I’ve started and stopped this post a dozen times at least over the last few months. On one side, I feel like I need to get these things off my chest to vent and feel better, but on the other, given the difficulties of my neurological illness, it seems like petty whining. However, the fact that I keep coming back to the topic tells me that I need to vent it. When I lay down at night, the thing that eats at me most is that my writing career is judged not by the quality of my storytelling or the clarity of my prose but rather by my inability to wrangle social media. I cannot express in words how much that bothers me.
I began pursuing writing as a career in the early 90’s. Like most, when I began, I was terrible, but what I lacked in ability I compensated for in desire and effort. I studied. I practiced. I wrote. The hours I spent honing my craft were countless – all nighters in coffee shops and diners hunched over a book or a stack of notes; weeks bent over a yellow legal pad with a black Bic pen; more weeks seated before a Brother word processor with a built in printer; reams of paper and ribbons. My poor roommates were forced beta readers and endured many a painful rough draft. There was no internet, not as we know it today, and the submission process was glacially slow. Yellow envelopes, a couple bucks postage, thuds at the bottom of the chute, and weeks of waiting for the SASE to return. I collected 36 form rejection slips before I landed my first story in 1995. Those slips were thumbtacked to my wall by my word processor as scars of honor.
I don’t enjoy bragging on myself; it always feels forced and awkward talking about the quality of what I do publicly. Those are statements best left for others to make, but I know the Brotherhood series has serious depth. The volume and quality of reviews speak for themselves. Still, I can’t break through, can’t reach my audience, which I know is out there, because I’m not savvy with social media and don’t know how to create click bait. It’s maddening to feel in your bones that your audience is out there and with this global inter-connectedness we now have to be able to reach them in more ways than ever before but always to feel drowned out by the inundation of cat memes or the outrage of the week. And don’t get me started on the bait and switch Facebook pulled.
I look at the authors who do tend to maximize social media, and I just don’t want to be like those people. There’s Chuck “Windbag” Wendig who manages to trumpet the white liberal guilt message on every public outrage. If parrotting to the left what they want to hear is the path to success, I’d rather stay broke and obscure. To the right, there’s Larry Correia, who’s just a smartass asshole. I tried following him for a week or two, but after watching how he talks to people in general, biting their head’s off for daring to waste his precious time, no thanks. He can keep his success and shove his attitude up his ass. I’ll put the quality of my storytelling and prose up against theirs any day of the week, but I will not behave as some caricature of a political mouthpiece.
Right now, I’m also frustrated because I can’t work. I can’t do the thing I love and close out the final installment of Brotherhood. My health is in the way of that, and those who know me well know how much it’s eating at me to be in this hellish limbo. While I believe I may have found the solution with these dietary changes, it’s going to take time for the neurological symptoms to improve. In the mean time, I need to sell books to be able to afford to eat the right stuff, but to sell books, I need to be more social media savvy. Last night, I tried to create an Instagram account, but I’m too much of a dinosaur to know how to do anything with it. I suck at Twitter. Google+ is a ghost town. Facebook wants money. It’s a vicious cycle.
I just want to find my audience and be able to write for them. I want to spend whatever time I have left on earth using my creative energy. That doesn’t seem like an outlandish goal to me, but right now, it still feels as far away as it did all those years ago when my fingers let go and that first yellow envelope slid down the mail chute. I know it’s not. I know I’ve traveled a long way and overcome a lot of obstacles and accomplished some good things, but I still haven’t reached my audience yet. I guess I’ll stop whining now and end this little pity party.