The space under my rock is getting smaller.
Small or not, however, my under-rock space is an enchanted habitat. Known to outsiders as Leighland, my rock space is peaceful and quiet. There are no mean people, monsters under the bed, or tragic circumstances. The temperature is always a perfect 68 degrees, and even the darkest corner holds no spiders. Leighland filters out all unpleasantness. I try never to leave.
...and then I had to go and write a book.
Writing a book is easy. Arduous, emotional, confusing, confounding, annoying, and a real hindrance to any kind of social life. But still- easy. All the angst is just part of the experience.
What is really painfully difficult, is getting a book in front of readers. Especially if - like most writers- you're not lucky enough to have access to a literary agent, or your father doesn't play golf with the marketing director of a publishing company. These rep-free writers now have their own handle; called "independent authors", or "indies", these literary rebels are the bold frontiersmen (and women) of the historically haughty and imperious publishing industry. Indies have the freedom to write what they wish, on their own timetable. They don't feel any pressure to adhere to the boilerplate of style that has made them successful, or have the stress of pleasing their agent. But this creative immunity comes at a price, and for me, the currency is vulnerability and exposure. The conventional writer, part of a stable of contracted talent under the secure roof of a publishing house, doesn't have to concern themselves with promotion, sales reports, review assessment, or name branding. They are free to sit behind the comforting hum of their computer and spin tales to their heart's content. An indie author must wear many hats if they want their books to be bought and read.
As I neared the finish line of re-writes and edits last summer, I knew I would have to crawl out from under Leighland and introduce myself to the rest of the world. I started by creating a Facebook page (Leigh Shearin, Writer). Then I built a GoodReads Author page, which admittedly was great fun. Part of my marketing plan was to develop a website for myself- which was very intimidating. Obviously, since it now hosts my blog, the website construction went fine. Although I have a Twitter handle (@LeighShearin), and several hundred followers, I still don't entirely understand the platform, and stumble through each post. I'm sure there are people all over the world who raise an eyebrow when they see a Tweet from me and wonder who is she talking to? I'm still wrapping my 1980's brain around the concept of a hashtag, and still think of it as the #symbol on the keypad of the white princess phone that sat on my nightstand in high school. My most recent foray into social media marketing is Instagram (Winterrestfarm). Although I tend to use Instagram more for my photography, and for the promotion of our farm, I do try to link all my creative endeavors, so folks can get a sense of everything I do.
Yesterday, while I was elbow deep in farm projects, my smart phone suddenly started buzzing, binging, and carrying on like it was having some kind of fit. I unlocked the screen to see I had 14 new followers and dozens of fresh likes on several of my photographs on Instagram. I was astounded. For me, 14 new people interested in what I'm doing is a lot- and I wasn't even related to any of them! Of course, I've been following other interesting folks for years. But the fact that someone I didn't know would find my life compelling was- and still is- amazing to me. I've struggled my whole life with self-confidence, so to intentionally promote myself as someone with any kind of creative ability is like pushing a big ball of wax uphill on a hot day. Its a spirit wrenching task that seems to slip out of my hands daily as I combat doubt and -imagined- humiliation.
One thing is certain: each person who so graciously follows one of my pages unknowingly helps me win the battle against uncertainty and apprehension. The space under my rock is getting smaller, because its becoming crowded with new friends, and I can't thank them enough.