After I published The Writer’s Manifesto, I got mixed reactions. One group said “thank you” for speaking what had been on their hearts for years. Another said, “You’re full of it.”
I expected much more of the latter. The reality is every writer needs to learn to live in the tension of writing for an audience, while being true to the craft.
Self-promotion isn’t evil
Some misunderstood me when I said, “Writers don’t write to get published.” I didn’t mean writers don’t want to get published, or writers shouldn’t get published. I meant what I said: The reason that a writer writes is not so other people will read it.
How do I know this? Because I’ve lived it. I’ve written words for years that few or none have read. And I loved writing them, anyway.
Let’s be honest: It’s natural for a writer to want to get published. That just can’t be the primary motivation for writing.
What happens when you don’t get published? Do you stop writing? God help you if you do. There are few things in life more frustrating than a dream deferred.
When I wrote my manifesto, some people thought I was anti-self-promotion. Not true. When I published my eBook, I personally emailed it to about 100 people I thought would benefit from it. I wanted people to read it. I wanted it to spread.
But if nobody had read it, I still would have written it.
Why love of your art must be primary
Writers need to not be motivated by applause and accolades. That comes and goes. What needs to fuel their passion is the love of the art. But there’s nothing wrong with promotion. It just can’t be primary.
I don’t have any problem promoting something I write (so long as it doesn’t get excessive or annoying). I want people to read The Writer’s Manifesto. But that’s not why I wrote it.
I wrote it, because I needed to hear those words just as much as I needed to write them. I wrote it, because it needed to be written.
That’s all any writer can do: write what must be written.
Can you self-promote and stay humble?
Some assume all self-promotion is bad. I don’t subscribe to that. There are countless undiscovered writers out there who are amazing and still learning how to build a platform.
There are also a plenty of hacks who act like sleaze bags, name-dropping and imposing their content on others without permission.
The trick for any serious writer is to write for the love of it and look for opportunities to share.
If you’re writing from the heart, the opportunity to make your work known to a wider audience will present itself. Be ready for it.
When will you be satisfied?
This is not easy. And I’ll admit it. Sometimes, it’s nice to get a pat on the back.
The thing I’ve learned is that human approval is flippant. When you make it your focus, you’re never satisfied.
One day, people love you; the next, they’re calling you an idiot. It’s chasing the wind.
But when you make your art the point (and not a means to an end), you’re continually satisfied.
Creating becomes the reward.
Embrace the tension
It may seem hypocritical to write about writing for the love of it and then tell you it’s not bad to self-promote, but it’s a tension we all live in.
We write for the sake of writing, but people do read what we have to say. And it’s not wrong to encourage that. What’s wrong is to fixate on the outcome and worry about what people will think.
Of course, you’re going to do that, any way. Just don’t let it influence what you write or how you write it.
The one non-negotiable
Whether you self-promote or not, there’s one thing you must do: You must risk failure.
There’s no guarantee you’ll succeed. And that’s what makes it fun, what makes is exciting. You must be true to your calling. You must go for broke.
If you do, people will listen to you. They’ll follow your passion. They’ll want to hear what you have to say. And then, it’s time to share.
How do you live in this tension of creating for the love of art and self-promotion? Share in the comments.