Walk the Line: Writing for an Unseen Audience
by Sharon Tjaden-Glass
Your book is available for pre-order in the Kindle Store!
I’ve been waiting to see those words for a year and a half. So I’m feeling…happy? Sure. Excited? Yes.
Oh, I’m out there now. If I wasn’t before, I am now. I’m propped up on the shelf of the Amazon marketplace, ripe for the picking. Anyone can download a sample of my book and dismiss me as “not engaging enough” or “self-righteous.” Anyone can buy my book and then bash it anonymously if they so choose. Anyone can mention my book anywhere on the Internet and say all kinds of unkind things about me.
What a whiner. Her baby was so easy compared to mine. Or how about, Here we go! Another natural birther. Out to fulfill her unmet needs by turning birth into a competition. Kudos to you, Ms. Crazy! Pass me the epidural, please.
Yeah, I have an active imagination.
And I really have to keep it in check.
Thanks to the recommendation from a friend (Thanks, Chanel!), I’ve been reading a book by Brené Brown, called “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.” The timing for reading this book couldn’t have been more perfect.
In one particular section, Brown states that, “Sharing something you’ve created is a vulnerable but essential part of engaged and Wholehearted living. It’s the epitome of daring greatly” (p. 63).
All right! I’m wholehearted! Woo-hoo!
Then, she goes on to say, “But because of how you were raised or how you approach the world, you’ve knowingly or unknowingly attached your self-worth to how your product or art is received. In simple terms, if they love it, you’re worthy; if they don’t, you’re worthless” (emphasis added, p. 63).
…How did she know?
I truly struggle with this—not letting my self-worth get tied up in how my writing is received by others. It is so easy for me to fall into the toxic loop of, Oh God, this book is only going to be read by my friends and family. It will never take off because it’s not good enough. I should have listened to all of those rejection letters from agents. They were right.
So I’m trying to look at this experience in publishing as an opportunity for growth rather than an exercise in defining my self-worth. I’m going to have haters and lukewarm readers. But I’m also going to have readers who fall in love with the book. I’m going to have people who buy it…and then never get around to reading it. And let’s not forget all the people who will click on it and not buy it. Or those that think (like I do!), pshhh… $6.99? I’ll wait until it’s $2.99.
And all of that has to be okay with me.
But it’s going to be tough.
I have to silence that inner voice that screams, “I worked so hard! I sacrificed beautiful summer days and naptimes and evenings and weekends! I had to divulge parts of my life that I wouldn’t normally talk about, but that I thought were essential for reaching new mothers!”
I have to ignore all of that. And I have to start this new inner script:
“I have done what I wanted to do and I have done it to the best of my ability. And that is enough. No matter how many books I sell. No matter how many reviews (or lack of reviews!) I get. I needed to do this and it is done.”
But it’s going to be tough.
I’m navigating a very new space–communicating with an audience that I don’t know, that I can’t see, but that will see me–ALL of me.
God, it makes me nauseous just thinking about it.
All my life, my best communication (written or oral) has always been done for an audience with which I could be somewhat familiar: my students, my colleagues, other professionals in my field. My friends. My husband. My family. I could tailor my message just right. I could personalize. I could connect.
But this feels like shouting out my inner thoughts in the middle of a crowded room and hoping that someone will notice and care enough to pay attention. And then not getting too upset if what I have to say isn’t important enough for others to lean in to hear.
Brené Brown beautifully describes the delicate balance of considering audience and how it leads artists into a space full of uncertainty.
“When we stop caring about what people think, we lose our capacity for connection. When we become defined by what people think, we lose our willingness to be vulnerable. If we dismiss all the criticism, we lose out on important feedback, but if we subject ourselves to the hatefulness, our spirits get crushed.
It’s a tightrope, shame resilience is the balance bar, and the safety net below is the one or two people in our lives who can help us reality-check the criticism and cynicism” (emphasis added, p. 169).
Time to walk the line.