I don't think I know a single writer that hasn't been through a crisis of confidence at least once.
Why do I write? No one is reading it anyway. Why does anyone care what I think? And Jeebus, the social media thing. I write because I am an introvert. I don't want to "put myself out there." I don't want to network. I don't want to sell myself.
But it's what I love to do. It's all I've ever loved to do.
That's me in a nutshell. My whole life, there's been a pen in a pocket, somewhere. From making up my own fiction as a youngster, to writing crazy stories with friends as teens, to the high school newspaper, J-School, weekly paper, corporate communications, lifestyle websites and magazines, B2B ... writing is as much a part of me as anything. Even this blog—spawned by my love of books and sharing great suggestions with friends—it's just another way to write on a whim.
But what is the point of writing, really, if no one reads it? (There's actually A LOT of point—it's therapeutic, it records history ... but go with me here.) If something is your passion, isn't it a travesty to keep that all to yourself?
I have a love/hate thing with my blog and social media. I love my blog. I love social media. I HATE pimping myself on it. It feels cheap. It reminds me of being back in middle school and high school, wondering if anyone thinks I am good enough at what I do. "What? I only have three likes on this post? I poured my soul into it! That a-hole sharing cat videos got 4,000 likes in 15 hours, and I only got THREE likes? Damnit! I suck!"
Still, I love to write. This is what I do. I like to say I don't care if anyone reads my schtick, but ... I do. So how do I get past my mental roadblock when it comes to sharing more of myself and worrying less about being embarrassed and looking like I am pathetic?
I found a load of great advice in "Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered," by Austin Kleon. I'm sure a lot of what Kleon has to say comes from common sense, but he's a man after my own heart when he says "Follow me back?" is the saddest question on the Internet.
It was the advent of social media that made my blog even possible—prior to that, it was just sending an annual email out to friends, telling them what I read that year (which I still do—old habits die hard.) But I've never been comfortable with pimping my work on the Interwebs. If someone thinks I have some good things to say about books, and the occasional post on raising knucklehead teenagers, then "Yay." I never sent out multiple messages to all my Facebook friends asking them to "Like" my blog's Facebook page, and my number of Twitter followers is laughable. It can be disheartening when people have 10,000-plus followers, but I've always taken heart in knowing my whopping 500 are following me because they want to, not because it's a favor.
I don't begrudge anyone's success, for sure—how could I ever find fault in someone putting themselves out there? Still, it's frustrating. I think I'm better than mediocre at this.
Our blogging group was casually invited to share their blogging resolutions, and Kleon's book came along at the perfect time to think about what those resolutions should be. Every writer/artist/creator worth their salt and interested in sharing their work should take heed:
If you want to write, read. It goes without saying that I read, BUT. I don't read enough blog posts from others. So I'm resolving to read more blog posts, especially within my own community, and actively comment on them. You can't have fans if you don't act like one once in a while.
Own it. Kleon includes a wonderful quote from Dave Grohl: "I don't believe in guilty pleasures. It you f---ing like something, like it." This isn't to say I don't stand behind my blog posts, but I do know I can sometimes come off as non-commital for fear of pissing off a friend. So I resolve to worry less about what others think and call it as I see it.
"Share something small every day." That's a direct directive from Kleon, and it's probably the hardest to accomplish. After all, I don't read a book a day. Shoot, I LOVE books but I can't say I even read every day. But to really connect with people that enjoy my blog, I need to be more open about myself. And that means, while I don't need to tell them I am making a BLT for lunch, they might like to know that I screamed "Are you F---ing KIDDING me?" when Tyrion put an arrow in his Daddy's ass when he was on the toilet.
Thanks, Austin, for the encouragement. I'm looking forward to an outstanding 2015 and I hope more book-lovin, teen-raising fans are along for the ride.
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