It’s my afternoon lull, the time of day when my brain takes a vacation and I have trouble concentrating on work. I don’t know how it is for others, but this is partly a function of the “brain fog” that goes with fibromyalgia. Today is a pretty good day, so I know it’ll pass if I ride it out. Other days, not so much.
Right now, my brain is a jumble of thoughts, flickering in and out. They do have a theme, though. As an author, how to be better at getting my work out there is always on my mind. One of the things I’d like to do is create a better presence on social media. I’m still struggling a little with how to do it because I’m no longer the type of writer I was when I first joined Twitter and made a Facebook page for my blog.
I was pretty active in the social justice blogging world for a time. Oh, I didn’t have the following some did, but I had enough of one. I made some good friends. Burned some bridges when I left. Did some soul-searching and moved to writing fiction instead. But I never really made the leap from one to the other seamlessly in my professional social media.
Like many people, I don’t want to follow someone who has nothing interesting to say and only puts out advertising for their latest whatever. The thing is, I haven’t figured out what it is I have to say. Being an author is vastly different from being a social issues blogger, especially the type I was—a former conservative Christian talking about the deep flaws within the church. Clearly, that’s not the stuff I want to put out there as an author of LGBTQIA+ fiction.
More and more over time, I feel like I can’t keep up with the level of perfectionism and moral outrage over the same five or six issues within my reading and writing community. Hell, most of the time, I’m not even sure who my community is, and I think therein lies the problem.
I’ve never been one to fit neatly into categories. I’m just now becoming comfortable with that, but it’s hard when there’s pressure to write what’s marketable. Nothing I write is truly marketable. It’s certainly not mainstream, and it doesn’t cater to a specific readership. I don’t write genre romance or strict literary fiction or sci fi or fantasy. I straddle lit fic and romance, but I don’t write in any of the standard sub-genres of romance. The relationships in my novels don’t fit neatly into boxes either. When I write polyamory, for example, I don’t necessarily write closed relationships or ménage. I allow for explicit “het sex” in a book that also contains same-gender sex. Sometimes there are children and families, but they’re not written as part of a “meet cute” (as with a dad-meets-dad story). This makes it difficult to figure out who wants to read it.
One of the things an author is supposed to do that will help us find our people, our audience, is to figure out why we write. I already know that. I write in hopes that someone will see themselves in my story. I want readers to feel heard and understood. Not some perfect idealized representation of a person or identity, but a situation or a set of circumstances and how it affects us.
This is why I read, too. I want to see someone like myself, to be able to relate to that person’s experiences and feelings in a very real sense. This does not mean I have to share every trait, every point of identity, with the characters. Even one is enough, or none if it’s about the particular trials that character endures.
I’m not sure I’ll ever find my readership. Maybe they’re out there, a bunch of people who long to read what I’m writing. Or maybe they aren’t. I have a few loyal fans who are generally excited whenever I have a new release, and that’s always fun. In the bigger picture, that’s enough for me, emotionally-speaking.
But professionally-speaking, it’s not enough. Goodness knows, I’ve tried finding people who seem like-minded through social media, but more often than not, it’s backfired. I’ve ended up with more people interested in getting me to read their stuff than in being reciprocal. I’ve also come across people who are profiting from marginalized folks without caring about or listening to them and many, many people who are self-righteous about their preferences. In general, it all feels like a serious lack of empathy all around.
On days where it seems overwhelming, I want to give up. But then I remember that if even one person reads something I wrote and says, “Yeah. That’s me. That’s how I felt,” then it’s all worth it. I just wish that were enough to build a career on.