I, Janeen Ippolito, am an audience-addicted author.
Many writers are urged to look outside of themselves when they write. To be willing to make their book a product after a certain point and allow others to alter it as need be. Handing over a manuscript to an editor or a publishing house is seen as a fearful endeavor, because something in the writer’s heart says this is MINE. My own. My precious.
I have the opposite problem. That first draft, which is supposedly written mostly in solitude? It took all my courage to get out the first 20,000 words of my current work in progress solo. Then I started really getting some feedback and added another 10,000 words. Just to make sure I was reaching a market.
You see, I’m all about trying to reach people. My background is cross-cultural studies and teaching. Much of that is about putting oneself aside and learning about others. Practicing all that wonderful self-sacrifice and humility.
Teaching goes along with the territory. Making yourself less in order to let the students shine. Find that perfect blend of curriculum standards and student relationships and pour that blend into every lesson, as much as possible.
After a while, you start to forget you even exist as a person. The balance tips. All of yourself is lost in the pursuit of reaching that student. Reaching that culture.
Reaching that audience. That market. If you just only put yourself aside and wrote that introduction with all the right elements, then everything will be better.
And if you fail? Well you must just plan better! Self-improvement! More education! More training! More writing classes! More marketing toys!
More, more, MORE.
Until you crash. Burn-out on reentry to the atmosphere. You give yourself away and realize you’ve lost your heart in the process.
Resentment builds as you give out to the needs of others and don’t allow yourself to be poured into. A weight sinks into your heart from the endless responsibility and flow of work that never stops.
Or, in the case of my current WIP, you write an opening scene that hits every single structural element and market-driven need.
And you hate it. And so do those close to you. Because there’s no heart. No passion. Nothing of that indelible, individual imprint that turns a story into a glimmering tapestry woven of an individual’s needs and hopes and desires and unique vision of the world.
Maybe it’s not the market wearing you down. Maybe it’s another job, or a relationship, or the demands of child-care, or an impossible experience. All of us have times when we must submit. To keep the peace. To obey the law. To abide by the demands of superiors. To heed the market. To truly love another person.
But never forget yourself.
Keep dreaming dreams. Keep trying new things. Keep pursuing your stories.
And even on my hardest days, I’ll clear off my marketing plans, duct-take the mouth of my inner critic, and do the same.
There’s always time to dive into the possibilities inside our hearts.