The Trials Of An Upcoming Writer
The other day I took the little one to summer camp. It was a little far from home and going back after leaving him there didn’t make much sense, since I was to go back to pick him up in a couple of hours anyway. And it was still early in the day for shops or even libraries to be open yet; so I decided to hang around the reception for a half hour or so before I could take refuge in the nearest book shop.
You have nowhere to go!
So fifteen minutes in, I am sitting on one of the plastic chairs in the reception area fiddling with my phone when one of the organisers walks out for a water break and sees me. “How’s it going?” I ask smiling, to which she nods and smiles back and says, “good, they are getting to know each other…you comfortable out here?” and I answer in the affirmative. Then she goes back in and I get lost with my phone again. I am listing out ideas and coming up with openers for my future blog posts and before I know it, she is back. A shocked glance at my watch tells me I have been sitting there well over an hour!
“Oh, you are still here!” she exclaims now. “Didn’t have anywhere else to be just now…” I say embarrassed. “So tell me, Rashmi, do you work?” she asks. “Yes. I am a writer,” I am only too happy to share. “A writer! Wow! So what do you write? I mean what was the last thing you wrote? Anything I might have read?” (Why do people always ask that? How am I to know what sort of reading they prefer?) “Mmmmm….I write online…short stories, articles….I blog….” I fumble, realising how lame I sound even to my own ears! And then she smiles and nods and asks for the link to my blog which I agree to send to her and that is that!
It reminded me of an instance some years back, when I met a fellow parent at school. As we waited for the kids to come out, she had asked me if I work. I said yes, I blog. My blog was called Rashmi’s Space at the time and I told her so. “Cool!” she said, “so you are Rashmi? I am Priya.” For a moment I didn’t realise how she knew my name as we were chatting for the first time; but then I got it and I only prayed that she couldn’t see my face going red with embarrassment! The first thing I did that night was change the name of my blog!
Sometimes (or most times) it is moments like these, that get to me. You see, when someone asks an upcoming writer like me what I do, instead of saying all these interesting things that I actually do, I end up going blank and wishing there was some professional title to what I really do! You know, every time I say I write, people get really excited till they find out I am only an upcoming writer; and then they just smile because they have no idea what to do with that.
You are always on Facebook (or Twitter or whatever, but always on your phone)!
And that’s not even the real problem. The actual fun part is when I promote my articles and blog posts on social media. Now we all know, social media is all pervasive and can make anyone famous (or infamous) overnight! And for a blogger/writer, this is heaven! You write a post, you publish it and then you share it on social media. You expect all your friends will like it and comment on it. And then you dream that you have reached the pinnacle of popularity!
But the reality is quite different. When you post (frequently) on Facebook and other social media, two things happen – one, your family thinks (and my little one actually says this to me) that you have a lot of free time as you are always on Facebook! And two, your friends (the very same ones you are counting on to spread a good word or two about your work) get tired of your posts and reposts and promotions and just stop responding. Not that you can blame them, it isn’t easy being bombarded with feeds of your “memories” of past glories and snippets of your new posts every waking hour of the day!
Do you have a website?
Right. So then you decide to explore other avenues to get yourself noticed. And you set up your own website (that is a must these days; everyone expects you to have your own website even if you are into gardening as a hobby or anyone looking for hobbies as a hobby)! So you go ahead and create a website or set up a blog for yourself. Then you set up a Facebook page and/or Twitter account for that blog/website and then you wait for the readers to bite. You wait patiently. But at the end of a month you make peace with the fact that a newbie to Twitter barely gets any hits and everyone on Facebook is only interested in scrolling down with occasional likes thrown randomly towards the outstretched hands of the million posts that crowd their timeline. If you are lucky, your post gets a like, if you are very lucky (and have been diligently liking and commenting on others’ posts), you get a comment; but if it’s not your day, well, you can hope for a better tomorrow!
But your best friend said….
So now you begin to think that maybe promoting yourself through your blog is only going to get you so far. And you almost quit, realising, finally, the futility of all that you are doing. Better take up a real job where you can finally expect to see some moolah? But then you remember every single instance when your best friends and family have told you how much talent you have. You remember they say you are the best and you write so well and that you should, no must write that book that they know is in you! That gets your fledging hopes up, but, mere friends and family (bless them)’s moral support isn’t getting you any publishing deals (or even decent paid work). So the next thing you do is seek out websites who will be happy to publish your work. It is always good that someone else endorses you, right? At least, that’s what readers seem to think.
Who else is endorsing you?
So you search far and wide (and also watch your fellow bloggers/writers’ social feed) and finally get a few websites to bite. Then one day when you are twiddling your thumbs, you get an email from them inviting you to share your “exclusive work” on their website. They love the writing samples you sent, they say; so they would love to schedule a few of your posts! You are too decent to ask if it is paid work (but you are hoping it is); and they are too silent for your comfort. Eventually, you write for them (for free) and then continue to write for them (still for free) in the hope that it at least keeps you in public memory so people will know you when your book actually comes out.
Does it work at all?
But in few months you realise that you are losing your time, exclusivity and have practically no income to speak of. What’s more, this is delaying the work on your book more and more! So then you vow to keep away from distractions and concentrate on your book instead. Only to open your Facebook once again and see fellow bloggers engaging on social media and feel left out…and so the cycle begins again!
Is there an end to all this? Yes. Maybe one day you can tell people you are a published author. But till that day arrives, I (and anyone else in my position) continue to face the trials of an upcoming writer.