Negative Nancy and the Art of Self-Promotion

First off, a short essay of mine, “Grounded: Engaging the Spiritual in Poetry” is available on Poets’ Quarterly, which just relaunched this month.  Check it out!

Secondly, I now have all kinds of anxieties about what I just did: self-promote.

It probably doesn’t seem like I have any trouble with promoting myself.  I rock the social media, y’all.  I have a MailChimp account for sharing good news about my book (subscribe to the right of this post!).  I carry a couple copies of my book in my purse, just in case.  Probably you’ve rolled your eyes a time or two at my tweets or Facebook posts mentioning this publication or that link or yet another blog post about food and mothering. 

So maybe it’s a surprise to find out that I really struggle with sharing my good news.

I experience this range of inner monologue when something good happens to me:

“YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!!!!!  THIS IS SO AWESOME!!!!!!!! THEY LIKED IT!!!!!! THEY ARE GOING TO PUBLISH IT!!!!!!!!!”

“…What if they are publishing it because they somehow know you, or maybe they don’t but they needed to fill out their issue and you are the best of the worst, and this is a pity move and it really isn’t that great?”

“OH, WHO CARES!?!?! NONE OF THAT’S TRUE (is it?)!  THEY ARE GOING TO PUBLISH IT!!!!!!”

“Big freaking deal, Sarah. People get their stuff published every day, and no one reads that journal except the other poets who have been accepted.  And besides, who in the real world even cares about your writing?  Any writing?  At all?”

“BUT I DO!  WOOOOOOOO!  I LOVE THAT POEM!  THAT’S ONE OF MY FAVORITES AND I SUBMITTED IT A DOZEN PLACES BECAUSE I LOVE IT AND IT’S AWESOME, EVEN THOUGH IT TOOK 12 REJECTIONS BEFORE AN EDITOR ALSO LIKED IT ENOUGH TO PUBLISH IT!  I ALWAYS BELIEVED IN THAT POEM! WEEEEEEE! IT’S PUBLISHED!!!!!!”

“Get over yourself.  And now you’re going to tell Facebook and Twitter, right, you egotistical diva, you.  I see you copying the link now.”

“I’m sharing it because it means something to me, because I think it says something about human experience.  Because I believe in it and I’m proud of it.  Stop bullying me.”

“‘It says something about human experience?!’ Who are you, C.S. Lewis? T.S. Eliot? H.G. Wells? C.D. Wright? Some other guy with initials for his first name? Are you going to start publishing as S.M. Wells now?”

“WELL MAYBE I AM! *blowing raspberries*”

“That’s real mature, S.M.  Well, go ahead, share your good news and a link to your new book/blog entry/essay/poem.  No one will read it.  You’ll probably get like, two likes and one comment, and maybe a retweet, if someone is looking at twitter right this second.  And you’ll keep checking Facebook and Twitter all night to see if someone’s responded, thereby only half-participating in your family’s evening events.  Way to engage in your own life.”

“Oh, be quiet.  All that you say is true.  And all that I say is true, too.  How do you spread your passion and joy without sharing it with friends and family?  Celebrate good times, come on, Negative Nancy.”

“Yea yea, Positive Polly.  The glass is always full with this one.  Send away, S.M., send away.”

* * * * *

That’s about how it goes, people.  Every time.  There’s a zig-zag line between bragging and celebrating, trying to be humble but also wanting to rejoice in the good work that you’ve done with the help of the holy spirit.  In one breath, I’m ecstatic that I have a new book and in the next I’m apologizing that it’s “just a poetry collection,” afraid that the majority of the people I care about most in life won’t read it or worse, will, and find it inaccessible, incomprehensible, ugly, or pointless.  Insecurities nearly choke me when I think about other poets reading the book – what will they think?  Probably that it’s too sing-songy.  Probably that it isn’t serious enough.  Probably that the book doesn’t hold together as a collection.  Probably it’s too feminine.  Or not feminine enough.  Or too formal and narrative and not at all experimental.  Maybe the publisher made a mistake in accepting it, or maybe the publisher I went with publishes everything they find, or maybe my work is only appealing to a small niche of readers. ON and ON and ON.  I’m dying to hear praise so I can kill it upon arrival with questions of motive.  Do all poets feel this way?  Do all writers?  Do all people?

And then after dwelling in that gunk for a while, I grab a pitchfork and start mucking out.  I lift the shit that is insecurity, doubt, fear, anxiety, self-consciousness, need for approval, and hot pride and pitch it into a wheelbarrow.  Dump it in the steaming manure pile where maybe it’ll fertilize some earth someday.  And after the crap is gone, I spread some fresh straw.  Because I am a child of God, created to do good works, confident that he who began a good work in me will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus, with a plan and a purpose, who believes in good and real and true and beautiful things, and I am grateful to have been given this gift with words, and if I try to shut it up or keep it down, it’ll burn up my bones. 

So there.  Go read the effing article.

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2 thoughts on “Negative Nancy and the Art of Self-Promotion

  1. Dear Sarah,

    First, and most important, tell N. Nancy to shut up. I just read your essay and LOVED it. I loved the picture I saw when I read, “..blades of grass bending beneath the weight of water.” And I believe your third paragraph is my favorite. It allowed me encouragement to find God's thumbprint while I'm cleaning up Cheerios (or chewed up Cheerios, blech) because that is where He is in my life most of the time.
    Second, while I haven't been on Twitter in a long time (I'm a new Twitterer and it kind of overwhelms me), I am thankful that I “met” you via this social network because I just love your writing. So self-promote away! We are learning about a great writer when you share the good news of publication.
    I think the same things, however. I have an essay coming out soon and the first thought I had was, “YES!!!!!” The second thought was, “Well, I know the editor and she just didn't want to reject me.”
    What's important is that no matter what N. Nancy says, we should still keep writing. I'll do it if you do it. 🙂

    Like

  2. Loved this! That battle in our heads is so spot on! 🙂

    I've nominated you for the Liebster Award! Check out The Sycamore for details. It may be silly, but its free advertising for you! I hope your promoting is going wonderfully!

    Like

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