I can hear your groans already. Not another social media site!
But I have good news: Pinterest is simple, fun, and pretty. It can be a helpful creative tool. And it is absolutely NOT necessary for a solid writer platform. Use it if you enjoy it, but if you don’t have the time or inclination, this isn’t a make-or-break proposition.
Aren’t you feeling better already?
What is Pinterest?
Most simply, it is a social image-collecting site. You can create “boards” that are collections of various images you have “pinned.” For instance, you can have a “Books I love” board or a “Beautiful photos” board or a “Yummy recipes to try” board. The boards tend to be visually pretty.
You can re-pin images directly from the Pinterest site. You can pin images from other sites, either by adding a “Pin It” link to your browser’s bookmark bar or by copying and pasting the image’s url into Pinterest. You can also upload your own images for your boards.
Finally, you can browse through other people’s boards and images, comment on them, re-pin others’ images, and like others’ images. You can follow other people on a board-by-board basis, and they can follow you. Hence the social media part.
Downsides of the site:
1. Massive time suck. Massive.
2. You can only use the service if you already have either a Facebook or Twitter account. Given my privacy concerns around Facebook, I chose to use my Twitter account. However, that means I can’t look for other friends who use Pinterest, as you can only do that (to my knowledge) by linking to Facebook.
3. You can’t re-arrange the images pinned to your board, so whatever order you enter them, that’s the order you’re stuck with. Hopefully they will eventually add a click and drag sort of interface to make the boards more customizable.
4. The user interface of the site can occasionally be a bit confusing, and the “Pin It” browser button doesn’t always work.
5. As far as I can tell, there is no way to make a board private. So everything you do on the site will be in full public view. Otherwise it would make a great archival/bookmarking tool.
Ways to Use Pinterest as a Writer:
1. Settings boards: Make boards of photographs of various settings in your WIP. I recently wrote a story set in Rio, and I had an entire browser window with twenty tabs devoted to the photos I’d found. I would have loved to have the convenience of pulling all the photos together in a board instead.
2. Blog boards: If you use interesting pictures on your blog, you can pin them all onto your blog board, and have a beautiful visual representation of your blog. You can see mine here.
3. Book boards: I adore books, and it gives me happiness to click on my “Books I Love” board and see all my favorite covers staring back at me. This can also work as a recommendation board or as a record of the books you’ve read this year.
4. Mood boards: I know a lot of writers use music, often carefully crafted set lists, as a tool to get into the mood of their book. For those of us who can’t use music (I find it too distracting), we can make a visual board instead and take a look for inspiration before a writing session.
5. Random inspiration: If you can be disciplined enough to avoid the time sink factor, scrolling through the aesthetically pleasing images can be just the thing to kick-start those creative juices. Also, need an idea for a story? Maybe you can find an image that gives you the first nugget of an idea.
6. Hobbies: If you happen to have an interest in design, fashion, architecture, photography, visual art, cooking, etc., you might find this site fun outside of any writerly benefits it may provide.
Notice that not once do I mention the social aspect? That’s because I really think of Pinterest as more of a creative tool than a social site. And if you’re using it as a tool, the social aspect will follow. You’ll begin re-pinning and liking other users’ images…and they’ll know you did. You’ll find some people who have such awesome boards that you want to follow them. Maybe you’ll have to comment on a particularly thought-provoking image. You get the idea. The social part, I think, can happen organically.
What do you think? Have any more great ideas for ways to use Pinterest? Need to vent some social media angst? I’d love to hear your thoughts.