Momma said there’d be days like this. She did. She died when I was pretty young, but I remember her telling me that there would be days I would struggle to get through. Days that would feel like a heavy weight that I couldn’t bear. Days that sent me to bed, sometimes far too early, crying.
She was so right.
Lately, the weight has been me questioning my skill. Or rather, questioning what I’m doing with it. Have you had those days? Maybe weeks? You’ve been busting your ass to get things done. Writing or painting or making. You’ve built the social media presence, complete with a brand and graphics. You’ve done your research and learned all the current buzzwords.
And still, it seems no one is reading/listening/watching/buying your craft. You have done everything They say to do, and outside of your small circle, there’s just no traction. It’s not just shouting into the wind, which we talked about in the last post. This goes deeper. This isn’t about not reaching people, it’s about not being able to get them to care.
There are a staggering number of ways to put your work in front of people now. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Patreon, YouTube, Etsy… and on and on. But that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? You, me, and about 47 gajillion other people are all clamouring for eyeballs. For attention. For validation.
It makes you start to wonder – what the hell am I doing? Why am I putting myself through this? No one cares. Maybe you’ve got other crap in your way. Life is throwing you curveballs. There’s been a job loss or an illness in the family. Your kid is flunking history and your dog is neurotic. You’ve heard one too many “If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know!” that hasn’t manifested. You’re tired, you’re fed up, and now you’re questioning your own talent. Fuck it all, right? Shut down the sites, close up shop, go be a Real Adult.
Nooooooooo. Don’t do that. I’m not going to give you a pep talk about sticking with it, little trooper, or remind you how many people were rejected before they made it big. None of that helps. It’s nice to know that Super Rich Author was rejected 1,539 times before he published his first novel. It may take the sting out. But it doesn’t help you get interested eyes on your work.
Wanna know what does? Me too. I’ve been searching for that answer for a while. I read the blogs and the tips and the suggestions. I rage at the ones who say, “Hustle! It’s that easy.” Bite me. No, it’s not. “Just get your foot in the door!” Oh, cool. Where’s the door again? There’s a lot of stupidity out there, painted with the illusion that there’s an actual answer. I suspect the people behind the smoke and mirrors are just as eager to be seen as we are.
Here’s what I have learned that I do think is of value –
Get involved in your creative communities. It may take a few to find the right fit, but stay with it. Find people who will help keep the fires lit. You need feedback and understanding. Friends and family can nod and say they hear you, but only someone who has painted until their fingers cramp or worked steel until their back seized can really get it. You need to be able to share success and failure and get working advice along the way. Go find your tribe.
Keep building your platform. Write your blogs. Find some places to guest blog. Tweak and twerk and twerp your Twitter feed. Post to Facebook. I said it in the last post… build it all up so when people do find you, they have content to roll around in. But more than that, it gives you something to look back at and track your journey. You can see how you’ve progressed, what you’ve learned. You may even find gems you’d forgotten about.
For fuck’s sake, remember why you started this. Go back to the beginning. For me, it’s tangled up in my first real memory of books. I was five years old. It was Christmas. My parents had given me a collection of hardcover novels. It was a Children’s Classics set. Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Eyre, The Man in the Iron Mask. (Apparently, kids were weird back then.) I had no hope of reading any of them that night. I could barely sound out most of the titles. But the potential was so loaded with wonder, the memory locked on. As soon as I could, I started writing my own stories and I knew, that’s what I wanted to do for a living. That was my calling. I’ve never lost that wonder for words and I still hold on to the dream of being a published author. I still go to bookstores and pause at the space where my name would fit. Look back and find your own beginning. No one starts on the path of creating because they think they’re going to make a fortune doing it. They start because it’s a passion. They start because it’s a drive. So when the silence and the work and the frustration start to get to you, remember… you were your first fan.
It won’t be easy and there will still be days when no advice works and all you can do is step back. But I’ll make a deal with you. I promise to never blow smoke up your ass (no, really – that was a thing!) if you promise to not give up. Whaddya say?