For Readers & Writers

from Susan Dennard

July 8, 2016

What's in this heart-to-heart?


Recent Goings On:

I’m still alive! I know y'all were super worried…
Oh, whatever. Who am I kidding? You didn’t even notice I was gone, did you? Well, in case you indeed hadn’t noticed, I’ve been offline for the past month.
Not gonna lie, guys: June was pure heaven. And once you’ve stepped away, it’s really hard to come back. (More on that below.)
Anyway, I write this newsletter as I head for LeviosaCon in ye olde Las Vegas. If you’re at the event, come say hi!

For the Mislanders:

Upcoming Cover!

My friends, there are rumblings of a paperback cover reveal on the horizon. I can’t say when precisely this event will take place—nor do I know WHERE online—but I can say this: the paperback cover is my most favorite cover of all time. I don’t just mean my most favorite cover of all the covers I’ve ever been blessed with, but of ALL COVERS EVER.
Y’all don’t even know what you’re in for.

For the Daydreamers:

Findings From A Social Media Break

So as you may (or may not) have noticed, I stepped away from social media for the month of June. This wasn’t just an “I won’t check my Twitter feed” kinda thing, either. This was a full BLOCK. I had the Freedom app set to 24/7, so even if I desperately wanted to know what the internet was up to, I simply could not find out.
Guys. Guys. It was glorious. As much as I love talking to people on Twitter or connecting on Instagram, the mental silence that came from a lack of social apps was absolutely freaking glorious.
Now, you might be wondering: what prompted such drastic steps? Obviously, I wanted to finish Windwitch, but it went beyond that. As I wrote to a dear friend in an email:
It is terrifying. Holy crow. The fear of FOMO (FOFOMO?) is real, and after spending all of today with only email/text to connect me to "the outside world," I'm realizing just how much I grab for my phone or hit refresh on my inbox. Just to fill those little moments when I don't want to be left with my thoughts. Or those all-too-frequent screeching halts I hit in my work, when the frustration of the story could be so easily abated...and then forgotten with a simple scroll through instagram.

My goal is to not only clear up all that wasted time and headspace, but to also break the addiction. I am just so frustrated with how much time I spend in a not real world (the internet, a story universe). It can't be healthy, and it's definitely not helping me finish Windwitch.
So June 1, up went the Freedom blockade. I won’t lie: the first few days were hard. I found myself constantly grabbing for my phone or opening Chrome. Whenever the writing got hard or there was a lull in my life, the muscle memory took over. Even 2 weeks in, I would still catch myself operating on autopilot.
But every time my fingers would thoughtlessly open Chrome and click on Twitter, this lovely message would greet me: This website could not be loaded. It was startling every time it happened because I wouldn’t even REALIZE that I had opened chrome or grabbed my phone. The habit was so deeply ingrained, it literally took zero thought to act out.
Yet how many hours—nay, days of my life have I lost to that habit? How many hundreds upon thousands of times have I gotten sucked into a Twitter stream or email chain or Tumblr war simply because my muscle memory took me there?
On top of that, how much mental space have I wasted on Twitter streams or email chains or Tumblr wars? Mental space and emotional energy that should be going into the IRL that’s actually happening around me. Or better yet, that should be going into my work!
Well, as mentioned, blocking myself from the online world was absolutely glorious. The expected results happened (like tenfold happened!). But here, allow me to lay out what I learned and experienced.
  • I was so much more productive. So. Much. More. Productive. Seriously, I felt like I had twice as many hours in a day.
  • I learned I spend a lot more time on social media or email than I ever thought. In fact, I’d wager that most people do. It’s such a sneaky use of your time—so subtle—that you don’t realize you’re doing it. But remember: social media companies just want you to use their product. They don’t give a rat’s a** if you’re productive or not in the process.
  • I realized social media & email are an addiction, and I realized that I am an addict. There’s no doubt this stuff is an addiction—the science is in on that**—but how addicted you are might vary from how addicted I am. I just know that by quitting cold turkey, I realized how truly, badly addicted I was.
  • I wasn’t glued to my phone, which, let me tell you, made my husband really happy. He noticed (in a big way) that I was more present with him and better at listening—as well as better at remembering what he’d said.
  • I actually stopped carrying my phone with me. *Gasp!* It was like being back in the 90s or somethin’! But for real, I felt less and less of an urge to grab for my phone at stop lights or in waiting rooms or when the work got too hard. You know the urge I’m talking about. And by the end of June, I would frequently LEAVE MY HOUSE without the phone and not even notice.
  • I learned I wasn’t missing anything. Seriously. My former obsessive checking of my email “just in case something important came in” was so pointless. Important things really don’t happen that often, and when they do, people are totally willing to just call and discuss (which takes up way less time than emailing back and forth ten times).
  • I learned that no one misses me and no one cares. That might not sound like a good lesson to have learned, but it was. In fact, I think it’s a lesson we could all stand to learn. Remember: our lives are not made more meaningful because we have a ton of Instagram followers or our tweets get a lot of RTs. That stuff literally counts for nothing. It’s about as meaningful as monopoly money, and when we fall into the trap of defining ourselves by our online audience, then we’ve essentially given up all control over our own happiness. The people who care most about us are the ones IRL right beside us.
  • SO MUCH MORE PRODUCTIVE. Not just with my work but in other areas too. Even with a busted knee, I exercised more often, kept the house cleaner, and just got sh** done.
  • I spent more time with friends! It was awesome!! I hung out with people IRL—who knew that was even a thing anymore?!
  • My phone battery life doubled. I went from recharging every night to recharging every two nights. Which makes sense, but this wasn’t a benefit I’d thought of!
  • My muse came back with a VENGEANCE. Seriously, without the mental and emotional clutter of the online world to bog me down, my creativity exploded. The story that has been giving me pure hell for 2 years (count ‘em: 2 full years!) finally came together! It was like this endless wam-bam-bam of ideas connecting. Things that had simmered for all these years finally had the mental space to stretch out and engage. It was like my mind became the large hadron collider* it was always meant to be, and the big bang just kept unfolding on the page.
  • I got more informed on current events. During those moments when I really just needed a break from working, instead of looking at my various feeds, I would step outside, sit in a sunbeam, and listen to fifteen minutes of news podcasts.
  • Productivity, y’all. I’m not even exaggerating and this is not a drill. We lose so many hours to social media—and we lose it in small, seemingly inconsequential increments throughout the day. But they add up.
  • I was happier. Yes, it probably sounds cheesy, but it’s the truth. My happiness went way, way up. I wasn’t just more present with my husband, but with my whole life. There was no unwelcome drama coming in off an outraged Tumblr feed. No reviews, good or bad, tweeted at me that left me second-guessing everything I wrote. No filtered pictures of happier, more beautiful people coming in to make me wonder why my life was so drab. My life was just MY LIFE again, and it was truly the happiest, most mentally clear I have felt in years.
But surely, Sooz, there were downsides to it? That’s what you’re thinking, am I right? And the answer is yes. Of course there were.
  • Without email, people had to jump through a few loops to get important things to me. Like uploading edited manuscripts to google drive instead of emailing me directly. Hardly that tricky, in the end.
  • I got addicted to Habitica. During the first week, I would grab for my phone out of habit…but being unable to check anything, I would end up on Habitica. There’s not THAT much to do on the app, so I mostly just changed my character’s outfit over and over and over again. Behold!
  • I couldn’t look at fan art on Tumblr. But oh well, Pinterest and Deviantart filled that need. ;)
  • I had a little bit of FOMO to start. I actually thought my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) would be WAY worse than it was. But after a day or two, I stopped thinking about what people were doing online without me. So in the end, not sure this counts as a downside…
  • My friends probably got sick of screencapping things on Twitter or Insta. There were definitely a few times that Drama Went Down and I couldn’t follow, so my friends kindly took pictures. But that really only happened all of…4? 5? times. So hopefully they weren’t too annoyed.
  • I had a panic attack when I got online the first time. I was actually dreading the day I’d have to log back in and deal with everything. No offense to y’all, but I knew there’d be a lot waiting. And there was, especially in the email realm. Just looking at my inbox sent me into a stress tailspin. I recovered pretty quickly, but still: the fact that I had to log in at all really burst my muse’s happy, insulated bubble.
  • My addiction returned. I was really disappointed with myself on this. I thought I’d be so accustomed to NOT checking by now that I would forget I was even back online. Yeah, no. Instead, the instant I had access to email and social media, I was back to my old ways of constantly checking in.
Now look. I feel that I should make it clear that I am very affected by the internet. More so than, say, my husband is. (Then again, he doesn’t even have a FB account, much less all the other social media accounts.) I also understand that completely quitting the internet isn’t feasible for most people (at least not quitting email), and ultimately, as much as I deeply wish I could unplug forever, it’s not feasible for me.
I love this newsletter. I love posting photos of my pets. I love reading way too many discussions about Dragon Age. And I love connecting with readers. But…I also love being productive. I love feeling free enough and light enough to fall into creative flow. I love spending actual time with my husband and friends.
There’s a balance to be struck here, guys, but goodness knows what it is. I sure haven’t figured it out yet. I’ll let you know if I ever do. ;)
*Quantum physics is cool, in case y’all didn’t know.
Upcoming Events:
Find my schedule here!
July 8-10
Las Vegas, NV

Chapter One Con
Find the schedule here!
August 6
Chicago, IL

photo by Emily Rae Photography

Copyright © 2016
Susan Dennard
All rights reserved.

110 West 40th St., Suite 2201
New York, NY 10018

I'm a misfit, a daydreamer, a fangirl, an animal-lover, and a (now gluten-free) cookie-eater.