When I go to thrift stores, I always make sure to snoop around the used book section. Thousands and thousands of pages full of writing, lying there to collect dust. What overlooked insight might they contain?
Often, unfortunately for me, not anything particularly interesting. Dr. Phil’s advice on how to lose weight; a wrinkled, old, lurid romance novel featuring its authoress, Joan Collins, on the cover in full Dynasty garb; kiddy books given away once their readers have grown too old. It’s the thrift store, not the Library of Alexandria, and I know not to expect much. Instead, I know to walk the aisle like its a graveyard, ruminating over the stories these dead books contain, paying my respects to the Halo novel whose cover is completely torn off, and appears to have suffered water damage.
Every so often, however, I come across something mildly interesting, at the very least.
It was a journal with Anne Gedde photographs of babies in flowers interspersed between its blank, snow-white pages, waiting to be written in—all but one, that is. A single page was fully tattooed with blue ink. I felt a thrill when I saw that on February 29th, 1996, a teenage girl decided to take a brief snapshot of her life:
“I feel that I have no one to tell my thoughts and feelings. Today was a good day, but then again I try to make every day a good day. My parents always hold these standards that I have to meet up to and sometimes I wish I could just forget them. I can’t, so I work hard in school, but it always seems that I don’t work hard enough. I’m a little worried of what’s gonna happen to me, but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. I’m gonna try to keep this journal and write in it periodically. Besides, I need somewhere to keep my thoughts and this is just the thing I can keep them in.”
Needless to say, her experiment in keeping a journal failed after that one day. So, what of it?
Maybe I’m a nut, but writing, as a way to put a hold on and process our complex emotions and experiences, absolutely fascinates me. Here is the brief, inconsequential rambling of a random, worried teenager from two decades ago, and here I am, sympathizing with a stranger who I’ll likely never meet.
Hopefully, the author is still alive and well, and doesn’t even remember scribbling her thoughts onto that page. Whatever troubles she faced at the time, may have faded, or more likely evolved into different, more complex struggles. I can reflect on the times I have felt the same way as she did, and I recognize ways I have both moved on and fell back into those feelings. The fact that she never wrote in that journal again tells a story in itself. Perhaps that leap day in 1996 was just one bad day where she couldn’t contain her thoughts. Maybe she got too busy living to dedicate time to writing. Maybe she questioned her choice of a journal, and didn’t want photos of babies mixed in with her confessions. It was just a little page of messy thoughts, and yet, it made me feel nostalgic for a life I’ve never lived. In fact, it has me thinking of the strange times I’m living in now, and the others living it beside me.
Everyone has their own story to tell. Everyone has their own unique lens through which they view the world. And yet, our stories are all intertwined.
Writing opens our hearts and minds to feeling understanding and connection towards ourselves, others, and life itself. Whether we, as writers, are exploring unanswerable questions, or we, as readers, are sympathizing with them, there is something universal and miraculous about this very human invention. Writing—even as a completely private endeavor—encourages us to understand and explore the ways that we and others view the world. Writing can be like a mirror to our own humanity.
Sei Shōnagon, a noblewoman who lived in 10th-century Japan, is one of the world’s most famous diarists. Although her diary, “The Pillow Book,” was intended for her eyes only, for centuries, it has offered colorful insight into classical Japanese high society. It has also enthralled its readers with a vibrant capture of the author’s wit, perception, and personality.
“I love the way, when the sun has risen higher, the bush clover, all bowed down beneath the weight of the drops, will shed its dew, and a branch will suddenly spring up though no hand has touched it. And I also find it fascinating that things like this can utterly fail to delight others.”
The fact that, through writing, I am able to read the thoughts and experiences of a person I will never meet—that we, as humans, invented this form of communication—fascinates me to no end. Despite time and distance, I can almost see what she saw. I can almost feel how she feels. Writing, like a photograph, can almost capture our complex societies, feelings, and souls.
Even when we are only writing for ourselves, there is value in making sense of our experiences. Even if it’s trivial. Even if we’ll burn it after. Even if it will end up collecting dust in the back corner of a thrift store. And as we navigate this busy world, often foregoing any reflection at all, I, also, find it fascinating that things like this can utterly fail to delight others.
Photo: Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash
Putting your writing, or any kind of art for that matter, out into the world is a daunting act of vulnerability. There is so much to consider when publishing a piece, whether you’re pitching a novel to agents, submitting your short story to an online platform, or uploading some poetry to your personal social media. One big question many writers eventually face is, how will anyone find this? For many creatives, the only thing worse than putting out the art they spent hours laboring over only to get terrible feedback, is to get no feedback at all. One way you can quell this sort of dread is to take matters into your own hands and promote yourself. By starting a writing platform, you have the potential to gain an audience before you even finish that first draft.
What is a Writing Platform?
Essentially, a writing platform is any kind of self promotion or marketing that attempts to reach your target audience. Writing platforms can come in many forms from websites to social media to podcasts. Anywhere you can get your name out into the world is a good place to start.
Beyond that, having a strong writing platform can make all the difference in how commercially successful your work becomes. Having some sort of following paves the way for many opportunities in your writing career. Publishers are more likely to take on authors who have pre-established followers. This is because it is a smaller business gamble to take on a writer who already has a dedicated audience. Publishing houses can use the size of a writing platform’s following in order to make essential estimates such as how many copies of the book to print and which styles of promotion will be the best to reach new readers. Even if you are considering indie publishing, having a pre-existing fan-base basically ensures that you’ll have people excited to read your book when it releases.
The backbone of any online platform is the website. Though it may not be the most alluring part of the process, it is essential to have a well-designed website that people can rely on for information about you and your work. A website that will promote you and your writing in the best way possible should include a short biography explaining who you are and the genre/style you predominantly write in, contact information, some of your strongest writing samples, and a professional-looking photo of yourself. Beyond that, feel free to get creative with how you deck out your website. You want your online presence to reflect you and your writing, so emphasize your personality through other aspects of your site. You can have an entire page dedicated to blogging about your favorite tropes, including some deleted scenes from your current manuscript, character art, anything.
Beside your website, you will also want to have a few social media accounts where you can promote your work and link out to your website. Most social media experts encourage that new brands start with two social sites that you can post to regularly before venturing out to other platforms. When picking the social media you want to focus on, you should consider your target audience. For instance, if your writing is geared towards adults, you would want to look into creating a Facebook page. However, if your audience is on the younger side, something like Instagram would be a great place to gain traction.
It’s also important to consider which social media sites would be best suited for your work. This means finding a website whose interface and algorithm would be most beneficial to the content of your book as well as the content you plan on creating. If you’re not sure which of the many sites are right for your marketing approach, you can look at writers who produce work similar to yours and take inspiration from their writing platforms. If you write poetry, you can model your social strategy after Rupi Kaur, whose instagram presence helped her to find success. Youtube, while slightly more time consuming than other social media, is a hotspot for writers and readers. If you write any form of YA or New Adult books, Youtube would be a perfect place to start researching for your platform.
What to Post
Now that you’ve narrowed down the social media sites you plan to tackle, It’s time to consider what kind of content you want to put out for your potential readers. When making this decision, you’ll want to tap into your creative mind. While taking inspiration from other writing platforms is a good way to start, you don’t want your content to look like a knock off or blend in with anyone else’s work. So, take some time to think about how your writing stands out from the rest, and use that to create a unique platform.
Regardless of what you chose to post, it should be engaging for other users. There are many ways to build up a following on social media. The most crucial thing to keep in mind is consistency. Having a schedule and a list of pre-planned ideas can help you stay on top of your posts. And, if you do ever happen to skip a few days (or even a few weeks), don’t get discouraged, just pick up right where you left off.
Other ways to grow your audience would be to vary the kind of content you post. If you only post self-promos, it’s not very likely that your audience will stick around. Try mixing up your profiles by posting snippets of your work, updates on your writing progress, fun world-building details, anything that will generate excitement for your upcoming works.
Once you have an established following on a platform, you should focus on engagement and continued growth. There are many ways authors interact with their audience through social media. Some of the more common and successful approaches are going live to answer follower-submitted questions or offer advice, learning more about your audience through poll questions and responses, writing contests, and giveaways. No matter what you do, interacting with your followers will help you connect with your audience in a fulfilling way.
While the idea of starting a writing platform may seem intimidating, the best way to deal with those nerves is by getting started. As you build your platform, remember that patience is important. No matter how engaging and groundbreaking your content is, it will take people time to find it. Staying consistent and persistent is the best way to go about creating public interest for your work. Your writing deserves an audience, and a writing platform can give it the opportunity to reach the perfect readers.