Monday, November 20, 2017

My Erroneous Goal of Being Left Alone

Do I like attention? Well I like my ‘Likes,’ if that counts?

Whenever a gentleman asks advice on how to gain a lady’s affections, typically the suggestions are in the same vein: Say her name a lot. Ask her questions about herself. Pay attention to her and her interests. But what about the most important parts? What about distraction? What about changing the subject from her unending inner monologue about every puzzle she can’t solve, every worry she has, and just generally helping her break free from the prison that is her on self-involvement?

The vast majority of men I’ve dated could stand to talk a lot more about themselves. Although, according to my friends, I might be on my own there.

Isolation has made me physically ill in the past. It can cause fatigue, issues with appetite, headaches, and other generalized aches and pains. Not that I feel too great in most cases. But socializing, I find, bumps up energy and releases stress. Just like petting a cat or hugging a dog, the mere act of interacting with another living creature can help release frustration that you might otherwise have pent up. So, yes, with that in mind, I desire a connection with those in the outside world.

Yet attention itself? It seems to be more problematic than anything.

When people ask me why I want to be a writer, I say, “ALL the reasons!” Which is true. However, in recent weeks, I’ve really sat down and pinpointed what I am looking for in my career, and while money and glamour would be nice, my top two desires are actually to have a good amount of people connect deeply with my characters, along with enough notoriety that people will leave me alone to my own creative devices without constant criticism.

Except that I’ve come to find the better I’m doing, the more others want to get in my business.

Makes sense, really. Obvious now that I write it out.

About a month or two ago I picked up a book on marketing and realized that my biggest limitation was my blind spots. I had a general idea of who my audience was, but I didn’t know the specifics. Where do I honestly want my book to be located in a bookstore? What reputation and feelings do I want associated with me? I asked those questions before, but never was detailed in my answers. I admitted to myself that what I really wanted to do was combine the beautiful and whimsical elements of young adult fantasy with the more severe and serious of traditional fantasy, writing for women, like me, who have grown a bit too old for the Young Male Virgin Stud pining over Plain Special Female trope.

The guide made me realize that I needed to understand my ‘competition’ and ‘influencers’ better. Who else are my readers going to be interested in? What are their buying habits? How will they find me? I started reading bestsellers’ lists and going into bookstores to examine the layout and my perception of each section. This, however, backfired in some ways because the more I learned about those I’d be compared to, the more I realized how much being a successful writer gets you hassled.

My criticism, I’ve accepted, tends to originate for two reasons. One is that I’m a complainer/analyzer. In some cases, I’m not actually bitching about my poor life—in some cases, I very much am and the ensuing reproach makes sense—I’m brainstorming. I’m trying to connect with others by telling funny problems, or am genuinely looking for solutions to be thrown about. What some people don’t realize is that there’s a difference between solutions and criticism, a difference brainstorming and belittling. Complaining tends to garner blame and I’m trying to be more careful about how I express my jokes or musing. Also, when you ask for help, don’t be surprised when you actually get it.

Two, worse, is when you’re doing something that actually excites people. This is what you want, no? For people to start being fascinated, to want to get involved, to be inspired with “what ifs?”

I didn’t see what was happening at first. I, like most, would assume if you’re telling me to change something it means you aren’t all too enthralled by it. But sometimes it really is the opposite; when people are inspired what you’re doing, they want to have a hand in it. They want to express their ideas, get in on your projects, and be the dog to your Little Red Hen. You’ve already done the hard part! Now’s the fun of the ideas!

“I have a plot for a story you should write.”

Writing is a strange beast. Many authors tend to be unsocial, preferring to stay indoors at a computer with imaginary people over going out and dancing in the limelight of people’s adoration (because adoration is fickle, let’s be honest). Except we also want the respect of many, and even if we don’t actually want all eyes on us, we want the benefits of having all eyes on us. We want to be read. We want people to care. So can you ignore the man behind the curtain please?

While I tend to shy away from any stranger who approaches me, most of them breaking the ice by “life coaching” me into what I should be wearing or how I should be doing something, the more that I try to socialize, I recognize my own tendency to offer so-called advice as a means to further the conversation. It’s hard not to. What do you have to say about something if not possible actions? In some ways, holding back my own tongue and changing the dialogue to something supportive has helped me empathize with those who walk up to me with unsolicited ideas on how to properly life my life.

I have to accept that attention is necessary, and with attention will come negativity. Success might help me be achieve more creative freedom, but it doesn’t remove me from reproach, and it’s possible that now’s the time to just get over it.

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