A Writer’s Identity

Writing full-time makes you think. A lot. And not just about whether you are worthy, whether you are making the right decision, or whether you are a failure–it makes you think about what you should be doing versus what you are doing. Accordingly, I’ve been thinking a lot, especially the last couple days.

If any of you look at my website outside of this blog at all on a regular basis (highly doubtful), you may notice that I keep making tweaks, some large, some small. That’s because I’m trying to figure out what I am doing. Like, seriously–what am I doing?

Look, I know that all the guidance, all the experts, all the books, all the magazines–they all say that to build a platform, a writer needs a “thing”, preferably a thing that involves helping other people. Whether it’s giveaways, or interviews, or writing advice, or. . . I don’t even know what else, since that seems to be what every single writer website does. You are told to be unique. To show what makes you different, yet are told to do the exact same thing as everyone else. How does that make any sense? Anyway, I’ve never been good at keeping a blog that focused on one thing. I’ve tried, as you know, more than once, and it sputters out within a month because I do not feel inspired. I don’t feel genuine. I feel fake. I like this format, where I muse on what I’m thinking and you read it or not, as you like. This is what makes me feel like I’m being me.

Yet, even looking up literary agents, a surprising number of them want an aspiring author to already have a strong online platform. What does that even mean? Do they want you to already somehow have gathered thousands of readers on a random blog/website? Doing the same thing every other aspiring writer is doing by talking about books other people have written? To be promising potential readers your own book is coming when you haven’t even gotten an agent? To be pursuing something else on social media so you can just casually drift over to “Oh, look! Now I’m an author! Surprise! Please buy the book!”? I don’t like doing what everyone else is doing just because it’s the thing to do.

So, I’ve been trying to think. What do I offer that’s different? Why do I call myself forestidylls instead of “AuthorJacintaMeredith” like all the others? Why, every time I try to do something to “offer a service” to readers, do I fizzle out within a month? Should I be doing these things even if I don’t like it?

And when I try to think through these and many more questions, as well as the resentment I feel for the “formula” we aspiring writers are supposed to follow, I realize what a hypocrite I am. Because, they say to write on one specific subject, and I hate doing that. They say to post on a strict schedule, and I hate that. They say to network and I hate doing that (who on earth would want to talk to me anyway, and I hate feeling like I’m using people). They say to respond to every single comment you ever get and I hate doing that (because if I have nothing useful to say, why would someone want to read it?) But here’s the thing I realized the other day.

  1. I only follow blogs that have a specific purpose (i.e., book reviews, advice, etc).
  2. I don’t check on blogs that don’t seem to have a specific schedule because, well, why would I randomly check a blog? Though I do look at my “reader” so it would probably pop up, but still. There are one or two sites I really check because I know they are on a schedule..
  3. I thrill to the depths of my being when someone random responds to something I comment on.
  4. The network thing? Yeah, still hate that.

So, there is probably something to what they say, even if I don’t like it. Hence all the aforementioned questions. I mean, why do people follow my blog at all? Why did you, my 170 followers, start following this random blog that just talks about life? Perhaps I said one thing that interested you and you have since forgotten this blog exists. Perhaps you were hoping I’d follow you back. Perhaps you wanted to show support. Perhaps it was an accident. Whatever it was, why would you come back to it? You don’t know what I’m going to write, or when I’m going to write it. The only reason you’d come back after the initial follow is if you are actually curious about my internal debates, which seems unlikely.

So. We are back to the beginning. What do I have to offer that is uniquely me, that would be useful to others, but won’t make me feel like I am being fake in order to get followers?

I think it comes back to WHY I write. And why do I write, other than for the fact I have to unless I want my soul to shrivel up and die? I write because I want to give others hope. To touch their lives. To, as Anne says, “. . . add some beauty to life. . . I’d love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me… to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn’t been born.”

That’s one of the reasons I call myself forestidylls, why I call my site Idyllwood. Because to me, those words speak of idyllic, peaceful settings, ripe for hope. They say so much more than just my name. I LOVE my username and website name–though I have a feeling a literary agent will be less than pleased about me not using my actual name.

But, I feel, somehow, those are actually a couple of things that make me unique as an aspiring author. I still don’t know how to turn that into a platform–how to use it to alert people to my existence–how to use it to better your lives from here, rather than waiting for me to be published. But maybe, if I think and pray hard enough, I’ll find the answer.

P.S. I’m scheduling this to be published on Wednesday even though I am writing it on a Sunday, in an attempt to conform to schedules, and already I feel like I’m lying to my readers by making them think I wrote it on a Wednesday . . . so I had to add a P.S. so you would know.

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