Read much, believe little

I am broken, need fixing, I’m dumb. Or not. I’m a blog omnivore, so I read a lot of advice, thoughts, and beliefs of other writers and artists. And it’s a wide range.

The last two days, I’ve been reading about other people’s success stories about blogging and book promoting. (I have a tendency to read about what’s on my plate). Interesting what happens in my brain (maybe yours, too) when we read something new that we don’t agree with. We believe the other person. Particularly if we don’t know them. Because no matter what our experience is, surely the other person is smarter, richer, wiser, and a better human being.

I’m amazed at my own gullibility. “Content is no longer king,” says one blogger, and I gobble up his article, afraid that one of my basic truths has vanished. “The reader is king!” he proudly proclaims, “content doesn’t really matter.” Oh. And what is King Reader reading? Content. And why will King Reader read the content? Because it is interesting to King Reader. So, finish the circle, content is still king.

“If you are still doing book signings, you are over 60 and a dinosaur,” says another blogger. Her idea is that everything is virtual, and social networking sells books. I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure people buy books for lots of reasons, and a good reason is to meet the person who wrote it and talk to them in real life, if they are available. And that means I want to make myself available. Because people who are satisfied tell others. (Not as many as people who are unsatisfied, which is motivation enough.) But can’t I do both? I’m planning a virtual blog tour and a real event tour. (Signings are fine, but making art is more fun, so I’m doing art-making signings.)

Before you believe everything you read (I call this “the last person I talked to is an expert syndrome”) run it through your value-meter. I’ve been writing for a long time, and content matters. If an article is cheap starchy filler, I leave faster than a barefoot pedestrian crosses a freshly-tarred street.

My value-meter knows that meeting people face to face and hearing their stories is what made me write my book in the first place. I heard so many people say, “I’m not creative, I can’t draw,” while hungering for some meaning in their lives, it was impossible for me not to write the book.

Of course, I also learn a lot from reading blogs. And not just facts or behavior-shifts that I already believe in. I’m happy to explore new ideas, and I’m a big fan of change. But change for change’s sake rarely sticks. Change is fueled by current failure, pain, or general misery. That’s what makes change possible–what we are doing now isn’t working. What works for someone else might not work for me. And if it doesn’t match what I know to be true from my own life, it’s probably not true for me. My life is a big circle, and I invite a lot of people in. But it doesn’t mean I have to follow their advice.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach whose coaching practice is based on working with deeply-held values and, well, change.

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10 thoughts on “Read much, believe little

  1. Such an interesting post. I – too – tend to believe what it is that I’m reading..and think that I should board that latest train and bandwagon as the ‘only’..or the ‘right’ way to be. Important to view things thru our own filters..find our own thoughts on the content and subject at hand.

    • It’s hard not to get sucked into the latest fad–corporations do. You may remember “work smarter, not harder” or “management by walking around,” –those were organizational development fads. There are fads in photography, in art, in writing (vampires and zombies agree on this), and certainly fashion. But like fashion, not every philosophy or idea works for everyone. So developing a good values filter is useful.

  2. Sometimes I get “opinion overload” and just need to tune out all the noise around me. Although I learn so much reading so many blogs, I also get a little overwhelmed, frustrated and sometimes even jealous. It’s impossible not to compare ourselves with others but it’s really not a helpful habit.

    Social networking is great. Connecting is great. PERSONAL connections, now that’s even better.

    This is the difference between facebook friends where the most you know about them is their ability to maintain a virtual farm AND real-life people who you know what they look like (warts and all), how they shake hands, their quirky broken shoelaces along with their other traits that add up to make them whole.

    Great post Quinn! Stay true to your own heart. Best wishes from germany, tj

    • TJ, you are so good with making up the right words–opinion overload is exactly what happens when too much information comes in and doesn’t get processed, just labeled.

  3. It sounds like promoting and selling your book is a lot like selling art. People not only buy the book/art, they are buying a piece of the writers/artists life. It seems book signings/events would be essential to meet a certain segment of that population.

  4. Hi Quinn, saw your comment on Bridget Pilloud’s blog and hopped over. This is such a good read (and I’m not just saying that because I just read it!). It really sums up my thought as someone living in the grey area between print and digital publishing professionally. Content is important. Communication with your reader (ie live events, book signings) are mega-important. Social media can do a lot, but I would never say “Oh my god, I got to meet my favorite author” because I started following them on twitter.
    Anyway, going to keep reading you! I’m also guilty of thinking I’m not creative, so I look forward to reading your thoughts on that.

  5. I haven’t joined the online social networking bandwagon, so have to agree that personal contact is definitely a tool to use. I have bought (and enjoyed) several books solely from a chance meeting with the author doing a book signing someplace.

    I am so eager for your book to be available so I can give it as gifts to several of my friends who think they aren’t artistic and/or can’t art journal!

    • I can’t wait for it, either! But I have to. I’ve lined up my first marketing call with the publisher, so I’m eager to hear her ideas–now that I’ve lined up five signings!

  6. I don’t know about selling books, but I do know a thing or two about promoting political events. You can’t rely on social networking, personal contact is still the best way.

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