What to Do About Marketing (Or, Feeling at Home in Two Worlds)

Mirror_clean_sunny_261591_lI'm in Louisville this week at the Spalding MFA residency and one of the things I've heard over and over again is writers bemoaning the fact they don't have enough time to write.  We've got jobs, and families, and bills to pay and carpools to drive and a million other things to do.

And added on top of all that is marketing.

I've been thinking about marketing a lot lately, because, for one thing, I had a novel come out in February and I had to learn how to market it.  And, for another, because this week I've been immersed in the world of literature and writing, without any much talk about marketing.

Let me be clear: the point of this residency is to immerse writers in the world of writing and literature, not to discuss the finer points of marketing.  But, still, it makes me feel a bit schizophrenic.  Because often it seems like literature and marketing never meet.  A huge part of what I love about my life falls into the writing and literature category.  Yet part of what I hold dear about my writing life could be said to involve marketing.  For instance, blogging.  And writing a newsletter.

At heart, these two activities have as their purpose communication, which is what writing is all about.  And yet it seems that too often, never the writing and marketing twains shall meet.  The writers don't trust the marketers (the word itself makes us nervous) and the marketers think the writers are naive. But, for the most part, the contemporary writer must take part in some marketing or her words will never reach their desired purpose.

What's a writer to do?

I don't pretend to have the answer, because I've got feet in both worlds and often it seems I can't get my body fully into either one of them.  But I do have some thoughts.  (I know, big surprise.)  Here goes:

Be Yourself.  Yeah, I'm laughing, too.  Because everybody everywhere says this and nobody really knows what it means.  Too many of us, myself included, wander through the world convinced that we're not enough–not smart enough, thin enough, talented enough, enough enough.  And being yourself is hard when you're feeling like you're not enough.  It's much easier to be like someone else.  And yet, do we really want to read the same thoughts from every blogger?  The same story from every novelist?  I think not. 

We writers are constantly looking for our voice, and no big surprise, the place it comes from is within–when we're ourselves.  So quit worrying about what the world thinks of you so much and start observing the world around you instead.  It'll make you a better writer, and a better marketer.

Embrace the Story.  I just read this quote somewhere this morning: "the world needs stories now more than ever."  We always need stories, because they are how we make sense of the world, whether those stories are delivered to us via a novel, a film, or a blog or newsletter.  But when we perceive the world a random, scary place (tornadoes, meteorites, or bombings, anyone?) we have even more of a need to process.  Hence, we need more stories. 

So keep writing that novel or short story or memoir.  Keep getting up early or staying up late or staying inside on sunny summer Saturdays and get those words on the page.  Because, here's the deal: you're not going to have anything to market otherwise.  Put the writing and story-making first, and everything else tends to fall into place.  (This is a truism that I seem to need to learn over and over again.)

Admire Complexity.  This is the part where I tell you that it's all about balance.  Except I'm not going to, because I'm not sure balance really is possible.  For me its more about wildly veering between poles and enjoying wherever I find myself.  At the moment, I'm totally engrossed in the world of literary writing.  A few months ago, I was all about the marketing as I worked on finding reviews, interviews, guest posts and readings for my book.  Totally different, both vital.  When I get home next week, I'm going to have to put my head down and do nothing but work on deadlines for ghostwriting projects.  There's no way I can balance all these threads at once–but what I can do is attend to each of them in turn.  Does that make sense?  It's not always easy, but most of the time it's pretty damn fun.

That's it.  That's all I've got on how to feel at home in two worlds.   Do you have anything to add?  How do you reconcile marketing with your creative work?  Please comment.

Photo of the mirror by thera.

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11 Comments on "What to Do About Marketing (Or, Feeling at Home in Two Worlds)"

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Jessica Baverstock
Guest
05/23/2013 03:35

It is a juxtaposition from the solitary act of writing to the social act of marketing.

For me, the common denominator is ‘love of people.’ I write stories because I love characters and the interesting stories they tell. When I spend time on social media, I interact because I love people and I meet lovely people through my blog and on Twitter.

I write in the hope that these two worlds can collide and I can entertain these lovely people with my interesting characters.

I don’t know if that answers the question or simply muddies the water further…

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
05/23/2013 03:51

That's well thought out and very true, Jessica.  When you put it in terms of "love of people" it makes all the difference because it makes it all of one piece.  Thanks for the perspective!

J.D.
Guest
J.D.
05/23/2013 04:25

I’m don’t have a published novel. I don’t market myself. My plan is to spend my time writing or reading. I hope to turn out a better product. The story playing in my head and what is on the paper have to be nearer the same.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
05/23/2013 04:55

J. D., lots of writers make the case that your time is best spent writing and perfecting the craft and I see the wisdom in that.  However, I also believe that most of us want our words to connect with people in the world, one way or another.  And to do that, there has to be some marketing involved.

Patty/Living Deep Studio
Guest
05/23/2013 13:51
I love what you say at the end: “most of the time it’s pretty damn fun.” I place a high value on fun. I don’t need every single moment to be fun, but if I can’t have some fun then I don’t want to do any of it: counseling, coaching, writing, art, marketing. And I admit, the fun part of marketing is sometimes missing for me, probably because I feel so bombarded with messages about what I *should* be doing. It’s overwhelming and in the end truly boring, because everyone ends up doing the same thing and it all looks… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest
05/24/2013 03:47

Oh thank you so much, Patty! I'm honored to be your role model! And, I totally agree with you about things needing to be fun!  I think you got to the heart of the matter about the "shoulds" as well.  I read way too much on the internet that tells me what I should be doing and makes me feel bad for not doing it.  I'm going to look for ways to make it more fun.

Leisa A. Hammett
Guest
05/26/2013 18:32

Love the quote about stories and may use it in a blog post and will credit you, of course. I will be sharing this in some writer’s groups. I am both a writer and a marketer. Author’s disdain of or lack of marketing distresses me. One of my mentors (when I was in communications for a nonprofit) used to say it’s not about being best, it’s about how much you market. And, yeah, maybe an ugly truth…but true. So good to see you in Louisville this weekend, dear. Namaste.

Leslie Dixon
Guest
05/27/2013 09:36

Charlotte, this is a great blog post! I’m so glad to know that I’m not the only one feeling like I’m not enough. You hit the nail on the head when you said, “And being yourself is hard when you’re feeling like you’re not enough.”
We as women are constantly put under the pressure to “measure up” to some impossible ideal on top of our own self-inflicted criticism. Thank you for reminding me that I am enough!

Much love to you!

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
05/27/2013 10:07

Thank you for weighing in Leslie! I do think women in particular struggle with this feeling of not enough-and also men do too. When you stop to ponder that we're all wandering around feeling this way–phew! It's mind boggling. 

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
05/27/2013 15:27

Leisa, I love how you proudly proclaim yourself both a writer and a marketer–so many of us creative types seem unable to do that. And I think that “disdain” is a good word to describe our attitude toward it, so thanks for your perspective. And it was so amazing to have you in Louisville for my reading, I loved it!

Leisa A. Hammett
Guest
05/28/2013 07:46

Charlotte, I think marketing is fun. And…it IS creative and it DOES involve writing. In fact, it’s a discipline to write with punch and fewer words. Thanks for the affirmation, love.

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