Day 43: Personal Development By Way of Slowing Down

After I wrote my article for SFWA.org about my hunt for the value of social media, I realized that I’ve reached a new “phase” in my experiment.

Whether it’s a side effect of not being plugged in twenty-four seven or not, my habits have slowed down considerably. It’s not just caffeine consumption; I’m processing information more slowly and thoroughly than I have in the past six months. After a fashion, this makes complete sense to me. Several studies have pointed out how the web changes not only the way we think, but rewires our brains. For example, you can read this article dubbed Author Nicholas Carr: The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires our Brains. Or check out Does the Internet Change the Way We Think? on Newsweek, where a neuroscientist makes the claim that it doesn’t.

Dealing with what I have been, I would argue that it absolutely has an impact on the way that I think and process information. Typical habits and personality quirks aside, what I suppose is this: because I’m not being bombarded with data point after data point, my mental response time has been adjusting to the lack of information I come across in a day. For the past two weeks, especially after being taken down with a nasty cold, my inertia has slowed.

If you’re keeping up with the analogies I’ve been giving, I’ve mentioned how it feels like I’ve been a student in a school of fish swimming this way and that, in perpetual motion. When I left the school, I headed toward the bottom of the ocean. At first, all I could see is a reef of coral because that was my destination. Then, I literally touched the sea floor and slowed to a halt.

Mind you, I’m not the type of person that can handle just “sitting still” for too long. At the bottom, though, I experienced something I haven’t in a long, long time — silence. Sheer, unadulterated, quiet. Then what? I can’t just sit there and wait until this experiment is over with. Right? Right. My thinking, is that in order for me to function more quickly, I either have to consume or process information more quickly, too. For me, the way to do that, is to become a student once again. To learn. To deliberately choose what I want to know, enhance or revisit.

For the past couple of years, there’s been a number of “personal development” type projects and initiatives I’ve always wanted to do but never got around to doing. Volunteer work. Revisiting my graphic design and layout skills. Running a 5K. (I have a long list.) In the past, the challenge I had, was that I was looking at these experiences from the perspective (or the visualization) that they were already done. So the progress from Point A to Point B (a.k.a. “the journey”) was lost in my expectations for constant progress. While the internet isn’t responsible for my demands (or expectations) of immediacy, I certainly believe it contributed to it. This is part of our culture — get it now. And in my mind, that’s not necessarily a good thing. We admire the artist who can paint an incredible portrait, but we don’t see the hours of practice. The same is true with just about any other creative talent out there — including writing. In a way, I feel talent and ingenuity have turned into thirty-second novelties. To be an expert at anything, takes time and experience. You can read the information and obtain substitute programs that’ll replicate certain tasks, but that’s not the same thing as doing it yourself.

What getting offline has done to my thought processes, is slow them down to the point where my mind cleared. Tabula rasa. Blank slate. By slowing down, I was able to get back to the basics in a valuable, meaningful way. Instead of submitting every short story I write, I’m playing around with techniques in a story I don’t intend to sell. Same goes for just about everything else I’m doing, too. Walk for fitness before run. Learn new jewelry-making techniques by focusing on basic designs before creating the ones I want. Etc. Etc.

Getting back to the “bottom of the ocean” analogy, I floated down onto the sea floor and stopped. Then, I realized I could go in any direction I wanted to, as opposed to following and connecting with the crowd. (In this case, quite literally. For to engage socially, you have to use the tools everyone else is using, too.) Once I clearly identified the areas I wanted to develop, then I started over from the beginning and am building momentum to create and do some really fun things. I’ll be showing you some of those projects over the next couple of weeks, too.

Now that I’ve got forward momentum on the personal development aspects, my next step is to speed up my productivity and get back to where it used to be. For that? I’m going to turn back to the clock and start building in some routines.

In the end, what’s happened here is a complete ideological shift by way of a slower thought process. Because I no longer feel compelled to share my knowledge or participate in a social network, I’m not proving or professing my expertise (either consciously or subconsciously). The end result of not doing that anymore, is that my focus is on development to increase my skills and my talents. The silence and sheer lack of social pressure (whether perceived or not) allows me to do that without fear, without time constraints. If I screw up, who cares? If I fall down, I get back up. If I do something amazing? I don’t have to show the “one awesome thing” right away. Instead, I’m going to work towards several awesome things. With the way my creative energy has exploded, I’m already well on my way to doing just that.

[My Guest Post] Hunting Down the Value of Social Media at SFWA.org

It’s been almost forty-five days since I turned off social media, and this experiment has taken on a life of its own. One thing that’s happened, which was not what I had expected, is that my hiatus has turned into a period of self-discovery and growth.

Today, I talk about the impact this experiment has had on me and my work. Here’s a quote from the article:

So far, my hiatus has had a profound impact on me in ways I’m still discovering. I feel like I’ve left the schools of fishes swimming in and around one another and have sunk to the bottom of the internet ocean. When I was using the tools, I was more in tune with the world around me and knew what trends were popular and what jokes were not. I knew what books were being released, connected with long-distance authors and friends more easily, and had a lot of fun. Now that I’m not, my focus is on me and my work, which has pushed me into several new directions. — SOURCE: Hunting Down the Value of Social Media at SFWA.org

If you’re curious about my 100 days experiment and want to read an in-depth take on this hiatus, I encourage you to read Hunting Down the Value of Social Media at SFWA.org and share your comments.

On Facebook Contests

Yesterday, GalleyCat released an informative article about how Facebook is restricting contests on author pages. The reason why I wanted to point this out to you is to let you know that while this is not a new initiative, they are cracking down on this. Facebook first introduced contest rules restrictions back in November 2009 and they evolved a year afterward. Not following their guidelines will get your page canceled without notice. Why?

BlogHer has a really good article from 2010 called Keep Your Company and Your Blog Out of Trouble: The Scoop on Facebook Contests that examines what this means from a liability perspective.

So what is new? Two things: a release form and the further clarification has to be hosted on a tab or an app. What’s happening now, is that the popularity of Facebook (and the fact that it’s free) has caused many authors to flock to the tool. This time around, the changes in this policy are an amalgamation of what already existed.

What’s the bottom line? I would keep the new guidelines in mind. As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, you always take a risk whenever you use a tool you don’t own. While many free tools are highly-trafficked, in part because they’re free, you might want to consider looking at what you do have control over — your own website — first.

If you are looking for places to run contests besides your own website, there’s several excellent sites out there devoted to readers that would love an author’s support. I know Facebook is important to a lot of people, but there are other ways to reach your fans, too.

if you operate a contest, create content, or use functionality on a site you own,

[My Guest Post] Alien Character vs Characterization

Hi everyone,

I resumed my guest post for Apex Book Company this month with a post about the difference between characters and characterization. I end with a writing prompt that fleshes out this concept. The prompt was to write a classified ad from one alien to another.

Here’s a quote from the article:

To me, developing a character is part of my world-building process. From descriptions to occupation to personality quirks, the characters I design are part of a “world” I use to tell a story. The setting and the characters are tools that can function independently of any plot.

Characterization, on the other hand, is the glue that ties a character back to the plot. Maybe a birth defect isn’t just a character flaw, the hero finds out the villain maimed him as a child. Maybe an aura of confidence isn’t just an attribute, but the result of great upbringing by the character’s mother. — SOURCE: Writing Prompt: Write a Personal Ad from One Alien to Another at Apexbookcompany.com

If you’re curious, pop on over and give Writing Prompt: Write a Personal Ad from One Alien to Another a read. Then, why not challenge yourself and see if you can’t characterize an alien?

A Fun Contest for Zombie Stories

The Zombie Feed Volume 1Hi everyone,

Just wanted to drop by and mention there’s a really fun contest going on right now at The Zombie Feed. To win one of two rare proof copies of The Zombie Feed, Volume 1 delivered straight to your door, all you have to do is comment on The Zombie Feed Bad-Ass Contest.

To enter, just tell Jason about which one of us (e.g. the contributors) you’d want to be in a zombie apocalypse with and why.

Contest just went up today, so be sure to get your entry in as soon as you can.

Happy Zombipocalypse!

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