How We Talk About Ourselves

I just saw a post from one of my home-town buddies. She was an amazing songwriter in the 80s and 90s and someone had written a retrospective of her career, because she was the judge of a songwriting competition. She posted the retrospective on facebook…and then ended up talking at length about how and why she’d lost the same competition, 25 years ago.

I mean, here was this great write up but she just couldn’t be positive about it. That’s what my husband says I do – ‘you talk yourself down’ he says. Maybe that’s just the Midwestern girl in me. Garrison Keillor once said that the proper way for a Midwestern man to announce to his friends that he just bought a fishing boat is to sigh and say, ‘Well, I guess I’d better start looking for a trailer.’

The whole issue of writerly promotion is fraught with difficulty and peril. My colleagues and I have been emailing about it all day. Truman Capote said, ‘A boy must peddle his books,’ but I’m not sure we all want to, or in fact can, peddle. I can sell anything to anybody, but I get terribly embarrassed talking about my own work. And because I’m embarrassed, I’m not all that great at it, I don’t think.

And the whole Publishing industry is in such flux… I’m not sure anybody knows anything right now. I don’t know if pretending you’re the greatest thing is all that useful to people worrying about their jobs.

I think I’ll stick to writing the stuff, and see where that gets me. Oh, and if you’re at a literary function, you’ll find me by the onion dip, if you want to talk. I’ll be looking all confident and happy, but don’t let that fool you…

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3 thoughts on “How We Talk About Ourselves

  1. Having just tried to sell my work to agents whose comments were mostly of the “Hmm, that’s interesting…” variety, I know exactly how you feel. It’s a bloody awful thing to have to do. However, one of them (young and I think inexperienced) did say to me, “You did a very good pitch.” I carried that round with me for the rest of the evening. I bet you do a jolly good pitch too, when you stop being Midwestern about it!

  2. Isn’t this one of the big reasons for having an agent though? So they can do the whole horrid promotion thing for us? And I wouldn’t feel bad about keeping the onion dip company, last time I was at a house party I was so miserable I found a quiet corner and curled up dormouse like with my laptop

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