Kendra Bonnett--Getting Read #20
I have a second job. When I'm not writing, coaching, critiquing and teaching or co-managing Women's Memoirs with Matilda, I'm selling women's clothing at Bergdorf Goodman in New York. The work doesn't cut into my writing too much because I'm only on the sales floor once a week...and only at night. But that one night a week keeps me in touch with customers...the buying public. It keeps me focused on the wants and needs of the customer--the heart of good customer service.
I excel at the job. So much so that I can do the work in my sleep...literally. For apparently that's when I work at Bergdorf's. I had a dream last night so vivid that when I awoke I knew I wanted to write my Story Circle blog post all about my experiences selling at Bergdorf's and how the time I invest on the job helps me toward my objective of racking up 10,000 hours in sales experience.
About now, Dear Reader, you probably can't fathom what I'm talking about. Let me begin by assuring you that I'm not still asleep. Although it took me a couple minutes this morning to fully awake to the fact that I have never worked at Bergdorf's (nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night), I think my head is now clear enough that I can articulate the point of my dream.
Beyond Work...Writing from Passion
Yesterday, I spent the day working on my new Writing in Five video, which you can now watch on Women's Memoirs by clicking on this link. I think it's an important piece because Ray Bradbury so clearly illustrated the path we follow as journeyman (or in our case journeywomen) writers that for the first time I understood my own development from bored, unremarkable English student to someone who defines herself as a writer.
I never felt my transformation into an author and marketing communications writer was deliberate. In truth, I became a writer in spite of myself. But Greenwich Academy, my school for the first 14 years of my education, emphasized composition, literature, grammar, spelling, Latin and the writing of lots of essay questions. From the time I was four, we wrote, read and memorized. And we were drilled. To this day, I can recite Shylock's soliloquy, Hamlet's soliloquy, Romeo's soliloquy, a good amount of Robert Frost, Walt Whitman's O Captain! My Captain! and the first 15 lines of the Prologue of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
While I was a mediocre student through high school, I completed all my assignments and put in my hours. I received my first payoff when as a college Freshman I placed out of all English classes. I was free to take advanced classes or no English at all, if I wished. I elected to take American Lit and enjoyed the class so much I took it again that summer just for fun at a small, local college.
My breakthrough as a writer came later, in graduate school. I was writing my Master's thesis in Colonial History at The College of William and Mary when I found my voice and the words began to flow. The moment came without great revelation or fanfare but simply a sense that the writing came easier. Was I suddenly a great writer? Hardly. I still strive for that. The breakthrough simply enabled my ability to communicate. I could think less about the physical act of writing and focus more on my thoughts, my messages. I could express my ideas and write from my passion. How exhilarating.
Ray Bradbury called this the natural progression from writing as work to relaxation and not thinking. In his 2008 book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell described the same phenomenon as the 10,000-hour rule.
What's Bradbury Have to Do with Getting Read?
So back to my dream and what it means in the context of this post. I went to bed last night, thrilled with my new understanding of my own progress as a writer. But foremost on my mind was how I could relate my story and tell you about my latest Writing in Five video and still connect it to the business of writing...marketing, selling and, well, getting read.
The human brain is a remarkable thing, and as I slept it went to work resolving my dilemma. Imagine, as I slept my brain was busy selling haute couture. First, I'm impressed that my subconscious took me to one of the finest department stores in the country. My brain worked hard helping me relate to customers (to understand their wants and needs), build connections to my customers (create a platform) and gain the requisite experience for excellence comes only with work and practice.
So here's the money shot (ah, point): As writers in the 21st century, we have many roles. Our primary job is as artists striving to express our passions, emotions and ideas as clearly and eloquently as possible. Our secondary job (our night job) but one that in the end may require the majority of our time is to get our work discovered by readers. Whether you blog, social network, speak to audiences, give away free chapters, network with agents and publishers, expertise will not come overnight. And just because you wrote a good book doesn't mean that your marketing efforts will bring instant rewards.
You must put in your time. Develop a platform. Perfect your techniques of outreach. Start blogging. Keep blogging...even if it appears no one is reading you. Share with prospective readers on all manner of social networking sites. Put in your 10,000 hours. Then one day you'll realize the rewards you seek. Marketing will cease to be work and become a pleasurable means for communicating and sharing with your readers.
And that's what my brain wanted me to tell you today. I hope you'll now go visit Women's Memoirs and watch my Writing in Five video to learn more about Ray Bradbury's vision for achieving the zen in writing.