The concept of a brilliant writer who holes up in a dark office, writing day and night, living the life of a recluse while society celebrates their literary accomplishments, is mostly a fairy tale. I mean, I’m sure there are a few writers like that. Maybe that was more common back when writers mostly did just have to write, and there wasn’t an expectation that those writers would also market themselves, read to crowds, participate in professional development, etc. In fact, if you think about it… most bygone “famous” writers who were known for their reclusive ways didn’t gain much fame to speak of until after they were deceased.
But maybe you—like me—really aren’t looking to become famous. Maybe you’re thinking that just working hard and being a good writer is enough to make a living, which is all you really want. Surely then all you need to do is write well, right?
So I have some good news and some bad news.
The bad news is: In this day and age, it’s virtually impossible to make a living writing if you’re not also willing to have a public face to go with your business. The world is too connected now for anyone to make it in this field without having an online presence, some sort of social media participation, and even just plain showing up at certain appropriate functions. It’s expected. You can get away without doing any of those things if you’re already famous and overpaid, but show of hands…? Right.
The good news is: If you’re the sort of person for whom the bad news strikes a note of terror in your heart, relax. Seriously. Even the most introverted and anti-social writers can “play the game” without too much pain. I promise. A few simple considerations will keep things manageable.
Take advantage of technology. More and more, I seem to know people who claim to hate talking on the phone, either because they’re shy or feel they’re awkward or whatever. (Interpersonal communication is scary!) You certainly can’t get hired in a vacuum—unless you know some alien robots who need some copy, fast—but if you know you’re socially awkward or whatever, yay for technology! You can email with potential clients. You can network via Facebook or LinkedIn or other online venues that don’t require face-to-face interactions.
Know your strengths, outsource your weaknesses. If you feel like you should be doing more marketing but have no idea how to do it better, there are lots of options available to you. You can take a class, you can attend a webinar, you can hire a consultant, you can read books… the list goes on. Figure out what you need and whether or not you can handle it. If you can’t, surely there’s someone out there who can—and chances are the best person for the job is a freelancer, too, so you’re solving a problem and networking all in one fell swoop. Better to hire someone who can do it right than torture yourself and do it badly.
Be realistic with yourself about your tolerances. I’m seeing a lot of chatter online lately about various conferences and which events “can’t be missed” and such. We’ve come a long way since the days when you had a whole whopping two different blogging conferences from which to choose (ha!), and that’s awesome. But with so many options, now, what do you? I see a lot of bloggers opting to attend tons of conferences, and if that works for them—time-wise, monetarily, scheduling-wise—that’s awesome. But for those of us who maybe find that sort of activity stressful, there is absolutely no shame in setting limits. Conferences are a great way to network and “get out there,” but not if the entire experience makes you miserable. So…
… set goals, and then figure out how they’re best met. For me, I tend to only do one or two conferences a year, because I think they’re important, but I simply can’t be on the road much more than that. This means I have to be extremely careful about where I choose to go, and what I think I’ll accomplish there. This is particularly true because I’m an introvert and I find conferences exhausting. I don’t excuse myself from ever attending them—that’s a good way to make sure my relevance in the field is quickly forgotten—but I’m choosy.
Finally, accept that you’ll need to step out of your comfort zone from time to time, but the reward is going back in. A lot of bloggers are becoming “online personalities,” where the bulk of their work turns into doing videos, appearances, and other non-writing activities. Again, if that’s what works for them, fantastic! But I see a lot of other writers wondering if that’s what writing is becoming. I say the answer is no, not if you’d rather just write. If you want to be a writer, be a writer. Find the balance of non-writing, self-promoting activities that will further your position as a writer, then heave a sigh of relief when each less-than-favorite activity draws to a close, pat yourself on the back, and get back to writing.