Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ponderings of a Self-Published Nobody

By Jai Murugan

Geez, I'm not sure if I want to do this or not.  It might backfire, or I might look like an idiot.  Hmmmm.  Oh, what the heck!  Here goes.  Nothing to lose.
English: Book and apparatus for writing. Engra...
English: Book and apparatus for writing. Engraving (prints). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two different writers are invited on consecutive weeks, to sit outside a local bookstore in a mall, to flog the freshly printed book, by reading, and signing.
The books are of different genres, but each in its own way has appeal.  Certainly
beforehand, by viewing the books alone, without the author, there is no significant difference, as to marketability.  Neither author is well known, and each is here on her initial foray into the market. The first writer sells well over 100 books on the Saturday afternoon.  The second writer sells a grand total of three books. Why?

The first author smiles a lot, shakes hands, nods at little kids, drinks coffee sloppily, and generally appears, outwardly at least, to be having a grand ol' time.  The table is covered by bright gawky blowups of media stories on the book, or her.

The second author sits quietly, reading another book, quietly sipping her coffee, and appears openly only mildly interested in the flog.  On the inside, she is terribly interested, as all writers are, but  cannot overcome the shyness, and fear that someone might think her book is crap.

The difference between the two scenarios, of course, is reflected in the title of this column: confidence.

Confidence is a learned trait, whether inadvertently, or consciously.  Your personal degree of writing confidence, today, is a sum total of your personal experiences regarding feedback on writing.  The grade one teacher who proudly read your story aloud, or wrote, "You have such wonderful ideas!" had a powerful impact.

 So did the high school or university professor who labeled your paper with a 'C' for crappy.  Most, if not all, of the feedback you received, you feel at least, was outside your control.  For it came from the mouths of others.

Once lost, confidence is hard to regain.  But surely if we as writers have none at all, we'll never be writers, at best our only audience will be ourselves.  There are probably many manuscripts (not to mention paintings) lying around somewhere on the planet just waiting to be viewed by adoring masses.

Unfortunately these never will, simply because the creators of said works of art have never shown them to anyone, or only just perhaps to a few close friends, due to their lack of confidence.  That's sad.

Here are a few simple tips to hopefully improve confidence. There are many more if you do a little hunting.

  1. Take all destructive criticism with a grain of salt, however hard that seems.  Remember that there are another 5 billion people on the planet.  Someone will love your writing.
  2. Write daily.  (Laugh daily.  Even if you laugh at how pathetic your own work is.)
  3. Do something towards self-promotion regularly even if is a simple as posting a message on a news-group, or submitting a poem to the few readers on a chat-line.
  4. If you need to show your work to someone, show it first to someone you trust as a person.  If they give you a negative critique, you'll know it's not a direct attack on you
Originally Published in Writing Today (May 9, 1998 Vol 1, Issue 1)

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