Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Momentum

I've learned a valuable lesson these past few weeks.

Writers are fearful creatures. The joy of being paid to be creative, and the unavoidable side effect of egotism that goes along with it, is easily tempered by the constant paranoia that everything will be taken away from us.

We worry about sales, fret over decisions our publisher makes, question the effectiveness of our agents, compare ourselves to peers, and eke by contract to contract, wondering if the ride is going to end.

My attitude has been that of a shark---keep swimming, or I'll drown.

That means non-stop touring, a constant web presence, a steady release of new product (books and stories), and keeping in touch with fans and peers.

These last two months have changed my attitude somewhat.

I've been writing a lot. In fact, in the last 75 days, I've plowed through about 150,000 words.

It's been great, and made me remember why I became a writer in the first place.

But I've been concerned that my writing time has been at the expense of my self-promotion time, and that I'd lose a lot of what I've built up.

It's nice to be shown I've been wrong.

My website hasn't been updated in months, and I've only been able to post a handful of blog entries. Yet, according to Statcounter, my unique hits have stayed consistent.

I'm still getting a decent amount of email.

I'm still getting requests for stories and articles.

Google Alerts and Technorati have shown me that I haven't left the public eye, even though I've made very few public appearances.

And though I've slowed down seeking out MySpace Friends, more and more folks are approaching me first.

In short, I haven't been forgotten in the last few months.

This has made me revise my original analogy. Instead of comparing a writing career to a shark, I'm going to instead compare it to a locomotive.

It takes a lot to get started. A lot of effort, time, and money.

But once it starts, it takes a lot to stop it.

Careers have momentum. And momentum wants to keep things moving, even if you're no longer stoking the boiler.

How does a writer build momentum? How long does it take for momentum to die?

The easy answer is: the more you do, the more momentum you build, the tougher you'll be to stop.

Every event, every signing, every interview, every short story, every appearance, every email, every newsletter, every blog, keeps you in the public eye. And many of these things keep you there long after you've put in the effort. Old blog posts get new visitors. People pick up an anthology that you were in three years ago. A speaking engagement last year leads to three more this year.

There are countless ways to build momentum. And the more you do, the harder you are to stop.

I've often believed that I'm not reaching for success, rather I'm running from failure.

But it seems like I'm able to take a rest from time to time and simply coast on what I've already done. It's a good feeling. And perhaps when I finish this book, and return to actively pursuing self-promotion, I won't be quite as gung-ho.

It isn't about how quickly it takes for you to reach 100mph---six seconds or six years. Because once you reach that speed, you're going to be hard to stop.

The goal is getting up enough speed.

What are you doing to build momentum?