Almost Inspirational in the New Year

by toothpastefordinner

by toothpastefordinner

I am ready to admit that I’ve become a lazy blogger. I’ve sat down numerous times over the past month to write a blog post only to get on Twitter instead. I’ve written one (1) blog post in the last three weeks. Zero (0) since 2014 actually began. Wednesday came and went and blog friends told each other What’s Up*, while I couldn’t even muster the energy to comment on Facebook status updates.

I’d been blaming the holidays, which was working for me until they came and went and now it’s mid-January and I still just don’t feel like it. In fact, I’m only writing you now to avoid working on my current multiple projects and many pages of reading I need to get to.

And as I write this post, I’m deciding it’s all OK. It’s not ideal for a writer who blogs to be unwilling or disinterested in blogging. It’s not normal for me to feel quiet and introspective, but not want to seek camaraderie and validation from the internet.

It’s not acceptable for me to feel spent after 140 characters unless fueled by utter nonsense.

twitter

Last night I live Tweeted the Golden Globes. (I know, I seek to bring you the truly important stories.) I simultaneously had an in-depth conversation with fellow Downton Abbey fans about Tom Branson and a set of frowsy pajamas he wore in Season 2, which segued into stunned horror over the events of last nights episode. (Anna. I can’t.)

While others shared their 2014 Word-of-the-Year, I’ve remained relatively quiet. My goals, hopes, prospects, plans were not verbalized nor itemized. My to do list has not been written. My expectations for the year ahead has not been boiled down into a single word that will haunt me all year and remind me come December 31 how very wrong I was at it’s onset. How every unpredictable life is. How absolutely odd and weirdly wonderful things become while you’re working for something else. Oxford-word-of-the-year-is-selfie

This is not me bragging, or being snotty. I’m not melancholy. I’m not disinterested. I am at the threshold of a darkened room and I’m being told not to turn on the light. So I don’t try to describe the room. I don’t try to see in the dark.

So, my first blog of this new year is about how I haven’t wanted to blog much in the new year. How I can’t seem to talk about my goals or my hopes because somehow, and superstitiously you might say, I also don’t want to look straight at them just yet. How I spend far too much time on Twitter and expend inordinate amounts of energy worrying about fictional characters on British television shows. How this is me processing, and it is productive, if slightly insane, but anyone who’s with me, raise your glass.

cheers

And maybe now I’m talking about my goals by not talking about them. Maybe I’ve defined my word without naming it. And maybe you can do the same thing and we can not talk about it here, together, finally giving us the courage to turn on that light, and blinking, describe what we see inside.

Maybe now we (points to self) can all just get to it.

*What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme to keep in touch with blog friends, share books recommendations and writing goals, and generally socialize on the internet.

It’s the End of the Year as We Know it

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I’ve been quiet these last couple weeks, not from a self-imposed vow, but a life and holidays and I-have-too-much-other-shit-going-on-to-sit-down-and-blog hiatus that turned into It-feels-good-to-keep-my-thoughts-to-myself siesta. As a writer who blogs, the goal of getting a post up can overshadow the need to communicate well. The world inside the internet is very small. You can touch the life of a person in Israel from a computer in North Texas. This is humbling, and so it also is sobering.

So, with my thoughts all a jumble over the holidays anyway, and my brain split in three different directions by noisy characters with big personalities, the desire to blog with purpose took up residence on back burner number one. (Right next to housework and hairstyle maintenance.) (Really, my hair currently resembles Bellatrix LaStrange.)

bellatrix-lestrange

I considered writing a thoughtful post sometime before Christmas about not getting lost in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. I decided that would be a false representation of my current state-of-mind, was basically total bullshit because the hustle and bustle of the holidays is what makes them the holidays, and a message of survival of the fittest mingled with let’s just get this overwiths might garner some Grinch comparisons.

I read instead. In fact, when I wasn’t sure I could cope with the way I was actually feeling (which was an unattractive shade of gray-brown) the book in my hand became my stiff drink. (I also had a few stiff drinks, but I am resolving to talk less about my drinking habits in 2014. It’s a less noble goal than actually drinking less.) Books became council, and books have always been friends.

There were moments where I sat up straight, book in hand, glee in heart, grateful for the life of a reader in the midst of a perilous time of year for many. And in that euphoria, I considered writing a blog post about it.

Then I didn’t. Because it wasn’t a story I wanted to try to tell. Not right then, when it was so special, and the book was still hot on my fingertips and soaring through my imagination. As a writer, your whole life becomes source material. Your every experience gets picked apart for the sake of your characters, your followers, your quest for honest storytelling in a world where honesty is hard-won.

In the age of Twitter, boiling down your thoughts into quippy, 140-character posts and cleverly hashtagging feels like art. In the time of Pinterest and Instagram and Facebook friends, the content of our lives becomes a marketing gimmick for all to see. I won’t even say I’m guilty of this, because I am also proud of this. As a person pursuing publishing, utilizing the fabulous portal of the internet to talk to someone halfway around the world about words and books, is essential and heartening and affirming.

But sometimes our lives need to be lived off the grid. Sometimes our hashtagging batteries need to be recharged. Sometimes the feels created by Sarah Rees Brennan, or Cristin Terrill, or Rainbow Rowell deserve to live only in your brain and body and hair. Sometimes, just not saying anything at all is saying everything.

It’s the end of 2013, and I should post a comprehensive list of all the books I read this year that I think you need to read (and I will, but not today). It’s the end of the year, and all I really want to say is thank you. It’s been a long year, but not any longer than the year before. It’s been 365 days of writing, and crying, and fighting, and wishing, hoping and dreaming.

We don’t start over on January 1st 2014, we just start again.

Author Platform Building

Authors with a mortgage never get writers block.

— Mavis Cheek

I have been looking a lot at writing as a profession, and not just an outlet for the crazy inside my own brain. When you sit down to write your first novel the tendency — at least this was the case for me — is to get wrapped up in the new romance. This can manifest itself many ways. I fell in love with my protagonist. I fell in love with her love interest. I fell in love with what she was fighting for, and consequently, against. But, eventually you finish the manuscript, you do your rewrites, and you get it to an agent.

If you are lucky enough to hook an agent, you then have to wait for them to read it and give you notes (if they’re going to take it on) or pass (at which point, chocolate and a bottle of wine may be in your immediate future.) Either way, waiting is involved. I’m an inherently impatient human being. I can blame my father— who is the same way — or the instant availability of entertainment and information in this age — because they have screwed my generation over when it comes to attention span — or just bite the bullet and admit I just can’t sit still. I can’t.

This means I seek the next step. I file a preemptive strike against patience. And I research what authors, especially YA authors, are doing to get their names out there. That is where I learned the phrase author platform. Apparently, romance with your work is great, researching agents is smart, doing the hard work of actually editing and submitting your novel is valuable, but author platform is increasingly vital in this growing, merging world that is publishing.

Publishing is changing. It’s largely electronic now. The audience you are trying to reach wants things now  — I’m not alone!— and they want to know EVERYTHING. They need multiple ways to interact, not only with celebrities, but writers, friends, family, celebrity pets. In other words, if you want to be a writer, you must develop a platform from which to build your following. You must become a presence.

This may send you to a dark room with heart palpitations. You are not alone, I was there earlier this week. But, once you stop panicking, you then start to grapple with the reality, you then develop a plan. Dan Blank writes a clear, cut-the-shit article about it here. His basic take, and here he’s referring to branding (a not four letter word that feels like one):

…it is about communication. Effectively understanding your own purpose, that of your audience, and the ways to connect the two. That’s it, just a word to describe a much deeper and more meaningful process.

He goes on to break it down for us. It’s helpful. Still scary. Why does it scare me? Because it feels like admitting that I’m really doing this. There is a place where you can still go back. I left that place two weeks ago when I stopped rewriting and handed my manuscript over to an agent. I drank a lot that day and watched Batman Begins. (I was gearing up for The Dark Knight Rises too!) It felt like a weight lifted and then was replaced by an anvil. It felt real — the tangible step toward the abyss of publishing or crashing-and-burning.

I already had a blog. I’m gonna be honest, that is the easiest step. Blogging is fun, and as long as your blogging you can feel like you are accomplishing something just by clicking publish. This can be a delusion when you only have three people reading your blog. The real challenge is then producing real interest in yourself. That takes time, consistency, and you actually putting something out their that other people want to read.

On writer Bill Henderson’s blog, Write a Better Novel, he explains that utilizing the planks — haha, since your building an author platform, get it? — of Facebook, Twitter, and blogging is an easy, free way to do that. You still have to be smart about it, though, and not just think by having an account people will magically care. But if you can’t be smart about it, maybe you should be a baker. Of course, if you’re trying to make it as a baker in this day and age you probably need a Twitter account and Facebook page so people can like you. In other words, everyone looking to make a career needs to build themselves a platform.

In the spirit of that, I started a Facebook fanpage. This is separate from my personal, private account, and is set up for me to funnel all of my internet writerly escapades to one, easy source. Check it out if you are so inclined. But further, make your own if you are at this stage. And then let me know so I can like it. We need each other, we reclusive, obsessive writers. Planks laid, platform being nailed.