I was communicating with another writer on a Facebook group this evening, and she made a comment that made me think. She was talking about getting her book noticed, but that she didn’t think finding readers was important. I was like, say what?
Writers are an Odd Lot (as if you didn’t already know this)
Writers are an odd lot. We’re a dichotomy: we need to spend tons of time alone, slaving away at creating something on the blank page. This process can take years, and we have no idea where it will go when we’re done. If any of you out there are painters, sculptors, or other types that work with physical media, it’s the same idea.
This makes me kind of jealous of the actors I know. Most of them wind up working together and they get to feed of the energy of the other cast members. Unless you join a writing group or find a good partner, chances are as a writer you don’t get to do this often.
So after all the time you’ve spent creating something…now what?
Art for Art’s Sake is OK
If you’ve creating for art’s sake, and because you enjoy it, there’s nothing wrong with that. I can’t tell you how many people I know who wrote things like songs, stories, poems…and stuck the notebooks in a closet because they didn’t want to show anyone else. There are numerous reasons for this mindset and all I can say is I get it because I’ve been there.
There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s OK. You aren’t ready to come out yet. Hang in there, someday you might. And hold onto those notebooks…
Sharing Brings Art to Life
Art doesn’t really come alive until other people see it. This is why most of us do what we do – we’re wired to think we have stories to tell, and we want to share them with people. Sure, some people think it’s odd, but the storyteller serves a very important role in society. People need us.
The first few times you do this it’s going to be downright scary. Back when I was in high school I was in an ROTC program. We took a trip to a Marine base and one of the Marines was giving us a safety briefing during a rappelling class. I think about his speech often: There’s nothing natural about this. It’s OK to be scared.
For some showing their art to others is as scary as hanging by a rope off a 50-foot wall. Yes, it’s going to be scary the first few times, but you can get through it. You’ll learn to handle it.
I’ve thought about those two sentences every time I show someone new my writing. Yes, it was scary early on; it’s still scary to tell you the truth, but I can work through the fear. And being able to work through the fear builds confidence.
It’s Not (All) About the Money
When I first went indie, I felt weird telling people I was building an audience and trying to sell books. It felt – unclean? Here I was, a nobody with a grad degree and a dream, striking out on my own and going toe to toe with established writers and other indies of varying talent levels. I was worried about sounding like all I wanted to do was make money.
Over time I understood there’s nothing wrong with trying to make a few bucks from my art. I started to listen to indie podcasts – my favorite has to be The Creative Penn – the more I realized I’m not just an artist, I’m a craftsman.
Guess what – you are too. Yeah, YOU. We’re no different from carpenters or plumbers; instead of working with wood or pipe, we create things with words. We give people a chance to escape reality for a few hours at a time. If we do our jobs well, our stories resonate with our audiences long after they close the book.
If you’re ready to come out, don’t feel bad for a minute about trying to find readers or sell your work. Art is meant to be shared.