Yesterday I posted on Instagram about how hard I find it to promote myself and my work, and why that's going to change. It seemed to really resonate with a lot of people so I thought I’d go into a bit more depth about it here.
On the surface I don’t promote myself for one major reason. Time. I don’t have a great deal of it, to put it mildly. I have kids, a business, a marriage, a house, a dog, a life. Promoting myself and my work feels like one more thing on the endless to-do list. Time and again it slips to the bottom, then falls off completely, because I just don’t have time.
It genuinely makes me laugh that I still use that tired old excuse, the same excuse I used to use for not having written the novel I always wanted to write. Time. Oh, that old chestnut. Who has the time? Who?
Nobody has the time. You have to find it. Make it. Beg, borrow or steal it if you have to, but don’t assume that there’s a ‘them’ and ‘us’, and the ‘them’ are sitting on great swathes of free time not available to the rest of us. We all have the same 24 hours, how we differ is in what we choose to do with them.
Once we move past that great red herring, we start to see a truer picture.
What if people don't like my work? Think it's rubbish? What if I get awful reviews, what if I get great reviews and go to pieces under the pressure of living up to expectations with my next book, what if I get no reviews at all? This last scenario actually worries me the most. And in a twist worthy of a murder mystery, it's also the most likely scenario, if I don't promote myself.
These are genuine reasons why I have to force myself to promote my work. But they're still only scratching the surface.
Underneath these semi-logical worries is a boiling mass of far less coherent and rational fear.
Fear of being seen to try, lest I fail. A big part of me would prefer to just shrug and say 'well I didn't really bother promoting it in the first place' if the book doesn't sell well. A big part of me would like to look as if I achieve effortlessly, rather than admit to the graft.
Fear about the true nature of creativity and talent. The pernicious belief that talent is something bestowed only upon the worthy few, who never need lower themselves to anything as base as promotion because they are simply destined for greatness. It's like I've got a Conservative politician trapped inside my head, convinced that abundance and plenty should only be gifted to those already born into it.
Fear to learn more about myself. To find out if my hopes, dreams and expectations are realistic, or if they need adjusting. Fear of finding my limits. If I refuse to try and fulfil it, my potential can remain limitless forever.
Fear to expose myself through my creative work, which is uninhibitedly of me. Today my publishers sent me their proposed blurb for the back cover. It took me 20 minutes to work up the courage to read it, and I did so from behind my hands, peeking through my fingers as if I were sitting next to my dad watching a graphic sex scene on TV. It’s that excruciating, that squirmy, that exposing. Somebody else’s interpretation of my creative work.
Fear of being 'found out', that dreaded imposter syndrome that assures me each and every professional achievement of my life to date was a gigantic fluke. Fear that the dissenting voice is right, that vicious, manipulative and destructive criticism is simply 'honest'.
It all comes down to fear. That's the very heart of it. And I know I'm not alone in this. That it never gets easier, I know no matter how many books they write, no matter how well they sell, I know authors all struggle with this each and every time they begin the journey all over again with a new book. I know all creatives struggle with it, whatever their form of expression.
I understand the purpose of fear. I know it's my beautiful, brilliant brain's way of trying to protect me. I know it's essential. If I had no fear about how my work would be received, it would mean I hadn't invested anything of myself within it.
But I’m also bigger than my fear. I'm ambitious, and a grown woman, and I really, really want this. I believe in my book. I believe in myself, not completely but enough, just enough to keep me going when the self-doubt is at its very strongest.
I'm going to put self-promotion in its rightful place, at the top of my list. Not just for my book, but also for my journalism and my creative business.
I'm going to own the fact that I'm working hard on my social media, admit that I want to grow my following and engage with people who like my work and the things I am doing in the world. I'm going to make connections with my tribe, and seek inspiration from creatives I admire around the world. I'm not going to feel ashamed of being seen to try.
I'm going to ignore that voice that tells me it's self-indulgent and vain to talk about my work, that it's vulgar to be seen to endorse myself in any way, that it's just not British to be proud of what you do, that I'm only setting myself up to be knocked down.
I'm going to recognise that's just another way my fear is trying to help me, by stopping me trying, so it can negate any possibility of me failing.
And I’m going to take my fear by the hand and say thank you very much for looking out for me for so long, but it’s OK. You can go. I’ve got this now.
I’ve got this.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? How do you approach and manage your own self promotion? I’d love to know!
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