With so many voices, I find I am increasingly distracted. Writing is an act of centering myself, of returning to my own voice and locating my perspective in the midst of everyone else's. Publishing is an act of promoting this expression, which is where I have found some discomfort. There is a constant debate of whether we have raised or lowered the bar for all writers by making publishing so accessible; on one hand, the competition is fiercer and one would hope that the best will rise to the top naturally (a capitalistic view?), but on the other hand, it offers a soap box for ideas not fully formulated, for more noise to block out what we all need to hear. Writing should be a modest endeavor, but publishing is inherently not, no matter how much you believe in what you are saying. That is why I am always on edge about posting blog posts and participating in Twitter and Facebook, i.e. Writer Promotion 101. Am I adding to the noise? Am I saying what has already been said? Will people benefit from what I say? While I'm chattering, what am I missing?
Writers always have to balance this desire to listen but also be heard. We might wrestle with this sense of perfectionism in what we put out there, as well as a yearning for quietude against a need to stay relevant by weighing in.
The question is, When do you weigh in? At what point have you gathered enough information where you have a place to publish on a given topic? And at what point do you know that what you are saying hasn't already been said in some way? I think the answer is we must create our own space wisely; we must accept that we can only write to the extent that we understand, and that has limits. I think as long as I write as honestly as possible and to the best of my ability at that moment, I can be proud of what it is and accept wherever it may end up - or if it will not be read at all.
Such a philosophy can be problematic. Squeaky wheel gets the oil, right? I am learning how to strike a balance between maintaining quality in what I put out there and committing hefty time to "catching a break" by being a louder voice in the crowd. This involves breaking out of my comfort zone and talking about my writing more through different outlets. It also involves trying to making myself recognizable to readers who are looking for something specific.
It is good for every writer to find a niche. Stephen King fans know where to turn when they're craving horror or supernatural fiction. He has perfected his focus area to a degree, and that is how he markets so well. When I read big authors like Barbara Kingsolver, Chimamanda Adichie, Junot Diaz, Cara Black, or Margaret Atwood, I know pretty much what I am getting because their style and genre are consistent. This type of recognition and branding makes their voice louder.
At the same time, I don't want to be pigeonholed. I've written all over the place and don't feel like I want to settle just yet; I want to keep digging for new methods of expression so that maybe what I put out there will be different and newer than whatever else is available at that moment, without being avant garde. I want to keep learning, deciding, changing. I guess self-promotion makes it feel as though I've settled on that marketable voice, or that I am speaking out of turn when I would rather just focus on the craft. Gradually, I'm working through the crowd.