My sincerest apologies that my blogging productivity has dropped off as of late. One big reason for this is that my family is preparing for the birth of our fourth child, and as you can imagine, that has consumed much of my time and energy. Hopefully when we adjust to being a family of SIX (did I really just write that?), I’ll be able to blog more regularly again.
But there is another reason that I haven’t been able to blog much, and that is that I have lost some of my motivation. I used to blog solely for my own enjoyment and the encouragement of others, but now I’m supposed to use my website to build a following that will convince publishers that I am a worthy investment as a writer. This requires a lot of networking and a good deal of self promotion, which has been terribly uncomfortable for me, as I am by nature not very prone to putting myself out there.
I needed some encouragement to this end, and fortunately, I stumbled upon this post by Donald Miller. You can read it yourself, but in summary, he says that self-promotion is not nearly as negative as it feels or appears to others. It is simply a representation of how much you believe in what you have to say, and how willing you are to get your message out there. And in that way, self promotion, despite its name, has nothing to do with self – it’s about your creation, product, book, art, music, whatever.
I found this post extremely comforting, and fervently nodded in total agreement as I read through it. I came to the conclusion that Donald was dead on, that it was okay to put myself out there and promote both myself and my blog and prospective book, because I believed in my family’s story, and the God that I believe sustained us through a difficult time. I was ready to promote the heck out of myself.
But then I made the mistake of scrolling down a bit further, and reading the comments section following his article: page after page filled with blog url’s and people shamelessly plugging their book or blog or whatever. You know, stuff like this:
“My dream is to be an author someday and until then, I write. My current blog can be found at http://FAKEURL.com/. I hope to have an associated Twitter account soon. In the meantime, feel free to tweet my personal account @FAKEURL or leave comments on my blog. Thanks!”
Blech. And it was then that I made the realization:
No matter how you dress it up and justify it, people who talk about themselves all the time are still annoying as hell.
As much as I respect Donald Miller, he’s just dressing up a turd. Self-promotion is by its very nature self-aggrandizing and selfish and aggravating to others, no matter how noble your ends are. He’s such a good writer that he very nearly manages to make it seem palatable, but the fact is that when you see self-promotion in its purest form, like on a comment board of a website, you realize it for what it is: a bunch of people who act like spambots, trying to out-squawk each other in an already deafening world.
But this is the unfortunate reality of how the publishing game is played: it’s based on numbers and platform and popularity. Now, I’m sure that publishers would protest mightily at this icy assessment, but I don’t think that it’s far off the mark. I’m not sure how else you can explain why the rubbish sentiments of famous people are published in such abundance (AHEM). If you want to get published, then that is the game you have to play.
Self promotion is not a noble pursuit that we should be totally cool with, but a necessary evil if you really want something badly enough.
But when you think about it, this type of dynamic of “playing the game” can be found in nearly every aspect of life. You REALLY want to get ahead in a corporate environment? Then be prepared to kiss butts, because that’s the game. You REALLY want to get married soon? Then be prepared to kiss frogs, because that’s the game. You REALLY want to publish a book? Then be prepared to annoy all your friends with constant requests to read this, share that, like this and comment on that. Sure, there are the privileged few who get to bypass that process by virtue of their wide connections, enormous talent, or deep experience. They make an end run around the game and cross the finish line, pride somewhat intact.
We all want to be that person, but very few us will be.
For the rest of us, we need to make a calculated decision between how much we want to achieve a goal, and exactly what we are willing to do to achieve it. And the ratio between those two will dictate how much butt kissing, frog kissing, or shameless self promotion you are willing to do. It’s more important for us to come to terms with our decision than it is for us to waste precious time and energy trying to delude ourselves into thinking that we can have it all, all the time.
But there is one caveat to all of this: friends.
Sure, it takes a lot of pride-swallowing to promote your own blog to complete strangers. But it is not nearly as annoying and unnatural when a friend shares it with others of their own accord, because they like you, and they like what you have to say. Sure, it sucks to be on the hunt for Mr. or Mrs. Right, and to put your butt out there in the dating scene. But it sucks far less when a friend is looking out for you, hunting with you, and for you, maybe even vetting out the riff raff, like that guy who has a custom made XBOX controller – never a good sign, ladies.
And so in this delicate dance between our means and ends, we should never forget the importance of human relationships. It is our friends and family and community that allow us to achieve our goals and dreams while protecting our integrity and sense of self. And the more we speak up on behalf of the ones we love, the better we all are for it.