There is a certain necessary schizophrenia to being a working writer that is difficult to embrace. I don’t feel like I am alone in being drawn to the act of writing to tell stories to as many people as I can while hiding behind a computer screen. Writing is, despite what corporate America seems to think, a solitary act. Writers can brainstorm or even write pieces together but the writing happens when the author sits down at their machine. The finished work will only sit in the computer’s memory or printed out on a desk unread unless the other half of the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde split takes over. The writer must go out and promote the work. This is a different type of communication than writing, this is selling. A writer must transform their self from a solitary storyteller into a gregarious carnival barker, calling to passersby to stop and read their work.
I think most writers are drawn to the work because it is solitary. There is very little I like more than sitting down at my computer with a cup of coffee and a good idea. It can be the best part of my weekend, happily typing out a new blog post in the quiet morning before my wife and son wake up and start their day. I can take the time to write and rewrite passages and stare out the window until the right way to articulate an idea pops into my head. The solitude of the work can be one of the best aspects of the whole endeavor. There are weeks when the solitude is what draws out the inspiration for the post. The rest of the week the ideas are lost in the bustle of daily life. It’s not until I am alone and quiet that I can hear myself create the theme of the week.
Then Monday morning comes and I have to switch gears and start promoting the blog post. I have to write multiple tweets and Facebook page updates to try to entice readers to go to my blog and give it a chance. I have to pay attention to make sure that I schedule the updates to reach as many people as possible and to find a witty way to sum up three or four pages in 140 characters or less. I also have to try to stay engaging and have multiple approaches to catch as many people as possible. I have to pay attention to Twitter Communities and Facebook trends. Ultimately I have to push my work on as many people as possible in as public a way as possible for the maximum effect. The effort is always worth the return, but I did have to realize that promotion is as necessary as the writing of the blog. To put it another way, there is little point in writing if no one reads it. The only way I can get people to read my work is if people actually know it exists.
I love going out and having adventures, bringing them home, and sitting in my office and writing about them. Part of the reason I try new rides or new fitness ideas is to be able to share them on Mondays. I love posting the blog to the website and checking back every few hours to see if the page views have increased or if there are any comments. I can’t say that I enjoy the promotion of the blog. I do love my Facebook page and my Twitter followers; I just hate begging everyone to read my blog. I wish there was a way to write and have people search out the new posts without having to beg them, but until I have a following like Neil Gaiman’s, it’s not going to happen. Having to promote heavily has taught me a very important lesson. I need to be bold.
I think I have always known that you have to be bold in life to get certain things accomplished. My father used to take me out to sell newspaper subscriptions when I was young. I would go door to door asking people to buy the newspaper. If I sold enough subscriptions I would win prizes. I always won the top prizes, normally because I received a lot of help from my dad, but also because I tried. I knocked on a lot of doors and failed to sell newspapers to a lot of people, but the more I tried the more I sold. It became a math problem, if 90% of people said no you would still find the other 10% if you knocked on enough doors. Someone is going to say yes, you just have to ask enough people until you find the one that says yes.
I found the same thing to be true when I started writing the blog. I offered to write for anyone that asked for submissions. Most sites wanted more experienced or well know bloggers, but a few welcomed my submissions and published them. CycleRecycle and IWearSpandex were two of the first and most helpful sites that gave me confidence to start writing regularly. I started submitting posts to magazines as well. I have had mixed results, but I know that I will be published one day as long as I keep writing and asking. Bicycle Times Magazine is holding one of my articles and has offered some great feedback. Being bold and asking has worked in helping get me noticed.
Being bold has helped me in other ways. Julia, the new Facebook page admin volunteered after I asked for help in a blog post. I have begun asking manufacturers to send me products to review. Some have said no but one has said yes. I have been buying other products to review and other companies have noticed and helped promote the blog when I reviewed their products. It almost seems like the more bold questions I ask the more I am surprised by the amount of yes answers. It is a lesson that I am constantly learning, but I need to keep asking the questions. People cannot say yes to questions you don’t ask.
This year I am going to try to remember to be bold. To promote with reckless abandon. To ask ask questions that probably deserve a no answer but might not get them. I am going to boldly say yes to questions that people ask me. I am going to open up and try new things and write about them. I am going to keep asking magazines and websites to publish me until someone says yes. What bold questions are you going to ask this year? I think my first will be an offer to open up the Soapbox to more guest writers. Julia did a great job last week and I hope she guest posts again. Is there anyone else out there that wants to guest post? I would love to have you to have some new voices on the site to talk about cycling, fitness, or whatever else you would like to talk about. Let me know in the comments if you are interested!