Just over one year ago, I hit publish on my first poetry collection, No Ordinary Time. Then proceeded to not say a word about it for almost a month -which means it is now the one year anniversary-ish. I’ll be the first to admit that I am terrible at self-promotion. Behind the scenes is my jam and frankly, trying to share about my work is hard. Really hard.
Some folks are great at building a team of supporters, rallying them around whatever project they are working on, mobilizing them to spread the word and bring in the sales as well as cheer lead them along the way, and finally, create a nice little party around their book baby-cue the confetti. Big inhale following that run on. Me? I make the book, toss it on the floor then sheepishly nudge it with my foot towards an empty space, wish it well and casually act like nothing happened. It worked-four people tripped on it and decided to pick it up; one kept it and the others removed the safety hazard…
Interrupting this post for a quick sales pitch-
I should perhaps mention that the book is available to purchase by clicking on this handy little pic or using the link in the sidebar–there, got that out of the way. I’ll also be up front and let you know these are affiliate links in the hopes of creating some income so I can convince people I have a real job.
OK, now that that is done
It is so much easier for me to encourage someone else along their journey or applaud their success. When I come across someone whose work is compelling, beautiful, deep, or just plain good I genuinely love to celebrate their successes! On the other hand if someone says something positive about my own work I tend to shrug it off, ignore it, dismiss it, and in an act of passive aggressive tour de force suggest they are just so kind. Why do we do things like this? There are many real reasons of which I’m not qualified enough to address so I’ll just stick with what I know.
I KNOW that we are better together
I say this in my podcast, Poet Kind, a lot-“we are better together so let’s compare notes, not ourselves”. We function optimally with a support network that builds us up when we are down or doing the daily grind- not just when we are doing the big things that get noticed. It’s easy to sign up to do that for others but this is a two way street. We need to find ways to accept those kudos, atta peeps, pats on the back, and positive nudges without deprecating our hard work. I use deprecation as a deflection mechanism-I admit it. Learning from years of experience I am always waiting for the next boot to drop. It is a bad habit that I try, frequently unsuccessfully, to break. So far the best I have been able to do is eke out a weak thank you but I am growing.
What I want to tell you-if you have made it this far- is that most people are genuine. That there is no second boot. True, people will err on the kind side most often which isn’t a bad thing. Be open to the good stuff. Own your hard work and the next time someone says, “I love this”, “this is great”, “Your (poem, painting, art, words, book, drawing, origami, schnitzel…whatever) is phenomenal” run with it, savor it, save it for the times you need a little boost. But, please, don’t brush it of, turn it down, or deflect, Dreams are fragile things so let each compliment, kind word, supportive gesture build it up…
One last thing.
Find your tribe, your flock, your herd, your waddle, your group, your peeps-the ones that have your back and hold your hair when you need them to. Can’t find a group? Make one. Step out and say I’m a poet and I am looking for other poets to work with (which I am by the way-wasn’t that easy?). Let your intentions out, let others know. Have an idea? Do it. Yes, there is the chance of failure/rejection but let it be a learning tool; don’t let it define you, direct you, become the lead in your story. I love a good Winston Churchill quote so let me drop one here…
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. W.C.
Rejection stinks, but keep going. I have served as a juror for fine arts activities and done some selections for writing- decisions aren’t always made based on how ‘good’ a work is- a lot of great work gets turned away simply because it wasn’t right for that show/issue/anthology. Rejection doesn’t equate failure and it isn’t personal(although it can feel that way). Maybe the juror/curator/editor had a bad day and anything with a dog in it is going to get kicked. You can’t always know the machinations behind the veil but you can certainly turn around and submit it elsewhere-or figure out a way to do your own thing…which is an entirely different post.
One last quote
Here’s one last quote from my pal Winston-
If you’re going through hell, keep going. W. C. (some do not credit him with this but I am going with it)
Keep going my friends-you are bound to come out on the other side! And I’ll be there to toast you! (I’ll be the one peeking out from behind the curtain)