Every morning for the past month, I wake up before the alarm, stumble downstairs and, before even turning on the coffee, press my thumb’s one-of-a-kind whorl to the small black disc on my iPhone. I inaugurate the day by stoking the fires of FaceBook, warm embers from the previous day’s posts bursting aflame with tabulated reaches, likes and shares.
I used to check FaceBook once a week. A month ago, however, I received an urgent email from my agent - she’d scheduled a conference call with an interested publisher. Tuesday. 4pm. Don’t forget!
Two years of writing, two years of blood (figurative), sweat (literal) and tears (copious), the most significant artistic and professional gesture of my life, and it had been reduced to an attachment in an editor’s inbox, a tiny icon of a paperclip, the paperclip’s swirl inwards and out begging the question: in which direction would this little adventure turn? Would my words materialize or evaporate? Could the three of us, the agent, the editor and the writer, turn this ephemeral file into an honest to God book?
The afternoon of the call, I climbed into my car and drove to an isolated parking lot a mile from home, cutting off any chance that my children would interrupt with requests to adjudicate today’s docket of property disputes. I parked the car. I locked the doors (maybe my kids had followed me…they could be anywhere, those feral beasts…). I adjusted my seat and opened my laptop. Cocoon prepared, I awaited destiny.
The editor called at exactly 4pm. She patched in my agent. We talked about the weather. We talked about the book. Then the editor shifted from content to commerce.
“How many times do you post to your professional FaceBook page?” she asked.
“Once a week or so.”
“Hmmm. Okay. You might want to up that number. Our authors usually post three to five times a day. I love the book,” she continued, “but I’ve got to pass this by the marketing guys. They’re going to want to know the size of your platform.”
So it began, the era of platform, an era of David Brooks shares, Dalai Lama quotes, original Haikus and links to my blog. I spend evenings harvesting content, hunting for articles that pop without pandering. I gaze into my phone each morning, hoping to read my fortune in the rise and fall of my reach. I pray that the gods of marketing will find me worthy; so far, perhaps due to my willingness to hawk my own wares, they have.
I once pictured myself too pure for platform. I could not conceive how poet and peddler might occupy the same skin. I fled from the marketplace, from posture and pretense, imagining Kerouac and Ginsberg grinning proud from the grave.
But the tree falling alone in the forest, even if it makes a sound, is still falling. Refusing to play the game, believing myself above the business, just stymied my creativity. The act of creation is an act of chutzpah. The courage it takes to shout into the void is the same courage it takes to link that shout to a post and share that post with a fan. When I descended from the platform, I walked away from art, too.
Now, with each passing day, I more thoroughly resemble that paperclip’s spiral, inward turning, outward yearning, an artist devoted to truth and a writer building a brand. I dig deep then mount the dais, birthing words before shaking them unceremoniously overhead. I hope the frantic movement will catch your eye. I pray the platform holds.