Thursday, November 06, 2014

How Readers Are Not Like Birds (or Being Okay with It When Writers Say "Come, Read!")

My husband enjoys the birds that come to his patio feeders. So much so that when the flowers in the hanging basket outside my office window bit the autumnal dust, I wasn’t surprised he suggested a bird feeder for that spot. I agreed—as long as he didn't expect me to report which birds and how many of them showed up. I don't have to know everything about birds to enjoy the benefits of a seed-offering station outside my window. Still, I did hope an interesting variety of birds would visit.

Out went a new feeder filled to the brim with a carefully selected blend of seeds, but several days went by without any bird appearances. Erecting a sign that said, “Hey, birds, look what we have here!” never occurred to us, maybe because we are pretty sure birds cannot read. We simply waited. A few days later the birds discovered the new feeder all on their own.

Readers, however, are not like birds. (Work with me, now.)

Serious writers put their work “out there”—a carefully selected blend of thought, words, and heart. But for many writers it's hard to accept that potential readers, unlike birds, do need a sign that says, "Come, read!" You see, some of us feel funny about promoting our work. Who do I think I am? Why would anyone care what I have to say? Isn't this really promoting . . . me? Yet, writers do hope someone will gain enjoyment, encouragement, or insight from what they write.

That's one reason I appreciated a workshop presenter at the writers conference I attended this past weekend, successful blogger and soon-to-be-published book author Nate Pyle. He said it's okay for bloggers to promote what they have to offer; people have to know blogs exists, that each blog post exists, to consider whether or not they want to sample what is being offered. And I am sure he would say the same about authors of all kinds of written material.

It's not that all writers need a lot of birds . . . uh, readers . . . to keep going. I, for example, will write for this blog as long as I want to, no matter how few people read it (and yes, I know writing mostly about writing limits an audience anyway). So I am not asking anyone to follow, subscribe, comment on, share, or like any blog or blog post—though indications that someone is reading are encouraging for a writer. Who's going to lie about that? But I am asking the uninterested to be okay with it when writers promote their work on Facebook, Twitter, and so on, because I think Nate is right. Just ignore the signs if our brand of seed is not attractive.

And, hey, you writers out there? I, for one, want to know where your feeders are. Bottom line, potential readers need signs. And that's how they are not like birds. Well that, and not many of them have feathers.

Writers, what are your own thoughts or feelings on this topic?

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