Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sound the Feasting Horn!

This series of Snickers commercials always made me happy, especially the exuberant Viking and his Feasting Horn. I've heard a lot of authors talk about how hard they work and how much they love their projects, but the conversation so often grinds to a halt with some variation of this sentence coming out of their mouths.

"I just wish people would ask me about the book, or they'd search me out, so that I didn't have to talk to them."

And just after I pick my jaw up off the floor, and just after I explain just how easy (and possibly enjoyable) it can be to talk about something you both believe in and are passionate about, they say something like,

"You make it sound so easy, but I just can't do it."

And usually I have to bite my tongue at this point and say, "Well..." and then go on about my day. But this is my blog, so I don't have to hold back here.

1. Okay, it's not the easiest thing in the world to do, but IT CAN BE DONE. Yes, I'm hugely biased about how easy it is to talk about what I'm doing, because it's my job, I love my job and this is pretty much all I do, unless you want to talk about comics, games, nerdy things or my favorite things to do while half-asleep. I didn't fly out of the womb knowing how to do this, I didn't even really get a good handle on the first ten years I was doing it. But I learned, and that's principally because I tried until I got it "right" ("Right" as in, I got the results I wanted). I didn't get it right the first time, so I kept trying, and the more I tried the easier and more familiar the actions became.

2. No one is going to ask you about what you're doing if you don't tell them. I have met a lot of people. Some of them even claimed to be mind readers. They weren't, and to date I haven't met anyone who's really honed their mindcraft to Professor X levels. So, unless you're talking about what you're doing somewhere (in person, on the internet, via smoke signals, whatever), how are people going to know what you're doing? And as a side note, if you follow this up with "But people do know...." then I'm assuming you should be telling MORE people, because the ones you did tell didn't get as excited as you hoped. Also, it's possible that HOW you told them didn't inspire them to action, so you may want to consider working on that.

3. Face the facts. I'm sorry if this is cold or hard to hear, but there's no way around this:

If people don't know that you've got a book either available for sale or in development, how are they supposed to know that they can get it?

And if you're not talking about what you're doing, either out of cowardice, fear of rejection, or some kind of faux-humility (I don't want to talk about what I do because I don't want people to think that I'm conceited), then why are you even bothering to do a task that expressly creates a product to be shared?

And what sort of lazy coward are you that you to just create things in some vain hope that random people by the truck load will just one day bump into you and say "Gee wilikers, I've been looking my whole life for exactly these things, and I just so happen to have bazillions of dollars I'm not using. We should trade dollars for your product" ?

Is this fear that keeps you from celebrating your successes? And before people can even deem your work "crap", you've gone ahead and done it for them? If so, then you have no reason to bitch that your books aren't selling, that your contracts aren't getting picked up and that you're not the popular kid in the cafeteria.

It is impossible to sell something without people knowing it's available.
If you think your product is shit, it is.
If you think people will hate your product, they will.
If you love your product and you did your absolute best making it and you're ridiculously proud of it and you love talking about the experience and what it's taught you, there is no way it will be seen as crap.

But it won't sell in the bazillions and set me up as being financially comfortable for the rest of my days so that I can sit in my palatial estate and read books while oogling the poolboys, you say.

And that's true. I'm really sorry that in today's world you didn't capture lightning in the bottle and corner the ever fickle market on some concept, taking the pop culture world by storm. And I'm doubly sorry that even if you did, you'd realize that the second something new came along, you'd get put out to pasture.

Now, if you're a one-and-done sort of creator, then you'll be in the esteemed company of Pogs, Pet Rocks, those slap bracelet things that were confiscated at school and the band Los del Rio.

But, let's suppose you want to do the one project and it goes well, but you don't push forward to repeat that success and you forever want to be known as the person who 'did that one thing'. How long is that going to work for you? Look at actors, do you think they like being known forever as what they did when they were 12?

This is a time when you have to branch out, try again, and keep logs on the burning fires of your creativity. Always be working, be producing, be creating. It will keep you happier, encourage you, reduce fine lines and wrinkles and seriously make a difference in the quality of your day.

4. Either do it or not do it. Make your moments, don't wait for them. Fashion is cyclical, and I'm just waiting for grunge to come back into social dress. I've got some flannels and old jeans and my Nirvana playlist all set. While I'm waiting for my high school years to happen again (or at least until Doctor Who swings by for a weekend adventure), I'm not sitting still. There are books to edit, scripts to read, write and revise, a series to try and get off the ground, a whole ton of games that I'm slated to work on and with, and a heap of conventions, interviews and appearances to make. (This summer is going to be SO AWESOME you guys).

Were this ten months ago, I'd still be sitting in a Barnes & Noble Cafe talking to the same five people over and over again about how to write better paragraphs and build better characters and being grateful that they remembered to fork over five bucks to hear me speak. And I'd be working...a little. A little here, and a little there, and doing a lot of wishing / waiting for the stars to align / convening energies over magical altars (okay not really that last one, but damn close). And while some people love to take a lot of credit for making these things happen for me, and while I'm willing to give them thanks for supporting me and encouraging me, what really got me to the position I'm in now is ME DOING these things rather than waiting for them to happen.

Because it's not a bus. There's no timetable that if I just plop down on a bench, my exact goals will be brought to me on a platter (and other mixed metaphors). Some "work" (not always the stressful, tucked-in shirt kind - sometimes it means you just have to leave the house and talk to people, or go to that meeting or mention something to someone on Twitter) will have to done on your part, because every action (and therefore every consequence, thanks Newtonian physics), requires an investment of energy.

You want something to happen? Get started on making it happen. Take the risk. Jump out of the plane. Get off the couch. Transfer your dreams to your actions. Do shit.

If it really matters to you, you'll push past the fears and make your dreams/wishes come true. Otherwise, it's just hot air, and you can go make a good living filling up balloons.

How, you ask? How do I do this? Be brave, make the bold and scary choices, try, don't assume failure or even success, assume that you're going to do your best this time, and every time. When things get heavy and messy, don't give up. Never give up.

Sound your Feasting Horn! Let us celebrate your good news and your soon-to-be-good news!

Happy writing.