I used to teach pilots to fly. I'd always ask my student pilots the same question, "Do you want to be a pilot, or do you want to fly?" Most didn't get the question, so I rephrased it in the words of the immortal fighter pilot Colonel John Boyd, "Do you want to do something, or be someone?"
This is a lesson, a concept so profound, I dearly wish I had learned in my youth. If you're looking for a label, a status symbol, you will never be truly fulfilled as a human being. If, on the other hand, you are seeking a path to self-fulfillment and personal excellence, you will be a happier person. The titles and labels will occur as a result of that journey, not as a goal. I would tell my students that if they were chasing a label, I couldn't help them. If they were choosing a path that would lead to a love of flying, then I could help them along on their path. Then I would flick my fu-man-chu and ask them to snatch a pebble from my hands (if you got that, then you are old as dirt, too.)
The title "pilot" was just a milestone along the road, not the destination itself. So are the labels "author" or "musician" or "photographer" and why doctors use the term "practicing medicine." Attaining a title or label always leads to the perplexing personal question, "Now what?"
Back in my Underground Book Reviews days, I once attended a writers' conference hosted by a major university, where I encountered a memorable individual. He was not a only a writer, but also an English professor. It was his opinion there were way too many writers, most of which had no talent and wrote awful books. He felt there should be a way to keep these independent authors from publishing, because they made it more difficult for readers to find the good authors like him (of course). He was dead serious. It never occurred to him that he may be among the ranks of those great unwashed hordes of terrible independent authors. They shouldn't have an opportunity to publish, but he should. The professor had a point, albeit a twisted one.
Someone once said talent is cheap. My life experience teaches me this is true. My life experience also teaches me information is cheaper. If something is made or distributed with a click of a mouse, its cheap. The Information Age has dramatically lowered barriers to entry for creators and artists of all genres. In other words, its made content creation cheap. Anyone with a internet connection and a word processor can be a writer. Anyone with a smart phone and a Tik Tok account can be an influencer (whatever the hell that is). Anyone can create. The barbarians have crashed the gate. That means there is a lot of crap out there. Go browse Youtube and Tik Tok and you'll find crap content. You'll also find much more mediocre content. You might even find a few gems, but you have to wade through the slush pile first.
This is simply a fact of life in the 21st century. We are saturated by information every minute, every hour, every day. There are no more real gatekeepers for information. If you're a writer or a musician you know this better than anyone. Writers learned this first when Amazon and Kindle came along. Now with the advent of streaming services like Spotify, musicians have followed writers down this over-saturation path. Long gone are the days when getting published meant something. There are still traditional publishers, but even their books are harder to sift through. There are far more books in print and digital than ever before. The title "author" is cheapened by being so common, so accessible. To this I say, so what? Because it is the act of creation that is truly precious. The experience is priceless to the writer themselves.
It goes back to the question: Do you want to do something, or be something? The act of creation can be a reward unto itself. In fact, it MUST be the reward unto itself if one wants to endure and improve. No one reads books to get famous, we read for pleasure and information. Writing can be the same.
I take my inspiration for being a writer from several musicians I know in local bands. They practice regularly to continually improve their art, and are always striving to be better. They play in the same local club circuit to the same enthusiastic crowds. They have day jobs to pay the bills. They play for the love of playing, for the experience of playing. Stardom isn't their goal. They are musicians, not rock stars. Create. Improve. Repeat. This is the way. This is the bedrock from which everything else springs, whether that results in commercial success, or simply your next gig or independently published short story compilation.
Labels are cheap. Information is cheap. Talent is cheap. The journey is priceless. Do something. Embrace that something with all your heart, passion and energy. Immerse yourself in your art, and you shall transform and become something.
#writing #creation #publishing #kindle #amazon #contentcreation #writersjourney #content #selfimprovement #anyonecancreate
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I'm back from Amelia Island a few books lighter and with several lessons under my belt. This was my first book signing event, and it went pretty smooth. I met a lot of fantastic authors and readers, and would definitely go again. However, there were a few bumps and are the lesson's learned in no particular order (some offered to me by fellow authors at the festival - thanks K'Anne!):
1. Tape. You'll need both scotch and duct tape. For what? Everything.
2. My banner worked great. I found mounting clips at Office Depot that worked good, but would have worked better with tape. I would have added a banner behind and above me, too. Those call more attention to your booth.
3. Change. I was scrambling the night before to get lots of ones. I think the lady at Publix thought I was getting ready to go to a strip bar.
4. Fish bowl or cookie jar for business cards and giveaway. I used an unsightly piece of disposable Tupperware.
5. NEVER WALK OUT OF THE HOUSE WITHOUT MY COFFEE MUG.
6. Attractive book ends and book display holders. (Duh! Its a book fest.) I even saw one author with a collapsable wire book rack.
7. Ask ahead of time about wi-fi.
8. If you are going to use your phone to take credit cards, have a portable phone charger.
9. Bring. Your. Own. Chair. It was at a middle school, and they must have given me the Timeout Chair.
10. Bring candy to hand out.
11. Bring small cooler with my own lunch, water and snacks.
12. Get one of those beach wagons to haul everything in and out.
14. See-through plastic bags to put your book in.
15. Have your sales pitch ready to go in your mind and keep it simple. After a few deliveries I had mine down OK, but looking back I should have had it tighter. I got asked two basic questions: 1) What is the genre and 2) What is it about? I tried to keep each to one sentence.
Well, that's about it. I'm going to try to make a few more book signings this year. I'll keep you posted here.
Oh, yeah, weirdest question I got asked. "Do you know martial arts?"
In my latest Underground Book Reviews column, I talk about using UBR's unique features to network with other indie authors and expand your reader base. Here's an excerpt:
“Three is a magic number. Yes it is, its a magic number. Somewhere in the ancient mystic trinity, you get three as a magic number…”
If you’re old enough, you might remember an old Saturday morning cartoon called School House Rock. In the 1970s it educated young minds full of mush in between doses of Looney Tunes and Scooby Doo. One particular episode taught kids how to divide and multiply by threes. I like the number three, because for indie authors it really is a magical number. By exploring the unique opportunities Underground Book Reviews gives authors, you can take three marketing platforms and three readers and turn then into potential seed corn for a much wider audience.