Finding Focus

I’ve been feeling scattered, unmotivated, and noticing pangs of rejection since only one of the four emails I sent out asking for media coverage of my book elicited a response. Based on what I’ve read about marketing books, I understand that even one response is super. However, the feelings that nobody likes my book, and I’m foolish to have thought that anyone would, are still there. Past experience tells me I have to acknowledge all the feelings or I’ll drift into indifference and let the whole marketing mess fall away into the background. But it won’t really fall back there – it will gnaw at me and pollute any joy I might feel from other experiences.

That said, what do I do? I truly am in a transitional place and, unlike the last two years when my focus was clear and had a tangible outcome (getting my hands on a real, live paperback book with my name as author on the cover), I can’t see a tangible focus for this marketing effort. All I see is how little control I have over what happens. No matter what I do. Even if I can clarify what my message is, which feels like a daunting task right now since my head is swirling with equal parts negative and positive self-talk, I don’t see any solid outcome to focus on. Everything feels out of my control: how many books I sell, how many of the folks who buy books will write reviews, who in the big world of book reviewing will review and promote my book, etc.

Marketing is hard work and it takes consistent effort and willingness to feel the pain of rejection. I recently started reading Kathleen Gage’s free eBook, Hit#1 on Amazon. All she talks about is what one has to do, mentally and in tasks everyday, to make a new endeavor meant for mass consumption successful. A few weeks back I wrote a blog about my solid commitment to this year of marketing, but now as I  face myself I want to quit. I want to say “it’s not up to me, I’ve released it and whatever is meant to be will be.” I want to give myself permission to be lazy, to let it all go, to avoid the rejection I may feel if nothing comes of my efforts. To allow myself to say “it doesn’t matter.” And, in many ways, it doesn’t matter. I never intended writing the book to be the start of an ongoing business endeavor, or one that would bring fame and fortune. So, whatever comes of it is fine. But I wonder if I can muster up the courage to like myself enough to invest the energy it might take to distill a message, to let myself acknowledge that my life has had meaning, and the lessons I’ve learned might be helpful to others. Can the part of me that does like myself and that can hear that others like me, too – can she hear the positive without being discouraged and downtrodden by the sometimes constant criticism that another part of me likes to continually spew in my ear? Am I willing to embrace most loudly the encouragement and love I clearly feel from family, friends and the whole cosmos? Am I willing to use that positive energy to keep at it despite my confused and scattered mind, and unclear focus?

It occurs to me that this might be a big part of what my message is: we have to somehow know that, despite our feeling out of control of outcomes, we best serve ourselves by showing up for our lives – as consciously as is possible at any given time – and listening for clues as to what to do next. What fork in the road to take, what box to check, what experience to pursue. Noticing how opportunities present themselves, and how we need only say yes and be willing to engage with as much of ourselves as we can. We have to like ourselves enough to participate and find a way to play in our daily lives. Sometimes showing up and engaging is difficult, we don’t feel like it, or we have to face things we’d rather not see, or remember, or discover about ourselves or the world around us. Right now I’m thinking I don’t want to see what I have to do to market my book. None of it feels like play. Instead, I feel overwhelmed by Ms. Gage’s intensity and drive. Social media intimidates me – I want to dismiss it as an awful symptom of our time. Self-promotion scares me and raises many questions about why anyone would be interested in reading what I have to say. But this opportunity (brought to the forefront by the book marketing dilemma) to clarify what in life is important to me is compelling, and feels like an important road to go down. Although it’s tedious and unpleasant presently, it may provide important clues to what I want to pursue as this year of transition unfolds, and leads me to yet another chapter in my joy ride.

Today, I promise myself I will look for the opportunities to play as I roll around in my current state of confusion and orneriness. Maybe I’ll find that confusion and orneriness, in and of themselves, have playful qualities.

Therein lies a clue to my dilemma, and maybe to my message: love the place you’re in, aka “love the one you’re with” by Stephen Stills.

Creating to find Peace

I recently came across this quote by Maxine Hong Kingston:

In a time of destruction, create something: a poem, a parade, a community, a vow, a moral principle; one peaceful moment. 

Seems like almost every day we hear about some awful destruction happening somewhere in the world, sometimes in our own backyards. And, for sure, I’ve created many moments of destruction in my own life. This quote reminds me of the power of creating – something I allude to in my book, Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance, and continue to experience whenever I give myself the gift of time to create.

I spent part of this morning working on an adaption of a much performed DanceAbility piece with Alito and Jana, a lovely, young, committed DanceAbility artist. Moving together and finding images others will take in with their eyes, and hopefully with their hearts, is good for my heart. So was playing within the Tuning Scores structure I immersed myself in for the first two weeks of this month. Exploring space with my eyes closed and open, finding stillnesses with my fellow dancers, making shapes, feeling my skin, muscles and bones as I roll around the floor or slide across walls – all that, and the gift of witnessing others do the same. And making marks on paper, whether they be lines and shapes or letters and words, it’s all creating – allowing parts of me that get left behind in the day-to-day frenzy of living, working, and being surrounded by the news to have their say.

There are many ways to promote peaceful moments and I’m with Ms. Kingston in that I know, somewhere deep in my cells, that finding that peaceful place in me is one of the things I can do anywhere, anytime I create the space needed to make the inward journey to that place. When I do, things settle inside and I’m able to bring more of my heart to whatever I’m involved in.

I made some silly (in a most fun and fulfilling way) computer images during my two weeks of dancing this month. Till the next time, here’s one I really like:

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