Friday, 8 November 2013

The Golden Rule

Some folk tout a Golden Rule which says that to be successful as a writer, you have to be aggressive in your self-marketing.  Slam an agent/editor/director against the wall and force feed them an elevator pitch.  Jam your Twitter feed with a loss of dignity.  Show thine ass and they will print it.  And if you don’t have the skin for it, go home.

I’m sorry, but I’m from Appalachia and that’s not how it’s done there. 

First and foremost, you are a writer.  Writing is about voice.  If your voice is ME!  ME!  ME! there are a limited number of people who want to hear it.  It’s more likely that the only thing achieved by that is a sense of control in a situation where you have no control.  In other words, since you cannot make someone publish what you write, diving into a self-marketing frenzy means you’re doing something ANYTHING which gives the illusion of control. 

But the way the game is played . . .

Yoo-hoo!  The gatekeepers to your future as a successful writer, the agents and publishers and theatre companies and editors, are they some type of omniscient being with no time for your social skills?  Will your potential readers only read your work after they’ve been bombarded with thirty tweets a day that say BUY ME!  BUY ME!  BUY ME! 

But the experts say . . .  

Okay.  Anonymous experts.  God love them.  A different breed of human than the rest of us.

Let’s look at a little social science.  If we’re in a public building and see a sign that says, Do Not Enter, most of us don’t challenge that request.  But what if the sign said, Doris Doesn’t Want You To Come In Here.  Who is Doris and who made her the god of entry?

Ellen Langer (On Becoming An Artist) and Adam Grant ask participants to take a ten question exam.  Group A was told that the exam tested reasoning ability.  Group B was told that a group of eight social scientists from a particular university selected these ten questions from a larger number of questions that might measure reasoning skill.  (Which is how all scientific measurement is done, by the way.  Someone decides what and how to measure.)

After taking the exam, all participants were told whether the exam said they had good or bad reasoning skills.  All participants who were told they had good reasoning skills, accepted the results.  Participants from Group A who were told they did poorly, accepted the results as well, but participants from Group B who were told they did poorly, felt that the results were probable, not absolute.  As Langer said about the results, Group B had fallibility put back into the equation. 

If you think about what experts have thought of as empirical data over the centuries, then you know that fallibility is always part of any human creation.  Don’t rely on experts when their wisdom makes you squirm.  Remember that any advice on how to market or write or feed the cat, always has Doris behind it.  And between you and me, I think Doris is taking on airs and graces that she simply doesn’t have.

1 comment:

  1. Your post cheered me up, Lora. I agree, when it's so easy to get caught up in the adrenaline rush of self-marketing, it's important to keep things in perspective.