Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Writing vs. Marketing

Good reminder from this etsy artist.
 "Don't expect applause," a post on Seth Godin's blog today, was exactly what I needed to hear this morning:

"But when you expect applause, when you do your work in order (and because of) applause, you have sold yourself short."

I'm still basking in the glow from the Erma conference over the weekend, because it was such a nice, supportive place to be, but now I'm back to regular life and trying to figure out how to apply what I've learned, at least in fits and starts. I am sure I haven't figured out everything I've learned yet.

One thing that I heard about the conference before I went, and which rang true, is that it was a place to go to learn to be a better writer, as opposed to a better marketer. I mean, it's definitely good to learn a bit about the latter if you'd like to make a living as a writer, but if you start to spin off and become inauthentic because you're writing with a goal of getting praise and attention, that's a good way to ruin the soup.

Lots of the presenters and speakers talked about what I think of as the blurry line between the how and why of writing. The "how" is obvious, I think (at least in theory). You can easily find endless tips and tricks about how to best put one word after another until something that seems like writing appears on the page. That's a thing you can hone. But the "why," and how the "how" is related to the "why"? Ho, boy, that's troubled waters.

Because of course we want to entertain, especially those of us doing human interest/humor writing. There's a lesson, or a punchline, and we want to not only convey that - we're also hoping to resonate in a way that entertains. So, how does one decide where to aim that arrow? I tend to keep in mind the people that already seem to find me funny well, at least amusing. I figure if nothing else, hopefully my warped friends will find this thing I'm writing about amusing, and if they do, maybe a few more people will, too. And, if not, well, at least I made my friends laugh, and I had fun with the process. This is especially true of essays, where I work hard to craft those as best I can.

Even when I don't "hear the applause" - even when it feels like I'm delivering jokes into an empty cave, I know I wouldn't ever stop this.

Writing is the thing I do. The thing I am compelled to do. Not everyone is going to agree that I have even a granule of talent, but I like to sing in the shower, too, and Clive Davis is yet to show up. It doesn't mean my children won't continue to be delighted when I belt out Roger Miller songs while soaping up my hair. OK, well, there will come a day when they will probably cower in humiliation because I breathe air near them, but I digress.

Humans are artists by nature (even you, trust me), and we're better people when we can express that art, in whatever form it takes.

So, I have to agree with Seth, and it was a needed reminder. I don't want to write for the applause, though I greatly appreciate it when it comes. That's a pretty freeing guideline.


Jen said...

Great food for thought, Sarah. I always find that I struggle the most when I'm writing for someone other than myself.

This does make me think of those people on Facebook who post those big, "I'm doing an experiment to find out who my REAL friends are! Respond to this post or get DEFRIENDED! Validate me! VALIDATE MEEEE!!!!!1111" posts.

Sarah Hunt said...

YES. That crap gets right to the heart of why I freaked out on the whole Facebook scene and deactivated. When I decided to come back, my machete cuts were wide and deep and aimed straight at people who were so deep into the validation loop that they were apparently unaware. That's not to say I axe every single person who posts that stuff, of course. I just refuse to participate because I'm determined to keep my interactions there as real as they can be in such a weird environment.

Hopefully that doesn't sound all sanctimonious or something. I will happily repost a picture of a doobie-smoking parakeet on a pontoon boat or what have you. I'm just not going to constantly prove my love. If I like you, I interact with you. What else do you want from me, Facebook people?? It's all too much pressure. :D

And also, it really is a seeming contradiction when they are always like "keep your audience in mind" when you're writing. Keep them in mind, but write authentically. It's an uneasy walk across the tightrope sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Why are you standing around waiting for Clive Davis to just wander into your shower? That's loser talk. You need to go to HIS shower and sing at him -- make that shit happen. Seize the day, and all that.

Sarah Hunt said...

Well, it's a sure way to garner some publicity for my new career! You may be on to something. I'll report back with how this turns out.

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