I was reminded of a favourite song of mine the other day, Standing Outside The Fire, by Garth Brooks. The song focuses on the need for people to take chances in their lives and to create the destinies they want. I truly believe that. I always have. I guess that’s why that song, and others like it, strike such a strong chord within me.
When we write anything, an article, a song, a poem, a story, a letter, anything at all, we have to believe that what we have to say is worth others hearing. Some call that ego. Maybe it is, but maybe its also about sharing this human condition of living. I like to think it’s about connecting with others on a basic level.
When a writer writes a story, they create characters who have to DO something. The characters must have a purpose, needs, flaws and desires that readers can relate to, otherwise the story is boring. Plot lines and flow charts aside, it’s the characters who must echo humanity and human lives. Even in science fiction, horror or other genres where the characters aren’t actually human, the characters must exhibit a human character. They have to move the story along by their words and actions, just like we do.
But by nature, most writers are introspective and can be a little more solitary than some people. We are happiest to sit at our desks and create worlds, characters and dialogues in our heads while putting them to paper, or on a computer screen. Then the book comes out. Now we’re supposed to be PR experts and marketing moguls. Uh, maybe not so much. But if we want our work to be a commercial success, and if we don’t that’s fine too, but if we do, we have to step outside our comfort zone. We have to push ourselves to get out there and promote our work and ourselves so people will know we, and it, exists. I write for two reasons, because I love it, and because I am hoping others will get some real enjoyment from the stories I’ve crafted. I hope the characters will come to life for readers and provide a measure of entertainment and escape. Oh, and yes, I would like some financial redemption for that work. No apology. If I have to make money somewhere, this is how I’d like to do it.
That means having confidence enough to push myself beyond where I’d normally go. I’m not an experienced public speaker, and I don’t necessarily seek the lime light. I watch famous writers like James Patterson, J.K. Rowling and others who have learned how to reach out to readers and brand themselves to the buying public. Maybe they’re more extroverted than I am, but possibly not. They just know it has to be done, so they do it. I like to think I can too. I’m fortunate to have been blessed with years of watching both my mother and younger sister, Stephanie, in public speaking engagements. Each is amazing and inspirational. They speak about women, to women, and business professionals about creating the business and lives they want. I love listening to them. They are my inspiration. My middle sister, Melanie, runs a very successful business with her husband and has done for the past fifteen years or more. They’ve learned a lot along the way, and she’s definitely had to step out of her comfort zone to promote her business, on more than one occasion. My brother, Stephen, followed his dream of playing in the CFL when he was younger and now runs his own contracting company. He wanted to play in the Greycup, and damn if he didn’t do it! I’m so inspired by these people and their drive. I’ve always been the quiet one. The studious one. Now, I’m having to step outside my comfort zone and pull out all the stops in marketing and promoting the heck out of my book. I’ve been contacting local libraries to ask for book readings/signings, I’ve contacted local news publications to ask if they’d be interested in interviewing me as a local emerging author, I’ve had to start reaching outside myself in so many areas I feel my arms are growing (too bad my legs wouldn’t). It doesn’t feel natural to me, but it’s important. When I needed to have my book on Kobo because I’m Canadian and Kobo is a major venue in Canada, supported by major book retailers and libraries, I stepped in and liazed between my publisher and Kobo directly to encourage a working relationship. It worked and In The Spirit Of Love is now on Kobo, in addition to all the other venues it’s been on.
Each step I’ve taken these past months has been difficult, but also fun. I’m learning and growing and gaining confidence. My first public appearance was at a book reading/signing at a small local library. I had no clue how to proceed, and neither did they, but I went with my gut instinct and kept it light, easy and hopefully fun, for the attendees. I’d never done anything like it before, where I’d be the center of attention, and you know what, I liked it. I was fine, and I brought my mother with me for moral support, which was a great idea.
My point is this. As writers, we have to make our characters stretch and grow to gain the desired objective. As people, we do too. While recently talking to the manager of a local major book retailer who is considering placing my books on consignment and hosting a book signing, she told me flat out, “I want an author who will connect with my patrons and draw them in. If he or she just sits there, I’m not going to be happy, and I won’t invite them back.” Point taken, challenge accepted. I might bring my mother with me though, for moral support.
So, like Garth Brooks sings, “Life is not tried if it’s merely survived, If you’re standing outside the fire”.