religious topic, then knock yourself out. I understand all the free speech arguments and I’m not opposed. I get that some folks feel we have a responsibility to use our platform for good. I agree. (That’s why I am an advocate for survivors of childhood sexual abuse).

I’m looking at it strictly from a ‘will you or won’t you sell more books?’ perspective, and that’s it.

So, chill.

3) Online Shopping

When I was still working full-time for soul-sucking Big Pharma (recovered now, thanks), I had one child, a two-income household, and a little money to burn. I got caught up in this whole new and addicting online shopping — for clothing, jewelry, shoes, mostly. Most of it I never wore and ended up sending back or giving away. It was a total money pit (now I just download books and music).

Fast forward a few years and a second child, and it makes sense to me that Pinterest is now becoming the wasteland of avid shoppers. I shared on Facebook that someone followed me on Pinterest the other day and she had a few hundred thousands pins — on one board (for comparison, I have 1400 pins and I’ve used Pinterest for over a year). And she had hundreds of boards. No judgement here — maybe that’s her business and brings her a lot of traffic. Which brings me to my next point.

Pinterest is a wholly terrific source for finding great content to share (photography and writing quotes in particular), as well as visual inspiration, so while I don’t recommend anyone spend hours there every day, I do recommend you learn how to use it. It’s become my third most popular source of site traffic (and it’s worth mentioning that I’ve never purchased anything I’ve seen there).

So there.

(Munson mentions a terrific book that’s sitting on my Kindle: The High Price Of Materialism by Tim Kasser. Read it.)

4) Being Offended

One thing I learned a long time ago as a pharma rep, is to take nothing personally. Doctors are dealing with sick people, sometimes gravely ill patients they’ve known for decades, and seeing a rep is certainly not the highlight of their day. I got that. Social media, blogs, and reviews especially, are no different. We never know what is going on in someone’s life when they leave that scathing, judgmental, completely unfair and maybe even patently false review (I’m still laughing at being referred to as a ‘trustafarian dewdrop.’ I hope that person writes copy for a living.) It’s up to us to get over it and keep writing (and/or report as abusive if it, you know, is).

Or how about that person on Facebook who disagrees with your assertion that you support green aliens but not purple ones, and calls you all kinds of horrible names — is it worth getting into a flame war?

I’m not immune. I got into it the other day on Twitter when They Who Shall Not Be Named (now blocked and reported) decided to claim that they created #MondayBlogs. Was I offended? No, I was furious. Sometimes it’s worth standing up for our intellectual property rights (though one can originate a hashtag, one cannot copyright it, so…).

Some people dig in and just don’t let go. If they continue to come after you because you deign to speak your mind (what are we thinking? Jeez.), if they degenerate to name calling or threats, block ‘em. It’s simple. I don’t even bother feeling bad. It’s not that I’m blocking someone because they disagree with my views — I encourage polite discourse). I block them because life is too short for negativity and threats.

I always say we get out of social media what we put in, and the same goes for our author marketing and sales. Social media is a wonderful way to connect with readers — but always remember, above all else, to spend time on creating something for readers to read.

So, stop reading this and write. Go.