#socialmedia versus #socialanxiety

One of the biggest obstacles facing many authors today is Social Anxiety.

A few days ago I had a conversation with a friend about how hard it is to be an author today, especially if you’re an independent author. Gone are the days of being an elusive or mysterious author. These days, social media dominates and dictates whether you’re #successful at it, or if your book will sit and collect dust.

How do you survive #SocialAnxiety and overcome the beast?

I have severe social anxiety. When it comes to giving someone my hard earned money to force myself into a crowd of people and sit on display behind a table with not only my books, but my name and picture on a banner, I want to curl into a fetal position.

It’s not easy to talk to strangers. It’s even harder to forge a connection to an elbow-to-elbow crowd. Add the daunting task of smiling and-oh right-form coherent #words. I’m an author and I make my living off weaving words but when faced with a crowd of strangers who are sizing me up and comparing me to all the other authors around me I turn into a blank thought bubble.

Over the past four years, I’ve found a few tips to help me and I’m going to share them with you. Take what you want and need from them and maybe share some of your own in comments.

Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is a great way to know what will help you fit in. If you fit in, you can blend in with the crowd when you need a break.

If you ever see me in a pair of jeans and a Stitched Smile Publications t-shirt you’ll know I’m struggling to get through the event. I normally don’t like to be that casual when I’m at a convention or live event, but I do what I have to, to get through it. In jeans and a T-shirt it’s super easy to slide through the crowd, hide in a bathroom, or get some fresh air without anyone really giving you a second glance.

Have a Buddy

Having an event buddy is #crucial to your survival. Someone who you have already given a heads up talk to. Someone you trust with your life. It’s sounds drastic because it is. Don’t believe me? Try having a panic attack at a con with thousands of people brushing past you like a sea of ants to a sugar cube.

Having a con buddy gives you a life preserver and ensures you don’t drown in the sea. They can take your hand and drag you to a quiet corner, they can help you focus, help you breath, and most of all they can give you a sense of grounding when you feel like you’re about to float away.

Wear a Mask

Literally and/or figuratively! I created the Queen persona to give me a way to interact with people I don’t know. I can just be a character I created and channel her power. The Unsaintly Queen fears no crowd!

Obviously, dressing up in dark fantastical clothing isn’t appropriate for all occasions (sigh, whatevs) but her “role” is still one of power and confidence. I put on my crown and I pretend. It’s easier to be a badass Queen than a fragile human. If you practice.

Practice Makes Perfect

My best advice is to start super small. Go to the #library and ask if you can host a small reading discussion or meet and greet. Check in with a small coffee shop and try to set up an event with them. You have two choices: go to a shop you know so the faces are familiar, or go to one you’ve never been so if you freak out and spill coffee on yourself you never have to see them again.

Practice your pitch. Practice answering questions. Watch yourself in the mirror and force yourself to relax your shoulders. Practice talking slowly and pausing to avoid “um” and “uh”.

And practice getting in front of the crowd. Remember, we start small and add on. Not the other way around.

Now that we have all these tools under our belt, let’s tackle the real #boss-fight: Social Media

Social media fatigue refers to social media users’ tendency to pull back from social media when they become overwhelmed with too many social media sites, too many friends and followers and too much time spent online maintaining these connections.

It’s time to compartmentalize priorities. Keep close friends and family separate from your “other world”. And honestly? Keep only family members on your social media who are not toxic to your mental health. It’s ok to block out negativity. I give you permission. They can talk to me if they don’t like it.

Schedule your posts.

This is so important I’m going to repeat it in bold. Schedule your posts. Find a quiet time, once a day when you’re not in the red zone of anxiety and limit your exposure.

Back in the old days, authors got sloshed and hid behind a handler when they did their signings. Hell, sometimes it wasn’t even really the author there! They’d just send the model used in the author pic. No one knew any better.

I’m sorry #cat-fishers you can’t get away with that these days! Nope, fans and readers troll the internet and #Google sleuth you better than any FBI agency. Remember that picture from Aunt Bunny’s wedding when you were 14, awkward, and shoving cake in your face? Yup. That’s the one they’ll find and it will get more #exposure, #engagement, and #interaction than any profound post you ever make in your entire social media lifetime.

Won the Nobel Peace Prize? Doesn’t matter: Aunt Bunny.

You Must Disconnect to Connect

If you lose connection to life, friends, sunlight you lose connection to yourself. If you have no lifeline to you and your center you will drown in the Matrix. Digital age has made it easy for us to corrupt our hard drives: Our mind. Overloading your brain with input and stimulation will wear you out in ways you can’t even process unless you take a step back.

The light from our cell phones, the glow of the computer screen, the heavy chain link of “notifications”. All of it is designed to force more stimulus at you than you can humanly process.

You need to reboot. You need to come back to the real world. Even if you’re lonely or depressed, the silent call of the internet will only make it worse.

A lonely person in real life can easily fall into the allure of the “friend count” game. You think all those people are your real friends? Here’s a test. Ask for their help. If you ask for something where they would have to give up anything; time, money, etc., you’ll find you might be stretching the true number.

Am I saying you can’t have a relationship (friend or otherwise) with someone on the internet? Absolutely not. I’m saying make it real. Call on the phone and make plans to go somewhere (please for the love of all things Cthulhu be safe about this. Do not meet with strangers alone. Do not give personal information to any stranger and just have some common sense). Go get some coffee or start a book club.

Human touch and energy is more fulfilling than anything you can acquire from social media.

Set boundaries

Set boundaries and defend them like a badger. Limit time, and exposure to social media. Spend more time on you.

Can you succeed as an #author and still employ everything you’ve learned here? Yes, because once you master being able to face small crowds, the all-too-important human connection will far outweigh what social media can do for you.

Think about your favorite celebrity. It’s nice when they like your post or comment but would you rather chat with them on #Skype for 2 min or have dinner with them face to face?

The Answer is Simple

#truth #life #direction #advice #amwriting

The buzz of the city amplifies your anxiety as you stare at the street signs. It’s a new place. You’ve never been here and perhaps you’re used to small town life. You want to ask someone for directions so you stand there-in the middle of the sidewalk-watching the faces as they move past you.

Their faces are cold and stoic. Each expression is carved in stone, immortalizing the “worker bee” hive mind. Finally, as if sent there just for you, an elderly woman shambles nearby. She’s bundled up in her wool coat and pink, knit hat, gazing into the windows displaying colorful clothes, flashy watches, maybe a best selling book. Her lips are softer than the chiseled-line mouths of the faces around her.

Yes, you think to yourself, this is the person I will ask for directions.

Rolling your shoulders back, you head her way, put on your best smile, and call out to her.

“Excuse me, ma’am. I’m sorry to bother you but I’m a little lost. Can you point me in the direction of the subway? I need to get uptown.”

The woman smiles and offers a small chuckle. Turning a half of an inch to her left. She raises her arm, extending her crooked finger, tipped with cotton candy nail polish, and points in the direction you came from.

“It’s over there stupid, can’t you read?”

And just like that, her smile goes from being sunny and warm, to sarcastic and full of ridicule.

The point of this little story is to point out how sometimes we let our own insecurities and fears keep us from seeing where we we need to go. We can’t see the clearly marked signs. We feel disoriented. We question our own judgement.

The direction is always easy.

Just go north.”

It’s right there in front of your face.”

However easy the direction seems, it doesn’t reflect how hard the path is to actually reaching your destination.

Focus on the direction, but work on the path.

It’s right in front of you . . . Dummy.

Women in Horror – I’m Not Bitter, I’m Sexy

twistedtrocki
Artwork by Tiff Trocki

Last week we delved into the many reasons why I felt women were a minority in the Horror genre. This week I’d like to continue with Part 2.

Why am I starting with this now, when Women in Horror month isn’t until February? Oh, it’s simple. February, is the shortest month of the year, for one. Also, I don’t need anyone to tell me when to celebrate being a woman. I do it everyday. Secondly, women get a period every month, why not have something wonderful to talk about to negate the dreadful week-long menses we must endure to give you life so you can complain about us celebrating our own gender.

I’m not an angry female. I’m comfortable in my skin. No, stop. I love my skin. In fact, I love everything about being a female from the softness of my skin, to the strength of my spirit. I love the complexity of my emotions. I love the nurturing warmth of which only a mother’s arms can give, and the ease of which I can stop hearts with chill of my gaze.

To me, being a woman is fascinating, beautiful, maddening, and sexy. I embrace it every aspect of it. The more it drives men mad, the more I love it. The more a man understands his own power and uses it, the more fun the games between man and women become.

So, now that I have expressed that I’m not angry or salty, nor am I whining because I think women need some special treatment. (A throne, daily worship, and adoration, perhaps? Anything less, is disappointing, of course.)

Women are getting crafty. For example, many women are deciding to branch out into smaller niches like “Crime” because they understand that the Horror genre is a male saturate genre and their books aren’t getting enough attention.

Patricia Cromwell is a great example. She uses her time and experience working for the Chief Medical Examiner to establish her area of expertise and give us not only a realistic version of murder and crime scene, but from woman’s point of view. And, let’s face it, women see things differently. Don’t believe me? Try to argue with a woman. She’s built up an argument for months before it’s ever come to the table.

Is this a bad thing? No, not at all. I give them credit for finding their way in the writing industry that works for them. I only wish they could step into whatever genre they *wanted* to, and have the same level of success. That, my dear reader, is my whole point.

Jack the Ripper, is Jack the Ripper. A gruesome, sadistic serial killer whether the genre is “Crime” or “Horror”.

Weigh in! Comment and let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear what your opinions are. 

#GoGetItLife – Why this little hashtag motivates me every day..

It’s a simple hashtag. GoGetItLife. It seems obvious to some and to others maybe it’s the new “YOLO” but for me it’s a daily affirmation of my goals and my direction in life.

Yeah, it started with Theo Rossi. And Yes, I looked into what it was all about because I am a huge fan, but  guess what? These little mashed up words became something more to me. I was already accomplishing things I wanted to. I finished my book. I had a good job. I love my family. But..

(Uh huh..there’s always a “but” right?)

I was coasting. I don’t like to just coast, I want to ride the waves! I didn’t know how I was going to do that yet. You see, I had a fantastic job, great pay, etc…the problem was I was getting sicker. (I have an autoimmune disease that makes me feel like I live everyday with some horrible flu, or strep, or any of the millions of nasty ebola-like illnesses.) Doctors tell me to workout, but there are days I cannot even get out of bed. I’m not one of those people that have a low tolerance for pain. I’m so accustomed to being in pain, when I do too much my body shuts down on me and goes on strike.

I’m a fighter, though. I don’t know the word, “No”. What I did know was coming to terms with this was a roller coaster of emotions.

Work out? Yeah, but I’m not producing tears, sweat, saliva. Ever  tried to workout like that? My muscles already feel like I’ve worked out with The Rock and his massive truck tires.

Watch your food intake. Yes, I already do this. I eat very clean, love salads, fresh fruit and veggies.

Drink lots of water. Duh? I have to drink water or I’ll collapse in a pile of dust because my body won’t produce its own.

I have plenty of excuses not to do something. So I started creating excuses to do something. I can’t drive an hour back and forth to work, sit all day behind a desk, and then fight traffic 1.5 hours to get home. It tore up my back and my hips. This caused a dark cloud to form over my head.

With my body doing it’s own thing, I had to make a choice. I decided to take my passion to the next level and opened a Publishing House. Stitched Smile Publications was born on Jan, 6, 2016. It was the best thing I’d ever done, career wise. It’s not rolling in the profits…yet. However, my team is amazing. They work for the passion of what our company stands for. They give selflessly and treat each other like a real family.

Whenever I start to feel doubt, they cheer me on and now with others stepping in to take on more responsibility, I have had time to (nearly) finish my second book, THE UNFLESHED. It’s my pleasure to show  you the cover below..

Unfleshed Cover

So you see? GoGetItLife means grabbing each situation by the short hairs and turning it into whatever you want. It means not bending to adversity and letting sorrow suck you into the depths of blackness. We’re only here for a short time. Dreams of fame and riches only come when you work hard to make it happen. I don’t care who says money makes the world go round. If your heart and priorities aren’t in the right place money will make you her slave. I don’t live to work. I live to make my time on this rock worth it. No one can do that but me.

In the bigger picture it may seem that people that have “everything” are happy, but that’s that’s just the view through a peephole. Something is sacrificed for having it all. Privacy, trust, love, etc.

LIFE is about fulfillment. The things I work hard for that I earn…I love. I’m down on the floor working with my crew and my family. I roll up my sleeves and take the hits alongside them. I want us all to make it because that means I’ve earned my title and I can honestly say, “I’m a success.” It’s a long, jagged road but I don’t care. Anyone that has gained things without working for it has not earned their stripes. I trust a leader that comes from a rich background of hard work, who can relate to me more than someone that had good luck, or inherited their fortune.

I want people to respect me for my experience, my fortitude, my tenacity, and my integrity. If I can make it to the top of the mountain with those things in tact then I’ve gotten LIFE, and won.

Dress for the job you want

It’s a saying used in the corporate world, “Dress for the job you want”. But I think this is the dividing line between successful people, and not-so-successful people. Apply this saying to everything you do and you’ll reap the benefits.

When you write, don’t write just to keep pumping out content. Write as if you’re writing the next book of a generation. Because you are. Ten years from now, twenty years from now, someone will stumble upon your book. They will judge it’s readers and you by its content. How do you want to be judged?

I have always loved being unique. I dig deep and try to stretch the  “box” until it’s an octagon. In my head I circle the idea like a wolf on a hunt. I want it broken down,  surrendered, and belly up to my whim when I finally come in for the claim.

People that know me often think my ideas are all off the cuff, and some are! But most of the time, I’m not talking until I have an entire plan laid out.

This trickles into my personal life too.  My best friend and I will have a conversation about something bothering her and we’ll hang up. Maybe three days later I’ll mention something regarding the situation because my brain works things out, sorting details until it eliminates the BS from the genuine. I wake up with decisions I’ve made when I’m asleep because I’ve mulled it over through the night while dreaming. 

Dreams are where the best ideas for writing come, especially for creatives whose brains never stop pulling from the world around them. Put them in a world with no boundaries, like a dream world, and you’ll never be disappointed.

So why do all this amazing stuff the injustice of haphazard results fueled on anxiety to slap it on a site to sell? So much time,  so much blood from the quill, and it’s squandered away to the abyss of imperfection. Put your effort on like a suit and wear it with pride and confidence. You never know who your book will meet that day.

Guest Blogger! Drew Avera

The Importance of Dreams

They don’t always come out and say when you’re growing up, but dreams
are important. I’m not talking about those images you see in vivid
detail during REM sleep. I’m talking about those fantastical things
you dream up while you’re awake that preoccupy your mind and distract
you from the monotony of the day. Don’t get me wrong, my family always
took my “dreams” in stride and gave me the encouraging words of, “you
can do anything you want”, but I was never really led in a direction
to make any of them a reality. There are probably several reasons for
that; the two main ones being “I changed my mind a lot” and “it’s hard
to give directions on a place you have no idea how to get there”.
As an adult you learn many things, chief of which is how to get stuff
done. If you don’t believe me then look at how many times you, or
someone you know, have been pressed by your boss to accomplish a task
that seemed overwhelming. The capacity for us to get things
accomplished is usually only rivaled by our tenacity to see it
through. That overwhelming task becomes something you labor over until
it is defeated and laying in a heap beneath your feet (figuratively, I
doubt those TPS reports were slain by your mighty stapler…). But just
the same, you conquered the task and your boss gives you that glint in
his eye that says if he gave a crap, it would all belong to you.
(Sorry, but I’m a pessimist sometimes)
Now, what does this have to do with dreams? The Mr. Smarty Pants in me
wants to make a joke and say, “I don’t know, that’s for you to figure
out,” but that would probably not go over to well for those of you
genuinely interested in accomplishing your dreams.  The key thing you
need to do is to clearly identify what you want in life. The younger
you are the better, but there are many people who discover and achieve
their dreams later in life. It is with a clear definition of what you
want your life to be that enables you to formulate a plan to get
there.
The next thing you need to do is visualize it daily. Some people call
this daydreaming, but it is an effective tool for accomplishing a
goal. You know how athletes will say, “Visualize the ball, you are the
ball”?  It’s the same concept except the ball is your life. What are
you doing that makes you happy in this visualization? Can you really
see it, taste it, smell it, and feel it? If not, try harder.
Up until this point you have been living in a fantasy world. Awesome,
you know what you want and can imagine your life with it, but that is
about as far as most people’s dreams go. The biggest cause of failure
is one’s inability to carry through. You need to develop a game plan
to get you to where you want to be. The marvelous thing about a game
plan is that it can change with your needs as long as the end goal is
still the same. For some, this is the straw that breaks the camel’s
back. Look at the fad diets in the world. They capitalize on a
person’s lack of will power in order for them to make money. Any diet
will work, but they promise the easy button to make it happen and then
you ultimately end up back where you started. Your dreams are worth
more than that, though. Your happiness and your life being rich in
fulfillment are worth more than a half-cocked idea and a failure to
carry through.
Your dreams are important because they tell you who you are, not who
you wish you could be. Did you know Michael Jordan was cut from his
high school basketball team? It was through his dream to play the game
and his dedication to getting better that he became the athlete we
know today (yes, I just dated myself, but hey, he was the best when I
was a kid). The last thing I want to leave you with is this; a setback
is not a failure unless you allow it to be. We all take hits along the
way, that’s called life. “It’s not about how hard you can hit, but how
many times you can get hit and keep getting up”. Bonus points if you
recognize that quote. It is true, though. Don’t let a setback derail
you from your dreams. You need to refocus and fight for it another
day. “You can do it!” (Double bonus points for knowing that quote.)

Drew Avera

You can read the first book in The Dead Planet Series for free by
clicking here: http://www.amazon.com/Exodus-Dead-Planet-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00C1KP6SS/
You can learn more about Drew and his writing at http://www.drewavera.wordpress.com