Promoting One’s Writing without Losing One’s Head, Completing a Book and More

If—

BY RUDYARD KIPLING

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

 

 

I was introduced to this poem in high school English, and I never forgot it.  While I am not a poetry lover per se (sorry, sorry, I know that’s going to offend some of you!) there are some poems I love, and Kipling’s “If” has some amazing language in it.  The first two lines have always stayed with me, and I thought of them while writing this post today.

Lately when I’ve queried editors regarding submitting my articles for their consideration, it has been difficult for me to fully promote my work and “keep my head” as Kipling so eloquently states.  Of course good writing speaks for itself, but the writer behind the writing has to present well too!  I’ve been caring for two sick little ones over the past couple weeks, and that situation has not only distracted me; it has gotten me out of my writing groove and my writing confidence has been zapped as well.

Now my girls are well, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to return to my regular writing schedule.  But I’ve been procrastinating on certain projects and I’ve grown lackluster in promoting my writing to various outlets. I haven’t lost all hope about returning to “zestful writing” as the awesome author Elizabeth Sims calls it  – I’ve been through this dilemma before, and I know I’ll get back to where I want to be.  It’s just going to take more time than I’d like – time I hate to lose, because I’ve lost enough time since my 2007 bipolar diagnosis when my writing career stalled for oh, eight years.

Ironically, it’s much easier for me to promote others’ work.  Promotion was a skill I learned in my first “grown-up” job working at a special event production company.  We produced on average ten large-scale annual events in Silicon Valley.  I started out as the office manager and then was put in charge of more challenging projects, such as working with the media, talent agents, and vendors.  Our publicity consultant taught me how to write press releases, and I was interviewed about our events by prestigious newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News.  My boss had very high standards, and he had established a great reputation.  Before creating his company, he had founded the highly acclaimed Paul Masson Mountain Winery Concert Series and he worked with the greatest names in music.  Fortunately I was able to represent his company in a professional manner over the phone, in person and in writing, and while it was a stressful job, it taught me a great deal.

So yes, to reiterate, the bottom line is that when it comes to promoting my writing these days, I’m not as gung-ho as I’d like to be.   One thing I know for sure is that enthusiasm about one’s work (in moderate doses) is a wonderful quality, and I want to cultivate it to the best of my ability.

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As most of you reading this piece are also bloggers, I’m sure some of you know a thing or two when it comes to promoting your blog or anything else that you believe in, for that matter!  Recently I pushed past my comfort zone and asked an authority figure to publish my essay.  While I didn’t expect a resounding “no”, I didn’t exactly expect a “yes” either, as worthy as my article seemed in my eyes.  Well, that question, which literally took me less than ninety seconds to formulate, type out and email, paid off.  My essay was published and I got a strong response from readers that felt very validating.  As far as I was concerned, that incident was a sign that I must keep plugging away with my writing and don’t let the turkeys get me down.  (What a great phrase, eh?)

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I shouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket with any one contact, project or dream.  Believe me, at age forty-four, apart from my first job, I’ve dealt with promotion-related issues throughout my work history.  After I left the special event production company, I became a certified personal trainer.  I built up my own business at a popular gym whose members included the founder of Netflix and the editor of our biggest local newspaper – these people could afford personal trainers!  I advertised myself and my training services to prospective clients, and I was able to achieve a modest success.  After working in fitness for a couple years, I worked at three different non-profits:  Friends of the Santa Cruz Libraries, COBHA/The College of Botanical Healing Arts, and Friends of the Santa Cruz State Parks.

My jobs focused on administration and development, and I was required to help promote their numerous special events.   I was expected to be knowledgable and enthusiastic about each non-profit’s mission.  While I loved the public library system, botanical healing products, and our gorgeous local state parks, none of these worthy organizations captured my heart.  At these three workplaces I suffered from chronic depression and I wouldn’t be diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder until years later.

Even if I hadn’t been depressed when I worked with these groups of dedicated, talented people, I still would have been less than fired-up working with them because I wasn’t truly passionate about the causes – yes, even the libraries!

During my pre-bipolar diagnosis years, I always thought that if I could find the right job that inspired me, I’d give it my all and I would be successful.  Well, ever since I left the University of California at Santa Cruz when I was twenty-one, I’ve been writing, mostly without pay, because I love to do it.  (I know I’m preaching to the choir here.)  When I reached my late twenties and I achieved my dream to have my articles published in national magazines and I actually got paid for them, I realized that I could be a writer, but I still didn’t go for it and make writing my “real” job.

Now I finally do have the opportunity to “go for it” and complete my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder.   I’ve written eighty pages so far, and I’m at an impasse of sorts.  I’m scared that I won’t achieve my dream to finish writing this book and I’m worried I’ll fall short of my two goals: for it to be interesting and #2) It will help people.  But, the old cliche rings true here – if I don’t give it a shot, I’ll never know.

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What matters is keeping up my habit of typing regularly (or putting pen to paper for some of you) and not giving up.  When it comes to writing, I’ve proved to myself that I am a slow-but-steady writer.  Slow is not always a negative trait – I witnessed my husband Craig Harwood complete his award-winning book Quest for Flight – John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West and have it published by University of Oklahoma.  It took him seven years to write his book, but who cares – he did it.  I’ve also been inspired by my friend the author Rebecca Moore, who wrote Moorestorms: A Guide for the Bipolar Parent and four other books.  She has the gift, along with my favorite authors Madeleine L’Engle and L.M. Montgomery, of being a prolific writer.

Moore, L’Engle and Montgomery were able to keep their noses to the grindstone and complete numerous books in a timely fashion.  I wish they could bottle their talent and fortitude up because I’d be the first to buy it!

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When I do complete my book, I’ll promote the heck out of it.  I consider completing a book similar to having a child, and it’s an enormous accomplishment.  I have respect for anyone who finishes writing a book, whether or not it wins the National Book Award.  Just call me Dyane “Turtle” Harwood, because I will be crossing the finish line of completing Birth of a New Brain someday , and when I do, I’ll become a P.R. whiz.  Just wait and see! 😉

I’d love to read about how you promote yourself , your blog and your books – feel free to comment below…

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Great Blogs by Writers with Bipolar: L.E. Henderson’s “Passionate Reason”

Aside

photo51ZAAgPzzOL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Now that I have added a big chunk of daily writing time to my life, I have less time to search for new blogs and keep up with old favorites.  I’ll remain on the lookout, however, for extraordinary, compelling blogs that catch my interest.  I guess I can always get up earlier in the day to read them! 😉

I discovered a blog which met my stringent requirements through purchasing an e-book.  The blog is L.E Henderson’s “Passionate Reason”, and I bought Henderson’s book A Trail of Crumbs to Creative Freedom: One Author’s Journey Through Writer’s Block and Beyond a few weeks ago for just 99 cents.  I’m finding her book fascinating and relevant to my own writing “trail”, especially since Henderson addresses how her bipolar disorder has affected her creativity and writing output.  (Note to L.H. Henderson: I would have paid $9.99 for this book in a heartbeat!)

I’ve only reblogged one or two posts over the past few months.  You could say I’m picky about what I select – I don’t just reblog anyone! 😉 I found it interesting how Henderson writes below about the intriguing dilemma of writers who find writing a tortuous process.  Her comments reminded me of a book I splurged on a few months ago, You’ve Got a Book In You! A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams by Elizabeth Sims.  Sims asserts that writing a book is “fun and easy”!   While writing my book has felt gratifying, due to much of the subject matter, it hasn’t been exactly fun nor easy.  In all fairness, I’m still reading Sims’ book, but at this point I think I’ll  reach a happy medium between fun/easy and tortuous, and that’s acceptable to me for the time being.  Who knows, though?  We’ll see.  I better finish Sims’ book soon!

Visit L.E. Henderson’s blog to read her other entries, and to learn about her published novel Thief of Hades based on the Greek myth.  Without further adieu, here’s L.E. Henderson’s post about the unearthing of her book Trail of Crumbs – enjoy!

From Creative Block to Creative Freedom: “Trail of Crumbs” UnearthedPosted: 15 Mar 2014 05:01 AM PDT

It has been about a year since I published my e-book A Trail of Crumbs to Creative Freedom. Though I consider myself primarily a fiction writer, its content was important to me. It was a record of my transition from depression and block to recovering creatively, which led to finishing my newest fantasy novel, The Ghosts of Chimera.During the time of publishing “Trail,” I was going through some monumental upheavals, which led to my move from SC to Florida, where I live now. It was not until I had a chance to settle down that I even thought to be bothered that my book, dropped into a lonely corner of cyberspace, had found few readers outside my family.And I literally mean a few. Writers, which were my target audience, were silent.No one was buying. No one was reading. No one was reviewing. But the book meant a lot to me. The lack of feedback was upsetting.I was used to getting feedback because of my blog articles, in which I reiterated many of the same points I had made in “Trail.” Whenever I submitted these articles to Reddit, the response was always overwhelming, with readers telling me that the posts inspired or helped them.I had written the book to be read. I considered that the price tag of 3.99 might have been the wall that was keeping people from buying. I actually considered giving the book away from free so that I could at least get responses, but I did not want to send the message that I thought it had no value when, in fact, the opposite is true.

At one time, when I was blocked and depressed, a book like “Trail” would have made a big difference to me. Recently I went back and looked at my book, and realized that I had changed a lot since the time of publication.

I went back and re-edited it to incorporate insights I had since first publication. I also thinned out some of my dashes.

During the time I wrote “Trail” I was a bit manic and cycling through punctuation obsessions. (See earlier post: “My Great Manic Comma Blizzard.”)

When I looked at my first edition, I could see that I had way overdone the dashes, overriding my poor editor, who had done me a great favor by thinning out all my commas, little prepared for the dash fiend I was about to become.

In the new version, my dash explosion is safely contained.

Since I released my updated version with a 99 cent price tag, a few copies have actually sold and I have gotten a response from a fellow blogger.

Dyane Harwood at https://dyaneharwood.wordpress.com/ had some kind things to say:

Henderson released this relatively short book (88 pages) for only 99 cents on Kindle. In Trail of Crumbs she analyzes the creative writing process and how her bipolar disorder adversely affected her writing. She ends the book on a high note in sharing how she was able to let her creative juices flow again. I just started reading it, and I’m finding it interesting and well-written, so it was quite a deal for less than a cup of coffee!

Harwood ran across my book while researching bipolar disorder for her work-in-progress called Birth of a New Brain. I was happy to have captured the attention of a bipolar blogger because the audience I originally envisioned were bipolar writers who were blocked and depressed the way I was.

But since writing is known for being a bipolar process, I thought my book would appeal to a more general audience of writers as well.

Bipolar or not, many writers speak cynically about their profession, describing writing as torture or a type of insanity. While these things are often said tongue-in-cheek, a grim reality underlies them. Writers are not known for being happy but are instead known for alcoholism, mental illness, drug addiction, and suicidal urges.

To make matters worse, the world of writing advice is ridden with guilt, fear, and self-punishment.  Typical messages, which I see in many writing blogs, are: Stop being so lazy and selfish. Put the reader first. Write what you think others want to read. Do not be narcissistic, preachy, affected, or self-indulgent.

By all means do not offend the reader. Do not use the words “very” or “then.” Do not use adverbs. Or talk about yourself. Just who do you think you are anyway?

In the popular understanding of what it means to write, writing is all about being careful. The true object of writing, which is to build, is side-lined. You would think that the arbiter of “good” writing was Miss Manners, when in fact the best writing is about honesty, not politeness; creating, not tearing down.

In writing my book, I wondered why so many professional writers hate writing and why we view writing as something we have to make ourselves do.

But it could be different. When I was in college, the writers I desperately envied were the ones who loved writing so much that they had to do it every day, like Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. They defied the stereotypes. They viewed writing as a way to be happy.

At the time I had no idea how they had achieved this. I speculated that they were such geniuses that their minds and emotions were just better wired.

But after my experience of learning to enjoy writing again, I suspect not. More likely, they were people who were able to ignore cultural messages about how writing should be done and retain a sense of wonder that, for most people, burns bright in childhood and then fizzles out in adolescence.

So far I have avoided trying to sell anything in my blog. That is not its purpose. I much prefer to talk about other issues that interest me. But today I am making an exception.

My book costs the same as a dollar store spatula, less in fact. And although spatulas are wonderfully useful, I feel confident in saying that my book is worth more.

Not that my book is a “system” or a promise of magical results after 30 days, nor does it claim to be the only way that writers can work. It is a personal experience that mapped my transition from thinking I could never write again to my discovery that I could love and enjoy it more than I ever had before.

But for that to happen, I had to let go of conventional ideas about the writing process that I had absorbed over many years.

But back on point: If you are thinking about purchasing a spatula, restrain the impulse a little longer and buy my book instead. Your old one can hold out a little longer, until you are able to recoup your investment.

Then read my book, get back to me, and tell me what you think. I am eager to hear what you have to say. To any of you who have already bought my book, thank you!! And please tell the others that it is feasible to have spatulas and creative freedom, too.

With patience, Young One, all things are possible.

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Visit L.E. Henderson’s blog at :  

http://www.passionatereason.com/

To purchase the e-book on Amazon, visit:

http://www.amazon.com/Trail-Crumbs-Creative-Freedom-Authors-ebook/dp/B00IR002D0/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395061396&sr=1-2&keywords=A+Trail+of+Crumbs