The task seems daunting: how does one get ones words out into the world? How does one get those words taken seriously?
Often writers are frustrated people. We are frustrated by ourselves when we aren’t writing. Frustrated by people who keep us from writing. Frustrated at jobs that keep us from writing and doing tasks that other people see as careers and here we are, the Megan Drapers of the world, hating on advertising and wanting to act. Foolishness.
And frustrated by a culture that pays very little for it and thinks anyone can do it.
I once had a father in law who told me he didn’t understand what was taking me so long to write my novel; he knew of people who wrote supermarket fiction that turned out six books a year.
“There’s a formula to it,” he assured me, “anybody can do it.” Well, shit.
It’s not just him, of course, he just happened to be the one to voice it and no, I don’t think he’s evil, and yes, I do think his response serves as a giant metaphor of all that was wrong with my first marriage.
Because, you know, that’s how writers see things.
I have tried very hard not to be a writer. I’ve also tried very hard to do other things. Things that make money. I’ve tried hard to make my parents think I’m not a loser—that’s no small feat. At least she finishes things. Yes, at least I do that.
Of course writing isn’t really just writing. Writing is only part of it. In order to survive however marginally one is surviving as a writer you need other things in place. You also need to be an editor. You also need to be a secretary. You also need to be a PR person and apparently now a social media intern rolled into one (not kidding, that’s a job now—ask someone who ‘s 13). So some damned introvert writer can usually figure out how to be an editor because she has to but the other stuff requires skills that are less comfortable and chief among them is self promotion.
Also—in my case and in the case of many other writers I know. We’ve coupled with partners that possess sexy things like full time jobs and health insurance packages. There is nothing hotter than a man with health insurance and a 9 to 5 job for a writer. Oohh baby, let me see your premium again! But I digress…
There’s blogging, of course and even though I blog I’m not always sure it’s writing. When I look at other people’s blogs I’m often confused too. I see lots of pictures, product placement, a few words here and there always less than 500 at a time. Did you know that some blogs make money?! I have no idea how one does that.
My blog doesn’t seem to have that ability. I have a link to my book you can buy (please buy my book and from the publisher because as we all know Amazon is just Wal-Mart with nicer clothes).
My blog is a home base for my various low paying projects that desperately need sponsorship. My blog is sometimes angry or joyful. It’s a walking advertisement. It’s cultural observation. Sometimes it’s announcement, but rarely is it writing. Which is probably why though I have two blogs I don’t really know how to blog or make money off of it. I have a hard time being fake in person. I have an even harder time being fake in print.
It’s not something I could have explained to my ex-father in law.
Real writing of literature is an entirely different process.
It takes staring at walls. It takes the blood of you. It takes a vulnerability. It takes getting into the blood of other people and bloodletttng. It takes isolation and an absence of fear of what is on the page and what people will think when it’s there. There are writers among us who say things like “I just write for me.”
But if you’ve written a book or two you can’t kid yourself into thinking you only wrote it for yourself, because you didn’t. I didn’t. And I want readers.
I wrote Sad Girls & Other Stories because when I was growing up in Whittier there were stories everywhere that I wanted to explore. There were things unarticulated that I needed to work through, this demographic that existed that no one gave thought to—
I am an Angeleno by birth and experience. I’ve been submerged in the culture, in the literature, the music, and the film. I know the stories of Hollywood, the beach stories, the gangster stories, the stereotypes. But I never read an LA story growing up that talked about our corner of this universe.
It was Solstice Literary Press and Lee Hope Betcher who noticed that my short story collection of interconnected Whittier based stories had merit. It was at her suggestion I made those links of connection stronger. And now I want the world to read what I know is a damn fine book.
But there’s the other part. Self-promotion.
If you’ve spent any time on social media at all you know we are a world of self-promoters. There are people who have written books that I have read and then don’t understand why the hype? How is this being reviewed as golden? Do people just not read so this passes? Aye. (Psst. Writers get jealous). There are writers who have good ideas and the execution is okay and they send daily newsletters reminding you of their greatness.
I feel like I suck at self-promotion. Like I’m a mean girl with bad hair in an 80s teen comedy whose telling you I thought I told you we are reading my book now. As if! I’m not the head cheerleader. I didn’t even try out for the team. I’m the girl with the headgear and the back brace. Will you love me? You know, in spite of my awkward appearance and five minutes of screen time in your ninety minute movie?
Get people to know about your book, buy your book, read your book.
For writers used to sequestering themselves in rooms and writing this is not easy. I don’t like Tweeting how great I am and how great my words are. I don’t really want to take up your FB feed except more of me and less of GOP candidates I personally think is a good thing.
All I can really say is this.
I don’t even bother writing unless it’s something compelling. I’m proud of Sad Girls & Other Stories. I’m putting the finishing touches on a new short story collection called Mary of the Chance Encounters & Other Stories of Ghosts and Murder. (You know I’m a huge Nick Cave fan, right?). I have a play in production that’s fucking hilarious. Even the cast can’t get through it without laughing and they’ve heard the jokes a million times now.
I’m a really good writer and I’ve been at it a long fucking time and I totally tried to do other things to make money but this, unfortunately, is what I’m good at. So there.
What can you do to make me happy?
Other than buy me a bottle of whiskey and a new bass and help me drop 20 lbs?
Just read my work and pass it along to others. The next time you’re going to download porn on your iPad or Kindle think of $6.99 for an ebook instead. There’s sex in some of the stories towards the end and granted—my sex scenes always have something weird happen instead of climaxing but I am trying to make them sexier. Leave those darned Amazon reviews. Sign up to be a sponsor of my new play (we need sponsors—email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will give you the details). Publish my work. Find me an agent who wants to sell these things.
Just don’t tell me anybody can do this and that there’s a formula to it. And don’t tell me to do something else that will make me happy.
Rant over. We can all go look at kittens now.