Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Excuse My Dust . . . I'm Building My Platform

It all happened around the time I realized I would be an adult for the rest of my life. In the past year I'd graduated from college, worked for a canoe outfitters and spent six months living and working in London, England. And suddenly (BOOM!) I was back in my parents' house, working an office job in my hometown. I knew it was time to knuckle down and start figuring out that scary, map-less journey known as a career path.

Ho-hum.

I'd been harboring the idea I might like to be a bit of a writer since my high school days. Unfortunately at 23 years old, I had a college degree which made me a better-rounded individual, but provided me with little insight into how to actually support myself as a writer. So I started reading everything I could find out there about freelance writing and how to be a successful fiction writer.
 
And that's when I started to hear this mysterious word: platform

I couldn't seem to escape it. It was everywhere.  

Back in 2008, when "platform" was in its infancy as the writing world's buzzword, there's was an almost oppressive urgency associated with the word. The whole concept of coming out of nowhere in the writing world was declared a thing of the past. Unless you had a website, blogged, tweeted, had fanpages on Facebook, hosted chats, spoke at conferences, taught classes and/or had personally shook hands with the President, you were just another would-be writer wishing for success and doing little to actually garner said success. You needed to be connected or else.

I was terrified. I still get kind of itchy whenever I hear the word platform. Because a platform isn't just visibility: it's also the methodical, focused way you've chosen to present yourself and your writing expertise to the world. I have some trouble focusing my writing path.

If you're a writer too who feels like someone just punched you in the stomach every time you hear the word platform, let me share the very little that I know about building a platform. It's a slow, organic process (at least for me) to find natural niches and audiences for the writing you want to write. And you probably won't know what you do and don't want to write until you try it out. You will be finding yourself as you go. Don't jump to put a label on your platform until you really know what you love to write. Like publishing success, your platform won't happen overnight, but if you take it slow and steady steps to develop your writing and your audience, you'll be amazed at how far you can get in a few years.

Of course, the irony about this whole thing is that as a young girl, we would sometimes drive to the nearest city and spend an afternoon at a large multi-pool swimming complex. There was a huge waterslide, several diving boards and some diving platforms at the complex. One time, I spent almost the entire afternoon standing on the edge of a 20-foot high platform, working up the courage to jump off of it.

15 years ago I couldn't barely get off my platform. Now I'm clamoring to get back on. C'est la vie.

2 comments:

  1. I've been reading about platforms a lot, lately. Especially since freelancing is becoming the rule, not the exception. Thanks for the advice -- for months I've been agonizing over how to best present myself and my writing online.

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  2. The very word makes me shiver.

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