dinsdag 8 april 2014

Be a Juggling Act

When you decide to become a writer (or any kind of artist really, but my only experience is with writing, so I’ll have to give you a writer’s perspective) you have to step out of your comfort zone and into some sort of limelight. Not all these lights are equally bright, when you first start out you get a half assed candle flame at best, and all you can do is hope to get a nice bright spotlight to illuminate you. But still… even in the candle light, you step outside of the darkness, and as a result, people can see you. When people see you, they will have an opinion about what you do.
Not all of these opinions will be kind. That’s something a writer needs to deal with. You need to get yourself a few extra layers of skin, to make it thick and impenetrable. Yet at the same time, you will need to separate the opinions from the critique, because some of them can be good and very educational. You must listen to those around you, but at the same time, you need to learn how not to care when you simply can’t do anything with the opinions offered. There’s a trick in that, and I wonder if anyone masters it.
I don’t.
Critique can still hit me like a wrecking ball (stop picturing Miley Cyrus naked, swinging about, thank you… that song ruined some visuals for me) and there are times where I doubt every little thing I do.
The problem is: You can’t please everyone. Not in your writing and also not in promoting your writing. The best thing you can do is find your own path. Trust me when I tell you that there will be always someone who disapproves of your path. Some will even be very vocal about it. Some people will come right out and call you names, while others will be more subtle and bob you over the head with a more passive aggressive approach.
If you listen to all these people, you will spent your whole career feeling inadequate. It’s important to find your own path. Now in doing so, please don’t blind yourself either and just run around like a donkey stung by a bee. There is a ‘common sense’ element to this writing malarkey. It’s important to be kind to others for one, people can really help you in this business and it is nice if you return the favor, or pay it forward. Treat people right on your way up, it’ll be a more pleasant journey.
The other day I was talking to some people about marketing. Most of us writers (and probably artists) hate the marketing element. We need to tell the world all the good things that happen to us, because that is the only way we can gain their trust. And trust in an author begets readers. Good work keeps them, but you need to seduce a reader to buy your first book. So in order to do that, it helps to talk about your work. We don’t often feel comfortable about that. I mean, most writers would love to discuss their writing with a nice intimate group of peers who like to talk about writing and reading… but shouting it off the rooftops is far less appealing.
Telling people: “Hey… hey… hey, over here… look at me! Yeah, over here, me! Yeah! Look!! Here… I have a book,” whilst waving your book around for all to see really, really, really sucks. But if we don’t do it, we won’t be read. And so we talk about our books, about the reviews we get and the awards we win.
And there will always be people (yes including myself at times) that will scorn your accomplishments. Not everyone will be impressed if your aunt Daisy gave you a five star review, or if you won an award that your friends made up out of the three people that entered. But if that makes you happy, celebrate those moments. This is the part where I would like to preach ‘common sense’ though. You might not want to put too much focus on things that are only of personal emotional value, because (and here we get back to the trust issue again) if people don’t take you serious… they won’t buy your books. Mentioning something is one thing, pretending something is much bigger than it is… is another… ehm… thing.
I like to think everything is a balance, a careful juggling act. Sometimes we drop a ball, but at the same time we improve our skills and learn how to juggle more. Don’t let the people on the sidelines get you down, keep juggling. Don’t be intimidated by the people who can juggle more balls than you. Sometimes you’ll find that they’re not actually juggling more balls, but they’re just better illusionists.

Oh, and of course... it goes without saying: Buy my books ;)

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