I learned something after 2 years of hanging out on the SCBWI discussion boards. And the Blue Boards (when they were still separate). And occasional contests and… well, you get the idea. This is what I learned.
I was no longer learning much.
Because I wasn’t a newbie writer anymore. I was weighing in on random topics, gossiping, and helping people new to the boards. But not really improving my own craft. So I shelled up, became a hermit crab, and started making sure my limited free time either improved my writing, or WAS writing in some fashion*. It doesn’t replace writing. And hopefully never will.
So this is what I learned:
Limit your online time.
Limit the number of blogs you follow. Prune.
And limit the time you spend aimlessly wandering discussion boards and getting sucked into heated debates and critiques. Especially once you’ve moved up the learning curve and would benefit more from the insight of industry professionals (those who spend time on a professional polish, rather than the basic foundations of writing). You don’t have to cut it out entirely, but be careful it doesn’t suck up all your time**.
So build a cage, and put the laptop in there with you.
Then Write. Ruthlessly guard your time, and the value you get out of any writing activity. Learn new things. Don’t get stuck in a rut.
So what are you waiting for? Write!
*yes, yes, I know that I have a blog on the topic of writing, which contradicts all this with great irony, but my blog has a stated purpose and time allotment each month, which I’m pretty firm about keeping.
**Fair warning: opinions vary, and this is just mine. The optimal approach to writing discussion board participation depends on what your priorities are. If fun and social interaction is what keeps you going down this thankless road, feel free to disregard! 🙂
For a general update, my short story is now up on OWW and I opened all my files on the Broken Detective (new title forthcoming), the old unloved story that I want to spruce up and put out into the world. A bit exciting and daunting, but hopefully this will be a fun detour for a few months. I still think it’s worth doing. We’ll see what the rest of the world thinks. 🙂
The featured image here is ink and black Prismacolor. I’m experimenting a bit to see if I can figure out a low maintenance style that would work well on the go, as I might consider a little bit of art in the Broken Detective manuscript if so. If I can make it convenient, it would make it a lot more likely!