In the past few weeks, in the vernacular of salespeople, I’ve been girding my loins to make an “ask” about a promotional opportunity for my book.
It’s not the technical aspects of the proposal which have me daunted so much as the prospect of being greeted with scorn. Like many of us, I’d rather walk blindfolded, backwards and barefoot through a ten-mile brier patch than spend thirty seconds asking someone for their time or money.
Yet as I came here the other day to read a column by one of my WU colleagues, I was greeted with a pleasant reminder of how things can change. How what was once inconceivable or a struggle becomes acceptable, then commonplace. Even a source of pride.
Tiny Coffee, Big Quandary
Slide your eyes to the end of this post and you’ll see my visible reminder: a short piece of code enabling the reader, if so inclined, to send the article’s writer a virtual cup of coffee. (I include this example for transparency and accuracy! Please do not interpret it as a hint.)
The plugin is discreet, yes? It isn’t contained within a pop-up, or heralded by intrusive music. In terms of calls-to-action it’s one of the gentlest I’ve seen.
All the same, because I was unpublished when it arrived on WU, because I didn’t want to seem uppity, I had to work to rationalize its use.
In the end I chose to proceed because:
1. I appreciated the opportunity for my colleagues.
Interestingly, I was never conflicted on whether they deserved the right to be thanked in a tangible way.
2. It was time to stop being a snob.
When I read someone else’s article, I noticed my gratitude wasn’t related to their publication status but to whether they could pinpoint a writing problem, and guide me to a helpful solution. Often the writers most able to do so were the ones closest to me in publication rank, maybe because they seemed less godlike.
3. I didn’t want to cause a contagion of smallness.
If I held back, others might read my reluctance as implied criticism and second-guess their own decision to use the plugin. Nobody else should be saddled with my psychological baggage.
4. Finally, it was time to signal to myself that I was serious about this writing gig.
Unless my goal was to write forever without expectation of financial reward, I was only delaying the inevitable. Why not claim this small step forward in the quest for professionalism?
What happened in the humiliation department?
No doubt you can guess: nothing. Absolutely nothing. If people felt I was overreaching or a pretender, they chose to disappear without diatribe or accusation.
I suspect the majority of readers didn’t notice the plugin, seeing it as another type of visual static to ignore.
More people than I expected responded by sending me a coffee, which—I won’t lie—was thrilling, largely because it was unforeseen.
I also discovered a whole new underworld of silent readers who, I presume, are uncomfortable about leaving public comments, but are less reticent about making their thanks transactional. Honestly, it’s lovely to know they are out there, and that occasionally something I say makes enough of a difference for them to bestir themselves into action.
To bring this back to the present, and one point of today’s post, while I can’t say the insertion of said code has become habitual, it no longer consumes mental energy. Perhaps the time will come when I’ll view my current deliberations as quaint and funny.
How Does This Apply to You, Dear Unboxeders?
Does your mind churn over a goal that is reachable, but will cause you a measure of discomfort? Something that is deliciously scary, that you would do if only you could summon the courage? (I like the term stretch goal, as it implies fitness and a limber, supple mind.)
Or do you yearn for a particular type of writing career—or writing capability—and feel discouraged at the yawning gap between vision and reality?
If so, perhaps it is time to take inventory of all you have done, all you have surmounted, all that is taken for granted in the quest to get further ahead. Get conscious about your past growth as a way of moving forward.
For instance, I bet there was a time when some of the following were unfamiliar or scary. Remember when you:
• Learned how to size an image for a blog post.
• Joined a writing community.
• Took an online course or attended a writing seminar/conference.
• Attended your first book signing or reading.
• Set up your first book signing or reading.
• Tricked-out your email signature to invite people to connect with you elsewhere.
• Purchased your domain name.
• Decided on your blog’s platform.
• Pitched an agent.
• Cried in your beer over editorial notes, then rallied to improve your manuscript.
• Decided not to tweet because it’s not your medium and you prefer Instagram/Snapchat.
• Chose to abandon something. (If you ask me, one of the hardest and best skills to master is knowing how and when to quit an endeavor.)
• Uploaded your first Youtube video. (Made with Dan Blank’s encouragement, here is my first and only attempt to date.)
“Oh, but those things are easy to do,” you say, to which I provide a kind and gentle, “Balderdash!”
Easy for you, perhaps, but I can pretty much guarantee they aren’t easy for others, and that they weren’t easy for your tender, juvenile, ingénue self.
You’ve simply forgotten how far you’ve come.
Now over to you: Tell me about your stretch goals, Unboxeders. Is there anything in your past to imply you will succeed? Also, Therese Walsh is asking for input on WU’s direction going forward. What could WU do to help you with these aspirations?
Now, thanks to tinyCoffee and PayPal, you can!