Doing Our Real Work: Balancing Promotion and What We Promote

by Ken Mueller on September 8, 2011 · 9 comments


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This week’s guest post is from my friend Andrea Cumbo. She is the writer of Andilit as well as essays and interviews that have been included in South Loop Review, Science and Spirit, Ginosko, and other publications. She lives on a farm in Virginia that was a slave plantation in a county that just got it’s first stoplight two years ago. Andi and I met via Social Media, shared friends, and a shared love of good music. This is her third post on my blog, the others being: The Glory of Blogging – A Writer’s Perspective and more recently, When Social Media and “In Real Life” Collide. And recently I posted on her blog with Saving Time by Doing it Right the First Time.

It is exactly 11:24am as I start this post for Ken. I have been at my computer for three hours, and the only writing I’ve done is my blog post for the day. I am a writer, so this fact is sad.

Okay, technically, I’ve written other things – tweets, status updates on my FB business page, IMs with no less than three friends. But these don’t count. They’re important as part of “building my platform,” but they aren’t real writing. Yet, they can, and sometimes do, consume massive amounts of my day. Sometimes I get to dusk and realize I spent exactly 30 minutes on my actual book and nine hours on “social networking.” I think this might be out of whack, a bit.

As Shawn Smucker said, a sure way to not finish a book is to “Spend all of your time building a platform, and no time writing your book.”

You see, I feel a huge responsibility (i.e. guilt) when I’m not contributing to the writing community. I feel like I should be reading blogs and “liking” pages and retweeting all the great stuff that is out there. I also feel like if I’m not promoting my own writing, I’m really missing an opportunity – all this free marketing, and I’m not using it.

The fact of the matter, though, is that I’m not a good member of the writing community if I’m not, well, writing, and I don’t have anything to promote if all I’ve written are tweets about how I’m not writing. Writing has got to be my first priority.

I believe this holds true for everyone. If you’re not doing your REAL WORK, then why do I care how many times you tweet or update your Facebook status? I want to know about your real stuff – the people you fed, the students you taught, the accounts you balanced, the planes you few, the words you wrote. When you have that stuff to share, by all means share it. But if you don’t, please spare me the minutes it might take to read your tweet, and let me get back to my writing. We’ll both be better for it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some writing to do.

How do you balance the actual work you do with the marketing or promotion of that work?


I have a library book from the UT academic library that's been collecting dust for weeks now. This is part of the research I'm supposed to be doing, which often gets waylaid by social networking. (And, more often than not, Instant Netflix.)

I think all creative types, from the content industry or elsewhere, engage in the perpetual struggle with self-motivation. A lot of times, at least for me, I know this knack for procrastination is propelled by fear. Self-doubt, struggle, an inability to believe that I can really be the best in my field of choice. With these hindrances in place, it's so easy to fall into a repetitious pattern of sloth, but the best way to kick those flickers of irrational self-doubt to the curb is just to DO. Not to think, but to take action. As we would never write for content professionally in passive voice, so too should we resist passivity in our daily professional and personal pursuits. Like going to the gym, even if every fiber of your being is resisting at full force, you just have to push yourself off the high dive and trust that you won't drown.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

No doubt. I have constant guilt that I haven't visited so and so's blog in ages, etc etc; it's never enough. And when I have a moment to just be? I feel like I should be reading someone else's blog. We have to remember to just BE sometimes too. I enjoyed your post, Andrea. :) thank you. Now I can feel good. I commented, and am about to retweet someone else's material!


Thanks for the re-iteration of these important priorities. I get so focused on getting myself out there that I forget that I have to write to put some content OUT THERE!

Shelley Pringle
Shelley Pringle

Although I'm not a writer I have the exact same problem. I'm spending so much time on developing 'social proof' so clients and prospects understand that my company does social media, that I'm starting to neglect my actual business. I am struggling to find a solution that includes: dedicating an hour each morning to writing (primarily for my about-to-be-launched blog); designating the time of day I check Twitter (and how much time I spend doing that), setting specific objectives on what I want to achieve on LinkedIn (EG how many groups I'll join, how many questions I'll ask and how many answers I'll offer, etc). over the next month. I've promised myself that I'll reevaluate in a month so I'll see how it goes. Would love to hear other folks' comments on how they're juggling their time, especially those who work in small businesses.

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Shelley, This balance is so hard. I find that I have to keep myself off of Twitter and Facebook (I barely touched LinkedIn, but your comments make me think - momentarily - I should try) until I have written when I need to write for that day - my 1,000 word allotment, my blog post. If I don't, I never get my real work done. Hope you find a solution that works for you.

KenMueller moderator

@andilit@Shelley Pringle I think this is a particular problem for those of us in the marketing and Social Media field, because by nature, we are promotional. We may tend to overdo the promotion part, while others might not spend enough time on it.


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