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.
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.