And now for a special announcement: today’s post is written with Sarah Peduzzi in mind. Sarah? This one’s for you…
It took approximately one week for me to strip out all the noise, de-people, and refresh my mind. After seven days of social media silence, I started to feel like I was missing out and that second week was rough. I felt like I was on walk-a-bout and I left a community.
I started seeing color — and not in that psychedelic-you’re-doing-acid kind of a way. And then I started drawing again and designing jewelry and painting and…
Somewhere in between a jump ring and a stolen paintbrush (one of my kitties really likes them…), I reached that moment of nirvana. “This is [f-bomb] cool,” I said.
And then? (insert drum roll here) I looked at my work. And I was in awe of self. I was back, baby. All that stupid b.s. I was going through where I’d freeze at my monitor and second-guess my work was gone, gone, gone.
And all I needed — all I ever needed — was to put down the shiny tools and breathe. Pay attention to my surroundings. Listen to the voices in my head.
And just be natural about it.
I’m the type of writer who loves the word “interstitial.” I draw maps. I draw characters. I have all the tools to start crafting a grimoire for my urban fantasy setting. I’ve got a song I wrote for that zombie story you may have heard me mention several bazillion times before.
None of these things have been released to you, the reader, but they exist in my haven. I need/crave/live on stories because they have a life of their own. They become meaningful in a way that I can’t even begin to explain. But it’s right there, it’s attached to me and it’s something that has gone beyond the pale. At that point, it’s not about making money or getting published or being famous or whatever… It’s about being a storyteller and understanding what. that. means.
Sometimes, the business stuff gets in the way of being a writer. Sometimes, the potential or the promise of business stuff gets in the way of being a writer and it kills you. Sometimes, constantly hearing about other people’s work or successes or failures or frustrations gets in the way of being a writer — if you’re not whole.
After a few weeks of silence I realized that one of the reasons why I was using social media was to replace something that was missing. Call it justification or validation or whatever you will, but there was a gaping hole I was using the community-at-large to fill. I was looking to other writers to console me, to understand my frustrations, to see how they’re making it.
Without thinking about it, I was looking for ways to feel confident that I had a chance — a snowball’s chance in hell — of “making it.”
And it’s all b.s. It honestly, truly is because you never, ever stop writing or telling stories. For many of us, it doesn’t end with one publication or one novel. If you want to be a writer, all you have to do is write and keep writing and keep submitting. That’s it. It’s exactly like playing an instrument. Once you learn how to play it, you keep practicing. Sometimes you get a tip or a lesson to hone your technique, but if you record yourself you can self-correct and keep improving.
Even after you get to a point where you’re a good writer, fit can hit the shan. A part of your mind takes over and screws everything up. Publishers won’t buy your books without readers. And marketing. And a platform or else they’ll give you less money and publish someone else’s book. Then comes the “oh-my-god-can-I-earn-a-living-at-this”?
Then, you start feeling obligated to be accessible 24-7. Or else. Because your social media platform is work and you have to maintain it.
To quote The Last Samurai: TOO MANY MIND.
NONE of that stuff matters. None of it. It doesn’t matter who’s promoting what book or who is popular right now. It doesn’t matter what the new shiny tools do or how they’ll save your life someday because you’ve now shaved off 4 minutes of your time. What does count? What I found out?
A writer needs to have a good relationship with his/her work. If you don’t have that? You don’t have squat.
If you have to apologize for the fact that your story got published by small press, or that you offered it up on a fan fiction site, or that it’s available for free, or that you self-published… If you have to APOLOGIZE for getting published in non-traditional venues or explain away to the author who thinks your work is crap because it’s not at a “big house” — then you do not have a good relationship with your work. You don’t. Because you are doing the same thing I did. You are apologizing for the fact that you are not as big as the next guy — when all that matters is that you’re telling a story and you’re going to tell another one… And another one… And another one…
And the worse part about it? This is especially heinous if it’s a damn, good story.
Nothing else should become between you and your writing. For me? I was cheating on my work with social media because I am not a rampant self-promoter. I want my readers to read, to review, to engage without ramming my work down their throat. It’s soooo easy to Twitter or Facebook or update a one-liner to spread the word and take care of that self-promotion thing. Only that’s not the only way or the best way. You know it. I know it. We all know it. Yet, we still think it’s that important.
So sometimes? You have to have “the talk.” With yourself. I did. And while I still find myself apologizing sometimes because it’s a hard, hard habit to break? I’m writing my ass off, people.
The rest of it? Money, fame, fortune? It may come. It may not. But I am past the point of caring. To worry about how many readers I don’t have rather than concentrate on the number of readers I DO have is a huge disservice to anyone who’s taken an interest in my work. I apologize.
And that, my dear Sarah…is how I found “me.” It took getting off of social media to know how to cut past the b.s. and get funky with my stories in the best, absolutely greatest way possible. By setting aside other people’s expectations I didn’t even know I was reacting to, I got down to basics before I made up a few of my own. And that’s what I’m sticking with. Right now? It’s my rules, my way, my stories.
I couldn’t be happier.