If I hear the word ‘platform’ one more time, I’m going to scream….
If you want to make a living with your writing, you’ve heard the word platform. And if you like writing enough to want to eek out a living on scribbles, you’re probably not the prototypical social butterfly. So, if you’re like most introverted writers — all of us who are dying to tell you a story but can’t look you in the eye to do it — you probably cringe when you hear the words platform, audience, following, reach, yada, yada,yada.
And as much as I like to sneer at the DiSC and INTJ fad of categorizing us many-faceted humans into plot points on a quadrant graph, I am an introvert through and through, and every single person-on-person interaction outside of family drains me. It doesn’t matter how positive the experience is. The mental energy spent plotting, revising, and delivering responses and tone wears me out. The more of it I have, the more I feel like a limp balloon.
And no one will sugarcoat it — building a platform is WORK. Years of internet wheel spinning for what? Anonymous strangers who will sign up for (and unsubscribe to) your email newsletter and might (miiiiiight — maybe) buy your book one day, assuming you ever finish it well enough to buck up and send it out in the world. And no, I don’t mean emailing it to your mom. I mean submitting your baby to agents and editors and the constantly overflowing slush piles of hopeful manuscripts that litter the publishing realm.
And what about that whole ‘regular life’ thing?
We modern writers know it’s not just as simple as a cup of coffee, a notebook, and one good editor contact to make a writing career these days. In this modern world of instant updates and constant news streams, the newspaper PR release of the past just doesn’t carry as far as it used to.
To ‘make it’ as a writer these days, you have to maintain an active social media presence, attract and grow a mailing list, push out regular blogs and articles, make conference and library appearances, meet publishing contacts — oh, and then there’s the actual writing. If — fingers crossed — you get a shot with your novel, you’d better pray to your muse of choice that you have enough juice to throw out another release within the year. Publishing one novel every three years just won’t build that readership you need to claw out a full-time writing career in today’s short attention span society.
So, how do we balance it all?
Ask a thousand writers and you’ll hear a thousand and one answers, but all that juggling does lend credit to the quote by John Gardner, ‘One has to be just a little crazy to write a great novel.’
But what about when it gets just a little too crazy?
Writers don’t just tell stories. We absorb the world around us like sponges, and when we write, we squeeze every drop of those real world details out onto the page. But what happens when you’re so wrapped up in your bulleted list of goals and objectives that you miss all of life’s messy details? When life turns into rushing from one task to the next, you don’t notice when the hostess winks at that married customer when she thinks his wife isn’t looking. When you’re too busy to notice the little things, you miss out on the inspirational fodder you need to spew out intricate details of your side character without reinventing mankind.
When your writing world evolves into nothing more than unchecked items on a to-do list, you don’t notice things, and you don’t connect the things you notice with your subconscious, to mill around in that chaotic pit of emotions and fledgling story ideas that we writers call our minds. When your writer sponge is empty, your writing is thin, forced, and shallow.
And that’s when you need to step back, take a breather, and tune out. Put your phone down, turn off notifications, and simplify. Your platform will still be there when you come back.