One Thing That Moves You
It’s resolution time, and whether you commit to annual resolutions religiously, or you believe they don’t merit a special time of year, the year’s end provides a unique opportunity to consider where you’ve been and where you’re going.
I work with writers who want to publish, which means that the goals we set forth are two-fold: to finish the work-in-progress, and also to consider new ways to nurture and grow author platform. Finishing a book is a finite goal, as there comes a time when you must finish, no matter how long it takes you. Growing your author platform, on the other hand, is a long march without a destination. Instead there are pit stops along the way that you might hit — in the form of visibility for you and for your work.
As an author, the single most important goal you can strive for is visibility — whether that’s publishing new books, speaking, teaching, writing articles, blogging. And since most of us are not going to be riding The New York Times best-seller list for weeks on end or having movies made from our books, we have to consider what avenues we want to pursue to obtain that visibility, and what is gong to motivate us to follow through.
As an author myself, I strive for visibility just like anyone else. I like to set goals for myself at the end of the year — to have a certain number of articles published, to finish or start a new book project, to partner with interesting people to create new things (classes, workshops, webinars, etc.). Earlier this month, a colleague I’ve been wanting to partner with for a long time reached out to me with a proposition to do something together in 2016. I was excited when she asked me to come up with some ideas, the criterion being that they be challenging, new, and different. I went to work brainstorming, and came back the following week with three ideas. All three were rejected — kindly, but nevertheless rejected — for not being challenging, new or different. I was disappointed, and I’m sorry to confess that I fell into a momentary self-berating tailspin about my lack of creativity. I thought about my work and considered that maybe I’m more of a champion than a challenger. In short, I lost perspective.
Three days later, I got an email from Elizabeth Gilbert (because I’m on her newsletter list — ha) announcing The Compassion Collective. This is a frigging genius idea, rooted in compassion, driven by a heartfelt desire to help. It’s a project in which best-selling authors Elizabeth Gilbert, Rob Bell, Cheryl Strayed, Brené Brown and Glennon Doyle Melton partnered to encourage their audiences to support the current refugee crisis by making small donations in amounts of $25 or less. Their goal was to reach $1 million, and they achieved that goal in 31 hours.
I was impressed with this initiative for many reasons, and also saw its results as an example of the power of author platform. And while I do not believe that building visibility for themselves was one of the driving forces behind the initiative, the amazing results certainly showcase these authors’ vast and loyal followings.
After I donated my $25, I thought about what made me take action. I believe in the cause and $25 was an easy thing to say yes to. It felt good to be a part of something, too, to effect change on a small level. I also admire these authors, and appreciate that they came together to partner in this simple and heartfelt way. It reminded me of “We Are the World,” the 1985 charity song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie that gathered together superstars to record a single for African famine relief. And I was pleased that this project was spearheaded by authors.
These authors’ partnership also gave me some immediate perspective on my own rejected partnership proposals because I imagined the synergy and the relative ease with which The Compassion Collective must have come into being. I’m only speculating, but I would venture to guess it was organic, stemming from some conversation among these authors who are all connected (I believe) through Oprah.
It also made me realize that what’s important in starting something new is not being challenging, new, or different per se. Things happen when something speaks to our minds or our hearts or both. The force behind a new initiative has an energy all its own, and whether you are participating in it or driving it, if it sparkles and teems with its own kind of life-force, you are undoubtedly going to see it through. And whether your idea impacts a handful or many thousands, the effort involved to keep connecting to people, to be a conversation starter, and to continue to show up even when it feels like no one’s listening, is more about a long-term vision than anything that might go viral — as much as people might want to hope for that possibility.
This teeming energy a new initiative holds is the stuff author platform thrives on. These forces connect and inspire people, and when you can harness something that moves you, it will move others. Maybe not on the level of The Compassion Collective, but consider where these authors started. At Ground Zero, just like every one else. Launch one thing this year to grow your platform that excites you (your website, a new book project, a Facebook campaign, a giveaway campaign, a specific call to action, a webinar, a local in-person class). It doesn’t have to be challenging, new, or different. It only has to move you.
If you’re looking for where to begin with author platform, start here.