When an Idea Wakes You at 3:30 a.m.
Seems like every other night, I’ll wake up at about 3:30 a.m., stumble down the hallway into the kitchen, and snap open a cold can of San Pellegrino grapefruit. I’ll stand in the living room, listening to the house make its various noises, and look out the picture window that offers a fantastic view across the Missoula Valley. On most nights the lights of town twinkle like sequins on a velvet blanket. It’s our version of the Hollywood Hills. Last night, though, only a few nearby lights shone through the heavy fog that lay over the valley. As I stood, trying to penetrate the fog, an idea crystalized in my head. Like most writers I’ll keep a notebook handy to jot down these brainstorms, because, as we all know, it will have vanished without a trace by morning.
This is a great idea, I thought. I should open the laptop and at least write down the bones. Nah, my lazy brain thought, taking a sip of the bittersweet San Pel, I’ll surely remember this tomorrow. My warm bed is calling.
I will never learn.
The idea had something to do with using social media to promote my work, although I can’t recall what the epiphany was. As an independent musician and author, self-promo is an essential component of my job. I hate it. Oh, I have all the requisite accounts—Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and a few older ones like Tumblr that seem to have fallen out of favor. But I have issues with each of them, for different reasons.
As dude_in_the_woods, I ran an IG account for a couple of years, posting photos of nature, accompanied by Jack Handey-like captions, purely for the twisted comedy value. I slowly built up my follower numbers, but I lost interest. It’s not designed as a promotional tool, it’s there to entertain. Now it sits there, waiting for me to breathe life into it with another walk through the woods.
My writing-related IG, EdnorMT, is where I should be posting photos from my constant travels around Montana. I believe the key to a good, compelling IG account is to provide quality content and keep it fresh. I resist the urge to open the app only to post another link to buy one of my books or read an article I had published. I’m a Montana writer, and stories from across the state are my meat and potatoes. That should be the bulk of my IG content, right?
Okay, that just topped my to-do list.
Twitter is where I park two accounts: Bob_Wire and EdnorWrites. This is where it gets tricky, and I suspect it may be what sparked that brain flash in the wee hours. I’ve had the Bob_Wire account forever, and it’s pretty freewheeling. My dark secret about the two personae is this: Bob Wire (my stage name) is Ednor with the filter removed. As Bob, I tweet whatever I feel, with no concern for driving away followers or losing fans if it’s something polarizing, usually a political subject. I’m not worried about that. Initially I bought into the idea that having more followers on the socials was a big, positive element to promoting my work. Anymore, I’m not so sure. The idea of spending a couple hours a day creating content and engaging with others (whom I certainly don’t know in real life) on social media only to increase the number of followers makes my skin crawl. It just seems like time I could be using to write, practice the guitar, research, read, pitch stories to magazines or work on a book proposal. Bob the big mouth is pretty sure the numbers or ratio or any of that has little effect on how many people listen to his music. Also, he’s much more prone to refer to himself in the third person.
As Ednor, however, I put much more effort into behaving professionally on the socials. I have fewer than 200 followers on Twitter, mostly because I don’t make an effort to chase them. I cringe at every tweet I see that is begging for followers. I just don’t play that game. I labor under the old-fashioned idea that, if you build it, they will come. So I try to post engaging content whether it’s as my professional self or as Bob.
Which brings me to Facebook, which is like a two-man extended family living under one roof. It’s a sprawling, messy combination of music, writing, jokes, arguments and the occasional family-oriented post. I have a personal page as Bob Wire, but there’s also a Bob Wire musician page where I create event pages and promote upcoming releases and such. I have a page for my home studio, the Hilltop Basement Recording Complex. I created a group, Rockologists, where my songwriting partner Chip Whitson and I engage some 350 followers in music-related chat. And then there’s my Ednor pages: one personal (I friend only people who I have eaten food with) and one Author page, where I do try to snag followers. That’s where I share upcoming events like readings and book releases. I believe it’s all supposed to roughly funnel viewers to my website, ednor.com (which does have a page dedicated to Bob Wire stuff).
It’s out of control, man! Even this blog, where I’m free to write whatever comes to mind, is rarely updated because I’m so scattered. It’s been more than a year since I put ednor.com together, and even though I’ve enjoyed the tutelage of a great internet mentor, Rebecca Holman, I have largely forgotten most of the strategies she showed me about how to maximize exposure, drive traffic, and use SEO to keep my site near the top of the Google search list. Sometimes it feels overwhelming, which leads to social media paralysis. I’m sure there’s a pill for that.
These are the thoughts and questions that were tumbling around my head as I peered into the foggy valley this morning and the city slept. Lots of questions, very few answers. Could be that it’s just time for a tightening of purpose, some realignment of focus and effort. I have a new book coming out in July, and Big Sky, Big Parks is my biggest, best work yet. For the first time in my 15-year book publishing career, I have a publicist assigned to me by my publisher, Rowman & Li
ttlefield. My summer is already full of events like readings, singings, author discussions, and a presentation at the Montana History Conference in September. Hibernation is coming to an end, and as the snow and cold slowly lose their battle to the sunshine and warmth of the Montana spring, I feel a bit of awakening in my own psyche. If you follow any of my social media accounts, I suspect you’re going to see a change. (Also, thank you.) Will I set aside the goofiness and edgy rants of Bob Wire? No can do. It’s all part of the package, and this is no time to sand down the rough edges. It’s time to distill the message, that’s all. This blog, which was originally conceived as a vehicle for thoughts and discussion about writing, is where I’m starting. I hope you’ll come along for the ride. Maybe I’ll see you this summer!
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