Monday, February 22, 2016

Is There Anyone Out There? (You Bet There Is.)

Yesterday I did something I do every once in a while, though it makes my eyes ache and takes a good chunk of time.

I went through my Twitter following/followers lists and really looked at the people who are on them.

Wow, I am lucky to have met some quality people in my time on Twitter.

Even with the imposed brevity of the posts (which more often I see people using pictures to get around, and yeah I’ve done it a couple of times, but I digress) we’ve gotten to know a bit about each other.

I’ve learned enough to know that a lot of the people who follow me are not only fellow introverts but (no matter whether intro/extroverted) they love books and musicals and Disney and Star Wars and Star Trek and Doctor Who and cats and dogs and tons of other interests we have in common.

This is why I don’t automate my interactions on Twitter: because there are people out there behind every username and I prefer to interact with them as such.

If I had a bazillion followers, could I still do it this way? Maybe not. If I had a bazillion followers, how many would actually pay attention to what I say? I don’t know.

But I do know that the people out there now are listening, and it’s often the simplest moments that bring the biggest smiles or feeling of comfort into my space, which is something (space that is, especially mental real estate) difficult for an introvert to share.

Where people get into trouble on social media in my view is when they forget there are people behind every username. Even businesses have someone tweeting for them, even if it’s only to schedule tweets (another thing I don’t do. If I’m on Twitter, I’m on Twitter.) so at some point most likely a human being is going to set eyes on the things that you post, share, and say.

That is always at the forefront of my thoughts, when I post here, when I post elsewhere on social. People’s eyes will see and their hearts will, in some cases, take in what I say.

That’s the power we all have, and the responsibility.

How much better is it to build each other up than to tear down? How much better to share happiness when others succeed instead of being jealous, or to share their sorrow when something bad happens, letting them know they’re not out in the great big world alone?

I’m rambling, I know, so I’ll stop soon.

I just wanted to say that I’m thinking about what I put out there into the world today. 

I’m thinking of the repercussions, of the feelings that having interacted with me will bring about in people. 

I hope that such exchanges will make them smile, or think, or maybe even feel the sting of emotion in their throat when I am having a rough time or sharing something that’s sad. 

We're stronger when we look out for each other. Celebrate the victories. Mourn the losses. Feel something for your fellow beings that serves them, not only yourself.

We’re all in this world together, but sometimes it can be a lonely place.

If one person feels noticed, validated, or heard through my participation in social media, then it makes it all worth it in the end.

Remember this: it’s not all about blasting people with your message, be it selling something, politics, or any other sort of soapbox speech.

Let’s get to know a little about each other, and we’ll both be richer, I hope, for the interaction. I want to hear how your day is going, I really care.
My day? So far, it's good. I took a silly picture of myself in makeshift Mickey Mouse ears and posted it to FB and Twitter to raise money for the Make A Wish organization. (You can do the same using the #ShareYourEars hashtag. For every post Disney will give 5 dollars, up to 1 million, to granting wishes.) 

 So, tell me, folks. What’s new with you?



Thursday, February 18, 2016

I'm an Introvert and That's Okay: Or, #hidewrite

I’m currently reading the second edition of a really interesting book called INTROVERT POWER by Laurie Helgoe, PhD.

It’s taking me longer to get through it than I expected, but that’s because of my eyes giving me fits and also because I’m spending a long time thinking about each paragraph, each page, each chapter. You should see the notes in the margins, and the myriad Post-it flags sticking out from the pages.

As I read, I'm realizing how I’ve sold myself down the river and compromised who I am on so many fronts by not honoring who I am as an introvert, and that's not okay.

Are you an introvert? Even if you aren’t chances are you have one in your life (after all they do say opposites attract…) and you might find the book, and this post interesting.

I’ve realized that the reason I have been feeling so ready to jump out of my skin lately is because I haven’t been honoring my introversion. 

Especially here in the US there is a huge value placed on always being ‘on’, ‘out there’, and socializing. Even social media, which I find to be my favorite way of socializing with people if I’m going to do it at all, can be exhausting if you don’t set limits on how much time you spend on it.

I've been spending way too much time trying to be what I'm not and never will be.

So today’s post will be short, but with a message: introverts matter, and we're certainly not alone. We just need to look up once in awhile to realize it.

FYI: I’ve started a hashtag on Twitter for introverted creatives called #hidewrite. 

It’s for writers, of course, but other introverted folks (creatives are my inspiration for starting this, but I want to be inclusive) are welcome to weigh in as well as I post things that come to me or pass along information that I hope can help you feel less alone as you struggle through trying to get yourself 'out there' while also wanting to make a blanket fort and just call it a day.

I’ve held a few “pop-up chats” as I call them, spur of the moment things so far, and am trying to nail down a more permanent time for a weekly half-hour or so chat at this hashtag. 

But my main goal is for it to be an open hang-out for people to comment whenever they feel like coming out of hiding, whatever time zone they’re in. 

It may take you a little while to get a reply from me if you post when it’s the middle of the night here (or on the rare occasion that I go offline entirely for a few days to get some complete rest) but I will monitor the hashtag and of course if you tag me in your posts (my Twitter handle is @FebruaryGrace I will respond as best I can.

What is the purpose of hosting a chat that most people won't openly attend? Simply this. 

We are made to feel like outcasts for the way we naturally are, and I want to be one little voice out there whispering in the vast void that it’s okay for you to be who you are. 

You’re not only not alone, data mentioned in INTROVERT POWER says that up to half of the population is actually made up of introverts, just like us. 

We're out there, we're just lurking in the background of life, trying to go unnoticed. But if you're also trying to market a book, or show your art, or otherwise introduce your creativity to the world, this can be a really difficult struggle: the battle between our nature and things we need to try to do so people will know we're making beautiful things.

I'm hoping we can help each other feel a little better about our journey along the way.

So please feel free to lurk on the hashtag if you like, and also please feel free to put something out there too, if you feel up to it.

I plan for the next #hidewrite chat to be this coming Wednesday at 7:30 PM EST.

Until then, tonight at the wonderful weekly writer’s chat #Storydam they will be discussing introversion/extroversion in writers, they said they were inspired by my idea of starting #hidewrite! I plan to be there and I hope to see you there too. 8PM EST on the hashtag #Storydam.

I feel there is so much we can learn from and share with each other as introverts. After all, we may not want to be around people all the time, but everybody needs to know, at some point, that they’re not alone.

Dedicating this wonderful song to all the lovely introverts out there... 



Monday, February 15, 2016

The Day I Said “Enough”

Smack in the middle of last week, I had a major minor breakdown.

I’d been on a mission for a very long time to take in as much as I could about the idea of marketing my books; trying to raise visibility, get the word out. To make a tiny ripple in the vast ocean that is the catalog of available reading material in the world. Thousands and thousands of books are added on Amazon every month… that’s a heck of a lot, with supply far exceeding demand.

So what happened when I tried applying most (but not all; I knew better than to try all) of the recommended marketing practices coming in from all over the interwebz was this: my brain exploded. Or at least it felt like it was going to.

It felt wrong to quote myself (with attribution) in graphics I was making and posting on social media, yet I tried it anyway. Lo and behold, today I wake up to hilarious post on Facebook from Scott Stratten of UnMarketing that had him quoting himself saying you should never quote yourself and post it to social media.

See, I just knew that already.

But I went against my gut and thought ‘heck, I’ll try it. Why not?’

Why not? I know the answer to that now.

Because I will melt my brain and fry my soul and otherwise become a miserable person.

I can’t bear to hook up all my existing media to multiple apps to send out more regurgitated content. 

I don’t schedule tweets because I believe Twitter is a living thing. (And if you think people don’t know that you’re scheduling tweets like commercials when they see you post the same dang thing about your book or blog exactly 8 hours apart around the clock, you’re not thinking straight. They don’t like it. Not unless you're already so famous they'll take whatever content from you they can get. Another story entirely.)

I see people with, how can I say this, modest Twitter followings setting themselves up as experts in the field of promotion and it gives me pause. Why aren’t their audiences bigger, if they’ve got it all figured out? Why aren’t they on the big Bestseller lists (well we all know the answer to that, I’m just saying.) Where is the huge success that the application of all these ‘must do’ marketing tricks should be producing?

Let me say right now that no one’s Twitter following is more modest than mine; but I don’t claim to be a social media or marketing expert, not by any means. And besides, I love my followers. We interact. It's nice. It feels like a little bit of 'home' out there in the big wide world. 

But I digress.

People can’t even give away their work for FREE and get noticed these days. The market is over-saturated like a soggy dish sponge and there’s little to set you apart from your neighbor, who also wrote a paranormal YA shifter mermaid story with an alpha female lead.

EVERYONE is writing (or has written) a book.


It would honestly be less time consuming to walk into a room of people and ask those who haven’t written a book to raise their hands, because if you ask those who have to show themselves they’re going to immediately besiege you with a plea to sign up for their newsletter (hey, for giving away your email address to them, you get a free short story!) or support their Thunderclap campaign.

After four years (Godspeed was initially self-published long about the summer of 2012) I am burned OUT on marketing. 

Does that mean I get to stop doing it? No, of course not, because I still have five books out there that I think deserve as much of a shot to be seen and considered before the person goes on to the next thing as anyone else’s. 

But I’m going to have to think very hard about how I proceed in doing it.

I love making pretty graphics, but I have to give better content than quoting myself and my own work.

I love blogging, but I’m going to be real about it and go back to posting about things that matter to me a lot in addition to just the book stuff. Because I was a blogger before I was a novelist, and non-fiction writing is very dear to my heart. Also, life happens, and maybe something I’m dealing with/have lived through can help someone else out there if I am willing to talk about it from time to time.

So, I finally got off the nauseating merry-go-round as of last week, when my husband came home and found me actually sobbing and babbling incoherently over the idea of joining one more social media platform and announced that it wasn’t worth my health and happiness to keep on the way I’d been going. “Nothing is worth that,” he said, and for once I had to believe that he was right. Because I hated the way I felt, and I don’t want to feel that way anymore.

I’ve learned that some teachers just aren’t the right fit for my needs as a student. They may help thousands of other people with their methods, but that does me no good if I can’t personally benefit from the way that they present their message, because it leaves me feeling bad about myself instead of energized and excited to try something new.

I’m ready to try new ideas, sure. I’m working those graphics and I’m serializing fiction to Wattpad that you can’t get anywhere else and I’m exploring the idea of adding multimedia to that fiction (as Wattpad recently added multimedia capabilities.) I’m still learning, I’m still going to try new things.

I’m just not going to do it feeling like there’s a ton of weight on my shoulders to hurry up and get with a specific program already, lest I be called stupid or lazy, because I am neither.

By this point in my life I know I do not know enough to say I know anything. I’m always going to be learning. But I will choose my teachers carefully, based upon whose methods speak to my soul and motivate me to be my best instead of making me feel like a whipped puppy if I don’t do everything that they say, just so.

I’m me. That’s all I’ve ever been and all I can ever be. And I have to work with that. I have to balance my bad health (physical and otherwise) along with my desires to share that I have five novels out in the world and poetry and art and other things too.

I have to consider my limited eyesight, which I’ve been abusing horribly lately and must stop doing so immediately.

I have to take care of myself before the art, or the art won’t exist. I’m no good for anything if my brain is seizing up like an engine without oil. This is the hand I've been dealt, and there is a great quote on that I want to share...

I have to do the best I can with what's in my hand. End of story.

Everyone has to find their way on this winding, often unkind road we call marketing and promotion; but if you think anyone can do it all, all the time, indefinitely, well, if you can then more power to you. I know that I can’t.

So I’m off the crazy-train, for good. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to market. It just means that I’m not going to let anyone, expert or otherwise, make me feel like an inferior human being if I’m not on Tootsuite or Smackchat or whatever is new this week.

I’m only one person and I’m only human, and I’m a human with ill health and without the resources to hire a team of pros to do the work for me. So that leaves me with one option: doing the best that I can.

And if you don’t think that I am, well, then you don’t know anything about who I am, anyway.

Happy Monday, everyone. Take care of yourself out there. 

The waters are rough, and the life preservers few.