I feel like a real dweeb. I forgot a very important birthday. Last week, my first-born book, Absolute Mayhem, turned 2. And the only reason I became aware of the milestone was because my Facebook memories reminded me. Boy, I thought to myself, that sure would have been a good marketing opportunity, especially with the holidays right around the corner. As I looked through all the old posts and the excitement that surrounded the book release, I couldn’t help but feel like I have let myself and my passion down this past year.
I’ve done very little promotion or marketing. I’ve barely paid attention to my poor characters, Lulu, Milo, and Hippo. And this blog hasn’t fared much better. Eight. Up until today, I’ve written eight posts the entire year. And that number would have been practically zero had it not been for these events: the deaths of two people who have greatly impacted my life (Harper Lee and my grandfather); two anniversaries that made me want to celebrate the men I love (my husband and The Monkees); and my child breaking BOTH her arms (I’d be irresponsible not to document that).
But on the whole, I’ve remained pretty silent. And I don’t think hardly anyone has seemed to notice. Surprisingly, that’s a relief. Fading into the background has helped me to feel a bit detached from all of this…which was just what I needed to break an addiction I had succumbed to.
There was a time when this all felt SO important. I had convinced myself I was finally doing what I had always wanted to do: writing. And I was writing. But there was this whole undercurrent into which I was getting swept up as well: the business of blogging. It involved promoting myself, my book, and my work; being super visible on social media; tweeting; scheduling posts at optimal times; beating other writers to the punch on hot topics; joining blogging groups and share threads; checking stats; boosting Facebook posts; submitting pieces to bigger sites and changing my voice to fit the often snarky, unapologetic tones so many of them have adopted. It involved having and voicing an opinion on EVERYTHING. Or at least, that’s how it felt to me. And I needed to do all of it if I wanted to succeed.
Now, I’m not sure how many of you reading this know me personally, but I am somewhere between 50-99% UNcomfortable with or INcapable of doing each of the things on that list. I mean, let’s take tweeting alone. Geez. Have you seen my Twitter account? I seem to only be able to use it sporadically as a method of wooing my boyfriend Micky Dolenz and talking to my friend Mindy. Beating other writers to the punch? I’ve already established that I find out about virtually everything after it’s already old news. Promoting myself? I just threw up thinking about it. But the voodoo of the blogging world made me feel like all of it was so necessary. As a result, I overcommitted myself to doing it all, on my own, and as perfectly as I could. I was basically Jessie Spano juiced up on caffeine pills. “There’s never any time!” Eventually, I couldn’t deny there was a problem, and that I hated spending large chunks of my days doing these things. So I began pulling back…then just not doing them at all.
Then there was the whole pickle of what to write about. My kids are getting older and less willing to be featured in my writing, understandably. But what about other topics? A lot has certainly happened this year I could have discussed, but I didn’t want to. I was tired of being a part of the noise. The internet is a noisy place, ya’ll. There are absolutely some wonderful and talented people out there writing things that make the world better in one way or another. But their work is constantly having to fight its way to the top of the putrid and convoluted cesspool of everything else. If I wasn’t appreciating so many voices all writing about the same stuff, why did I think it was okay to put mine out there all the time? Ironically, I once wrote a post about the importance of silence, and I wasn’t taking my own advice. I was burned out, tuned out, and questioning the point of all of it. As a result, I wrote a measly eight blog posts.
As it turns out, that was okay. It was exactly the blogging rehab I needed. Once I released myself from the blogging and marketing pressures, I gained some perspective. I kind of liked NOT doing it around the clock, instead spending my time on things that energized me, like volunteering more at my kids’ school (“Hey, want to be PTO Vice President?” Mind: Hell no. Mouth: I’d love to. Mind: Dammit.) and strangely enjoying a bootcamp class three times a week (“Hey, want to start going to bootcamp?” Muscles: Hell no. Mind, who still carries hopes of having legs like Kelly Ripa: I’d love to. Muscles: Dammit.). Do I want to continue writing? Absolutely. It’s one of my great loves. But the need to have it discovered or featured or shared just isn’t there anymore – nor is the belief in the fabricated law that I must post regularly or face extinction. Basically, now I’m like the Jessie Spano who has stopped stressing that she’s too tall to dance with guys or that Zack scored higher than her on the SAT’s. I’m just happy hanging at The Max and letting Slater call me “Mama.”
It also turns out that sometimes when you stop doing all the things you thought would make you successful, the universe notices and says, “FINALLY! I’ve had this really cool thing for you, but you’ve been so distracted trying to sell posts about being a grocery store diva or the top ten reasons tweens are sassy a**holes that I couldn’t get your attention. Here…” And then the universe hands you a contract with a publisher to write a book about the greatest teen show of all time, SAVED BY THE BELL!!!!
(See how I just snuck that little bombshell in there? I’m taking this “no promotion” stuff seriously. Okay, so I did announce it on Facebook right after I signed the contract in August, but it was just a little announcement. And yes, I referenced “I’m so excited…” in the Facebook post. I wouldn’t deserve to write the book if I hadn’t.)
I didn’t get the contract by having a blog post go viral, or increasing my subscribers, or tweeting the right person, or participating in that one lucky share thread, or boosting a Facebook post. I got the contract through a real life connection, on the strength of my talent, and oddly enough, as a result of my love for The Monkees. I kid you not. (But maybe that’s a story for another post.) The point is, I had to remove myself from the noise and be silent for long enough to hear the opportunity call my name.
I’ll still be posting here when I feel like it, because I love it here. Every time I see those headless torsos of me and my kids on my banner photo, I feel a rush of pride and think to myself what a beautiful little corner this is. And I’m sure I’ll eventually get around to giving my children’s book a little attention out in the marketplace. I may even start on another one with Lulu and Milo. But right now, my priority is finishing the Saved By the Bell book…because I don’t want Belding to give me a detention.
Yet even when the new book is finally published, I doubt I’ll reacquaint myself with the blogging business addiction. Zack Morris would probably put his money on me forgetting the anniversary of its release date and doing a piss-poor job of promoting my second-born book, just like I have with Absolute Mayhem. Then Belding would be all like, “Hey, hey, hey, hey! WHAT is going on here?” And Zack would get in trouble for gambling on school property. But then he’d find another way to make a quick buck for the holidays by selling Absolute Mayhem out of electronically-rigged lockers…
Help a Preppy out and grab a copy. It makes a great gift. (Does that make up for a year’s worth of slacking?)
Speaking of Bayside High…
I could use your help in my research! If you are a fan of Saved By the Bell, I’d love for you to answer two questions for me in the comment section:
- What are your top three favorite episodes?
- Why do you think Saved By the Bell has remained a visible part of our cultural literacy?