Taking Breaks, Moving on … and Books!!!February 17, 2016
I love social media and blogging for a lot of reasons. I love that it helps people connect, and that it’s a way to share about places, things and ideas that I think deserve more attention. I love that, through my blog, I get to publish my own work and write for hundreds of people immediately. Blogs and social media helped me launch my business, helped me publish a book, and have been catalysts for almost all the meaningful relationships in my adult life.
But maintaining a strong presence in online media isn’t without its problems. There’s the lack of authenticity, the lack of time to do in-depth research, the character limits and the proliferation of selfies. The social media issue that’s most draining for me, though, is the sheer amount of content we’re expected to generate. With every blog, there should be a Twitter post and a Facebook link and a few Instagrams sprinkled throughout the day. If I’m really on it, I’ll Periscope or Snapchat. (JK, I don’t really ever Snapchat.) It feels like being on a hamster wheel, and it can be exhausting.
Don’t get me wrong — it can also be really rewarding and effective. But it doesn’t leave much time for introspection, and introspection is often what we need to create good content in the first place. A lot of us write about how our personal lives suffer when we’re slaves to social media, and that’s true, but it isn’t just our lives that take a hit. The content we’re generating also gets weaker, too, because it’s hard to generate original content when you feel like you’re on an assembly line.
For me, the problem got even more acute when I came to a crossroads in my own life. I needed to choose a new direction, and when I was creating daily content geared toward my older goals, I couldn’t get my mind around where to go next. For years, I’d been focused on small businesses. I started my blog about local shopping in 2011, and I built a business, Church Street Coffee & Books, using my photos and social media and blogs for promotion. Then I became known as the Localist for publishing a book about local shopping.
But local shopping isn’t the only important thing that’s important to me, and it’s not the only thing I should be writing about. It’s easier to build an online persona around one single cause or gimmick, but that’s not what’s best for me, my work or my readers. I love being an advocate for small businesses, and I’m not complaining about being called a localist (I asked for it — literally), but I needed to find a way to incorporate more into my blog and social media, and to move on from some former topics.
Primarily, I needed to move on from coverage of my bookstore, Church Street Coffee & Books, because I sold my interest in the shop to my business partner, Cal, at the end of 2015. If you’re going to move on from an independent business, being able to sell it to your business partner and know that’s it’s still a thriving part of a community is a pretty great way to do it. But it doesn’t make sense for me to consistently post about Church Street anymore, because I’m no longer a part of that business.
Taking a break from blogging (and from regular social media posting) gave me time to think about where to go next, and life came through with a pretty strong push in one direction when Southern Living offered me a job as their book columnist. It’s a job I couldn’t have done well while still owning Church Street (impartiality, etc.), but it’s an opportunity I’m so excited about. Owning a bookstore was a literal dream job for me, and writing about books for such a huge and respected publication is another one, so, yeah — I feel really lucky. (You can read a roundup of Best Southern Books that I wrote for Southern Living here, if you’d like a preview.)
Thanks to all my readers for letting me have an extended holiday break — it’s something I really needed to regroup and define a new direction, and I believe it’s going to mean a fresher take on new content, too. I’ll still talk about localism. I’ll still talk about coffee. I’ll probably be talking about a few things that feel off-topic, and I’ll definitely make some missteps. But I’m incredibly humbled by everyone who pays attention to what I have to say, to everyone who likes my posts on Instagram and hearts them on Twitter and comments on Facebook. To those of you who let me be part of your conversation about new ideas — thank you. I’ll see you soon. (Like, really soon, because I’m about to post something to Instagram.)
Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local and Reclaim the American Dream, creator of 30 Days of Local Praise and co-founder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @crollwagen.