Have you ever heard the saying “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step?” It’s from an old Chinese proverb and I’ve always interpreted it to mean that I can do anything as long as I take the first step. As a writer, that couldn’t be more accurate.
This past week I was invited to speak before a group of book lovers at the Appleton, Minnesota public library. Other than an author panel at my local library, where I wasn’t the sole focus of the evening, it was my first presentation as an author even though I have now published my second book (“I Carry Your Heart”). COVID and the resulting shutdowns prevented any public appearances after “Remembering You” was published. The entire drive to Appleton, and it was a long one, I kept asking myself why I ever agreed to stand up in front of strangers and talk about myself. What was I thinking?
I’m no stranger to speaking in front of groups, but in the past when I have done so, it’s to instruct the audience on election law and procedures – something I am intimately familiar and comfortable with. Promoting myself, even in such a small way when they invited me to speak, is as foreign to me as speaking Swahili. I wrote my speech, rewrote my speech and then practiced it over and over again trying for just the right balance between self-promotion and entertainment. But would it be enough?
It was a small group, but engaged, and while the Librarian apologized over and over again for the small number of attendees, that actually made me feel more comfortable. The group was small enough that I didn’t feel overwhelmed and the fact that many of them had both of my books already in their hands meant they had read them and something about my writing made them want to hear me speak. (It didn’t dawn on my until the way home when I realized they might have come simply to chastise me for wasting their money on bad books!)
After a couple of hours later my trusty sales manager (sister) and I were on our way home and all my fears and worry evaporated. Looking back I did a lot of things right…made direct eye contact, offered a few funny quips that had the crowd laughing, and while I didn’t give my prepared remarks exactly as written, I had practiced enough that my story flowed well.
It was a long night, but I was proud that I had taken that single step towards furthering my writing career and now, days later, I can honestly say that I hope there are more events like Appleton because I know that each time I stand in front of a group, I will feel more comfortable and become better at self-promotion.
During the times when book sales are stagnant and the hard work and sometimes expensive attempts at advertisements, social media posts and other too numerous to count attempts to market the books don’t seem to be generating much interest, visits with readers, whether big groups or small, may be unlocking doors that I can’t see and sending me further on the journey of a thousand miles.
That’s the way of life is it not? Dipping our toes into the sea of possibilities. Taking that one giant leap for mankind. Being brave enough to try something new even if we are going to stink at it. Progress in anything, whether it be inventing new technology or becoming a successful writer, requires just one thing….taking a single step.
I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me, but for now, be well my friends!