Originally published on Medium
Maybe, as soon as you read the title, either judgment or stupor aroused in you.
Team A says: “Are you selfish? Just create your best. One reader is enough.”
Team B says: “Seriously? It’s obvious that you need visibility.”
In my youth, I wrote a lot of poetry. In Italian, my native language.
I was extremely careful about words. I had an intuition, with a strong emotional context, a supposed unique angle that I had to put into words. I needed to find a pure and concise picture of what I felt like an essential or powerful perspective on life.
Writing poetry was all about crystallizing that vision and crafting its best possible shape. I wrote in a burst, and it usually was quite the final form, but I had several levels of editing afterward, checking words and expressions, best alternatives, incoherencies, redundancies. I was usually satisfied with the result, but many poems didn’t survive this.
Of course, I dreamt to be a writer, and a poet. But this had nothing to do with putting words on paper (yes, at the time it was paper). Words had to be there. Eventually, someone will read.
That was me. Anyone writes differently. But the point is that my vision and the words were the center of the universe, during my creation. I wanted my poems to be gems, meant to make a vision survive. I was not pure as a person, nor as a writer – especially for narrative and non-fiction -. I wanted someone to read and appreciate, in a distant future. I wanted to survive myself. But my verses were not meant at that. At least, consciously. From an artistic perspective, my verses were authentic.
End of the story, some poems had temporary glory, but most of them smell musty, in my closet. I mean, concretely, not figuratively. Now that I’m almost fifty, they seem no more a good fit, and stay there.
More than one year ago, I started writing again, here on Medium. It feels writing, but I should say blogging.
I became more flexible but, at the same time, it’s all more complex. At my age, you start to think that if you want to be a writer, maybe it’s not useful to postpone any further. But you also need to earn a living, more than was usually needed at twenty, and life is on track.
Anyway, I didn’t lose my attitude about writing. Not all that, at least. I don’t want to add noise and I want my writing to be worth. That’s just non-negotiable. Some compromises, maybe, but I don’t sell my soul.
Like anyone, I soon noticed that being read is not as easy as the Web seems to promise.
The proverbial one reader is what matters, but I needed more. Was that selling my soul? Was that selfish?
I started to feel that finding exposure was a need. You can’t live as a writer without exposure. I saw many writers – or aspiring writers – struggling with that. We can’t all be writers, but some of them seemed to deserve more exposure.
The need of working on visibility was clear to me.
At some point, a story triggered something and became a turning point for me.
An excellent story. But, when I finished, I shuddered. The story was of nine months before, and only one recommend (claps were not born yet) was there. One lonely recommend.
That was an insult. It was not a questionable story of mine. It was a very good story by another author. A story that could be judged as excellent by many. Those words deserved light.
That was invisibility at its fullest.
It became instantly clear, to me, that good writing is nothing without visibility. It’s not about the tree which makes noise or not when nobody is hearing. It’s about losing the opportunity for good words to be read, and maybe have a positive impact on someone.
You can judge it selfish, like many other human actions, but I think I have something to share. I want to write. I want to be a writer. I think to have things to share that can have a positive impact on someone else.
But to make an impact, writers need an audience.
The one reader may be enough in some cases but won’t allow the writer to live by writing, continue writing, and improve. Writing and sharing require a huge amount of time. It’s a job. It needs sustainability. So, unless you live on other income, it needs a large audience.
But the one reader also doesn’t mean that other readers can’t appreciate your words. If your writing is valuable, there is full of readers in the world who can and want to appreciate your writing. They can relate. You can help them elaborate. They can connect. Why lose the opportunity to reach them? Why limiting your impact?
Of course, you have to deserve exposure. You have to deserve the time you ask the reader. Adding noise does not make you honor. Adding noise is a wasted life.
But if you feel that your perspective is valuable for someone – not everybody, just someone –, and maybe already had positive feedback, you need to fight for visibility.
Fighting for visibility
I was a Pink Floyd fan. I still listen to them nowadays. Some of their songs are just masterpieces.
Could those songs reach me, if Pink Floyd had not fought for their exposure?
Could those songs be written, if Pink Floyd didn’t manage to write songs – and improve themselves in it – as a living?
I guess that most of the best music we listen to would not be there if their authors didn’t fight for visibility. You may think that people around them are in charge for visibility, but nobody takes care of your art if you don’t show up first, without getting discouraged, and keep to let others know you.
If you hide, or just throw your writing out there without fighting for exposure, nobody will come to you, pick your writing, and make you the next J. K. Rowling.
If you hide, the best sellers will sell other words and will make a living out of it. You may have more valuable words, but nobody will see them, and you’ll end up in spending your life doing something else to pay the heating and the Sushi until the game will be over. Lost opportunity for you and the world? Nobody will know.
Promoting your work is part of your job as a writer. Someone can help, but nobody can do it all in your place. And at the beginning, it’s all on your shoulders.
Promotion and sustainability should not be part of your art, but should definitely be part of your process.
I won’t let my words rot somewhere just because of invisibility.
I’m guilty of caring about stats. I’m guilty of caring about exposure.
I’m selfish, in a way.
But it’s the only way to let the words I believe in meeting interested readers.
Then, they will judge.