Are you like me? Lost at sea on the internet?
Since I’m always looking for advice, I make an appointment with my internet GURU high up in the mountains—of course.
After an arduous two day climb, I arrive—panting—at his door. We writers are notoriously rather out of shape. We prefer the comfort of a keyboard and a glass of wine!
This GURU looks rather austere. No levity with him! But I have come a long way and am determined to ask my question.
ME: GURU, I have a hammer, saw, screwdriver and drill. Can I build a boat? [This, of course, is not the real question. But I wanted to appear contemplative with just a touch of inscrutability.]
G: After a very long and considered pause, he says— No.
ME: Even if I have the blueprints? And know how to use the tools—7at least pretty well.
ME: Why not? [my vision of a boat is fading before my eyes.]
G: Even with those tools and plans all you have is a jumble of stuff. You may have the skills needed to use the hammer, saw, screwdriver and drill [and even the plans] but you don’t know how to use them in a coordinated fashion.
Theoretically, you could build a boat, but what you really need is the skill and knowledge to use the tools effectively all together as one unit. Without that you have nothing.
PLUS you need a whole lot of creativity and vision. It’s that part of yourself you contribute to the whole work. He closes his eyes and appears lost in a trance.
ME: [shrugging] Well, I don’t really want to build a boat. [I seem very easily discouraged in the presence of such a great Guru.]
G: No, but you want to sell your novels.
G: Same idea. You have a nice website with lots of information. You have an interesting blog where you tell stories about your characters whom I think are really interesting. You’re on Goodreads, Wattpad, Twitter and Pinterest…you know all the social media sites. How’s that working out for you?
ME: Not so well.
G: What’s the problem?
ME: I keep reaching out in all the ways the Gurus suggest—contests, quizzes, provocative blog posts. We tweet out everything we can and get lots of retweets and favorites. People are even signing up for the newsletter and blog posts.
ME: I know how to use all the tools [at least pretty well]. But I keep thinking that if I knew how to coordinate the use of all of them, maybe I’d be more effective. Is itossible that when you put all those tools together that somehow they make a greater tool if you know how to use them together? Somehow make a bigger splash.
G: Yes, exactly! And that’s where your creativity and vision comes in.
G: Of course. Think of it this way. You’re one tiny person among millions and millions—maybe even billions. That makes you like a pebble tossed into the Pacific Ocean. How do you expect to cause a ripple much less a wave? How do you expect to be noticed?
ME: By being different–really, creatively different?
G: Exactly! But how do you do that? Everyone else is trying to be different.
ME: Well let me get my creativity hat on. [I make silly jokes when nervous. My hat is made of a nice soft, green material with symbols of some kind on it. I return and sit before the master.]
G: The guru frowns and says—Do you wear that hat out in public?
ME: Huh? [I am crestfallen]
G: Sorry…tell me about your creativity.
ME: I’ve been thinking. How many times and in how many ways can you entice people to buy your books. I know—there are contests and sales and quizzes, but pretty soon you wear out your welcome and become just plain annoying. You and all your work are deleted with one keystroke.
G: So what can you do about that besides complain?
ME: I love my characters. The protagonist of The Osgoode Trilogy is Harry Jenkins, a Toronto lawyer. The three novels, [Conduct in Question, Final Paradox and A Trial of One] were inspired by my many years of law practice. You know—after listening to the stories of my clients for years on end, I just had to tell my own.
G: You? A lawyer?
When I nod, he winces.
I continue–Then there’s The Trilogy of Remembrance [The Drawing Lesson, The Fate of Pryde and Night Crossing] in which Alexander Wainwright, a famous landscape artist is perpetually searching for his muse. These tales are about love so strong it transcends life and death. It’s about cruelty and compassion, life, art and the magic of creation. All told, it speaks of that yearning within us for what lies beyond.
G: Hmmm…. very pretty words! And so?
ME: I thought maybe I should bring the characters to life in Cyberspace—take on a life outside of the books and tell their own stories. Here is Alexander’s own Facebook page.
G: [nodding his head sagely] Hmmm… not bad. So they see if they like your characters as much as you do.
ME: With his guarded approval, I become excited. You see—I could write blogs about their adventures not already in the books…let people get to know them a bit. In fact, I already have.
Take a look at this where Alexander Wainwright [the star of the trilogy] travels in time and space to meet the famous British painter, J.M.W Turner and talk about book covers. And then, look here. What about a prequel to the trilogy where we learn about Alexander’s visions? Surely that would interest a reader.
G: In response, the GURU looks heavenward [?] and intones As above, so below!
Then he glances at his iPhone and shrugs. Looks like our time’s up, friend. Come back next week and let me know how it works out for you.
ME: Feeling as if dismissed from the therapist’s office at the very moment a life realization is about to dawn and breakthrough made, I turn at the door to say goodbye.
G: For the first time he smiles a near toothless smile. By the way, lose the hat, please.
ME: The spell is broken. I step outside and, with a heavy heart, contemplate my long walk down the mountain.