Platform and the Tao of Pruning


Last Sunday I pruned a customer’s wisteria. It’s a good time of year for it. The leaves have fallen, so it’s easy to see what you’re doing. Wisterias are beautiful vines that often bloom more than once a year. This particular plant produced almost continuous flowers last summer, from late May through September. The blooms, which hang in long, grape-like clusters, produce a heavenly fragrance. But like anything, wisterias have their darker side: They grow like Jack’s beanstalk on steroids. In a single year they can produce 10 foot whips as big around as a man’s thumb. If they aren’t pruned regularly they’ll overwhelm a fence or trellis in a few years. They become so heavy that they can collapse porches. Though wisterias are one of the most magnificent vines you’ll find, they need constant maintenance.

Photo by nlamore

Social networking is the wisteria of a writer’s life. The community connection, emotional support, and marketing potential bewitch us like the lovely scent of this flowering vine. But after we’ve planted things such as Twitter, Facebook, and blogging within our schedules, we tend to get distracted and forget how easily they can take over our lives. Last year, all the buzz was about building an internet presence, but with the beginning of 2010, talk has turned to the need to do a little online pruning. Even folks like platform expert Christina Katz and literary agent Nathan Bransford have addressed the issue, stressing the need to concentrate on what you’re best at and forget the rest. Sort of the wei wu wei of brand building.

The problem with getting caught up in the huge time suck that calls itself social networking is that it distracts us from the reason we need a platform to begin with—the writing itself. So when you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, pull out your pruners and take a good look at the overgrown mess. Write down all your online commitments. List the pros and cons of each. More importantly, note which things come easiest for you, and which you derive the most pleasure from. Take a snip here and there to bring the monster back under control. Then you can enjoy the enchanting flowers and fragrance without getting strangled by the vines.

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14 Responses to Platform and the Tao of Pruning

  1. Marla says:

    Wonderful analogy. How do you think of this stuff? I’m so glad I get to hang around you at least once every two weeks. Maybe some of your wisdom will rub off on me.

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  2. Charlie says:

    Beautifully written and very true.

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  3. Roxie says:

    Some stuff I don’t need to prune because it’s died of neglect.

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  4. Melissa says:

    I love your analogy and the pretty wisterias. It seems the more I build a web presence, the more online commitments I make. It’s a great idea to step back and do a little pruning.

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  5. shelli says:

    brilliant minds think alike!

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  6. shelli says:

    brilliant minds think alike

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  7. macrush53 says:

    Love the comparing of the pruning of plants to pruning what is most important in our writing and online commitments. It can be so overwhelming.

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  8. Casey says:

    What a lovely analogy, Lisa! You seem to be full of great ones. I can think of a few posts you’ve done like this that I really enjoyed.

    As far as the message… my online commitments could stand some pruning, I think. I like the list idea.

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  9. Great post. The writing takes precedence, always. Whatever time is left over goes to social networking. I don’t sweat it much anymore. Without great books, all the social networking in the world won’t build a writer’s career. Love the wisteria analogy (and now that I know how much work they take, I realize I don’t really want one! I’ll simply continue to admire my neighbor’s).

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  10. There is a huge wisteria between the Roger Rook bldg. and the Community Center on the campus. I love it when it is in blossom. Looks like at one time they had to build a strong pipe support for it!
    We all could use a strong support system!!

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  11. Barb says:

    Ahhhh…the wisteria was like a wafting scent of spring. Thanks. And thanks for the reminder that it’s okay to cut down, cut back, and just write.

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  12. ElanaJ says:

    This is so true. I sometimes feel anxiety that I’m not on facebook and twitter as much as other authors. Then I try to pull back and remember that I can only do what I can do. And that what I choose to do needs to be done well. So that’s how I focus my social networking.

    🙂 Great post!

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  13. Lisa Nowak says:

    Thanks, Marla, I enjoy rubbing shoulders with you, too.
    Charlie, I’m glad you stopped by again. 🙂
    Roxie, you crack me up, girl! That is so true.
    Melissa, I totally understand. It can get so overwhelming, and yet everyone’s telling us we need to do it.
    Shelli, yes, yes they do, don’t they? 🙂
    Jone, your comment made me realize that our writing needs pruning as well. But that’s an idea for another post…
    Casey, you have so many online commitments, and I truly marvel at how you get everything done. I wish you well in your academic pursuits.
    Chris, you are my hero when it comes to knowing what to concentrate on. I totally admire the way you can ignore email and the internet while you’re writing. I get sucked in all the time. 🙂
    Rose, I love that wisteria, and yes, it’s got the proper framework to support it. Hmmm. There’s another post idea. 🙂
    Barb, you’re too much like me. Take some time to stop and smell the wisteria.
    Elana, thanks for dropping by. I’m just beginning to explore your blog, but I see you everywhere online. You’ve done a great job of platform building. Don’t beat yourself up over the stuff you’re not doing. You and Shelli are my marketing heroes.

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  14. Charlotte says:

    We have something that is supposed to be a tree wisteria-which of course it resents…

    I hope the writing is going well!

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