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How to be you

In this market-driven world how does a writer manage to be authentic? How am I supposed to write my own stories, but find that best-selling idea? How do I find my voice while listening to (and studying) so many voices? How do I maintain my Self amid the loud and frantic marketplace?

Being your true self in publishing isn’t easy. People are constantly pushing on the mid-career writer. Try this. Write that. Tone that down. Beef this up. And then, as well: Sell yourself, establish a platform, market your work. Aspiring writers aren’t immune, either. It’s tough to break in! You need a block buster to gain media attention! At the end of the day is there anything left of the authentic self?

There has to be, or we’re toast.

Oh, maybe we’ll get lucky and cynically decide to write a break-out novel, built up carefully from an analysis of what sold last year and which novels are headed to the big screen. I’ll bet it’s worked  for some. I’m not that saying block buster books are inauthentic, just that we pursue them at our peril. You might get lucky and have a best seller. But that’s not going to be my way, and if you’ve had patience with my blog over time, I doubt it’s your way, either.

Still, the siren song of the marketplace comes to our ears over the thrashing of the waves against the rocks.

Shall we ignore the song?

Well, in my view that’s impossible. You can’t pretend you don’t hear the fawning shouts of admirers of the latest big book. And you don’t want to be self-righteously ignorant of what readers want. It’s just important to have a quiet room to retreat to when the time comes to write your book. Or when the time comes to decide what to write next.

Yes, that’s a critical time. You’re going to spend the next months on this new book, maybe even years. But don’t scare yourself with horror stories. Don’t get frozen at the choice point. When scary and bone-chilling thoughts intrude, go quiet. Go deep. What is in you to write? What quickens your imagination? What’s the story that only you can write–not because of your skills, but because of who you are?

There. Write that story. Please.

I have written here before about writing the heart-felt story. Well, it’s your heart we’re talking about, not the reader’s. And your heart does well with a quiet room and time alone to ponder the story that is in you.

Because, at the end of the day, what else is it worthwhile for you to write? Someone else’s book? And could you even do it? Would you be devoted to a book over many months of work if at some level it wasn’t truly yours? This may seem obvious to those of you with iron-clad self worth and confidence. Alas, many writers don’t have those qualities.

Thus my admonition to remember your true self. Respect it enough to commit to your own stories. And if those stories lurk under the surface and are not immediately apparent to you, take the time to center yourself and find them within.

The same goes for marketing once you have a published novel. Is it possible to effectively market our work without pandering and pushing?

Yes. We don’t want people to perceive that we consider them ripe for the marketing. It’s annoying as hell, and turns people off. What we can do is communicate information of value. Establish connections with people through social media. Enjoy the back and forth of book and author discussion, knowing it isn’t only, nor always, about us. Be aware of how you like to hear about new books and new authors. Let your own preferences be your guide. Otherwise your efforts will seem forced, even aversive.

Be yourself. In the end this is all we really have.

But what if it isn’t good enough, loud enough, big enough?

Well then, I say, we did the best we could with what we had. We wrote our stories and set them free in the world. It’s a simple goal, but it isn’t a low bar. Really it’s not.  It’s a saving grace to understand that you don’t need to be what the world wants, only what you want.

The authentic you.


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