Monday, February 28, 2011

On Celebrating and Braggery

I finally got my act together and joined my local chapter of the RWA (What up, WisRWA Milwaukee Chapter?!)  And to my complete luck, our first meeting featured a talk by the delightful Isabel Sharpe, and she shared a piece of advice that has stuck with me for over a week.  (To be fair, she heard it from someone else, but I am not a notetaker, so this is as close as you're going to get to an honest attribution).

"Always allow people to be happier for you than you are for yourself."

It took me a minute to digest, and I'll be happy to wait if you need to take a moment yourself.  No, really...go ahead.  I'll be here.

Back?  Okay.  So what does it mean?  Well, there are two interpretations.  The first is simple:  be humble.

The second is more complex, but I think more applicable when the average person is suffering from the all-too-human urge to be less-than-humble.  And here it is:

Do not be so happy for yourself that you become a bore.

As writers, we suffer from an overabundance of rejection.  So those moments of approval can be precious. Hell, they can be balm to a ravaged soul depending on how long you've been at this.  How can you not want to celebrate, right?  Don't worry, you should.  You absolutely should.  Got an agent?  Congratulations!  Tell me the story!  I love agent stories!  Sold your manuscript?  Amazing!  Where?  When is it coming out?  I'm doing virtual cartwheels for you!  Won the cover lottery?  Color me jealous and give me the damn link already so I can drool appropriately!

But then, you need to calm yourself a bit.  Don't crow.  Don't tell us about every full manuscript request. Don't have a party for yourself every week on your blog after your book sells.

Let others do it for you.  Because they will.

Now of course, this doesn't mean you should only mention it once and never speak of it again like it's some shameful part of your past.  You need to promote yourself, of course.  But that's a matter of timing, frequency and tone, at least in my humble opinion.

And there are some really delightful writers out there who are pulling off this perfect balance of self-promotion and humility.  In fact, I'll give you a list of some of my favorite examples.  You can check out their blogs and see what I mean:

  • Kiersten White - the humblest, most lovable New York Times Bestseller.  Ever.

  • Stephanie Perkins - Steph works gobsmacked like nobody else.  She got the love from John Green for God's sake.  And you still want to squeeze her and bask in her glory.

  • Hannah Moskowitz - Hannah is the most earth-bound wunderkind you'll ever encounter.  And she rocks her good news with charming swagger.

So if you can't be guided by my misattributed quote above, ask yourself:  What would Kiersten/Stephanie/Hannah do?

Who are some of your on-line humility heroes?

- Liz


Stina Lindenblatt said...

I love this post. That's the kind of author I want to be.

When I get requests, I use it as an excuse to buy chocolate cake (since my husband it's into making tasteless, healthy cakes). But then I move on. I send the requested material and forget about it. And other than my family, only two other people know about my requests.

Kristan said...

Stephanie is definitely one of the authors I would recommend. Also Natalie Whipple, Allison Winn Scotch, and pretty much everyone at Writer Unboxed.

I have no doubt that you will be this kind of author as well. :)

Liz Czukas said...

Stina - thank you! Sounds like a good celebration system to me. And yum for cake!

Kristan - good examples! How could I forget Natalie? And thank you for the vote of confidence!

- Liz