Thursday, September 23, 2010

Open Topic Thursday: Being Your Own Cheerleader

One thing I like about the internet and social networking is the ability to connect with people who share similar interests. I follow a number of authors on Twitter, some who follow me back. Same for my Facebook author page and MySpace site. We congratulate each other upon hearing good news and commiserate over virtual chocolate when faced with the bad (i.e. rejections). Even though we may live thousands of miles apart, there's a sense of community.

Writers need this. I don't know about you, but when I was growing up, my family didn't support my writing. Instead I was told to "get a real job." Well, I did. And guess what? My writing suffered because I listened to that negative advice. If not for my high school English teachers, who supported my writing, I might never have stepped back into the proverbial ring.

After graduating from college with a B.A. in English, I followed the path of many writers by holding a series of jobs, including telemarketer (which is why I have an aversion to telephones), fast food worker, secretary/receptionist, artist model (clothed), waitress, security guard, and sales person. It wasn't until several years later that I worked as a freelance magazine writer for a couple of local magazines, although in college I wrote reviews for a local arts association. So despite what my parents thought, I actually got paid for my writing and put my degree to use.

I suppose I can't be too hard on my parents, who are now both deceased. They were of a generation that believed in hard work and didn't see writing as being laborious. (Ha!) Plus they were trying to impart upon me that not every writer becomes successful or wealthy. However, my mother often pushed negativity to the point where she didn't believe one should have dreams at all.

So what do you do when you have no one to cheer you on? Are people even obligated to support your creative/artistic endeavors? Maybe not. As David Bayles and Ted Orland point out in Art & Fear, "In fact there's generally no good reason why others should care about most of any one artist's work." They continue, "But until your ship comes in, the only people who will really care about your work are those who care about you personally. Those close to you know that making the work is essential to your well being."

In other words, no one owes you just because you're a writer or artist. Tough to hear, isn't it? Writing is a lonely occupation and often we're competing with other authors for people's attention. We congratulate the writer who finaled in a contest or got her dream agent, but a part of us wishes we could have the same success. Jealousy is a demanding bed partner and often times one needs to show it the door.

We have to be our own cheerleaders. Not easy, though, especially for writers who suffer from depression. It's difficult enough getting motivated to get out of bed, much less write. Now we're expected to boost our mood with a little pep talk? No one expects you to cheer yourself on if you're not up to it. But when you are, it's important not to berate yourself or punish yourself for not being able to write. Trust me, I've been there and mental self-flagellation is counter productive.

But I digress. This is a post about being your own cheerleader. Because if you don't believe in your writing, who will? If you're not willing to go out there and promote yourself, why do you expect anyone else to? From what I understand, a lot of book sales are by word of mouth. I don't remember where I read it (possibly Zig Ziglar) but businesses seem to rely on customer referrals more than advertising. Why do you think they ask you to tell your friends and family about them?

You could hire a publicist. But you can't expect them to do all the work. The few writers I know who have publicists still do their own promotion. It's probably the same thing as having an agent. You don't write one book and expect the agent to plan your entire writing career on that. No, the agent wants to see more work. Remember, writing isn't easy. It's hard work and the sooner you understand that, the better off you'll be.  But it's also rewarding work. There's nothing more exhilarating than receiving that acceptance letter from a publisher.

Even with social networking, there will be days when no one responds to your posts. Doesn't mean no one cares or is ignoring you. I get more comments when I have guest bloggers, and I know it's because of them and not me. I'm happy when it happens, though, because I want their efforts to be worthwhile.

If you're positive about your career, others will be too. That's not to say you can't have days where you feel down or think you can't write. We have to be realistic and remember we're not super-humans. Whenever I get in a funk, I have a writer friend who assures me, "This, too, shall pass."

Guess what? It does.

Note: For anyone who's interested, here are my links for Twitter and Facebook. I usually follow and friend back.


1 comment:

nerinedorman said...

I perceive my writing as therapy. I can't afford the psychiatrist's bills. And, during those days when I often feel like I'm pissing in the wind, I soldier on. And I'm always glad I did in the end.

Another thing. While you don't always get responses to the material you put out there, be it a blog, short story or novel, trust me, people do notice.

I'm often surprised when people come back to me weeks after I've posted a link to tell me how much they appreciate their updates on "how well" I'm doing.

And they really DO think I'm doing well, even when I feel like I'm wasting a lot of time.

When it gets really bad always remind yourself you've already accomplished something a lot of people only talk about: Writing and publishing a novel.