It's not my intention to upset anyone with this post. In fact, I'm hoping any authors reading this will understand where I'm coming from. I'll set the scene...
At the start of the year I voluntarily found myself unemployed as I embarked on a freelance career. I found a job I thought I'd enjoy, but didn't so I left. After all, I'd found myself a number of pieces of freelance work that would just about sustain my outgoings and I'd always dreamed of being my own boss, what could go wrong?
One of the things I underestimated about working for myself was the loneliness of being on my own day in and day out. These things are all about timing. Perhaps six to twelve months ago I would have relished the opportunity.
You see, the release of the final part of Blackbrooke last year left me in a bit of a slump. I started writing about three new projects, but none of them have grabbed me like Blackbrooke did. The road to becoming more and more down in the dumps was so gradual that I didn't see it coming. One minute I'm sipping champagne to celebrate the release of the final part of the trilogy, the next minute I'm crying every day, convincing that I'm dying.
Yes, that's how bad it got. Anxiety built and built and I'm not exaggerating when I say that I became a shell of myself. There was a lot of contributing factors - the bleak winter time, no more Blackbrooke, too much time on my own, an approaching milestone birthday...Looking back, it's very easy to see how it all got a bit too much.
I find this strange considering most of us are in the same boat - either with indie publishers or self-publishing. I started to shrink away and actually felt quite ashamed of Blackbrooke. After all, the YA horror genre is not 'on trend' at the moment. That ship sailed away with the last Twilight movie and was replaced with dystopian for a fleeting amount of time (which some felt Blackbrooke was) and has now been replaced by romance following the success of Fifty Shades. Yes, even romance for teenagers. YA romance is dying down now and we're seeing the trend of real-life stories (off the back of John Green's rightful success).
So, I found myself depressed (I've avoided that word, but might as well admit it), not writing, uninspired, not reading, not working as much as I could be, and all the while, having people shouting about their books from the rooftops on social media. What's a sad girl to do?
My wonderful boyfriend, concerned with how low I was, made a simple suggestion: "Why not unfollow all of those authors on Facebook?"
I scoffed at the idea. I'm 'friends' with more than 1,000 people on FB and most of those consist of authors like me. I don't know anything about them, only they have amazing books all available on Amazon for a snip! Would unfollowing them make me unsupportive? Would they notice and think badly of me? The short answer is no, of course not. They probably don't even remember they added me as a friend. Plus, I'm not even their target audience.
That's when it really dawned on me that being friends with all of these authors and shouting about Blackbrooke was absolutely pointless. I'd been wasting my time. These authors didn't want to read my book - they wanted me to read theirs, and one of their friends wanted us both to read theirs, and so it goes on. I'm not friends with many actual readers of YA horror - perhaps because they don't know me and would wonder what a random thirty year old wanted by adding them.
So, over the course of a day, I proceeded to unfollow most authors (I still follow those I actually know or have had interactions with) but I don't see the shouts from the others anymore. Weirdly, it did start to make me feel better. I've still got a way to go with getting back on track with the writing, but I'm feeling my imagination start to stir again, which is exciting.
Look after yourself
Social media has a lot to answer for in terms of how it makes people feel. It's not just the writing world, it's everything. Why do some people look flawless in their selfies when I look like shit? Why does everyone else seem to go on exotic holidays and I never seem to have any money? It's a dangerous place for people prone to anxiety or depression as it can have the opposite effect of what you think it's doing for you.
If someone unfollowed me because the things I posted made them feel like shit, I'd fully support them. In real life, we try to form relationships with people who make us laugh and feel good about ourselves and life. With the emergence of social media, we've forgotten this. I'll still use social media for my writing, but I'm rethinking the approach (Twitter is just as bad for authors shouting at each other - BUY MY BOOK!!!) to target readers instead.
It's what I should have been doing from the start.