(I was having trouble thinking of a topic for this blog. As a result, you get a blog post about this blog 😀 )
Two months ago, I was in Las Vegas, sitting in a conference room in the Golden Nugget hotel with about fifty other people at the Superstars Writing Seminar. For three days, seven best selling authors regaled us with stories, advice, tips, tough love, and inspiration. Kevin J. Anderson and his wife, Rebecca Moestra organized the conference, and joining them on the panels were Brandon Sanderson, David Wolverton, Dean Wesley Smith, Eric Flint, and James Owen.
If you know me, you know I’m kind of shy. I do reasonably well in small groups, but throw me in a room with fifty strangers and a few personal idols, well, things get tougher. It’s really difficult for me to just go up to someone and start a conversation, much less insert myself into already-formed conversations. I hate intruding, I hate interrupting, and I hate seeming like I’m trying to draw attention to myself.
Problem is, one of the key lessons we learned during the seminar is you have to draw attention to yourself if you want to ever have a writing career. The authors noted that the issue right now, with both self-publishing and big print publishing houses, is that the market is very opaque. There are too many titles for even a well-informed, discerning reader to be able to look at all the possibilities and find ‘the best’ book. As a result, they rely on various indicators to know if they should buy a book. This of course includes reviews, titles, covers, and blurbs, though the most powerful is a good recommendation from a friend. The point being, even if your book is the greatest thing ever, it’s never going to sell unless enough people buy it initially and generate the good word of mouth to continue sales.
In other words, you’ve got to give readers a reason to look at your book. Maybe it’s because they know you personally. Maybe they read your blog or your Facebook or your twitter, or remembered a great comment on a writer’s forum, or met you at Superstars.
I didn’t like this. It wasn’t news to me or anything. I just secretly hoped that when the question came up, they would go, “Oh, no. That stuff’s totally optional. Just write a good story and it will work out!”
Nothing wrong with secret hopes, but in this I was simply in denial.
So I did my best. By the end of the seminar, I had managed to have one-on-one conversations with each of the seven panelists. I’d had dinner with Brandon Sanderson, not to mention the other great interactions with the attendees. But that was hard. Each time, it was hard. My stomach was twisted in a knot. Some piece of my brain screamed “No! Just sit down and listen, you’ll be happier that way.” Still, at the end of the seminar, I felt pretty good, like I’d had some small internal victory with my introversion.
Except, I realized if I wanted to succeed at this, I’d have to do this again. And again. And not just at seminars; on Facebook, on twitter, on a blog. At conventions. On the off chance I succeeded, I would have to do book signings. Interact with fans. And I had to do it all well, because there’s no other way to go about it.
Or I could not do any of that, hope that my book was the one that was just so perfectly brilliant it caught on like wildfire without any help of me, and I could retire a couple years from now swimming in a sea of money like Scrooge McDuck.
I went with the former. I started using Facebook more. I’ve begun to play with Twitter. I started this blog, hoping that I could write about stuff people found interesting, engaging, and exciting. So that I had some kind of platform and, on the future day when I publish a book, I don’t pop into online existence from the aether screaming “Hi! I’m Tristan! I just randomly decided to start this blog, and oh, did you know I just released a new book? It’s called The Wicked King of Gloom-Doom Tower, book one of the expected twenty book Towers of Shadowy Evil cycle!”
But each time I go to publish a new post, I get scared. Even this post right now. All these self doubts start yapping in my mind. It’s arrogant. It’s poorly written. You should delete it and start over.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with self-doubts – I think they’re a key defense mechanism against having an over-inflated opinion of your work. But they can definitely go to far. I try to handle them as analytically as possible. Whenever they start flaring up over the blog, I think about all the people who’ve read it so far and given me feedback. It’s been positive. If people are hating it, they are the quiet hateful type (or perhaps storing said hatred for a later date.) I think there are clear things that could be improved, and so I’ll try to improve them. I’ll try to make them better with each post. But deleting every post isn’t going to make me get any better, so fears or not, I’ll continue to hit publish.
I do want to say this. For everyone who has read so far, thank you. For all the comments. Please, if you see something that you think could be improved, let me know. I’ve said before, part of the theme of this blog is self-improvement, and that means making the blog better as it grows. Self-doubts aside, I’ve been able to use this to connect to people I haven’t talked to much in a long time, and share stuff with people I know well that I might not have been able to do otherwise. I think, if nothing else, it’s worth it for that.