As writers, we tend to work in solitude and silence. We sit in front of our computers for hours on end and attempt to put forth our words, worlds, and thoughts to the screen, in preparation for sending it out into the world at large. We love this. We thrive in this type of environment. We hate to be disturbed when in the middle of composing, or as I tell my family, working.
When I’m writing, sometimes it’s hard to tear myself away and join my family. Finding balance is something I struggle with each and every day. I know it’s important, but so often I find myself itching to get back in front of the computer and do all the myriad things that need doing to continue in this crazy business. Not only do I write, but I also have to edit, market and promote the hell out of myself and my work. Having an agent or publisher doesn’t negate that necessary element. I understand this. If I want to be a commercial success, and I do, I need to reach readers and connect in various ways to do that. The internet is an incredible tool. I can sit at my computer and reach out past my own space and connect with people all over the world. I can shout out about my book, I can blog, I can Facebook, I can Tweet, chat on Goodreads, I can share industry information, or a whole host of topics I am interested in.
I can sit in my sloppy clothes, give my hair a lick with the brush, wash my face, and be ready for the day. No muss, no fuss. Truth is, this all very comfortable. I don’t have to face the world at all. But wait, maybe I do. You see, I learned a thing or two from my real estate and mortgage sales days. I remember hearing over and over again when I started in real estate that one of the key points in sales is that you have to show up and be prepared to work. You have to look professional and put yourself in front of people who might be interested in your services. Sitting behind a computer will only get you so far in sales. For the rest of it, you better be prepared to get face to face with people and talk.
Yep, I heard and internalized that. That’s why I’m having to step outside my comfort zone a bit and do book readings and signings in libraries and a couple of the local Coles Bookstores (Indigo/Chapters/Coles) in London and Sarnia, Ontario, who’ve taken my books in on consignment. I’m not a public speaker by any stretch of the imagination, but I like people and I can relate to them on just about any level, so I dress up, curl my hair, put on my makeup and get out there. I’m nervous, but I remind myself the attendees are just people. They are just like me, and they are there because they like books and are interested in writing, and the process of writing. There are no questions they can ask me that I can’t answer. I’ve been walking the walk, reading and learning about this business of writing and publishing, and I have something to share, I think.
Getting out from behind the computer also reminds me that others really are interested in what I’m doing, or what any writer does. It also allows me to interact with people who share one of my deepest passions; books. Once I get past my nerves, I can relax and have fun with it. I even go out on a limb so far as to speak in the accents of my characters when reading passages from the book. That shocks people, and my family are sometimes almost embarrassed that I’d extend myself that much. I’ve tried reading the passages without the accents, but they are so clear in my head, that I just can’t do it. It sounds flat and unnatural to me, so I put my shyness and fear aside, and do what feels right. I have fun with it, and hope the listeners will react positively. So far, so good. They’re surprised, but they seem to enjoy it. One librarian recently said it really helped her imagine and “hear” the characters. Good. That’s what I want.
During the Q&A portion of the reading and at the end of the signing, I get the chance to chat to people who have read the book, or who have more questions about writing. I am able to connect with them on a very personal level not possible from a computer. I love it.
The other thing about stepping away from the computer is it really does allow the writer to meet new people and share the news about his/her work in a widening ripple of ways. For instance, I had to drop off some books to the Coles Bookstore in Masonville Mall in London (Ontario), a fairly large mall I’m well acquainted with. First, I had to get another copy of the flyer the bookstore wanted to post about my upcoming book signing. The printing company I use, Advanced Imagewerx, is located in that mall, so I stopped in and ordered the extra copy. I’d never met the man who was serving me before, but after handing me my flyer, he started asking me about my book, where it was available, and began talking about printing, books, how I got started, etc. I spent about five or ten minutes chatting with him, and in the end he said he hoped to stop by my book signing at the end of the month and say hello. He was interested. He wrote down the name of my book, and said he thought his wife might enjoy it. By taking the time to talk to this man, I might have won over a new reader. It was also really enjoyable for us both.
The point is, I’ve always been a connector. I enjoy talking to people, finding out about what they like, and listening to the answers. I also know the person to person thing has always been one of my strong points. People seem to relate back to me. Maybe it’s because they can sense that I really do care, or because I just have one of those faces. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I have to remind myself that I have to take the time to step away from the computer screen and meet people where they are, because that’s how I believe I’ll reach them. That’s not to say I don’t have to do the on-line stuff. Of course I do. It’s all about balance. Having more hours in a day might help too though.