Monday, January 28, 2013

Reflections from the Well

On Writing Craft, Creativity & Inspiration

by Alexander Slagg

Finding the Fun in Self-promotion

I have a novel that I’ve completed. I’ll continue to rework it for a while (currently on draft 3). But I think it’s at a stage where others can take a look at it. It feels like the right time to begin the search for an agent—or a potential publisher.

This prospect touches on several anxieties for me.  I’m not some silver-tongued, rolodex-spinning jabber jaw ready to work the phones and make the big deal. Nor am I a sparkle-toothed, professionally coiffured marketing android ready to march out and sell the Alexander Slagg brand. I don’t have boundless time and energy to query and query and then query some more.

The problem is I’m a writer. My strengths lie in sitting down and writing, using my imagination, nailing down the right descriptive term. How do I go out and play all of these other roles: deal maker, cheerleader, carnival barker?

When I run up against barriers like this in my life, I’ve come to recognize them as opportunities to grow and expand my notion of who and what I am. How will I go out and find a backer for my book? I’ll just do it—in my own time and in a way that feels comfortable to me. I will build enough internal inertia to overcome my anxieties, and start taking the small steps that encompass the journey to publication.

This is not an uncommon situation for writers—discomfort with the peripheral duties that go with writing something and trying to reach a broader audience with it. But as much as I may identify with the idea of being a writer and whatever connotations this label carries for me, I’m also other things.

I have many roles in life. In certain situations, I enjoy socializing. I can talk about myself, about my writing, about literature. I can be open enough to share with others that I think my book is kind of a big deal. (And if I didn’t truly believe that at heart, why would I bother to share it with others?) Occasionally, I can be the person who’s able to conjure up single-minded focus for querying, the one who can go out and sell a project.

Thinking back on past experience, the best way for me to dial in these needed characteristics is to bring a sense of play to the task at hand. I remember fondly one of my job-seeking experiences when I was in my twenties.

On a whim, I picked up a pair of cheap eyeglasses from a Chinese import store. Sleek, platinum frames (plastic!) with nonprescription lenses. The next day, I started wearing them to job interviews, joking with myself that they brought a modern, “employable” sheen to my appearance.

I was in on a little joke with myself, in what was otherwise a stressful situation. This made the experience fun. And bringing a sense of play to the dreary task of finding work made it bearable—and eventually got me employed, landing me in a great situation.

And that’s often the missing puzzle piece in situations where we’re starting uncomfortable tasks we don’t feel we’re up for—a sense of play or whimsy. When some fun gets added to the mix, we can do most anything.

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Touching on various aspects of the writing process, Reflections from the Well is more than a rote column, it’s a literary lounge where writers and other creators are invited to share their own experiences. Share your comments with Alex for possible inclusion on the LWN blog or in his next reflection at