When I shared in Dewdrops last week that in a few days I would be giving a workshop on Authentic Creative and Professional Community Through Social Media for New Mexico Women in Film (NMWIF), Noé came home that evening and said, “What? Wait, are you attending or giving this workshop?” It’s been a tad busy around our home lately with end-of-semester and school-year portfolios, finals, grades, kids’ sport banquets, deadlines and more deadlines. Not that it is that unusual, though, for Noé to say, “Wait, you’re doing what?” in our home.
A heartfelt thank you to Linda McDill and Melissa McCurley for inviting me to spend the evening with NMWIF. What a treat! This was a marvelous evening with wildly creative people -actors, screenwriters, and artists. First, the location. Noé and I walked into an older building in downtown Albuquerque to find a room swathed in luscious purples, reds, golds, and smelling of lavender and all kinds of other warm, yummy smells. This man I’d never met before walked up, looked me up and down and said, “Cute shoes, the meth is on the table,” looked at the coffee in my hand, “and where’s my coffee?” I was actually speechless. I’d just met Keith West-Harrison, owner of Great Face and Body, host of our event, and creator of the “Bathing Bad” Bath Salts used in the hit TV series Breaking Bad. The “meth” on this table was actually candy, tastes just like rock dandy, and a gorgeous color of turquoise. If only every presentation happened in this room of a luxury spa, smelling of lavender. And the stage where I presented has been used for music concerts, movies, and burlesque. It’s not every day that I get to present on a stage where burlesque dancers recently swayed. I loved it!
Here are the ideas I shared, discoveries I’ve stumbled upon along the way that have made a profound difference in my relationship with social media. Remember, I was the person who swore up and down that I would never do social media, because of this, that, and the other… I considered naming this workshop, “Yet Another Time Hell Officially Froze Over in my Life.” There is actually quite a stack of those now.
What I have experienced since that time is an incredible professional and creative community I never would’ve known, had it not been for social media. What I’ve discovered is social media is just another creative medium – just like quilting, creating jewelry, writing, painting, and any other artistry. Social media is a canvas to fill with color, a page to fill with story, a necklace to bead, a cake to decorate, a song to write and sing, a garden to plant and tend. Once I realized this, my entire relationship with social media changed and I fell in love with the creativity of it all.
Please grab a pen and paper and scribble your thoughts, if that feels right.
So, here we go!
1) What do you want to get out of our time together? What do you want to learn from this?
Here are some of the things people in the workshop wanted to take away from our time together:
* To understand the holistic view of how the many different formats of social media can work together
* Connecting these formats without being redundant
* Why should I talk to people I don’t even know online?
* What is the line between professional and personal in social media and how do I not cross that line?
* How can I present a personal presence and still be professional?
* How do I avoid the dumbing down that I see happening in social media?
All of these are thoughts and wonderings I’ve wrestled with myself.
2) What is your vision for your social media community?
Who is your intended readership?
What are your professional goals?
How would you like people to describe your social media presence?
3) The formats for social media we’ll focus on here are:
BLOGS: Blogs can be a way to share ideas and create community around the world. When I started Dewdrops, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. In my first post in August 2011, I wrote, “So here is my hope – that this blog will be doses of writing, dewdrops, that might knit us together in this wild, heartbreaking, and exquisite experience of life. Inevitably along the way, there will be thoughts and questions about language, culture, writing, teaching, the land, kids, and anything else that composes the chapters of life. I look forward to our journey together.” This tender hope has guided me along the way and guides me still.
While I knew almost nothing about blogs, two things were clear to me about my vision for Dewdrops:
• Community rather than Self-Promotion
Some of the downfalls of blogs tend to be an erring toward narcissism. This is what gives blogs a bad name, and with good reason. Just as any good memoir, what engages people, even if a writer is writing about herself, is the human experience and connection created. My intention with Dewdrops is to create a place for community. How to do that? A writer’s intention comes through in the writing. When I sit to write for Dewdrops, I think of the readers, think of what I know about their lives, think of their gifts and my own gratitude for sharing this journey. If we write authentically, focusing on community, the reading becomes a shared experience between reader and writer. When this happens, what a gift!
• Quality rather Quantity
What matters in blogs is consistency. What is right for a writer varies wildly. I’d rather post less and write pieces of depth and/or substance. I know this goes against a lot of philosophies about blogs out there, but this feels very right for me. I post about every two weeks. People are busy and time to read is precious. I respect this as a writer and as a reader. This is also dependent on topic and readership. Whatever feels right for you, and your readers, it is the consistency that counts.
Character and Texture: The more I write, the more the character and personality of Dewdrops unfolds and develops, the more natural this space for community of ideas feels. One thing I’ve learned is I love to texture the pieces with photos, with color, with vignettes from real life. I write about what I love, whatever that may be. If we write about what we feel drawn to write, instead of thinking about what we should write, these creates an authentic community of kindred spirits. We’ll find each other.
Community: It has been a blessing – and fun! – to come to know the members of our Dewdrops community. Creating posts which allow members’ talents and gifts to shine creates community and is a real treat for all. For example, Writing Spaces of the World and Artists Among Us.
FACEBOOK: Ah, Facebook. My mom was on Facebook for years before me. “I have to stay ahead of my grandchildren on technology, so I can communicate with them!” I figured that if one of us was on Facebook with my kids, we were covered. Remember how it felt to me like I was standing in the window of a department store in the downtown of a major metropolitan city – in my underwear? What I’ve discovered is a supportive, creative, inspiring community is possible on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dawn.wink.3?ref=tn_tnmn Here are some things that helped me:
• Friend/Like the pages of people you admire: For several months before I actually started sharing anything on Facebook, I Friended and Liked the pages of people I admired and studied how they negotiated Facebook. I was aware of what I liked, what didn’t feel right for me, what they would share, and what they didn’t share. This helped me enormously to get a sense of the possibilities and potential. This gave me a sense of the personalities of each. Most of the people I followed are writers and convey a shared sense of both the professional and personal: Luis Alberto Urrea, Elizabeth Gilbert, Isabel Allende, Craig Childs, Terry Tempest Williams, and Anne Rice.
• Follow sites on FB that you love: Took me several months to learn this. I found myself again and again drawn to images and quotes from the same sites over and over.
I’ve found I love Nefe & Breaths, Writer’s Write, and Wild Woman Sisterhood, among others.
• Share what you love: I only Share what has an energy charge for me. That’s the deciding factor. If I feel a jolt of recognition, excitement, or importance, then I’ll Share. My student, Melissa McCurley, brought her Character Journal to our Fiction Writing
class and I fell in love with all she’d done. I was amazed at not only the ingenuity of her idea to create depth in her characters, but also at the sheer aesthetic beauty of the journal. Each page is devoted to the history of a character – conveyed through collage, seeds, lists, clusters, even a bullet she found on the ground. I loved what she’d created and ask if I could share. This inspired a long conversation on Facebook about journals, about the contents of Melissa’s journal, and how other writers were going to include in their own writing.
• Create themes: This I fell into and I love. I found myself drawn again and again to photos of paths in different places around the world. I started to Share under the title of, “Another path to follow…” I discovered that other people loved these paths, too, and looked forward to them. I found myself drawn to the definitions of very cool words and Shared those. These took on a life of their own with people commenting, and Sharing. I discovered people looked forward to these paths and words and these little communities take on a life of their own.
• Personalize: How much to personalize and remain professional and appropriate? Always the question. This, too, has developed over time for me. I’m guided by what I would like to receive, know, see from people I love and/or admire. Underlying it all is an assumption that, even though Facebook has privacy settings, once it’s on FB, it’s out in the world. I don’t share or write anything I wouldn’t mind having on the front page of the morning paper for the world to see. And there are sometimes more personal glimpses, like what I
shared on the morning of my 45th birthday: “My birthday present to myself this morning was to write in my journal by candlelight, the full moon bright in the window. I wrote of my gratitude for the many blessings I celebrate on my 45th birthday. A student asked me yesterday what I wanted for the future, and I realized, “To expand on the present. To love, to parent, to write, to teach, to give thanks for the nest of family
and dear friends.” Blessings all. All the more cherished for the birthdays in other chapters of life. It is a time of deep gratitude.”
And sometimes there is just the spirit of fun and whimsy at unexpected joys, like the time I was driving home from observing student teachers in Taos and on the complete spur-of-the- moment, I pulled over along the Rio Grande to put my feet in the water. In the midst of a busy week, this was sheer heaven – so I shared.
• Upcoming publications or announcements: With MEADOWLARK‘S upcoming publication, I’ve shared aspects of its journey. In deciding what to share, I think about what I enjoy
seeing about others’ artistic journeys. These aspects tend to be fascinating to me. I’ve shared aspects of writing and editing. A community of readers, friends, writers and other creatives gather around this journey and creates an energy of its own.
• Idea Inspiration: And sometimes these themes and posts inspire one another, when for example a series of photos I took of a nest with eggs beside our front door and Shared over the course of a month became this piece on Dewdrops: The Nest Behind the Skull.
PINTEREST: Pinterest is series of visual boards, each arranged around a theme. This is a marvelous opportunity for writers and artists. The fun is the themes of the boards – Some of the topics of my boards are: Meadowlark, Raven’s Time, Beautiful – Colors, Textures, and Places, Dewdrops, Wildness and Beauty, Quotes to Live By, Education, Writing, http://pinterest.com/dawnwink11.
When thinking about boards, what ideas, artistry do you want to get out into the world? What kind of community do you want to create and be a part of online? Two things to think about with pins:
• Personalize. Include some kind of little idea or note that is yours and connects you and the people who follow your boards.
• Include live links to your own work. If I pin something on the Meadowlark, I include a live link back to what I’ve written about Meadowlark on Dewdrops.
Why do Pinterest? Because it creates the opportunity to connect and share your work with people in all kinds of ways that would otherwise remain closed.
TWITTER: Twitter is about the business end of keeping up with writers I follow, people I love, and important ideas in education and writing. My attitude about Twitter is, “Just the facts, ma’am.” It’s an important way to share own’s own work in a community, as well as receive and pass along ideas and work we support. I follow a number of writers, educators, and organizations in the publishing industry.
4) Some things to consider when creating your social media presence:
• Your reality – My reality is that I work full/over-time teaching at the college and beyond, have three teenagers active in what appears to be every sporting, school event possible and I realize these are the good ol’ days with them and mothering comes before all else, write books, have been given the gift of finding love in this second chapter of my life and want to be a fairly present spouse to him. Soooo, my social media presence needs to fit into this. Consistency is what is important. It’s the composition of that consistency that varies. What is your reality? What implications does this have for your presence?
• How to handle certains topics – One thing that I’ve wrestled with quite a bit is how to handle national and international tragedies. And, of course – politics. Will you address these? If so, how?
To bring everything together, as you move forward:
5) Your Authentic Creative Social Media Community
• Which formats attract you?
• Possible Themes
• Envisioned Community
• Professional Goals
• Personal Goals
• First Steps
If you are looking to work with a professional (and fabulous person) to help you with this, I highly recommend Ashley Biggers, who specializes in Social Media for Writers.
I just finished this piece and can’t help chuckling. This cracks me up that I am writing about this. If somebody had told me a year ago that this would be my experience, I never would’ve believed them. And, yet here I am. Much to my amazement and surprise, this new creative format is one that I love. I am deeply grateful for the people and opportunities this format has brought into my and my family’s lives. Incredible, really.
I hope these ideas have been helpful. I’d love to learn your ideas, experiences, and suggestions.
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