2007: I was basically suffering from a severe case of writer’s block. I had no idea what the hell to write. I had no ideas in which to pursue. I was frustrated to say the least. To keep myself busy writing I began to blog a lot. I would pretty much write about anything and everything, no matter how mundane. To me, it was to keep the “wheels greased” so to speak. I figured if I just wrote about whatever struck my fancy it would be better than writing nothing at all. So I would write about music, art, society, cultural things, political things, current events, book reviews, a little about film and other things that amused me over the course of the day---or sometimes, if the need called for it, merely rant. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, but I was basically trying to break the block and perhaps by just writing about anything, no matter what it was, it would help break it and help me think of a good idea for another novel.
I felt good knowing that I now had three books available for anyone who might be interested in them and I got the word out through my blog, my website, and of course, through connections I was making via MySpace and Facebook. When I formed these pages, I did so with the intention of first, keeping up with some friends I hadn’t seen in years and mainly to connect with other writers and artists out there with the hopes of networking with them, developing friendships and relationships that would prove to be interesting and inspiring. There was a whole world out there. All one had to do was reach out.
Now a word on networking:
It’s sort of a funny thing, especially when one is an artist and trying to connect with other creative types. During my music days, I would have killed to have had use of this technology. God knows how many connections we would have made and how far our music would have spread. I applied the same attitude towards my writing endeavors. There had to be, and there were, thousands upon thousands, if not millions of people out there, from all over the world to connect with. I would search them out and “friend” them. Not just anyone and everyone, but people who’s work I really liked and who I thought had something to offer. I had no idea how this whole idea of “networking” would be nothing more than a word for a lot of people. A hell of a lot of people seem to have a very strange notion as to what networking is. They all claim to aspire to “connect with other artists” but many of them don’t really mean it. A lot of them were familiar types, much like those I dealt with doing the publishing. Their only interest was to collect as many “friends” as they could, like postage stamps, and never ever communicate with you.
This is how I looked at it and still do to a large extent: You just never know who’s out there looking. You may think no one is reading you or looking at your website or whatever else, then all of a sudden you start to get messages from people who were indeed reading you only you just didn’t know it. You suddenly find emails, messages and comments that refer to things that you forgot you’d written about. It’s also a cautionary thing as well. It shows you that since you don’t know who’s reading, you have to be careful about what bridges you decide to burn if you are inclined to do so. When it comes to social networking sites, I tend to accept anyone who wants to “come aboard” so to speak (unless it’s obvious spam or porno sites set up to look like someone’s profile) and I do my best to make contact with each and every one of them. This doesn’t mean you’ll ever hear from them ever again, but you just don’t know whether or not they’re following you or not. That’s why I never delete anyone (unless they’re abusive assholes---and there have been plenty of them). You also never know what someone can turn you on to, where they may lead you. There’s always a hell of amount to learn from other people via conversation, messages or even just reading what they write every now and then. Slowly, things built up and I made a lot of amazing connections with people all around the world who are doing their thing, turning me on to some amazing writing, music, painting, and just about every other art there is out there. To me, it’s sort of like a world wide salon if one wants to look at it that way.
Now I am not speaking of those who set up their pages just to keep up with their friends. I’m speaking of artists of all stripes who are using their pages as a way to promote themselves and what they are doing. You would have to be a fool if you are an artist and not take advantage of what this technology has to offer. You’d be amazed how many don’t. You’d be amazed how many people simply do not know how to make meaningful connections that are out there. I began to learn this too, sometimes being absolutely perplexed at the thinking of some of these people. Many, for reasons that are unknown to me, prefer not to make connections with other artists.
Here’s a couple of examples. Say, you’re an artist. It doesn’t matter what medium you pursue. Someone you don’t know comes to you and says how much they admire what you do, how they think you’re talented and think you are doing amazing work. What would you do? Well, very many simply ignore it, believe it or not. They don’t want to make that connection with you. They don’t write back, they don’t “friend” you, or they do, then delete you three days later, they make no effort whatsoever to expand their presence to a world that has its door open to them. This is especially true among musicians, I noticed. They simply don’t want any other fans, I suppose, just the one’s they know. Or, they must be selective about who they want their fans to be. It is an absolutely baffling thing to think about. To me, it’s akin to this: Someone comes down to your show and you refuse to let them in to see you. What good does this do? The same goes for all the others. Someone likes your writing, tells you that they really admire what you do? You ignore them. This is like someone buying your book at a reading and you taking the book from their hands, telling them they don’t want you to read it. And so on and so on. I guess people will do what they wish but if you ask me this is definitely not the way to promote yourself and spread the word about your art. It reeks of unprofessionalism, that you only want “certain types” to like you. Well, we don’t have any control over who likes us and who doesn’t. Why alienate people who do like what you do? It just doesn’t make sense. This is how you learn who is serious and who is just out there looking to get their egos stroked. This is also how you know who to build a relationship with and who to dismiss as pretenders.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve developed some amazing connections via these sites. They are very talented people and I try my best to spread the word about them as well. Well...only some of them, anyway. Some people don’t care. They only care about themselves and what you think of them. You learn how to weed them out. Through these sites, I have met other writers who share their thoughts, their ideas, provide feedback and even gotten interest in my books through this process as well, selling quite a few of them, more than I ever thought I would. If you don’t reach out and “put it out there” how do you expect to promote yourself? You gain readers and most importantly, you develop some meaningful friendships as well. How could one not see this? You’d be amazed.
It was through one of these connections that I learned about a website called BrooWaha. I went to it and had a look and it looked like a great place to send your writing. BrooWaha, at the time I signed up to it, was more of a “Citizens Journalist” site. At the time they didn’t take any fiction or poetry or even essays. They took news and opinion pieces. Being that I had been blogging over the course of the year about any and all things, I thought I would try my hand at this and rework one of the blogs I had written and submit it to the site as an “Op Ed” piece. Much to my surprise, it was accepted and over the course of the following week, not only was it read by hundreds of people, but there were tons of comments and critiques of it as well. Hmm, I thought. Perhaps I should continue to pursue this. I wrote another, then another, and then another, all were accepted. I started to wonder if they were just taking anything one submitted. Having the next two pieces I sent in rejected answered that question for me. Good, I thought. It means the editors there are actually reading these things. So I began to write them a little more carefully. They were all opinion pieces. After all, I’m not a journalist. I decided that I would write about whatever struck my fancy, but somehow, they would be related to whatever was going on in the world at the time. The topics ranged from politics, to current events, to religion, to cultural things, to quasi-philosophical issues, to book and music reviews. The amount of feedback I was getting was absolutely staggering and not only were these pieces being read and commented upon, I met a lot of really great people there who are still in touch to this day. I’m still submitting pieces to them, and about 75 articles/essays later, the site just keeps growing and the more and more people are reading them and the more interesting articles and stories I’m being exposed to by a host of interesting and talented writers there.
The point is that I never would have heard of this site had I not “put it out there”. It opened up a whole new avenue for me. It kept me writing when I struggled to come up with a new idea for a novel, it allowed me to develop some meaningful relationships with other writers from the site, many of whom I admire very much, and it even opened them up to some of the books I’d done and it opened me up to tje various different things they were involved in. All one has to do is reach out since you just never know who you’re going to meet and you never know how those you do meet will enhance not only what you do but personally as well. You get exposed to many different ideas, perspectives, viewpoints, attitudes, all of which can only be beneficial to you as an artist and as a human being. It keeps your mind open to a great many things.
So, I struggled, for the next two years trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do. In the meantime, I kept writing these pieces and submitting them, developing friendships and getting some feedback on the writing as well. Not all of them worked, of course, and not all of them were rated very high but that’s just the point. One: It keeps you writing and that can only help you grow as a writer. Two: You learn a hell of a lot more about the world and the differences in the way different people perceive that world. This can only enhance your own writing in the long run by developing not only your skills but your thoughts and mind as well. All you have to do is find the courage to put it out there and be open to whatever comes your way. It won’t always be pleasant but it sure does help prepare you for the different kinds of criticism you will encounter when it comes to your writing. It will most definitely help you develop a thicker skin and learn how to deal with other's opinion of your writing in a thoughtful and meaningful way.
So be open and reach out. There's a whole world out there. You just never know what could happen.
(To be continued...)