Weekly Ramble #125

Even I run out of steam sometimes. For everything this busy social media author blogger machine can be, it can also be exhausting. This is especially so when life seemingly unfolds. From the bullshit of paying bills to a busy work environment, for what is supposed to be a hobby writing can be a surprisingly difficult ocean to stay afloat in.

I’ve come to realize you can only do what you can in life. Battles and hills worth dying on are everywhere so pick them well. Good things can take time and I have the highest respect for those who do keep going, even through hiatuses, mental health breaks, absences , rebrands and whatever you need to rejuvenate that engine of yours. That also includes life. We are always learning and as a story teller or writer, I may not be at a laptop all the time but in my mind I am writing. That can be enough sometimes.

The pandemic era stripped a majority of busy things away and while that provided an opportunity then, that stuff is creeping back in and so the balancing act is becoming a rebalancing act. Writing books in this busy world is hard, blogging is hard, tweeting is hard, finding time to do anything other than exist always has been hard. My go-to process has always been to stop if the enjoyment stops. Take breaks, pull away, think deep and go for a walk to process. Remember, we’re humans and even when we are amongst all this technology, our systems are organic.

This past weekend I hit a milestone. A personal goal that is also a personal pillar holding a majority of my wider dream up. Some stories take a lifetime to tell but the satisfaction of reaching the end, well that’s where the real journey begins.

Weekly Ramble #120

And so the notifications fall silent but the words I have laid down are seemingly just as loud in my absence. In the near week I have been away from Twitter the amount of followers I’ve gained has gone up by over 300. While silence is sometimes solace, I see enough of it while writing and I’ve concluded this journey is nothing without the company I have found across social media.

I did say previously I am on this journey because of the writing but now the social media connections, the personal connections I have made with so many like me are now a part of that. The good things I have found and created for myself outweigh the bad by a lot. This always has been an eye of the beholder type deal and I know social media can be a grind, for some, it can chew you up and spit you out, but only if you let it. With my following, we made Twitter a good place to be, a place to converse and sell our work to the world while we learned from one another. We found each other and together we are going to step forward day by day and continue what we started. I value it too much to just walk away. I value personal connections as much as my writing.

The world can be a bad place but it can also be a good place, but you have to be willing to let that positivity in and embrace it because soon enough the negative will emerge. I’ve been away only for a little while and I’ve found my happy thoughts, I’ve found my balance and I’ve concluded that I am all in from now on. I was burned out but you’ll be amazed what a few days of silence will do for the mind.

There always will be others who’ll try to be the opposite of me, folks I have no time for. It’s why Twitter invented the mute, unfollow and block buttons. Tools I’m gonna be using to protect myself, because I come first, my following does too and I’m too far down the track to let a few bad interactions stop me. The bad feelings they present me with weigh nowhere near as much as the good. As I said, balance and I’ve found mine.

Taking a Break from Twitter…

I’m writing this post more as a statement than anything else and before I dive in I will firstly say that I am fine. This is not a publicity stunt, attention grab or an attempt to cause arguments or bad feelings. I thought I would lay out in length and hopefully clarify why I have decided to take a short break from Twitter; something I have been envisioning on and off for around three months because the truth is, I have been running hot on the platform since April 2020 and I am mentally tired.

By running hot I mean that in 16 months my efforts and time on the platform has increased by probably twentyfold at least while the rewards I got for it are very much apparent. Back in April 2020 I had around 4,000 Twitter followers. The last time I checked, I have around 13,500. This is partly testament to the effort I have put in to converse and connect with so many creatives, readers, friends and anyone else on a daily basis. These wonderful people buy my books regularly and read this here blog regularly and engage with me every day – most importantly they are probably the biggest reason for my social media success.

The personal connections are the main reason why I am already planning my return because simply walking away from so many wonderful people is not who I am. When I announced I was taking a break, so many good people wished me well, if you are one of them, thank you.  

This incredible journey I have been on has also contained the odd pitfall – anything worthwhile will always have challenges and to jump to the numbers I have now is something I have always been able to process. Twitter for the most part has become partly an addiction (a healthy one, mind) but only because I was getting good results and I was getting better at it – the statistics do not lie. The style that I developed over time works well to drive engagement and I figured out the psychology of the platform while making some awesome connections who have helped me big time on this path. To successfully sell anything on social media takes a lot of effort because the algorithms are so so against you pretty much all the time – this is a mental minefield on its own and statistics don’t always tell you what’s going on under the hood because after all I am a human of the regular persuasion.

The last 16 months were intensive for a number of reasons. In that time I released Book 6 and then Book 7 – with 7 becoming the most intense editing experience of my life – I had to get Consistent Creative Content right, and I did. I also began eyeing up the concept of reaching 10,000 followers right around the time ‘CCC’ was released after a lengthy pre-order run and so things were just happening all at once. This is also without taking note of what was going on in the outside pandemic world. Part of my reason for upping my author social media game was because the pandemic gave me time to do so. I used the time I was given to thrive on social media.

When I did reach 10,000 follows, a huge amount of self-pressure lifted. I had made it into a club that as an indie author who started from zero is rare. Most of my followers are folks just like me and my appeal is probably because I am still one of them and what I can achieve is possible for them too, it really is and I am public about that, not to mention open and honest. Together we made my Twitter a good place to be everyday. But under the hood things were kind of struggling for me and that 10k milestone paved over some cracks but I continued forth. My book had just been released and there is always work to be done but I always knew the chase on social media is endless and Twitter moves quickly, very quickly.

I can count on one hand the amount of bad experiences I’ve had on Twitter. I know what stirs pleasant conversation so I tend to not have many bad moments. I don’t go looking for them and at the very core of my belief is to post something that informs, inspires or entertains without any malice. You might even see my attempt at humour but very much in an inclusive light dad-joke style. If you are kind and pleasant no matter what flag you fly or where you are from, you are welcome on here and even in my own home – that will always be who I am. I do my best to bring that attitude onto Twitter and you might have seen me talk about the power of positivity, it tends to win the day most of the time.

Before I figured out the psychology of my following or even built it I always knew that Twitter was and still is a very public place where anyone can comment or find you anonymously. I’ve even described it personally as a ‘cesspit’ before and for nearly 16 months, to me it wasn’t because I had made it pleasant for me and my followers helped with that. Perhaps I was a little naïve and perhaps I haven’t adjusted my style too much over the last 16 months which might have left me vulnerable in my own head because there are types out there who have the opposite attitude to me and three separate incidents occurred in quick sucession that ultimately drove me to walk away from Twitter temporarily – and that is with the last 16 months piled on top. I say temporarily because most of the time I tend to get pissed off with something, then I process and then I dive back in quickly. And my followers mean too much to me right now to permanently walk away.

This post is me processing because I know there will always be trolls or less desirable folks who in my opinion probably need help but instead they’ll try to drag people like me into their bullshit or their problems. This is not just me being some privileged guy having a whine because someone randomer said something I didn’t like. I’m not easily offended and I am big enough to handle 10,000 people downloading my book in day and then dealing with the influx of low ratings after. I also know there are a lot worse things happening in the world but to me, my mental health will always come first so I have to process this on my home turf and like I said at the start I am fine but this is me intervening to keep my very stable mental health just that. .

These three incidents that occurred were unprovoked because like I said, my tweets have zero malice. I am on Twitter to connect and learn with others and find a readership for my books. I’m an author first and foremost, not a social media personality, I got into writing before social media existed and ultimately it’s a resultant of that. I had been eyeing up a break from the platform since May but these incidents were probably the motivating factor to tell me it is just Twitter and I don’t need it right now.

And for anyone ever struggling with Twitter, remember that sometimes it is just Twitter. You come first.

So what happened and who did what? The specific details of who aren’t important and it wasn’t you that pushed me to take a break. In fact the three incidents were from non-followers which might have been why I reacted the way I have. I won’t give you specifics but I will tell you now from when I return to Twitter, my style will now be adjusted to one of a larger following. I was once a small business operating like a small business, but now I have grown, my approach will change it. I’m going to act like a bigger business and I have to be shrewd to protect me. This will include 3 rules that are for me to follow in order to protect myself and my mental health while using the platform.

  1. If someone attempts to correct me in any way, including my spelling they are gone. (blocked, gone sounds more dramatic);
  2. If someone attempts to make a funny comment that is actually a back handed insult or I cannot grasp their tone in that comment, they are gone;
  3. If someone attempts to spin what I say, gone.

I know as an author and blogger I sit in a very glass house and I’m not attempting to control anyone or silence anyone because this approach is to protect me and life is too short for me to be effected by people who don’t know how to converse properly on a platform designed for conversation. By glass house I mean anyone can hop on over to where my books are listed and drop a low rating – this is part of the reason why I am the way I am on social media and these three rules ultimately depend on how well someone knows me and how we interact. The majority of my wonderful following could do all three of these and as long as they are honest and decent, I probably won’t even bat an eyelid or we might even laugh about it. I am also going to look into privacy settings but approving every single follower will be a lot of time. My current daily follow rate was north of 50 a day and 90 on weekends. It is still moving up now and this is after a whole day of me not tweeting a single thing.

Personally, these rules are basic conversation etiquette and for a lack of it to come from non-followers really surprised me or maybe it just proved I have become naïve to trolls or maybe this even the sign of true prominence. I know this world is full of bad people and I am wise to that but maybe now because of my following I am a target. I also know that I cannot control others but I can shield myself from them. My larger following is an opportunity to some folk who dwell under bridges it seems and like I said, I don’t tweet about anything that deserves this behaviour. One account literally followed me minutes before backhandedly insulting me on a tweet I composed as a light-hearted humour attempt, that account then disappeared after I reported it for abuse.

Number 3 in particular is something that surprised me also but it happened twice in a week. Trying to spin my non-malicious words into something malicious will earn you a block. I am not a politician or a billionaire so stop trying to spin what I say like a cheap journalist. If someone is that insecure about what I say, then the problem is with them not me. Yes, Twitter is a public highway with freedom of speech which I fully support, and you could just tell me to grow up here but I will counter with just two words that define what all humans should be able to do:

Be Kind.

There is a human behind that handle and following. Above all, I have spent a lot of time on the platform and I can see through words, very well.

I take my online author endeavours seriously and authoring will be my primary career one day. Above all, I am adjusting my style to protect my mental health which has dipped partly because I ran hard for so long and partly because unpleasant people do not deserve me. Now I’m having a week away and very much enjoying being a writer. My mind and imagination is my greatest asset and I will do anything to protect it. Right now I am deep into editing the book I began this writing journey with back when I was 12, its way more important than a few random trolls trying to get a reaction. The writing matters, it always will.

In 16 months I gave everything to putting together a loyal engaged following on Twitter.

All of you who do follow me are worth that everything.

You can expect to see me return to Twitter late next week to do battle with the algorithms and be with the people who made this journey worthwhile. Thank you for reading.

‘From Voiceless to Vocal’ by Danielle Larsen – Review

Candid, brave and ultimately inspirational…

While many of the subjects in this memoir aren’t easy to talk about, Danielle Larsen delivers her story flawlessly and highlights the moments and events of a journey that makes for a gripping read. In this day and age the subject of mental health needs to be talked about more and this book does that. Being wrongly diagnosed at a young age ultimately paves the way for Larsen’s struggles while the main bulk of the story focuses on her being in a relationship with an abusive controlling partner. For much of the time it’s frustrating to see the abuse that unfolds – why can’t she just leave? Unfortunately it’s a little more complex than that and part of the journey is understanding that it’s hard to leave sometimes and breaking those shackles is difficult when the circumstances of gaslighting and emotional abuse are present.

“Normal does not have to mean good or comfortable, but simply what one gets used to…”

This book acts as guide in some senses to spread awareness while also informing others. The narration style feels natural and relays every moment with dignity and there are some moments when you cannot help but feel for a person who has been through so much – a lot of it wasn’t even her fault and you just want her to succeed in the end. There are even some brighter moments later on which highlight finding inspiration from musical theatre and how we all need to find something for emotional release. For Danielle Larson to share a memoir like this it’s incredibly brave and ultimately inspirational because the message is no matter how many chips are down you can always come back, there’s always hope and survival is probably the greatest gift we have.

5 Stars – A gripping and touching well-written read that bravely shares so much. Reviews left via Amazon and Goodreads.

Weekly Ramble #78

The truth is, even though I’ve written recently about reverting to zero, that whole deal has summoned some wonderful people. It’s actually been very touching to hear from so many who approached me after that post, which started out as just a vent about the lamenting struggle it is to be noticed in this world as an author. We all have those moments that get us down. The whole taking a wider look around and realising this might be not as great as first perceived. 

I suppose we are all a work in progress. And even though since that reverting to zero post, my sales have been one more than zero, I’ve realised I have something worth way more than that – the support of some decent people from all over this rock which now seems a little smaller. That support is way more valuable than anything else on this journey, trust me, it means so damn much to have people swoop in and offer their words and kindness – you know who you are and for what it’s worth, you’ve improved my stance and mental health on the subject.

I’m fine, and I will be fine. This whole process of writing books is a build me up and tear me down type of deal – that may sound deep but it is. I pour absolutely everything into my writing, every essence of me are in those words, every emotion I have will go into creating something from that number, zero. Even though all of us who create have aspirations of what that work will do, it’s what you don’t expect to happen that gives out the true pleasure and satisfaction.

I will take the support of those who have supported me and do support me over anything else. They have offered me something I never thought I would find, let alone look for.

Being genuine in this world is probably the best thing you can give someone. Thank you – from a writer who isn’t afraid to go forward because of that.

 

Weekly Ramble #70

What are you doing to look after your mental health? Right now more than ever do we need to be conscious of our subconscious because every so often in times that are different it’ll peek out from behind the curtain and catch you out..

Many of us are creatures of habit. We rinse and repeat in a our lifestyles, it’s how they were designed. The ‘routine’ was our nuts and bolts. In most structures, if you take the nuts and bolts away, things fall to the floor. Our brains are no different, and after extended time in isolation and away from those who make up the construct of our human routines, it’s getting difficult. Everything is making me fed up.

If you like me, you’re probably sick to death of hearing phrases like ‘unprecedented times’ or even ‘corona’. The news is a plague in it’s own right. It’s sole content is this crap the world currently faces, yet another uphill challenge but this one has us all directly gripped. I try to stay away from it. This whole deal won’t change in days or probably weeks. Journalists, or at least some of them have slipped in my opinion of them. If you watch the daily briefings in whatever land you are, and there’s an opportunity for Q and A, you’ll hear the upmost absurdities being regurgitated from their mouths.

Recently here in the UK the daily brief has included questions from real people who are asking what we want to know (not journalists). Not about the stupid fucking economy but when will we be able hug our grandchildren, or take them to play in parks. Real questions that have a human implication to emote. Journalists default to this mode of questioning that is both aimed at making a figure head stumble and bring a somewhat level of misery to everyone else. Are they things we need right now? How are we going to relate to them if they just ask questions that trigger bad thoughts?

A key and gospel way of looking after your mental health is to choose. And by choose I mean not be around certain people and places. While this is hard because we are isolated, I have abstained from listening to the Q and A part of the daily briefings. While I wholeheartedly support freedom of speech and questioning the authority to an extent, there is some journalism that is just destructive and bares no necessity in the modern world. Fuck off with your negativity and stop trying to divide us. The one thing we will always have as a species, isolated or not is each other, let’s keep it that way shall we….

Weekly Ramble #52

Anxiety, depression and loneliness are all things we should talk about way more. Even in this modern age where we appear to be more connected than ever before, we still face these issues on a pandemic scale. You would think the concept of social media would help to battle such issues but from my experiences it can foster depression and possibly make it worse. Perhaps the original intention of social media – if it ever was good, has been overlooked and overshadowed.

2010 – you’ve got to get a Facebook profile picture..

2019 – you’ve got to get off Facebook…

It’s strange how time can turn things around, or in this sense nearly a decade .The same generation (folks like me) who knew a life before being internet reliant and then embracing it is now choosing to come away. Perhaps the old saying too much of anything is bad for you turned out to be pretty accurate.

The reason I link mental health and social media together is because last year these two subjects culminated in what I recall as a particularly dark time for me personally. I know many people who have been on their own mental health journeys; many of them blog or post about it (the good guys!), and well I’ve been quite vague until now because it is still fresh and context along with timing has urged me to share it only now – plus compared to last year right now I am probably in one of the best places I’ve been for a long while, as I said it’s funny how time can turn things around.

Off the heels of my 4th book release and the 2nd one of last year which didn’t go particularly smoothly and subsequently didn’t turn out how I envisioned. I’ve only learned all of my ‘book stuff’ by doing/ trial and error and well the release of Cemetery House was indeed just another day at the learning factory – sequels are a specialist thing in indie publishing, and while I did put the whole thing on a pedestal with a long running social media campaign and a whole bunch of expectation, let’s just say in my head I didn’t exactly get a hole in one. By this time I had already drafted the Darke Blood sequel and immediately I pulled the plug on releasing that this year – it wasn’t ready and neither was I.

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There was also a bunch of other stuff going on at the time; that whole year had been building up towards me moving into my own place with my more than better half. Moving places is naturally stressful even if it went quite well – there is more paperwork than any book I’ve ever written… So by the end of November and with my mind trying to crawl towards a better place I took the huge dive into deleting the Facebook app off my phone – for those who know I was always on Facebook; that’s my secret captain… I even decided to go dark across all platforms probably apart from this place. This may have been the best health decision I have ever made in my entire life –  arguably probably better than no carb Thursday or no meat Monday… Immediately my mind and focus turned towards other things, of course the move was coming but very quickly and after being burned by book 4’s ‘debacle’ I wanted to write again!

For those who have read my books will know they are about more than genre and even the main plot. In everything I have created there is an underlying message within. I took on a new writing project and with my crusade against staying off social media I went a further step creatively and decided to hand write my next project. My vision was to take away page counts, word counts, windows updates and the temptation of logging on to Life Invader as well as finding my writing routes. This was just Lee, his pen, some paper and words. At this time I was still healing and so I got writing and subconsciously put together a story that reflected how I was feeling in a sense.

That recollection of feelings reflected via a story ended up becoming a book called ‘The Ghost Beside Me’ which is due for release this December. Because it was handwritten and had a sole focus on just telling a story it turned out to be quite short but it could arguably be my most powerful and important project. And so we go back to the start of this entry… Anxiety, depression and loneliness are all things we should talk about way more, you’ll find these subjects in my next book and they are talked about. That is something we need to do so much more. There are some creators I know that also talk about self care – this is just as important, finding away to get through stuff is a vital part of talking about it!

Now I’m not just using this as an opportunity to sell some books, this has never been about that, it’s an opportunity to use my writing for something more than just telling stories. 

By the end of December last year I had mostly recovered and dove into Indie Book Reviews which has probably been a lifeline for me. Connecting with other authors and bloggers who face what I face gives me a great sense of not being alone in the huge overpopulated world of social media. Even now I am weary of Facebook, it’s #4 or #5 on my platforms for author stuff, this place  is numero uno followed closely by the tweet machine.

For what is my 52nd ramble post – a year of rambles, although I started this series little over a year ago – I would like to take this opportunity to everyone who reads this and say thank you! This blog and your support has given my writing a new lease of life and very soon ‘The Ghost Beside Me’ will be my redemption, whether or not it is a success actually doesn’t matter, it’s the journey of creation that truly matters. 

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