Self-promotion is rarely easy, but I think it’s particularly difficult for writers. For starters, many of us come to writing because we’d much prefer to be on a cozy couch with a book than marching a sandwich board down Broadway. And to make matters far worse, if we manage to take those first, tentative steps toward honoring our own work enough to want to publish, sell, or share it, we get bombarded with a slew of dusty, crusty old ideas about what it means to be successful, much of it similar to the kind of persistent shaming I imagine Victorian virgins had to endure. If we’re really worth having, we shouldn’t have to draw attention to ourselves. We should wait for others to invest in our futures, rather than take such matters in our own hands. If we linger in obscurity indefinitely, it’s probably because we deserved it.
For several years, I’ve been writing this log and promoting it on Facebook. I was not on board with this, at first. I don’t like social media, and I liked the fact that my publisher was pushing for me to engage with it even less. But I’ve come to find my off-label use of Facebook to spread the word (as it were) about the realities of the writing life an increasingly rewarding process. And, for the most part, it’s been received far better than I ever could have hoped.
But, of course, nearly every time I promote a post, the very fact that I am promoting it ties someone’s knickers in a vicious twist, and they make sure I hear about it. I know, I know. Haters gonna hate. But I don’t find it useful in the least to hate them back. I’d much rather look at that hate and see what it represents, how it places its owner in shackles, how something I posted gave them a way to show the undersides of their wrists, where the metal has dug in.
In my experience, 99% of the time, hate is fear with an ingrown toenail. And in this country, where we’re taught to consume our feelings and conceal our vulnerabilities, so many of us have been told that we have no right to share ourselves openly with others. As a result, many of us only want to appear in public with impregnable reasons for doing so. But how does waiting until one’s star is firmly placed in the firmament do anything to support the rest of us here on earth?
So here’s what I think. It’s never too early to start promoting your work and yourself as an artist, and doing so is not really about how great you think you are or how much genuflecting you think you can inspire. It’s about standing up for art, and artists, and meaning. Not because those things are invulnerable, but because they aren’t.
Art: Georgia O’Keeffe, Abstraction White Rose