It was a good thing to have a couple of thousand people all rigid and frozen together, in the palm of one’s hand.
Speaking with so many writers and authors gives me a unique perspective that I’m grateful for and humbled by. I want to share with you some lessons I learned through trial, error, and pain as an aspiring writer.
I will tell you a secret, my fellow wielders of the pen and keyboard that show up each day—week after week—and read this blog: if you search this blog, you will find some of my older writings. The ones from the beginning, when I was talking to myself because no one else was reading this blog.
I leave these old posts up (mostly intact) so that readers can go back and see how horrible some of my writing and poetry was 7-8 years ago. My poetry was like reading about a bad teenage break-up. My writing was like riding a jeep through a rock pile.
See, we all want to be read, to find an audience, to touch someone with our words. Many of us see writers who are horrible, have terrible grammar and syntax and seem boring, and yet, they have dozens of likes and comments on their blogs. Why? Why? Why?
Because they have found their voice, their peeps, the folks who “get” them. Readers will often overlook a few grammar errors or a clunky sentence or two if you’re hitting their vibe. Still don’t believe me? Go read some Pop-culture blogs and e-zines. You will see some terrible writing, but you will also see many successful sites because it’s a hot topic, a niche, and readers just want the information. They don’t mind stumbling through a few bad paragraphs or sentences to get to the red meat they desire. This is finding your audience. Jeff Goins calls it your “Tribe.”
Find Your Zone and You will Find your voice
The only way I know to find your audience is to first find your voice. Your voice is this: what you’re good at saying, at writing about, at expressing in a logical or comical or satirical or concise or educational manner. What topics or genres flow off your tongue like silk? What is it that you can think about and sit down and type, ever-flowing, like a waterfall of words? This is your area, your zone, and it’s here that your voice will emerge.
I wrote a piece once in which I reference “Little Women.” I was sitting there with my usual red face, bitching to my wife about all the talentless writers kicking my ass, achieving their goals, and how I was a brilliant, undiscovered mind. Well, okay, it didn’t go down quite like that, but in my mind, I was dreaming that it should. As a side note, this jealousy and frustration can become a catalyst for good, if you channel it correctly.
Seeing my constant pain, my wife started talking to me about the story of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. She told the story of Jo and about her professor saying to her, “Jo, write what you know.” This was the point at which Jo began to find her zone, and ultimately, her voice. This was a huge key for me which began to open the doors of success.
My sweet wife, a librarian and an English Honor Society member, tolerated my abysmal self-pity and horrid writing. It may have been my good looks (eye-roll). Anyway. I began to find my voice.
Not all of us can write fiction. I’m sorry, it’s true. Not all of us can write a history essay. Every writer has their strengths and weaknesses. This is a crucial and quite necessary fact with which we must come to terms. We must be intellectually honest with ourselves and realize our true strengths and weaknesses, as writers, or we will never find our voice. No voice, no audience.
This leads to the final part of the equation: “If you build it, they will come.” Social Media.
Build Your Platform with Social Media and/or Blogging
One of the most powerful tools we have today is social media. I know, we all hate Facebook and the “unasked-for details” of the daily lives of thousands of people. I know that some think that Facebook and Twitter are designed to be a journal about the corns on their feet. Ugh!
No, social media has its flaws, and some of them are huge. However, I’m asking you, especially those who are social introverts (I know this is painful), to see that without a platform to reach your audience, you’re still treading water. If you have found your zone, this led to finding your voice, but now, you have to have a means to the end: your goals — a vehicle to reach your peeps, your audience, your folks.
Before ‘Print on Demand’ and Social Media Platforms
I sometimes think of Thomas Paine who wrote Common Sense, and how it was distributed, for the most part, by handing it out on the street. Or, in today’s world, the traditional publishing route which used to have enormous budgets for advertising in the New York Times, or The Wall Street Journal. They still do if you’re J.K. Rowling, but the average author is lucky if they receive a decent advance, much less a huge advertising budget.
The point is that if you really want to get a jump on things when that book comes out, you need to build a social media platform, a place to reach your audience. Today’s social media outlets provide fantastic opportunities for writers and authors to reach their audience. Blogs are another way to reach readers if you’re not a novelist.
I’ve had writers argue with me about this. Some of us artisans are social introverts, but building a platform is non-negotiable if you want to be read. Many of the literary agents that you hope to reach will want to know what your social media reach is, or what kind of email list you have. These equate to hits and possible book sales.
- Don’t feel alone if you’re frustrated, jealous, or feel like your writing goals and dreams will never come true. Hang in there and realize you’re not alone. Every successful writer or blogger has been at the starting line. Some longer than others.
- Find your zone. Write about what you know “Jo.” Every writer has something they are an expert on. This is where you will find your voice.
- Once you find your voice, begin to build that network of people that enjoy the topic,—your zone—and who will await your next post or book with true enthusiasm.
- Even if you’re a social introvert, you must use today’s powerful tools in social media to build a platform for your peeps to find you.
If you follow these principles, and you can choose the order in which you follow this plan, I believe with all of my heart that you will find the success you seek.
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