Let's Change the World

firstknightbdcap4_originalI watched “First Knight” recently, and I was very, very impressed.

But my pet peeves regarding Arthurian movies is another subject for another time. I want to use this as an allegory.

That is the very heart of Camelot. Not these stones. Timbers. Towers, palaces. Burn them all…and Camelot lives on. Because it lives in us. It’s a belief we hold in our hearts.

I have a goal. Some might call it an unobtainable goal, but just figuring out the answer is enough for me, regardless of what the world thinks about it. That goal is the driving force behind creating this blog, and behind most of the crazy experiments I engage in. That goal is to revolutionize the way authors do self-promotion.

Because, seriously people, we’re doing it all wrong. Blogging is a dying art form…because nobody really wants to spend time reading a blog that’s all about you. Blog tours are equally useless, because all the blogs on the tour tend to have the same audiences anyway, and it just turns into mutual back-patting fest.

I think the reason we fail so fantastically is because we’ve somehow lost the point. We’ve forgotten why we write. Is it to be famous? To make money? To win prestige and the notice of others? Or do we write to inspire, encourage, and enrich other people?

I had the privilege of being a moderator on two panels at WorldCon last summer. I was a bit nervous, because I’d never moderated before, so I did quite a lot of research which lead inadvertently to reading quite a bit of information on panel etiquette. Panelists are not paid. Sometimes, but not often, they get free badges, but that’s all. WorldCon has hundreds of panelists, all of whom pay to attend just like everyone else who’s there. So why volunteer to be on a panel? To get attention, to get an audience and to, hopefully, sell books as a result.

But promoting your work on a panel is considered very bad etiquette. You’re there to discuss the topic and to answer audience questions–not promote yourself. Seem backwards? Maybe.

CamelotWhat’s coming into play here is a variation on the golden rule. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar says “The key to getting what you want is to help enough people to get what they want.” (Yeah, I probably paraphrased that somewhat.) Or, as is written on Arthur’s table: “In serving each other, we become free.”

Too much of our culture has become centred around ourselves and taking what we want rather than giving back to society. Too much of this sense of entitlement has invaded the artistic fields. We feel downtrodden, so we exalt ourselves. The average human does not appreciate our work, so we consider him as being beneath us. We achieve success and forget what it was like to be struggling, so we look down on beginning artists, and attempt to crush competition.

The writing community is one that is full of snobbery, selfishness, and a desire for fame, riches and glory. Aspiring artists look upon successful ones as gods and idols. They write not for other people, but for themselves, in a pointless attempt at reaching their personal Olympus. They don’t have time for the less talented or less successful, and they shove aside everyone who gets in their way.

Sometimes this sword-swinging, desperately destructive attempt to clear a path to the heavens succeeds. More often it does not. Authors whose blogs are all about self-affirmation and mutual back-patting with other authors are highly unlikely to attract readers. Authors who don’t have time to talk to fans or help other writers end up alienating people who might have been an essential key to their success. This suggests to me that there has to be another way.

What if, instead of making our blogs and promotions all about us, we made it about other people? What if, instead of expecting something in return every time we promote another author, we did it simply because we love books and want to spread literacy? What if authors reached out to the community, encouraged budding new artists, and acknowledged their own flaws? If we offer something to other people, they will come in droves to accept it, and suddenly, unexpectedly, you have an audience. A following of fans who love you is far more dedicated then a following who only follows out of obligation or because they have something to gain.

So let’s stop worrying about our progress and our success, and instead look at what we can do for other people. Let’s start following the golden rule in our professional lives, instead of just in our personal ones. Let’s give up this idea that the ladder to success is built of the unfortunates we climb over to reach it.

Let’s change the world.

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