Last night I hit one of those walls you sometimes hit in a writer’s life. Well, we all hit them in our various ways, in our various lives, in our various careers and dreams. So, consider yourself warned, this isn’t a peppy, happy blog post. It’s the nth month of winter, and my soul feels about as grey as that slushy snow outside my window.
So much of a writer’s life is consumed by the activity, or rather the bewildering morass of the world of marketing and promotion, ie. How to Sell More Books. The current wisdom (and I use the word wisdom with some sarcasm) is that a writer should spend 80% of her time marketing, and 20% actually writing. And 80% of that 80% should be talking about kittens and unicorns and pretty much anything other than writing. The thing is, I didn’t get into writing to become a marketing wiz, and maybe that’s profoundly naive of me, but I am in my 40s and don’t belong to the Twitter generation. Hell, I am still trying to figure out how Twitter actually works, never mind building some big audience on it.
See, this is the thing, I’m a writer, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be. My second sin is that I write Big Books books that require concentration, I don’t write fast food books that can be consumed in one sitting. I believe there are readers out there for books that require more. When I write I bring my A-game to the table- always. I think about character and plot and how the story lines will dovetail, I think about each character’s truth and I listen intently to what they have to tell me. I never force story lines, simply for the sake of plot and I never sacrifice character for the sake of plot either. My readers are smart and they are going to smell falsity from a mile away. I think about historical timelines, and the distance from A to B, both literally and figuratively, I think about all the threads to be picked up from the last book, and how I’m going to catch up new readers without bogging old readers down with information dumps from previous books. I think about each word and its placement, and try as often as I can, without purpling up the prose, to make it beautiful enough that the reader will want to read it again and again. I’m not thinking about what to tweet. Maybe I should be, I don’t know.
My own personal motto, to be found on any number of writing memes these days is: Write the Book(s) You Want to Read. I love big, epic, lush, sprawling books that carry you away into another world, where you live and breathe and laugh and die with the characters. And that’s what I write. What I write about is Ireland and her history, because it’s fascinating to me, because it’s a country I love, because it matters to me. Because it’s in my blood. I’m well aware that writing about the IRA and the Irish Troubles is not the sexiest topic, but it’s endlessly interesting to me, in a way that vampires (which commercially would have been a better writing move on my part) just aren’t. I’m passionate about it and I’m passionate about the characters I’ve created, and I know that comes through in my work, because the comment I most often hear from my readers is that they feel they know the characters, are friends with them, that they wonder about what goes on in the bits of their lives between books, that they cry reading about them after a long spell of not, just because they are happy to be back with them.
It’s why my favourite show is ‘Sons of Anarchy’, because it’s the same- epic, big, bold, but with characters so human that they can rip your heart out with a single line like- ‘I got this.’ I write because I can’t not write, to me it’s like breathing and when I go long spells without writing, I get really, really cranky and the dammed up creativity inside just about kills me. That need to create, for me, is only assuaged by writing, not by any of the other dozen creative endeavours I’ve embarked on, only to give up in boredom a few months later.
So this is why I can’t spend my day on Twitter, tweeting about anything but writing, in the hope that someone there will buy my books. Because I have to write, because my time is precious and with 45 staring me in the face, I realize that time is rather finite.
So the wall is there in front of my face and though maybe I will care next week or next month, today I am tired of Kindle numbers, I’m tired of trying to figure out the next marketing method (that nine times out of ten ends up being a waste of time and money). I’m tired of being asked why I don’t write about a trendier topic, or why I don’t try my hand at children’s books, though that one isn’t asked as much since my children got older. I’m tired of trying to solicit reviews from people who cannot be bothered to even write you a polite refusal. I’m tired of defending how my books are published. I’m tired of being gracious about reviews that are flat out mean-spirited and get personal in tone- from total strangers that don’t know me, but apparently didn’t just hate the book, but also hate me for some unknown reason. I’m tired of the endless marketing e-mails that land in my inbox from writers who have found a way to make it big on Kindle, though these always give me pause- if they are doing so well as writers, why are they constantly pushing their ‘how to get rich on Kindle’ kits, rather than writing? I’m tired of hearing about the ‘death of the novel’ about how a book can’t compete with all the other things out there vying for a person’s attention.
Today I will merely exercise my Right to Write. I will write for myself and those who are already my readers and stop worrying about the ones who aren’t. I will stop mourning that vast world-wide audience I once dreamed of having- though my audience is world-wide they are only vast in the geographical sense, not the numerical sense. I will write because I do not have a choice. I will write because I am not a marketing wiz. I will write because I am a writer.