I was introduced to this poem in high school English, and I never forgot it. While I am not a poetry lover per se (sorry, sorry, I know that’s going to offend some of you!) there are some poems I love, and Kipling’s “If” has some amazing language in it. The first two lines have always stayed with me, and I thought of them while writing this post today.
Lately when I’ve queried editors regarding submitting my articles for their consideration, it has been difficult for me to fully promote my work and “keep my head” as Kipling so eloquently states. Of course good writing speaks for itself, but the writer behind the writing has to present well too! I’ve been caring for two sick little ones over the past couple weeks, and that situation has not only distracted me; it has gotten me out of my writing groove and my writing confidence has been zapped as well.
Now my girls are well, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to return to my regular writing schedule. But I’ve been procrastinating on certain projects and I’ve grown lackluster in promoting my writing to various outlets. I haven’t lost all hope about returning to “zestful writing” as the awesome author Elizabeth Sims calls it - I’ve been through this dilemma before, and I know I’ll get back to where I want to be. It’s just going to take more time than I’d like – time I hate to lose, because I’ve lost enough time since my 2007 bipolar diagnosis when my writing career stalled for oh, eight years.
Ironically, it’s much easier for me to promote others’ work. Promotion was a skill I learned in my first “grown-up” job working at a special event production company. We produced on average ten large-scale annual events in Silicon Valley. I started out as the office manager and then was put in charge of more challenging projects, such as working with the media, talent agents, and vendors. Our publicity consultant taught me how to write press releases, and I was interviewed about our events by prestigious newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News. My boss had very high standards, and he had established a great reputation. Before creating his company, he had founded the highly acclaimed Paul Masson Mountain Winery Concert Series and he worked with the greatest names in music. Fortunately I was able to represent his company in a professional manner over the phone, in person and in writing, and while it was a stressful job, it taught me a great deal.
So yes, to reiterate, the bottom line is that when it comes to promoting my writing these days, I’m not as gung-ho as I’d like to be. One thing I know for sure is that enthusiasm about one’s work (in moderate doses) is a wonderful quality, and I want to cultivate it to the best of my ability.
As most of you reading this piece are also bloggers, I’m sure some of you know a thing or two when it comes to promoting your blog or anything else that you believe in, for that matter! Recently I pushed past my comfort zone and asked an authority figure to publish my essay. While I didn’t expect a resounding “no”, I didn’t exactly expect a “yes” either, as worthy as my article seemed in my eyes. Well, that question, which literally took me less than ninety seconds to formulate, type out and email, paid off. My essay was published and I got a strong response from readers that felt very validating. As far as I was concerned, that incident was a sign that I must keep plugging away with my writing and don’t let the turkeys get me down. (What a great phrase, eh?)
I shouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket with any one contact, project or dream. Believe me, at age forty-four, apart from my first job, I’ve dealt with promotion-related issues throughout my work history. After I left the special event production company, I became a certified personal trainer. I built up my own business at a popular gym whose members included the founder of Netflix and the editor of our biggest local newspaper – these people could afford personal trainers! I advertised myself and my training services to prospective clients, and I was able to achieve a modest success. After working in fitness for a couple years, I worked at three different non-profits: Friends of the Santa Cruz Libraries, COBHA/The College of Botanical Healing Arts, and Friends of the Santa Cruz State Parks.
My jobs focused on administration and development, and I was required to help promote their numerous special events. I was expected to be knowledgable and enthusiastic about each non-profit’s mission. While I loved the public library system, botanical healing products, and our gorgeous local state parks, none of these worthy organizations captured my heart. At these three workplaces I suffered from chronic depression and I wouldn’t be diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder until years later.
Even if I hadn’t been depressed when I worked with these groups of dedicated, talented people, I still would have been less than fired-up working with them because I wasn’t truly passionate about the causes – yes, even the libraries!
During my pre-bipolar diagnosis years, I always thought that if I could find the right job that inspired me, I’d give it my all and I would be successful. Well, ever since I left the University of California at Santa Cruz when I was twenty-one, I’ve been writing, mostly without pay, because I love to do it. (I know I’m preaching to the choir here.) When I reached my late twenties and I achieved my dream to have my articles published in national magazines and I actually got paid for them, I realized that I could be a writer, but I still didn’t go for it and make writing my “real” job.
Now I finally do have the opportunity to “go for it” and complete my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder. I’ve written eighty pages so far, and I’m at an impasse of sorts. I’m scared that I won’t achieve my dream to finish writing this book and I’m worried I’ll fall short of my two goals: for it to be interesting and #2) It will help people. But, the old cliche rings true here – if I don’t give it a shot, I’ll never know.
What matters is keeping up my habit of typing regularly (or putting pen to paper for some of you) and not giving up. When it comes to writing, I’ve proved to myself that I am a slow-but-steady writer. Slow is not always a negative trait – I witnessed my husband Craig Harwood complete his award-winning book Quest for Flight – John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West and have it published by University of Oklahoma. It took him seven years to write his book, but who cares – he did it. I’ve also been inspired by my friend the author Rebecca Moore, who wrote Moorestorms: A Guide for the Bipolar Parent and four other books. She has the gift, along with my favorite authors Madeleine L’Engle and L.M. Montgomery, of being a prolific writer.
Moore, L’Engle and Montgomery were able to keep their noses to the grindstone and complete numerous books in a timely fashion. I wish they could bottle their talent and fortitude up because I’d be the first to buy it!
When I do complete my book, I’ll promote the heck out of it. I consider completing a book similar to having a child, and it’s an enormous accomplishment. I have respect for anyone who finishes writing a book, whether or not it wins the National Book Award. Just call me Dyane “Turtle” Harwood, because I will be crossing the finish line of completing Birth of a New Brain someday , and when I do, I’ll become a P.R. whiz. Just wait and see! ;)
I’d love to read about how you promote yourself , your blog and your books – feel free to comment below…