To Write or Not to Write

Today my husband asked me the question I have most been dreading for the last 17 years. “What is the point of your writing? Are you just doing it for something to do, or do you mean to make money at it?”

He has never asked before. He has put up with my self-indulgent behavior, placing writing ahead of so many other tasks that needed, and continue to need, to be done. True, I have published 2 books, completed another and written about 1/2 of a fourth, and contributed a short story to an anthology, but I haven’t made any money to speak of.

I can make an impassioned speech about the value of the written word and the cultural importance of storytelling, which is true.

I can claim that I have a right to follow my dreams after devoting my life to husband and children, which also has some truth to it, though I was hardly as self-sacrificing as I might have claimed previously.

I can say that I believe in myself, and it’s important that I don’t give up, because the next one might be the one that hits. That statement is wrong on many levels, but it is a conventional argument to justify writing as an occupation.

Where is the truth, the real truth?

The truth is that I love to write, but I am lousy at marketing myself. Like many writers I am shy and self-conscious, and I definitely do not like being the center of attention. I am willing to do anything that the publisher tells me to do, but I find otherwise that I am not very good at self-starting.

So where does that leave me now? I don’t know. What do you think?

3 thoughts on “To Write or Not to Write

  1. I think you need to enter into a partnership with someone you trust who is awesome at marketing writers like yourself. I’m sure there’s are people like that would could help you out there. I also think there are also marketing tactics you could try on your own that would not overwhelm you and might actually challenge you in ways you would enjoy.

    I get that as a writer you are part of that community of creative people who are SO good at what you do at least partially because writing – not public speaking or networking or appearing on stage or screen etc – is how you prefer to reach out and express yourself to the world at large. Which is at arms length and not in person, so to speak. Marketing is not a natural part of your skill set, and up to now you have not been sufficiently motivated to learn how to make it so. But marketing in some form is a non negotiable requirement of a successful writing career, and to a degree always has been (the careers of Mark Twain and Charles Dickens come to mind:).

    And I think holds true for reasons that go beyond making money. If you were independently wealthy and under no financial pressures at all marketing would still be part of how readers found you and the things you’ve written. Which IS kind of the point of setting them out of your head and onto screen or paper – so others can read them.

    It is not just writers or people who are just starting out in their creative professions and maybe haven’t found their feet yet. By being active in fandom, I’ve become acquainted with an enormously talented actor who will remain nameless (tho if you’ve been paying attention you will know who I’m referring to) who while managing to carve out a varied and worthwhile career for himself, b even after 15 or so years in the business he continues to be more like a well loved secret of a loyal following than household name.

    For years, seemingly, this actor’s was persistently reluctant to promote himself (something he actually came out and publically admitted recently but something guessed by his fans for a long time). Now, this guy is friendly and intelligent and refreshingly sane – he’s not one of the “weird” ones who are paranoid or self important or afraid of their fans or think that behaving “eccentric” is an art form. So you might as why this is a thing; and the answer is simple and perhaps most surprising. It’s cause he’s naturally modest, and shy. Also, at times he experiences anxiety when appearing in public, being interviewed, or even when first meeting/striking up a conversation with a fan (even short, slightly star struck, respectful, harmless middle aged female ones!)

    And this has tended to make him extremely reluctant to use his life as bait for attention and/or to expose any more of himself or his life to the world at large than was absolutely necessary, For example, he’s never employed a full time publicist, and his official website, while informative and kept up to date, is no slick construct by some marketing firm Unfortunately these choices (though I DO respect him for making them) resulted in years of professional life where he’s been interviewed less, photographed less, and has created less buzz than your average no-talent pseudo celeb has. So unfortunately, this insistence on flying under the radar has probably cost him professionally.

    But this actor seems to have turned a corner in recent years, Slowly but surely he’s taken steps which put more information about him out in public (nothing earthshattering, but at least we now know he has parents, a sibling and a dog!). This greater openness is what may have helped him get hired as first a supporting character in one successful television series and now the lead in another, rather than continuing to practice his craft mostly in a series of critically acclaimed but mostly unknown performances on independent films. Engaging in social media seems to have been a large part of it. So have appearances at conventions on his own and not just as part of a larger cast. No doubt are other things he’s doing I’m not aware of. Not sure how this will continue to work out for him, but at least he’s making brave attempts. And he seems to have grown more comfortable with this process and even enjoy it a little.

    The moral of this story? There’s a lot to be learned from this actor’s example. To take some steps which extend yourself past your comfort zone is one. Perhaps other people can help you do this, or you can just start taking baby steps on your own. I would also establish a Twitter account and link it to your blog as well as periodically put little blurbs out there about your next project (once you start writing about one).

    I know authors who appear in libraries to talk about their work (and sell it…. and autograph it) and I’d look into my options for doing this. The crowds are not enormous nor is the venue particularly intimidating. This goes for book stores too (as long as your book is available at the store this shouldn’t be particularly hard to arrange). Perhaps you and other authors can partner up to promote yourselves together (this might work at a “book con”, or even a genre con) where the benefit of not being alone helps with logistics and makes it all less scary. At least some nice friendships might result from this process. And you never know when you might hit upon that ONE contact that turns the corner and changes your game.

    Just some ideas. You are talented and charming… perhaps more people in the world need to know this!

    🙂

    • You, my dear, are a very good friend. Thank you so much for your well-considered thoughts. I understand what you mean about the actor-who-shall-remain-nameless. I saw your interview and found him quite likeable and engaging, but I could tell that he was a tad uncomfortable talking about himself. This is a very endearing quality in an actor, but I can see how it might hold him back from the esteem afforded others in his field.
      You are correct in your assumption that this is my problem as well, yet I recognize the necessity for “getting myself out there.” My publishers, whom I love, by the way,have not been very helpful with the marketing end of publication, even though they are top-notch editors. So here I am, books getting older, writer getting older, and opportunity passing me by.
      Since I wrote this post, I have made yet another enthusiastic commitment to increasing my online presence. This also involves giving as good as I get; that is, I need to visit with other authors and give them the support I also need. That is where I am right now.
      Thank you as always. I am so glad to see the success you have had in your recent endeavors. Very well done!

  2. I do always try to be a good friend even though I know I sometimes fall short. And I especially I love it when I am able to witness the worthy and the good achieve fame, fortune and happiness… In fact, I like to seek out and in a way “collect” those experiences, maybe even in some small way make them happen. I support your “enthusiastic commitment” to increase your online foot print and am confident it will pay great dividends. Maybe one day one of my “recent endeavors” will bring me to somewhere where you can be. Here’s hoping… it’s been way too long! ❤

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