Tag Archives: Self-Esteem

In Pursuit of the Mighty Whoosh: The 21st Century Writer

Being a writer in the 21st century is like being the driver of a very jerkily-driven vehicle. You’ve dreamt up ideas, written them, shaped them, rewritten and edited them and published them. Then you have to switch hats and sell your work. Now you find yourself measuring your book’s merit and your own self-worth by reviews, ratings, rankings, likes, shares, follows, analytics and sales. If they rise, your confidence rockets with them. If they mysteriously drop, you become frozen with doubt. You can control your writing up to a point. After that, it’s up to readers, reviewers and bloggers to spread the word. You can’t make people buy something they don’t want no matter what social marketing gurus say (who are biased witnesses involved in the hard sell).

It is healthy to get away from that draining stuff for a while. Major writers have people to handle sales of their work. They have agents, managers and the might of publishing houses behind them with their huge advertising budgets and key media contacts. Self-published writers only have themselves and their savings to rely on. That only goes so far unless they have great connections or access to bigger sums of money. If not, they may have to accept defeat on their beloved project when the cash runs out.

Some people say make your own luck but if everyone could do that, we’d all be successful. Life is never that simple or easy. Luck is mostly being in the right place at the right time. The wind catches your sails and whoosh, you’re off. Nobody can plan for that. It just happens. Word of mouth is another way. A neglected work slowly begins to pick up. Sales rise, reviews become more plentiful and positive and you’ve caught the Mighty Whoosh again.

Being an author now is a marathon, not a sprint. The idea that you could hit the send button, publish your book and it would become an instant bestseller really is a fantasy. It will take many months, if not years, to build up a loyal readership and a solid body of work. There is even the possibility of posthumous recognition Van Gogh-style. To become rich and famous when you’re no longer around to enjoy it would be cruel but better late than never. At least your heirs may benefit from your delayed Mighty Whoosh.

© Stewart Stafford, 2015. All rights reserved.

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One Good Book?

Everyone has one good book in them. So the cliché goes. Well, maybe. We all have ideas passing through our minds; the difference is that writers capture theirs on paper. Some ideas can sustain the epic length of a novel but most do not. Let’s assume that creative lightning has struck; not everyone can express themselves well through language or they may not enjoy the writing process which can be tedious and solitary. Even if they did, have they the drive and/or obsession to take them from a blank page to a finished manuscript? The complete writer is a jigsaw made up of many disparate pieces.

We are all born with certain innate abilities. You either have a good sense of humour or you don’t. You can condition your mind to think certain ways but it is always easiest to go with the natural flow of the skill sets we possess.

There are some groups that refuse to believe that William Shakespeare wrote his phenomenal plays and sonnets. They argue that he did not have a sufficient level of education to come up with his great works. It is an elitist and narrow-minded argument. Education is not creativity. Education is the acquisition and interpretation of the ideas of others. Creativity is the generation of your own concepts, opinions, narratives and characters. Education is the known, creativity is an exploration of the unknown.

Great writers are born not made. We have all met extremely well-educated people who are unable to string a sentence together properly. Their skills may lie in rote learning and having an excellent memory in the exam hall. Someone with a lesser education may have an astonishing natural gift for invention and expression. I believe that is the case with William Shakespeare and that he was the author of his seminal body of work.

Life experience can teach you far more. We learn by doing. There is no exam to measure your life experience level, so it is wrongly discarded as a legitimate source of knowledge.

I meet people with great ideas all the time. When I ask what they are doing about them, their body language immediately changes and the excuses start flowing. “I can’t because of… (x,y,z),” they say. I try to encourage them but, again, they sabotage themselves with their negative inner dialogue. So those ideas in their heads stay there, they never come to fruition as anything tangible or rewarding and that is a great tragedy. The world is a poorer place for it. You can’t live someone else’s life for them. If they refuse to allow themselves permission to go for their dreams, that is their choice. It is hard to believe some people choose failure but human beings are complex creatures with many inherent paradoxes. Not everyone has the confidence to pursue their ambitions to their zenith. Depression and self-esteem issues hinder great swathes of the public daily.

So everyone may have one good book in them but, as you have seen, there are many, many obstacles to getting it out there. Many of those obstacles are the limitations we unnecessarily place on ourselves.

© Stewart Stafford, 2015. All rights reserved.