What if writing is about more than the story?
Earlier this week I published a post called Your Author Brand Needs to Answer One Question. Though the title might make it sound like a piece that’s very focused on the marketing side of your writing life, it’s actually about something much more personal than that. Thinking about it now, perhaps making your marketing personal is the point.
In the post, I write about the importance of really knowing your audience – not just demographics, but psychographics. It’s infinitely more important to know what makes a reader tick from the inside out than it is to know how old she is, where she lives, or what her household income is. I also wrote about the importance of writing for yourself first and then letting what you write guide you to your “tribe,” as Seth Godin calls the group of people who share your values, interests, and inclinations. This will always lead to more enduring work than trying to “write for the market.”
Phil (aka “philosophermouseofthehedge”) and another reader whom I know only as FairytaleFeminista struck up a great conversation in the comments. I was particularly struck by these additions to the topic:
They got me thinking.
What is a story isn’t just a story? What if it’s a beacon to help us find our “tribe” in the great, wide world? What if it’s another whole language that lets us communicate with our tribe once we find them – a secret language that only we can understand? Or, perhaps I’m just stating the obvious? Maybe you have already figured this out and I’m just finally figuring it out?
Though I haven’t yet finished it, I am fascinated by Jonathan Gottschall’s book The Storytelling Animal. The comments from Phil and the FairytaleFeminista made me wonder if perhaps stories aren’t the truest way to share ourselves, and therefore the most authentic way for us to connect with others. Could it be that the fictions we create and consume might be the most real part of who we are?
In a post on her blog, Lessons from the Flock, fellow Live to Write – Write to Live blogger Wendy Thomas wrote about how stories permeate and even perhaps create our lives. She mentions the movie Big Fish (a favorite that I’ve been meaning to re-watch) which is a beautifully rendered tale about how stories can become reality and sustain and connect us in ways we would never have expected.
I honestly don’t have any answers here. Just asking questions. There’s no question that stories are more than mere entertainment. But now I’m wondering just how deep their influence and magic run.
What I’m Writing:
I won’t beat around the bush. I’m writing a lot, but it’s all the stuff that pays my bills. This past week has been the beginning of what looks to be a three to four week stint of excruciatingly busy days. As is often the case, all my clients needs seem to have converged during one, short span of time. More troubling than the weight of the workload (for which I am, by the way, extremely grateful) is the fact that for these next three weeks, my daughter does not have any summer camp plans. What was that you said about work/life balance?
The most painful side effect of being as busy as I’ve been recently is that my morning pages routine has ground to a temporary halt. Between staying up (very) late to meet deadlines and getting up (pretty) early to get my daughter to last week’s riding camp on time, there just wasn’t any time to squeeze in my usual first-thing-of-the-day writing practice. I’ve missed it SO much! Next week, I am looking forward to resuming my daily routine. My fingers are fairly itching in anticipation and my brain feels about to burst with the tension of so many unrecorded thoughts and musings. It’s no wonder I’ve found it difficult to concentrate this week, what with all that extra baggage rattling around up there instead of being spilled out onto the page at the start of the day.
Has the chaos of summertime stolen away any of your writing routines? How are you coping?
What I’m Reading:
My daughter and I finished another fun bedtime read this week, Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. I have to admit that I have wanted to read this book for a while. In fact, I’ve picked it up off the “new arrivals” shelf at our local library several times, only to be shot down by my daughter who wrinkled her nose doubtfully whenever I showed her the cover or read her the blurb.
I’m so glad I decided to ignore her ambiguity and just get the book.
In the end, she loved it at least as much as I did. The book is both laugh-out-loud funny (especially some of the illustrations or, as the cover refers to them, illuminations) and extremely thoughtful. It deals with superheroes, child/parent relationships, divorce, and the possibility of the impossible. The story is told via a split narrative – half Flora and half Ulysses, the superhero squirrel. Love courses through the story like a river through a canyon – strong and undeniable, but sometimes zigging and zagging.
Flora and Ulysses is one of those wonderful “children’s” stories that can be enjoyed on several levels, and DiCamillo’s writing is – as always – such a pleasure. to read. Whether you have kids or not, this is a story worth reading. Who knows, you may even discover your own inner superhero.
And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:
- How To Disable Automatic Video Playback on Your Facebook Timeline by @dinodogan (This post made my day!)
- Everything I Know in a Nutshell by @CJLyonswriter on how to create sustainable success as a writer
- 6 Things for Children to Understand about Writing, and 4 Ways to Get Them Started by @InktopiaKids – I definitely needed this primer to jumpstart my daughter’s summer reading & writing
- Why I Left My Agent & New York Publisher by @clairecookwrite via @JaneFriedman
- The Myth of the Solitary Genius by @joshuawolfshenk via @nytimes
- How “I Don’t Know” Can Make You An Authority in Your Industry by @kevanlee
- Pitching a Guest Post? 7 Ways to Stand Out in an Editor’s Inbox by @adrienneerin via @thewritelife
- My Greatest Joy From the “Old Days” Could Be The Ticket to Selling Your Next Big Thing by @taragentile
- Doing Stuff & Reading: Roadmaps to Not Losing Yourself as a Writer by @AS_King via @MartinaABoone (REALLY loved this one!)
- 13 Tips for Getting More Reading Done. « The Happiness Project by @gretchenrubin
- The New Yorker Opened Its Archive for 3 Months — Here’s What To Read via @Slate
- What Took Me So Long’, from the Q3 2014 issue “Security” by Carolita Johnston via @scratch_mag
Finally, a quote for the week:
Here’s to creating your own reality and, through it, connecting with others who share a similar world.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally – trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.