I love Pinterest. I love it anyway for all the random content I can save and organise and go back to later. It’s a great way to waste a couple of hours. (Although that’s not always a good thing!) There’s volumes of advice out in the interwebby world on how to use Pinterest to promote yourself as a marketing tool – it is a social media platform after all – but that’s not why I think it’s a great writing resource and I promise that I will not mention marketing or promotion in this post. At least, not after this paragraph.
Just in case you’re unfamiliar with it, Pinterest is a social media platform that allows you to save links with images. It’s like a virtual pin board. You can have one board where you dump everything, but the best way of using the site is to categorise your boards so that you can save all the stuff relevant to each subject in a separate place and hopefully find it again more easily. Other users can search your pins and save them on their own boards (called repinning), they can also connect with you and follow you, so they see all your boards, or follow specific boards that you’ve created. You can collaborate with other users too so that you can create a shared board that you can all add to. Not keen on having other people (that you might not even know) seeing the things that interest you? That’s ok too because you can create secret boards that no-one else can search or see. Pinterest will also give you recommended people and boards to follow that are similar to links you’ve already pinned, or boards you’ve created and it will show you pins that are similar to things you’ve already saved.
What I don’t like about it is that it can be a time vacuum. It is horribly easy to become absorbed and lose several hours. Therefore it’s important to try and stay focussed, particularly when you should be writing. The other thing I dislike is the ads. Like many other social media platforms, Pinterest is riddled with advertisements. Some of adverts appear to be well targeted based on my interests, but quite a lot of the advertising isn’t or is targeted only on a very basic profile, such as gender and age. Most of the time I don’t find it particularly intrusive but sometimes it is annoying and I have to do an ‘advert cull’, effectively muting a selection of ads that I’ve seen repeatedly.
What I like about Pinterest is that despite the fact the site is geared towards saving and organising web content, it’s an incredibly visual medium. I’m a visual person, which means that I respond to image better than text, particularly on digital platforms. As a result, in the past when I’ve used methods such as web browser favourites to try and save content I instantly forget what I saved. With Pinterest the content tends to stay in my memory better and I find it a lot easier to find something I’ve saved. Pinterest also has a good app, which I use on iPad – my main device for this platform – and iPhone. You can sign up with an email address or you can use your Facebook login to sign up.
So how do I use it?
I have a lot of Pinterest boards – currently 35 – and most of those aren’t remotely to do with writing. My two main writing boards are ‘Write Me’ and ‘The Write Stuff’. I then have a few project / WIP boards.
Write Me: this is a board for all my writing inspiration. I treat it as a depository for anything that inspires me to write or suggests a story. I often see images that I think are interesting for one reason or another – a landscape for example might suggest a location for a story, while a photo of a person might suggest a character – but I’m not necessarily going to write the story there and then. This board allows me to save stuff for later. As Pinterest is a visual medium there are literally millions of images that might inspire your next story. There are also plenty of text prompts floating around on the site and links to websites that have prompts you can use too.
The Write Stuff: This is my motivation and advice depository. The internet is awash with great writing advice from authors, editors, publishers and people like me who are just sharing their own experiences and their specific writing journey. When I find some advice that I think is useful or that I may want to refer to again in the future, I’ll pin it to this board. Sometimes I come across some advice that I think looks interesting but is a bit too detailed to read there and then. I can save that here too and go back to it later when I have more time. I also like to save little visual motivators, such as things that remind me to write or remind me I don’t need to be perfect (or even good). As a result if I get stuck, have a spell of writer’s block or don’t know how to fix a problem, I’ve got a page full of advice and motivation to refer to.
WIP Research: When it comes to my work in progress I have two different types of board that I use. The first of these is a research board. My current project, my NaNoWriMo novel, hasn’t needed detailed research. There’s been some stuff that I’ve had to look up or check, but it’s generic information that I can easily get back to if I need to. As a result, I haven’t felt the need to do a research board this time. However, in the past I’ve worked on some stories that have demanded detailed research and fact checking. A research board is the ideal place to save all the pages that you’ve referred to either for referencing in a bibliography, or for use during writing.
WIP Inspo: As I said earlier, I am a visual person. When I embark on a project I like to have an idea of what my main characters look like and an idea of where the action takes place. I have a terrible memory so having a visual reference for characters and locations is very helpful for consistency. I am just the sort of writer that would give a character blue eyes on page one and change them to green by page twenty. Having an image bank for my project helps the details to stay in my memory and also helps me to make my characters and locations more distinctive for my audience.
I’ve found these strategies to be very successful. Pinterest has proven invaluable to me as a general reference tool, but also more actively when I’m working.
What about you? Do you use Pinterest? Do you use it in different ways?