Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lay down our sword and shield

Sharon Wildwind

I’ve mentioned before about having an affinity for a techie-guy named Merlin Mann. After last week’s blog, Sandra and I exchanged comments about authors being stretched beyond their limit because they have race to keep up with the latest in marketing.

Hard on the heels of our exchange, I ran into a talk on time and attention that Mann gave at Rutgers university.

Here’s a short concatenation of my favorite quotes from that talk:

“Managing time is good, but if all you manage is time, you stand the chance of making something that no one cares about. You can’t make art unless you manage your attention, too. Time and attention are finite. Expectations go up and up; resources go down and down. We get some help in learning the hard skills—the technical stuff—but we get no help in learning the soft skills—how to stand up and say that we're drowning. If someone was stealing from your wallet, would you stop them? Why don’t we stop people who are stealing our time and attention.” ~Merlin Mann, techie-guy

Have you tallied up the “other” skills that we as writers allow to steal our time and attention from writing?
Book fairs
Book signings
Book tours
Book trailers
Business details (Having spent 49 hours last month revising my business plan and doing taxes, I’m particularly sensitive to this one right now.)
Committees (Added for Elizabeth)
E-book conversion
Mail outs
Niche marketing
Platform development
Press kits
Publicity photos
Social sites
Virtual tours
Web sites

Likely by next week that list will be longer.

Doing some marketing is essential to being a writer, but at what point do we start making choices? At what point do we say to agents, publishers, and all of the other people who have advice on what we “should” or “must” do, that we are drowning? How do we bring ourselves to a point where we make treat marketing as art by focusing time and attention on fewer things, done well instead of everything done poorly?

For my part, with all of the authority I have, I give us permission to lay down our swords and shields. On any given day, under the right circumstances, all marketing works; under the wrong circumstances, no marketing works. The kicker is that we don’t know what the circumstances will be. We might as well do the things that we enjoy.
Quote for the week

Fill your life with as many moments and experiences of joy and passion as you humanly can. Start with one experience and build on it.
~Marcia Wieder; American speaker, trainer, and author


Julia Buckley said...

Hurrah, Sharon. You have identified the madness and, hopefully, done many the favor of ending it.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Please add my particular bête noir: committees!

Anonymous said...

I only wish I knew something to do about the madness. I guess this is one of those places where I can just be responsible for myself.

Elizabeth, a lot of Mann's talk was about how meetings kill productivity in an organization. I've added committees to the list.

Sheila Connolly said...

My, that list sounds familiar.

I believe in something like psychic energy. You have a fixed allowance, and if you spend it all on promotion, you don't have any left for the writing that got you onto the treadmill in the first place. You simply have to acknowledge that you can't do everything, and then prioritize.