Being a writer is such a private thing. It involves spilling your heart out onto paper. Some days the words flow, other days it’s like you are bleeding the words out. It’s a relentless yearning to create something out of nothing and this compulsion constantly pulls at our heart strings.
The ironic thing is though we are private, when we write we open ourselves up to other people’s criticism. It is like standing naked in front of a room full of strangers and allowing them to pick you apart. In the end no matter how much we love what we write, it doesn’t matter what we think. Ultimately it’s our readers who decide whether our work is of value or not.
Writing is like owning a shop, but keeping the lights switched off and the doors locked, while you hide out in the backroom, bent over, tapping away at an old typewriter. We don’t like to be disturbed because the smallest distraction can cause us to lose our focus, walk out of that shop and abandon our favorite backroom for days, weeks or years at a time.
For over twenty years I hid in the backroom of that metaphorical shop, sometimes stepping out of the doors, but never letting anyone else in. Then one day I realized how dark and lonely it was, and how crowded it felt back there with the seventeen little babies I had created. It was finally time to open the doors and set my books free.
Marketing is difficult for most writers because we tend to be more reserved by nature and aren’t inclined to toot our own horn. It is hard for some of us to say “look at me, look at all the wonderful things I have done!” no matter how grand our accomplishments are. We don’t want to come across as boastful or as if we have an over-inflated ego, even if we think our work is something that can be of value to others.
I have never liked pushy salespeople. Whenever I enter a store I instead like to have the chance to look around without interruption and the option to step away if the store isn’t right for me. And that is the hope and the experience I wish to grant visitors to my own metaphorical shop filled with books. All visitors are welcomed and appreciated because the truth is this shop feels more like a home to me.
I realize now that marketing does not have to be about doing a hard sell. Instead it is about simply opening the doors to your shop and making sure your visitors feel comfortable and happy. They are of course welcome and encouraged to look around but it honestly doesn’t matter if they choose not to buy anything. You appreciate their visit anyway.
You also don’t have to feel compelled to make a massive fanfare about the fact your shop is now open. It’s okay if for a while you aren’t situated on the main street alongside all the other impressive stores. The most important thing is that you have finally opened the doors! Take as much time as you need to make your shop feel right for you. Gain the courage and gumption you need to feel proud of what you have accomplished so that inviting others in doesn’t feel so scary anymore.
In the meantime think about the value you can provide those who do visit. Try to fill your store with lots of interesting or beautiful things, that will be valued and that you too love. We write out of love so it makes sense that we market in the same way, with a sense of gratitude and respect to others.
I also figure that if you exist as a quirky little boutique on a side street for a while, it’s okay. It isn’t the worst thing in the world. Honestly it doesn’t matter if it takes time for people to get to know or discover you. Every big thing once started out as something small. And if truth be known, it is often those eccentric boutiques that exist down random side streets that we love and adore the most.