I’m reluctant to mention LD (where two drinks are always better than one) for fear that this will seem to be another microscopic, navel gazing personal and inconsequential vent, or worse, recap of a bread baking, dog walking, look-what-I-noticed-on-my-inner west or coastal beach-walk (for those lucky enough to live there) day. And who needs that?
If you’re not at the coalface of the race and class war currently unfolding; being crippled by anxieties regarding your comorbidities or disabilities, or a struggling healthcare worker, then surely no one wants to hear about it. As if the monotony, frustration and anxieties of our own days is not bad enough without reading a barely different (save for the better views) version of someone else’s.
That said, context is important. And if it wasn’t for the big LD, it was unlikely I would have been walking with a friend alongside the local creek. Unlikely also, given the inevitable perspective change the LD brings, that I would’ve cast such a generous eye over the overgrown, weed infested, polluted waterway and believed it to be, as I did that day, a wondrous, hidden oasis. But here we are.
Being middle aged, easily wearied and willing to bend the rules, we sat down on an itchy patch of grass where no one could see us, but far enough apart, in case anyone did. It’s the kind of balance to rule bending that middle age brings, not like the young kids I spied tucked into skanky parts of bush in large groups with backpacks full of beer. And certainly not like the people taking to streets to demand our right to rest our legs on the grass if we so desired.
Did it make me a class traitor, this stolen luxury of sitting by a dirty creek bed, chatting, doing something that if my family and friends in the west and south west of Sydney dared do they could be shot in the face for?
It was an accusation I was willing to wear for the sake of a reprieve for my legs and the chance to keep talking to someone I wasn’t related to.
The friend was one of the few people I spoke to about writing, and that day, in the dabbled sun, our skin itchy from the coarse greensward, living as close to the edge as our middle age suburban sensibilities allowed us, we spoke about the idea of the Writer’s Newsletter.
I had heard that such a thing was advisable for writers if they wanted to build a profile and find an audience.
But what about Social Media? My friend asked.
Good for presence, apparently, I said, but not for actual readers (I was sounding far more informed than I was, when really, I was just repeating what a more successful friend had told me).
It was all a lesson in abstraction for me anyway, as I had nothing to promote to these so-call potential readers (except for my soul, which I will get to later). But I guess we both wished that there might be a day in the future where such a consideration was more meaningful; he was working on a new novel, and I had an agent who was submitting my first attempt out to publishers.
So, do a newsletter, he said, knowing that the big LD had left me unemployed and in need of something more productive to do.
Isn’t it putting the horse before the cart? I wondered.
But my interest was piqued enough that when I got home I did a quick google. It seemed, from my admittedly perfunctory glance, that newsletters were the domain of perky people with a penchant for transparent giveaways designed to elicit your contact details.
Self-promotion is necessary! The advice columns screamed. Let the idea of ‘nobody likes a show-off’ die! They pleaded. Shift your mindset. Adapt or die. Nobody is going to know if you don’t tell them, silly, silly, they said.
If you neglect the business side of things, you lose. Or you’re a loser. One or the other, I was too frightened to remember which.
And of course, the old, ‘the numbers don’t lie, publishers want to know whether or not you’re a moneymaker’.
Can you say, Ka-Ching! They cried.
But the thing was, the only way I made it through writing a book in the first place was by pretending outside realities didn’t exist and returning again and again to the idea of pouring myself into the work because it was meaningful, regardless of the outcome.
So shifting (not necessarily my mindset - I’m going to leave that to my high-school students) but even my gaze, outward, is hard.
And I even know, that there comes a time where creativity collides with the marketplace.
The old world is dead, one columnist said. Once upon a time you could say, ‘I write the books, you market them.’ But that way is no more.
I guess we can’t all be the idealist progressives of our younger share house dwelling days, believing that if we were to admit we lived in free market economy founded on a model of promote to sell for profit, or indeed, even that the publishing industry is a commercial, not strictly creative, enterprise, then our souls would shrivel and burn.
Perhaps this is the true gift middle age brings…a small gap between the youthful verve and joyful, passionate belief that you can smash the whole fucking system and turn it all on its head, and the full blown descent into old age cynicism and no longer trying at all.
Maybe, while resting on the grass, I should have thrown up a chant: hell no, I won’t go (and write a newsletter...but maybe later, if I have a book that I want to sell in the marketplace, I will).
But the truth was, I was turned off by the repeated advice of needing to construct different ways to urgently capture contact details; to ‘build data bases of customers’, and the too obvious transparency of using giveaways as a means to do this. Besides, what am I going to give? My shriveled soul?
And customers, really? Can’t we cushion that, call them readers? (Or I’m willing to extend out to ‘fans’, ‘loyal servants of my mastery’… ‘disciples’, perhaps).
I jest, I jest. And when the day comes I start spruiking signed copies of my home printed MS, you can call me on it ;)
But for now, here I am, bending the ‘a newsletter is a must’ rule, by blogging again. Radical, I know.