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.

images

 

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?)

images

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.

images

 

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!

41iJ0FyHYxL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_

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…

imgres-1

Economy and Restraint

Image

When I first started blogging, I was concerned I would have nothing much to write about, and that my posts would be too short.  Ha ha!  Little did I know that I’d have the opposite problem.  It turns out with every post I want to go on and on.

I usually write over 1000 words a post, which seems more like writing an essay rather than a blog post.  A quick Internet search of “ideal blog post length” yields a website suggesting 500 words.  Another website claims that it doesn’t matter how long your blog post is as long as it’s well written.  Go figure!

I’ve been having a field day following blogs on WordPress.  There’s a multitude of talented writers out there, and I keep following more blogs.  According to About.com “Most people who read blogs don’t have a lot of time or patience to read thousands of words of content.  They’re looking for quick access to information or entertainment.”  I must confess that lately I’ve found it easier to concentrate on shorter blog post lengths rather than longer ones, and that makes me feel like a hypocrite.  So I’m going to try to shoot for writing more concise pieces, although it will be a challenge…

We are all writers in this blogosphere, and we can certainly learn from bestselling authors – especially those whose works have been bestsellers spanning across many decades.  The writer I have in mind is one of my favorites: L.M. Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables and many other books as well.  Montgomery created an internationally known protagonist in Anne Shirley.  However, I find Montgomery’s lesser known character Emily Byrd Starr more intriguing to me than the lovable Anne because I share more in common with her.

Emily is depicted as a passionate writer from a very early age in Emily of New Moon.   Emily’s writing mentor is her school teacher Mr. Carpenter.  Mr. Carpenter is a gruff, charismatic man who “could have been a contender” in any profession he chose, yet his alcoholism played a key part in his being an unfulfilled, frustrated country schoolteacher.  Mr. Carpenter bonds with the sensitive Emily and is ruthless in his criticism of her writing assignments.  Emily has nothing but respect for Mr. Carpenter’s opinions of her work, and she aims to earn his praise because she knows, in her rather otherworldly way, that he will tell her the truth.

I’ve read Emily of New Moon and the other two Emily books: Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest numerous times. Emily of New Moon is one of my most beloved books and it’s particularly meaningful to me since, like Emily, I see myself as a writer to the core.  I never had my own “Mr. Carpenter” to motivate and challenge me to write better, and I wish I did.  Carpenter’s colorful turns of phrase regarding Emily’s writing never fail to entertain me, and I’ve recognized a profound truth to all of his remarks.

Mr. Carpenter nicknames Emily “Jade” and he tells her,

“You waste words, Jade–you spill them about too lavishly.  Economy and restraint–that’s what you need.”  

I need economy and restraint in my writing as well.  Many bloggers do.  When I write a post and wait a day to proofread and edit it, I find so many things that I need to correct or delete.  I can’t believe I didn’t figure out my mistakes after immediately re-reading my first draft, but that’s the nature of writing for many authors.

We learn of Emily’s authentic devotion to writing when Mr. Carpenter asks her,

“Tell me this–if you knew you would be poor as a church mouse all your life–if you knew you’d never have a line published–would you still go on writing–would you?’

‘Of course I would,’ said Emily disdainfully. ‘Why, I have to write–I can’t help it at times–I’ve just got to.” 

(I love that exchange.)

The piece de resistance of Mr. Carpenter’s advice that takes place when Emily is only thirteen years old.  She has given him some of her writing to see if he thinks she has a future as a writer.  Emily awaits his decision with bated breath.  He tells her,

“Ten good lines out of four hundred, Emily—comparatively good, that is—and all the rest balderdash—balderdash, Emily.”
“I—suppose so,” said Emily faintly.
Her eyes brimmed with tears—her lips quivered. She could not help it. Pride was hopelessly submerged in the bitterness of her disappointment. She felt exactly like a candle that somebody had blown out.
“What are you crying for? demanded Mr. Carpenter.
Emily blinked away tears and tried to laugh.
“I—I’m sorry—you think it’s no good—” she said.
Mr. Carpenter gave the desk a mighty thump.
“No good!  Didn’t I tell you there were ten good lines? Jade, for ten righteous men Sodom had been spared.”
“Do you mean—that—after all—”  The candle was being relighted again.
“Of course, I mean.  If at thirteen you can write ten good lines, at twenty you’ll write ten times ten—if the gods are kind…and don’t imagine you’re a genius, either, if you have written ten decent lines.  I think there’s something trying to speak through you—but you’ll have to make yourself a fit instrument for it.  You’ve got to work hard and sacrifice—by gad, girl, you’ve chosen a jealous goddess.  And she never lets her votaries go—not even when she shuts her ears forever to their plea.”

After experiencing tragedy and heartbreak, Emily stops writing after falling into a deep depression.  (Boy, I can relate to that!)  However, Emily ultimately accomplishes her dream of writing her book.  It is published and achieves a modest success.  She also marries Teddy Kent, the love of her life.  While I’ve found my partner, and I’ve endured deep depression, the book I wish to have published is not yet complete.  I won’t give up, though.  Even if I knew my book would never be published, I would still keep writing it for my own sake.  Like Emily, I have to write.  I know that all of you bloggers feel the same way as Emily and I do.  I think that writing affects a certain part of our brains in a unique way, and it’s healthy for us to keep at it.

I wish you many productive and fulfilling hours of writing and I look forward to reading your blogs – as long as your posts aren’t as long as The Illiad!

searchsearch-1