Let me explain.
It may be difficult to believe, but I’m an introvert. I play an extrovert on the Internet, but really I’m an introvert.
I prefer to keep my socializing one-on-one, and I hate crowds — my worst recent experience was going to the state fair on the weekend day. After a day of interacting with people — online or off — I need to lie down in a quiet room to decompress.
So, a little bit of backstory. Last spring I went to a business conference where the speakers extorted us to be more “involved with our readers.” “When someone signs up for your newsletter, email them to ask what are their biggest challenges, and respond to all of them,” one presenter said.
At the same time, I read a book where the author mentioned he’s on email until 2 AM — and if someone writes to him with a sticky problem, he often invites the person to call him up to discuss.
So I started interacting a more, and I was up till late answering emails just like the author. I sent free e-books to people if I thought they would help them with a problem, asked my new subscribers to send me their challenges, and even invited a couple of people to call me. I also responded to every comment on my blog.
The result: complete and utter burnout.
You see, as an introvert, every interaction takes a little bit of my energy. An hour of emailing leaves me drained for the rest of the day, and takes energy away from what I need to be doing to serve the most people — not to mention keep my bills paid — such as:
- Moderating the Freelance Writers Den forums
- Working on new e-courses and conducting the ones I already teach, both by myself and with Carol Tice of the Freelance Writers Den
- Mentoring writers by phone (I love this but it takes a LOT of energy — another reason I need to limit emails and other online interactions.)
- Working on writing projects such as new e-books and my articles for Writer’s Digest magazine
- Posting on the Renegade Writer Blog (Over 1,000 posts so far!)
- Sending out daily Morning Motivations for Writers emails to my mailing list subscribers
Also, I’ve come to see this attitude that you always need to be interacting online a little disingenuous. While I’m sure some entrepreneurs spend hours writing and talking directly to individual readers because they truly enjoy it, I’d say most do it as a roundabout, feel-good way of priming people for a sale. At the conference I mentioned earlier, the presenter called it a way of “building trust.” Building trust for what?
If you have a great product or service, do you really need to spend the bulk of your waking hours “building trust” by kibitzing with an audience? My trust is that most people can tell pretty quickly whether a product is good fit for them — and if it is, they—ll invest in it. Does an author need to spend her days doling out free advice to prove her $3 e-book is a good investment? Well, I’d think a good one doesn’t!
Of course, I really, really do want to help writers. I’ve built my career around it. But what I discovered was that it doesn’t make sense to spend 15 minutes responding to a writing question or comment from an individual when I could instead write a blog post, e-book, or course that can help thousands. It’s just not the most efficient use of my time, especially since I work limited hours.
So I decided that, to preserve my energy for projects that will help more writers, I’m going to “go inside” by focusing on my own projects — creating instead of reacting, you could say. That means limiting my time on email and social media.
Of course, going inside is a scary move for me. I appreciate my readers like you wouldn’t believe, and I would never want to come off as someone who doesn’t care.
This helped me make up my mind: I recently read a book on productivity for entrepreneurs that posed the question, If you sent an email to JK Rowling, would you be upset that you didn’t get a response? The answer, of course, is no. We all understand if JK Rowling answered all her letters and emails, she wouldn’t be able to write new books.
I also take heart that respected bloggers like Leo Babauta of Zen Habits and Steve Pavlina of StevePavlina.com have disabled comments on their blogs and are very difficult to get hold of — but they’re doing some of their best work now and still have devoted readers because of the quality of their ideas and writing.
Also, I think about Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin & Hobbes. He rarely did interviews, kept to himself — and created. Because he knew that his work could stand on its own.
Now, I know I’m no JK Rowling or Bill Watterson, but the principle is the same: I need to limit distractions and protect my energy so I can create products that will impact the lives of the most writers. Also, I think my work is helpful enough that it will stand on its own, even without my spending all day online.
Finally, I’m not as worried as I could be because for most writers with questions, I already have answers at all price levels, from free to around $300:
The Freelance Writers Den: If you have questions or need support, I recommend you join the Freelance Writers Den, a community of over 1,100 writers that includes free resources like e-books, weekly webinars, classes, plus a forum where you can get your questions answered by Den Mother Carol Tice, yours truly, and a host of other experienced moderators. The Den is open to new members only a few times per year, so be sure to get your name on the waiting list if you’re interested!
Phone Mentoring for Writers: Do you have a lot of questions, or a freelancing problem you’re grappling with that you can’t seem to find an answer to? I encourage you to sign up for a phone mentoring session.
My E-books: My top three books are The Renegade Writer, The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock (both co-authored with Diana Burrell), and Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step Into a Career You Love — these all cost under 3 dollars on Amazon and can answer a lot of your questions.
This Here Blog: I tend to get the same questions a lot, so please do search the Renegade Writer blog using the search box at the bottom of the page. That way, you’ll be able to easily find answers on how much you should bid for a freelance assignment, whether you should simultaneously submit queries, when to follow up with editors, what to do if you don’t have clips, whether you need to interview experts for your query letter, what counts as a reprint, and more.
There are over 150 “You Ask, I Answer” posts on the blog (click on the drop-down categories menu in the right sidebar to select them), so chances are I already answered your question!
My Email List: If you join my list you get a free packet of 10 query letters that rocked, a free e-book called Editors Unleashed: Magazine Editors Growl About Their Writer Peeves, and daily Morning Motivations for Writers emails.
For questions and comments about the writing field, please take advantage of one of my great offerings (even the free ones!).
I’m excited — though a bit apprehensive — about this new, creative stage in my life. I look forward to serving you with more compelling blog posts, helpful books, great e-courses, and more. I have a lot of great ideas in mind and can’t wait to get started in January.
I hope my decision helps other introvert entrepreneurs say No to all the experts who tell us we need to expend a lot of our personal energy interacting online in order to make a living.
Here’s to helping you become more successful and prosperous as a writer in 2014!