Posted by: Alastair Rosie | June 17, 2012

When life gets in the way

WHEN LIFE AND TECHNOLOGY GET IN THE WAY.

I’ve just finished Kristen Lamb’s book, We Are Not Alone. The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. I read it on my Kindle reading app on this new smartphone I just picked up last month. Yes, I’ve finally joined the smartphone crowd, it was a hard fought battle against overwhelming odds but eventually I conceded defeat and took out a plan. So, now I have this nice shiny Android phone with a touch screen and all the whistles and bells, it makes my two year old Nokia look like one of those old dial phones, remember them? If you wanted to send a text message back then you had to get pen and paper and write it by hand, then buy an envelope and stamp and mail it.

But the book took me back to my early glory days when I finally found my voice and started writing on a more or less constant basis. It was back in 1995, my father was on a life support system and writing was my way of sounding off. Not long afterwards he died and I kept writing, and writing and writing. My writer’s journey led me to college after a twenty year absence from school. I did my Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing and back then it was a big thing. For the first time I guess I realised I did have a talent for stringing words together to make meaningful and moving sentences and paragraphs.

But somewhere after 1999 I began to veer off the rails, it was slow, so slow I didn’t see the warning signs, but I began to diverge into different areas, web design, desktop publishing and while those skills were and still are useful it meant my net was spread too wide. By that time I had written my first collection of short stories, Heritage Restored and my first novel came about 2000, The Boston Slasher. I also had ideas of being a web designer, because everyone said I could do it, a desktop publisher, because I had formatted my first anthology. There were also articles and reviews to write and I found myself doing too many things at once.

Then it all started slowing down. Reading Kristen’s book I was mentally ticking off some of the things I used to do back then, networking with other like minded professionals, finding opportunities to review and write, many times for free just to pad out my portfolio. Then a few rejections, a website closing down and I found myself floundering.

It wasn’t as if it was a major thing it was more like a combination of factors, financial instability, an unstable home environment where rent money was the biggest issue of the month – every month, a short lived relationship. In short life got in the way and I can see it for what it was now, a whole bunch of things that happen to everyone else all the time. You lose your way and every now and then make a comeback, write part of a first draft or a few short stories. It’s not all doom and gloom but writing has been a lot like staring down a long dark tunnel and hoping to Christ that the light ahead isn’t the proverbial headlamp of an oncoming train.

I won’t say Kristen’s book jerked me out of my lethargy. I was already looking at ways of moving on and I’ve done a lot of moving, all the way from my home in Australia to Scotland but this book has given me a few pointers. It’s written for the absolute newbie, and I’m a jaded net head; having used the web since 1997 when we used dial up modems and posted on bulletin boards, I can probably say I’m a net head! But spending too much time online, constantly browsing, meeting some interesting people and a lot of screwballs, conmen and wannabe writers you become jaded, cynical, and before you know it opportunities are slipping past you faster than the Millennium Falcon at light speed.

Now I’m beginning to see the benefits of my Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace accounts and I have had them for a while now, thinking one of these days I might be able to use them for dare I say it, shameless self promotion? I must admit that I picked up this book and also bought her next one with the preconceived idea that ‘I’m not going to like this,’ attitude but halfway through I was nodding my head or wincing. She’s right in saying that there are thousands of opportunities out there for us writers if we take advantage of the tools at hand. Many of these tools are free and long may they remain free.

In thinking about these tools I’m reminded of a classic band from the ‘70s and early ‘80s, ABBA. Granted, they did have a good sound to start with, but that alone didn’t propel them to global stardom. They were just one of the first bands to put time and effort into producing music videos. This was pre MTV days when all we had were our favourite bands lip syncing on a Top Forty program with the camera violently zooming in and out to make it seem hot. How easily we were pleased back then! ABBA put out music videos to go along with their songs and it’s not like they were using new technology. Movie cameras have been around for decades, what was new was colour television. It had just hit Australia in the ‘70s and the tv channels were screaming for anything filmed in colour besides news broadcasts. They didn’t do that many tours but they did spend an awful lot of time writing, recording and filming. Fast forward to 2012 and their music is still with us and we have global stars who record in front of a camera and post it online for thousands and sometimes millions of fans.

Technology may seem daunting, even for a seasoned net head like me but used in the right way and with a little bit of effort that light at the end of the tunnel can be a brand new world.

In summary I’d recommend We Are Not Alone. If you’re a newbie who doesn’t know Facebook from Face Off or your Twitter from Flickr then this book will walk you through the social media maze and give you a solid grounding in basic marketing techniques. If you’re a seasoned net head like me then it will help you select the tools best suited to your particular needs and a wake up call to get with the program because the train has left the station. Thankfully for those of us who’ve been standing with our hands in our pockets there are trains arriving and leaving all the time.

Now it’s time to go write some new bios and more content. It’s never too late to back up and change direction and the best part about our mistakes is we own the suckers lock stock and two smoking barrels.

Keep writing and never let go of the dream.

Written by Alastair Rosie. June 17, 2012

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