Thursday, May 31, 2012

Platform Is Audience. Think Small. Be Specific.


We writers have so many options today. The world of publishing is changing so rapidly that many of its professionals seem to be riding the waves on inner tubes. We're all in it together, but we're all in it alone. And so, one thing is being consistently stated:  having a meaningful platform is ever more important in this noisy world.

Hey! It's me. I'm over here.

Now I'm sure I'm not the only writer who quails at the prospect. And not knowing how or where to start, a strong impulse is to read more, do more research, which can be helpful (if put to use.) Or a great distraction. Or an evasive maneuver.

So Don't just stand there getting ready.

As a kid, I wanted to do two things that scared the crap out of me: go off the high dive and ride the roller coaster.

Every day at the pool, I'd climb the ladder, stand at the end of the board—only ten feet, but it looked like a hundred—until I'd back off to let the others behind me go ahead. I'd climb down, wait until the board was free, and go back up. Finally, in a WTF moment, I jumped. Scary? Yes. Exhilarating? Oh, yes! I went back again and again, graduating to cannonballs and eventually dives.

But oh, the time standing there, getting ready. 

At the roller coaster, an old wooden one that raced out over the beach toward the ocean, I stood on the entrance platform. Same deal. I watched that coaster leave the station a dozen times at least before I got the courage to get on and ride. Then ride I did, middle car, front car, back car (the fastest), knees braced, no hands.

Sure, we need to prepare, maybe get up the courage. But then we have to do it.

Go ahead—scare the sh*t outta yourself!

It's often the only way to move forward, and the thrill can be amazing.

Those things scared me. I don't think there's a power on earth, not even vast sums of cash, that could get me to jump from an airplane or off a bridge with an elastic cord attached to me. I'm sure they have their thrills. Big ones. I'll take mine a bit more on the safe side of scary.

But being scared of doing something masks itself in all kinds of ways. Excuses. Other things that need to be done first. Too hard. Beyond my reach.

Well, how the hell do I know it's beyond my reach if I don't reach for it? How do you? And there's only one way to do that. Do it.

From the many, one.

Or a couple. Hell, even a few. 

Platform building is about audience. Connecting. Building relationships. We need to brand ourselves (that one is vertigo-inducing), and in order to do that, we need to get specific about who and what we are, and to whom. 

Writers on this topic often talk about the thousands they hope to reach. Now that's more than scary, when your followers could fit in a very small room. But a couple very astute (because I loved what they said, so they must be, right?) writers boiled it down to something more easily swallowed.

Don't go for the thousands. Go for a couple. Who specifically are you wanting to write for? To communicate with? To relate to and to have relate to you?

I mean specifically. What do they like to read? To wear? To listen to? What are their beliefs? What do they love and what makes them crazy? Pick a guy and a girl. How are they like you? How different? Invent people you'd easily spend an all-nighter with, tossing out ideas, comparing philosophies and fantasies. Make those people up, in detail, and talk to them.

A couple of folks you'd really like to talk with and write for, to entertain, to tease with unanswerable questions, to challenge, are a lot less intimidating than a sea of thousands.

So to you, dear readers—both of you—some things I'd like to know: 

Do you think we're alone in this universe? Is God the Force? What are those things that go bump in the night? Do souls return? Do aliens live among us? How do you feel about (name the issue, say, gay marriage)? Is time really a continuum, or is that merely a human way to sort the incomprehensibility of simultaneity?  And what the hell is he talking about?

If those kinds of questions engage you, can we talk? Just us. In this little room. On this very small planet.

But I'm still not jumping out of any airplanes.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Three Steps to Moving Forward


It's been a month of distractions, mostly my day job. But to keep moving forward with my job as a writer, much of the distraction hasn't been off target. I've subscribed to new blogs on using social media. Effective blogging, tips for tweeting. But I still wasn't doing my work, the real work: writing.

Today I decided to do at least three things in that direction.

1.   I did more than read about improving the structure of my blog. I worked on it. I delved into the tools. But not for too long. (There is that day job, but the point was to DO something, not to read about doing it.)

2.   I opened the manuscript of a short story that has been sitting idle and stubborn for way too long. I didn't just open it and revise what I'd already written. A bit of backstory came to me in the shower. I wasn't sure how to incorporate that bit of history but knew it would make the story richer, would add something that might drive the story out of its stagnation. I has. It's a short short, but the draft is nearly done. I did the writing.

3.   I'm here. I put off blogging because I too often think what I have to share isn't of much use or interest to others. That may be true, or it may be that ol' debbil on my shoulder, but if I don't DO it, it will definitely be of no use or interest. Baby steps, maybe, but steps. And we all know the old saw about the journey of a thousand miles...

So, here they are, again, as I review them.

1.  Do something proactive with the tools of the emerging demands of the tech-driven market. Do something, no matter how small. Work on that "platform building" thing.

2.  Write. (That's my craft. If yours is painting, paint. Or sculpt. Whatever.) Do it. Sometimes it's really hard to sit your butt in the chair, put everything else aside, and write. But no one said it would be easy, and God does it feel good when you do.

3.  Blog. Take the time, write from the other side of the road. The social side. Rather than shrink from platform building, put at least one block in place. After all, the pyramids were built one block at a time. Right?

How do you keep moving forward when life is holding you back? I'd love to hear how you control the brat and get him/her to work.