Lisa Hall-Wilson is a freelance journalist who will be moderating the “Faith and Fact: How Modern Technology Is Remaking Journalism” panel and taking appointments at Write! Canada.
Lisa, what are some of the advantages of belonging to a writers group or a critique group?
Historically, writing was a solitary pastime. You sat alone in a cave and typed until your fingers bled. Today, the most successful writers are those who connect with readers one to one, who are accessible and personable. We need to get together with other writers because they understand why we’re so passionate. Every piece of writing can be made better, and having that first reading with a group of sympathetic friends who want you to succeed is a great first step to getting your work out there.
Amidst a hectic writing and family schedule, you have continued to stress the importance of participating in social media, which you do regularly. What would you say to writers who don’t know where to start or if they even want to be involved?
I spend between one to two hours a day on social media, six days a week. And that doesn’t include writing my blog or managing social media accounts for non-profits. Readers today are very savvy. They know what they want, and they’re adept at searching online to find it, and they want it now.
I think if you’re just getting started with social media, pick one website and learn it well. You’ll overwhelm yourself trying to learn Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, G+, LinkedIn, and Goodreads all at the same time.
Cultivate relationships with people who already have an audience online and are using that platform. Study how they do things: how they engage, their tone, their accessibility.
The thing about social media is it’s not about self-promotion. You support other people and share other people’s work 90 percent of the time and promote yourself 10 percent of the time. If you do that, if you’re able to join an established community, they’re going to reciprocate. It’s not just me promoting my blog; it’s the community I’m a part of on Twitter, Facebook, and the bloggers whose blogs I comment on and share who promote me. Their recommendations of my writing carries a lot more weight with readers than mine does.
If you want more than just your neighbours, your church and family members to read your writing, and to buy your book, you have to build relationships. You’re going to have to put yourself out there. What I love about social media is that I share what I want, when I want. I’m on social media on my terms.
Members of our writers group share their work with each other and want honest feedback and suggestions on how to make their writing better. Too often, as writers, we fall in love with our own words. How can we overcome this?
I’ve never been one to base my value as a person on how other people receive my writing. I think you have to come to a point where you separate yourself from the work. You pour your heart and soul into a work, you hone every word, and challenge yourself to make it the best you can, but at the end of the day, if someone doesn’t like your work, it’s not a statement about you. This separation is what allows you to be ruthless with your writing, to cut the chapter that needs to go, to edit until everything shines. Every word is there because it’s doing a job beyond making you feel good.
The other aspect, for me, is being comfortable in my own skin. I don’t claim to “have arrived” and I strive to maintain a teachable spirit, but I’m done apologizing for who I am. I call it like I see it; I apologize when I’m wrong; and seek out the truth. Sometimes the truth isn’t pretty, and usually it makes people uncomfortable, but I don’t get a lot of criticism when I share personal things on my blog or in an article. I think I’ve grown enough in the craft that I can share thoughtfully in a way that makes people think. That said, there are places I won’t go, there are things I have enough wisdom not to share.
I loved writing as a teen and found it very cathartic. I found writing gave me a voice and a platform to say things that no one wanted to hear. I think that still resonates with teens. I’m encouraging her to learn as much as she can.
I think if writing is what she wants to do, then she should pursue that. But I’m honest with her too. I think my writing is better for having taken some time to live. I had to learn some things the hard way, get my heart broken, and fall in love. All those universal experiences have given me a great spectrum of knowledge and emotional experience to draw on.
I’m not the sole income earner in our house. My husband’s income pays all our bills; my income pays for the extras. It’s really hard to support yourself writing fiction, so I’m encouraging her to have a viable plan for that future.
Lisa was interviewed by Steph Nickel, co-lead of the Write Canada PR team.