Winner Winner Chicken Dinner
My younger brother is a first year teacher. He’s also the assistant basketball coach at the rural school where he teaches. For as long as he’s been able to express himself, my brother has wanted to be a teacher and coach. Teacher first. Coach second. He’ll finish his M.A. in History this August.
I went to watch him coach today for the second time. I had two thoughts upon entering the high school gym. They were:
1) Thank GOD I’m no longer in high school, and
2) I could never be a basketball coach.
My brother is highly competitive. So is my mother. So is my father. So is my husband. So are my two very best friends. For as long as I can remember I’ve been surrounded by competitive people. My father once got so angry during a round of miniature golf that he threw his golf club into a pond. My husband and his brothers have been known to ignore each other for weeks over a video game.
I am the opposite of competitive. I was that kid who wanted everyone to win. I always gave all the kids in my class Valentines. I invited everyone to my birthday party. I don’t like it when peole lose on my account. But I’d belying if I said I’m not competitive simply because I’m the nicest person alive. If think about all that I learned from that psychology class I took that one time in college, I know that there are other reasons for my outwardly non-comeptitive nature. For one, being competitive makes a person vulnerable. When someone knows how badly you want something, then that gives them power over you. It gives them that proverbial carrot to dangle in front of your face. Even at 32, I’d rather gnaw off my own arm than let anyone know how badly I want something. I’m working on that.
I also think that I harbor a deep fear of failure (doesn’t everyone??). If I don’t admit that I want it, I don’t have to admit to losing it. This is yet another issue on which I’m working. I admire competitive people. They wear their hearts on their sleeves. They don’t apologize for their success. They don’t have a problem admitting that they have what it takes.
As a writer, I’m constantly struggling with self-promotion. I’m constantly worried people will think that I think I’m a better writer than I actually am. I feel the need to write disclaimers on everything. Don’t worry! I know my book may never get published! Don’t worry! I know that I’m no literary genius! Don’t worry! I don’t think I’m the second coming of Jennifer Weiner!
Not exactly tag lines publishers want to see. “Go read this book. She’s no cultural icon, but she’ll do for now.”
What publishers want to see from writers is a platform. They want to know how many Facebook friends you have. How many Twitter followers you have. How many hits your blog gets on a daily basis. How many people subscribe to your newsletter (I seriously can’t believe people still do this). How many, how many, how many. How much work have you already done? How wonderful do people think you are? How much publicity can you drum up yourself by shamelessly self-promoting the book you’ve yet to publish?? How many articles can you write for magazines while you’re working full-time and taking care of a family while simultaneously writing your second novel?
I’m pretty sure Ernest Hemmingway would think this is complete bullshit. Maybe not Oscar Wilde, but for sure Hemmingway. I understand why it is neceessary in today’s world, but as a writer it sends chills down my spine. Because what publishers want from me, what everyone ultimately wants from me, is that competitive edge.
If I want someone to buy my book, I’ve got to be willing to do what it takes. I’ve got to come out swinging, so to speak. I have to be active on Twitter. I’ve got to create a web page. Keep up with a blog (this blog). I’ve got to sell myself.
I’ve got to sell myself.
Because there are 10,000 writers waiting in the query line with query letters balled into their sweaty palms ready to take my place. I can sit around bitching about it all day, or i can do everything within my power to become successful in an industry that will absolutely eat you for Publisher’s Lunch and spit you back out again. If Mel Gibson wasn’t such an asshole, I’d probably start quoting Braveheart right about now.
Instead, I’m going to go and write a few hundred words before I go to bed. Well, first I’m going to publish this post.
Type in a bunch of tags so random people will run across it.
Share it on Facebook.
Share it on Twitter.
Build that platform so I can jump right off of it.