We all have heavy schedules and busy times. I’m in one of those now. Yet even then, I want to use my mind. Something to ponder over as I go through my day. That’s the premise behind Thinking Aloud. Just a thought to pull out during the course of a day and think about it…
If you have a minute or two…
I was lecturing on writing and an attendee raised her hand. “I’m stuck. I work so hard at this, and yet I never seem to get anywhere. I have no idea what I’m doing wrong.”
I said we’d talk privately after the class, which we did. You see, I’ve been teaching a long time, and I’ve seen this problem before–more times than one might think.
So we walk down and have a cup of coffee and I say, “Tell me what you’re doing.”
She began a litany: “Social networking, blogging. I’m active on this and that reader site (she named them off). I’m active in a local writer’s group and a genre-related chapter. I volunteer at conferences and do the monthly newsletter and I interview other authors for xyz site. I’m trying hard to build a platform and to network. I’m making good progress,” she said, then went on to tell me how many Likes and Follows she had built and how she worked hard to engage readers.
She talked a straight five or so minutes about all her efforts–and she did work really hard–but never, not once, did she mention writing.
“So if you’re doing all this, and you have a family and the responsibilities of home and family that come with, and you’re involved with a local book club and these groups and meetings and special functions . . .”
“Oh yes,” she said. “I’m into all that and more.” She added several more social commitments.
“Hmm,” I said. “May I ask a question?”
“How many books have you written in the last six months?”
“Well, none. But I plotted two stories.”
I went back further. “How many projects have you completed in the last year?”
She paused, then said. “None. But I’ve started several.”
“What about the last two years?”
“One.” She got excited. “I finished one right before the holidays year before last.”
“Did you submit it?”
“Um, not yet.”
“Why not?” Some authors are fearful of submitting and just dread it so much they avoid it.
“It needs to be polished.”
“When do you work on that?”
“Well, I haven’t lately. Things have been so crazy… You know how it is.”
“I sure do,” I said. I leaned closer. “I have another question.”
“Of course,” she said. “I need help on this. It’s really getting me down that I work so hard and haven’t sold anything. What’s your question?”
“How can you sell what you haven’t submitted, or polished, or finished, or written?”
“I write. I told you–”
“You’re putting your effort in the wrong areas,” I said. “You build a platform on a foundation to support something–your books. Right now, you’re growing a platform, but it’s anchored in the air. There are no books, no works under it. Your foundation is AWOL.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means, write. Make it your priority. Yes, build a platform but devote a little time to it and devote the lion’s share of your time to writing.”
She looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “But everyone says you have to have an established platform to sell.”
“A platform is important–but only if you have books to sell. Otherwise, you don’t need a platform . . . .”
I’ve had similar conversations with writers for many years. They’re so busy doing all the things that everyone says need doing that they forget the reason they’re doing any of this ancilary stuff. If there is no book, there is no need for a support system because there’s nothing to support.
Put the writing first. Consistently. Give it your best. Consistently. And then set aside a limited, reasonable amount of time to work on building a platform.
Build one element at a time. Maybe focus on a single social network. Build it. When you’re content with it, then maintain it and use the remainder of the limited time allotted to build another.
It’s like the old saying. Anyone can eat an elephant. No one can do it all at once, but everyone can do it a bite at the time.
Writing is the first bite–and should remain so . . . consistently.