“You really just stay inside all day, don’t you?” Will would say, everything about his face, tone, and posture inclining toward critical.
“When I can,” I’d say from the comfortable (term used loosely) office space that is my bed. It used to drive me crazy when kids, upon learning that I was homeschooled, would almost invariably ask, “So do you get to go to school in your pajamas?” I’d wonder what the hell was wrong with the world that it was so obsessed with pajamas. I have since come to view the question through a different lens. It’s not about the pajamas. It’s about having to freakin’ get dressed.
“Out where?” I’d ask, so I could calculate just how strenuously I’d want to protest.
The exclamatory firework would reply, “The mall!”
All right. Nothing I need too strenuously protest, then. But just as a matter of protocol, I’d have to put up a token resistance. “I’ve got stuff to do.”
“What stuff?” he’d demand specifics.
If the day were like today [meaning when I wrote this, back in November], I would have a blog post to share around Twitter and Facebook – my stop on Aly Grauer’s On the Isle of Sound and Wonder tour. I’d also have e-mails to field, having just sent out a request to three dozen online acquaintances, asking if they’d be game to help me spread the love around during Sun’s Rival Launch Week. (I’ve gotten a few replies already, all of them “yes”-es!) On a related note, I’d have to get the promotional images together so I could get them back to those willing assistors, and who knows how long that could take…
“Yeah,” Will Scarlet would interrupt, “we’re hitting the mall. All this stuff will keep, girl. And besides, I’ve already reblogged you, retweeted you, and shared your Facebook link. Plus I posted a thing on Instagram. Shoot, forgot to cross-post it to my Tumblr, though…”
Because Will Scarlet would be a social media maven. He’d have been on for maybe a week and already have followers in their thousands on any given account. He’s the kind of person I would hate from a distance, if we weren’t the kind of close we are. And besides, one of the top reasons he wants such a huge online presence is so he can more effectively promote me. …and himself, obviously, but that’s one of his reasons behind just about everything.
I would smile my gratitude. “Thanks, Will. You’re—”
“Gorgeous? I know. Now let’s get you dressed. What’ll you wear today? I’m thinking red.”
So shock. Many surprise. Such out of character. Wow.
He would drive, of course. I hate driving, and he enjoys the experience, harkening back as it does to his first big, post-modern adventure in his story world. There’d be singing on the way – the loud, obnoxious kind that driving with friends will sometimes demand, no minstrels around to shame us for the musical butchery.
“Which mall?” I’d eventually think to ask in between laughing fits. “Hawthorne? The Mills?”
“Not the Mills,” he’d say snobbishly. “We could do Hawthorne, though.” He’d flash a grin. “It’s got your Barnes & Noble.”
“Boo-oo-ooks?!” I’d squeal in delight.
“You bet, babe! We’ll get you all nicely buttered up in books, and then we’ll do the real shopping. Hot Topic. Disney store. Food court and Build-a-Bear. The works!”
I’ve been seeing something in the social media world that disturbs me.
It’s this idea that if an author – (or any kind of person with an accomplishment they’d ideally like to be paid for, but we’ll use authors as the example, since that’s kind of my crowd) – wants to tell the world about their book, they’ve got to do it a certain way.
They’ve got to be all super-casual, or just kind of sneak it in, or try to be cute about it in the hopes that the cuteness will offset the fact that, le gasp, they dared to inform the public that their book is available for sale. I’ve even seen a tweet with the phrase “sorry for the shameless plug”.
The discord between “sorry” and “shameless” aside, why in the world is this person apologizing?
Why is it frowned upon to just boldly say, “I’ve finished a book! It’s available here! Go buy!”? You’re not twisting anybody’s arm. They’ll check out the link, or they won’t. They’ll buy the book, or they won’t. It’s not a gun to the head, it’s an advertisement.
Let’s go back to basics for a moment, here. Quick pop quiz. What is a writer’s job?
b) Selling what they write
c) Devoting their creative word energy to hilarious/relatable/inspirational tweets/statuses about anything but their book and hoping the power of positive thinking will be enough to write and sell their books for them
d) Mostly a), with some b) thrown in, in the hopes of maybe possibly earning a livelihood
Newsflash: The answer isn’t C.
Newsflash number 2: Declaring in your own webspace that you’ve got a product for sale is not spam.
Jumping into someone else’s space and plugging your book? That’s a no-no.
Butting into a conversation with nothing to say but, “Hi, buy my book”? That’s obnoxious.
Flooding people’s inboxes with a lot of cloned messages about your book, your book, your book? Just don’t.
Those things are invasive and rude in the way wallpapering your neighbor’s house in self-promotional flyers is invasive and rude. (And, y’know, vandalism.) But guess what? You can wallpaper your own house anyway you like, because it’s your house. Just like your website/blog/social media account is yours. Yours on which to say what you want to say. Is posting absolutely nothing but links to your books the most entertaining thing in the world? No. But neither is it a crime (unlike vandalism), and it’s nothing worth receiving dirty looks for.
Look, authors (and artists of all stripes). I know confidence can be hard to hang onto. Doubting yourself and the worth of your work is par for the course. But you poured your heart into this. You dedicated hours – weeks and months and years of hours – into this work of art that the world would never have had in quite that form without you. After nine months of pregnancy, does a mother deliver a baby and then shamefacedly whisper the birth announcement? NO! After years of study, does a researcher make a scientific breakthrough and just kind of hope that somebody will notice? NO! After I-don’t-even-know-how-long of training, does a marathon runner cross the finish line and never speak of the race again? No, no, NO!
Fellow authors, you have achieved something that, for many, is nothing more than a dream – that, once upon a time, was no more than a dream for you. You created a story – a product that can potentially touch people’s lives in a way so very few things can. The laborer is worthy of his wages! You deserve, at bare minimum, to be able to say, with all due levels of pride, that you wrote this thing! You have every right to point to it and claim it as yours, without apology!
Now, make like an introvert with stage fright and sociophobia who spends her summer weekends at a Renaissance Faire interacting with strangers anyway, and hold your head up high in the name of what you love.
I’m willing to bet there are super-writers, out there, who know how to take advantage of every little five-minute space of free time they’ve got to churn out words of genius. Boy, do I envy those people.
On the flip-side, there are people who believe me to be a kind of super-writer. Something about how I’ve written, like, 32 novels in the last, what, eight years or so? Notwithstanding the facts that 1) I fully acknowledge a good half of those novels to be unreadable lousiness, and 2) I have a lot more free time to dabble in my dream than the average person (since it is, by and large, all I do), the sheer numbers have a tendency to impress those who know about them.
And I won’t say that an average of four books a year (not counting short stories, novellas, and other word-related projects) is a paltry accomplishment. I only wonder how much more I could have written by now if I weren’t so easily “caused to turn away from my original focus of attention or interest; diverted; pulled in conflicting emotional directions; unsettled”.
Instead of using to full advantage all those hours I’ve got for writing, my days generally go like this:
[Danielle wakes and squints her half-blind eyes to bring the green glow of her digital clock into some semblance of focus] Ugh, what time is it? That late? …Or, given how long it took me to shut down and go to bed, last night, that early? Well, I’m up now. Let’s get cracking on [insert working title of current novel project here]!
[She rouses her laptop from hibernation, only to find that she has no internet connection] Curse you, Technology Fiend! Oh well, you’ve not truly foiled me; my business is with a Word document, this morning, and I can totally access that, with or without a clear signal from the whatsit. …But shouldn’t I be able to get online, just in case I need to research something related to my plot?… Never mind. Write.
[Her gaze forced upon her novel in progress continually moves, unbidden, to the little internet icon in the corner] Can I get online now? …How about now? …Now, maybe? YAY! At last! Three bars, whoo-hoo! Now I can write in peace! …But shouldn’t I check Facebook, real quick? I might have important notifications. And anyway, it’ll only take a few minutes.
[She ascertains that a couple people liked her photo, somebody joined her in commenting on so-and-so’s status, her writing buddy has yet to reply to her private message, and her news feed is full of friends’ complaints/hurrahs about their actual lives] Boy, am I ever grateful I don’t have to deal with any of those stressful, time-consuming issues. Back to writing, now. …But shouldn’t I post something on my “Ballad” page, first? I haven’t put up anything new since the day before yesterday; wouldn’t want it to get too quiet over there.
[She selects from a store of images related to Robin Hood and/or Renaissance Faires and/or music and/or fantasy and/or writing, and posts it along with commentary from Will Scarlet] There. Now I can— whoops, somebody likes and commented on my status. “Lol, I know, right? #PreachingToTheChoir” No more internet now! Writing time! …But shouldn’t I check my e-mail?
[Two e-mail accounts inspected, eight blogs posts read, three comments formulated (and revised, and reread for typos, and finally posted), and another Facebook check later…] Okay! Enough! The next hour is dedicated to WRITING, and writing ALONE!
[She types with a vengeance, producing 500 words of solid gold, and another thousand or so of arguable silver. Nearly two hours fly past unnoticed before she finally reaches the end of the chapter] Whew, that was rough. Forgive me, protagonist, but it’s for the greater good of the story. You’ll thank me afterward, if you live that long. Ow, speaking of living, I’m dying of starvation. Almost two in the afternoon? Yeah, I should probably have breakfast. …But shouldn’t I be writing?
[Gnawing hunger drags her downstairs to the kitchen, where she tries not to faint while waiting for her smoothie to blend] Should’ve scarfed down a bagel half to tide me over, first. I’d say I’ll know better for next time, but this is already yesterday’s next time, so… Mmm, yummy smoothie. Aargh, brain-freeze! I need a distraction. TV, what’s on you?
[TV proving to be the usual disappointment, she turns to that book she’s been meaning to read for months, and loses herself in the pages for far longer than she’d intended to spend over breakfast] Shoot! Where is this day going? For shame, author – you can’t leave your word-count in this state! Out of the kitchen! To the stairs! Oh, hello, piano…
[She serenades herself with hits from the Backstreet Boys, Barry Manilow, and Gant-o’-the-Lute, attempting to channel the lattermost’s voice through her own throat. That’s a failed cause, as usual; try as she might, she’s no musical match for her minstrels. So she sings as her tailor instead] Ah, Edgwyn, I love your voice. “It’s not really so terribly wonderful,” he demurs. Nonsense! I mean, yeah, you’re no Allyn-a-Dale… but who is? “I am,” Allyn points out. Besides you. “Then no one at all. Oughtn’t you to be writing?” Well, yeah, but… “Upstairs, girl,” Edgwyn says firmly, acting in his capacity as his author’s life coach.
[Thus compelled by the voices in her head, Danielle returns to work…after messing around online] Dah, why doesn’t this chapter want to be written?? I must have started it over five times in the last half-hour! There’s a blog post in this frustration somewhere…
[Abandoning one Word document for another, she goes on a thoughtful rant about the difficulties of getting any writing done, even for talented, passionate, semi-super-writers with nothing but time on their hands] Well, that took about three times as long as it should have. Still, good piece. We’ll set that in the queue to post on, say, [selects a date a month-and-a-half from now]. Excellent. Back to the novel. Wait, what time is it? Shouldn’t I have fed the dog an hour ago? Oh, right, he’s dead. “You should still feed yourself, though,” Edgwyn nudges. Aw, c’mon, I already ate today! “Eating should happen multiple times a day, Danielle,” he reminds her patiently. But… shouldn’t I be writing?
[At her tailor’s insistence, it’s back downstairs for dinner and a DVD with her sisters that she hadn’t planned to stay for, but c’mon, it’s Disney] Love that movie. But this day’s almost over, and I’ve gotten nothing done! C’mon, Danielle, write like you mean it!
[She cloisters herself in her room, allowing nothing and no one to pull her attention away from the world of her novel. …Until the phone rings] Dang-blast it all, who dares disturb my— Yay, it’s Tirzah! Hello-o-o, writing buddy! Sorry news: I’ve only managed – [runs a quick word-count on today’s progress] – 2,317 words. …Yes, “only”. …Well, I was aiming for two-and-a-half K. …That’s “plague-rotted, overachieving super-writer of doom” to you, Ink Caster. And it’s all Edgwyn’s fault, because he kept making me eat. Speaking of bothersome fictional people, how’s life with your ever actin’ thief lord?
[She continues her talk with her friend for as long as she’s got phone battery power to abuse. Thus ends this day as do so many others: With Danielle distracted from going to bed at any kind of reasonable hour]
And now that this blog post is written and my clock reads 2:03 PM, I should probably get some breakfast. After that… well, time will tell.