Sustaining Author Platform Habits
I fell off my blogging bandwagon. Actually, I didn’t just fall off, I rolled into a ditch and curled up in the foetal position. And it wasn’t just the blogging caper, it was Twitter and Instagram and my email newsletter too. I haven’t opened the apps or sites or dashboards for weeks at a time. Riddleandchance.com is dusty and laced with cobwebs. My social media streams trickle.
My sunny start-of-the-year enthusiasm for building my author platform has waned with the warmth of the sun itself. I’ve had a severe case of ‘what’s the points?’ along with a dose of ‘can’t be f*cks’, choosing instead to put all my effort into finishing the second draft of Wye River. Which is done, and the manuscript is out to beta readers, so that’s something, right? Right. April and May have been productive but were tilted entirely towards writing.
I let my scepticism about building an author platform before I’ve had a word published get the better of me. I neglected my fledgeling following, I lost the habits of posting, emailing, following, tweeting, retweeting and liking. My curiosity about what other writers were up to shrivelled. Social media, FOMO trigger such that it is, is often the last place I want to spend time.
The web is accreted with abandoned blogs and social media profiles, and while I knew I wouldn’t walk away from mine it’s become clear that I need better systems to maintain the author platform. Even when I don’t feel like it, I need to be able to do it efficiently and effectively.
I’ve been participating in Kelly Exeter’s excellent Better Than Yesterday habits challenge for a few months. The group has tackled habits around sleep, food and exercise, and next week we start tackling a habit of our own choice. Kelly has shared research about habit formation and habit change, and suggests a raft of ways to get on the right track and stay there. The research can all be applied to sustaining author platform habits, and a few in particular resonated with me.
Start with a small habit
An incremental change in the right direction is all it takes to gradually build momentum. Pick an activity, a tiny, non-negotiable entirely doable one, and start there. Commit to a 100-word blog post once a week, or 5 minutes of scanning Instagram three times per week. Limit the time and the effort but just start, and stick to it.
Change one habit at a time
Embed the new habit before attempting to initiate another one. A series of incremental changes is what gets results, but give yourself time for each new habit to become automatic and ingrained before introducing more. It can take at least two months for a new habit to form or to break an old habit, so lower your expectation that within a week, or even a month, you’ll be cruising. James Clear says “Embrace the long, slow walk to greatness”.
Remove obstacles to achievement
If it takes too long to do, or if it requires a complicated array of tools or preparation, you’ll procrastinate. The path of procrastination is a steep, circular one bordered with thorny branches and laced with muddy puddles. I’ve been lost there for weeks on end. There are dragons and wolves on that path, and sirens who taunt you and witches who heckle you. Eliminate procrastination by making it dead easy to achieve the habit: get the right tools or preposition supplies or schedule time in your calendar or set alarms or do whatever else you have to do to make it seamless.
BJ Fogg and James Clear outline three steps for a habit to form:
- Reminder or cue – trigger to take action.
- Routine – the action or task itself
- Reward – the benefit derived
Identify what your reward is, so you can take a moment to celebrate when you’ve undertaken your new habit. The reward doesn’t need to be tangible, in fact, it’s unlikely to be tangible if this new habit is intrinsically motivated and truly important to you. That warm fuzzy feeling you get, or the thrill of ticking a checkbox, or the sheer relief of knowing it’s done may be enough. Whispering “Legend!” to yourself, or screaming it in the mirror (why the hell not) may be more your cup of tea. Or maybe you need chocolate or wine or Facebook minutes. Find a way to reward yourself, and recognise that you’re making progress.
My new author platform habits will rely on:
- using the Hootsuite social media management tool to focus on writing-related content, to avoid falling down rabbit holes and preventing irrational FML moments
- scheduling time in my calendar to check social media, and that time won’t be just before I go to bed
- finding a reward that fries my burger. Initially, I was just chuffed to see content go live and get the odd like and retweet, but that’s no longer cutting it. Chocolate may be part of the solution, as it so often is.
What habits do you use to keep your social media presence afloat? How do you sustain habits elsewhere in your life?