(First published as a column in Khaleej Times, Dubai)
When I first started writing more than three decades ago with a serious intent to become a purveyor of words, the world was a totally different place. I wrote, often got rejected by editors, and all my writings went unread into a box folder, which slowly became a relic of sorts on the table.
There were no means to spread a word about my literary flair and ambitions to people in those days. Even when I published my debut novel in 2009, I had no clue about how to propagate the good news, except through e-mails to people on my lean contact list. Facebook was still in its infancy, and I was petrified at the idea of foraying into something so alien and obscure to gain traction.
To me, advertising and marketing were corporate concepts that required huge cerebral and financial investment. I remained ignorant of their overarching effect in my literary pursuits for a long time and stayed in the closet, largely hidden from the public eye. And then the social media scene burst into a million possibilities. But it was not enough. It took longer for me to realize that the spotlight doesn’t fall on us organically. To be seen and noted, we must walk out and stand under it. With panache. With confidence. With a guarantee to give value.
It must be said that in the initial days of my newfound insight, I was hugely conscious and embarrassed to step out and do what I considered was a form of ‘narcissism’. I don’t remember when and how the idea got nailed in my head that it is a writer’s virtue to be reclusive. That she has to be self-effacing and perform in the shadows. That claiming a moment in the sun reflects downright conceit. That letting people know about your talent and hard work is counterintuitive to creativity. That self-promotion, in short, is a disgraceful accessory to a writer.
But slowly, as I began to view my craft and my work in a different light, it began to dawn on me that most of what I believed were mere fallacies.
For starters, over long reflections, I convinced myself that I am my own brand ambassador. What I did as part of my profession is not important to anyone else as it is to me. If the big companies can flaunt their wares for the world to take notice and buy into them, so can I.
If they don’t feel it is shameful to sell what they have honourably created, then I need not behave as if I have egg on my face when I promote a new book, post news about an accomplishment, or share my writings on social media.
Advertising and marketing are not scandalous terms. They tell people what is on offer and what choices they have to make their world a better place. Seen in that perspective, an artist or a writer is within their rights to present their best creatives for the public to lap up. If there is a good product to offer, let people know about it.
Next, as part of the process of tweaking my psyche, I separated my writing from myself. In metaphysical terms, this can be defined as the de-egotizing of one’s special talents. Let me deconstruct this for you.
A very talented young musician that I closely know recently said to me how he felt very ‘shy’ to post his music videos on the social media. It was a pity that the young man’s talents were going unnoticed because of acute self-consciousness, but I knew the space he was coming from. Fear of judgement, of falling short, of being labelled a show-off had made him conclude that self-promotion was a reprehensible act.
Having been there and come out of it successfully through conscious deliberation, I shared an insight with him, which I hope will work for each of you.
As a devoted artist or writer, it is not about us anymore. It is about our creations, our art and our craft. When we hesitate to share them with others whole-heartedly, when we deny them the exposure they deserve, we are in effect refusing to celebrate our God-given abilities. We are failing to be in gratitude. Let us not be so full of ourselves that our creativity stalls within our fortified egos.
Set your genuine talents free for all to see and savour. Put the flags out and celebrate your inherent abilities. Let your name be just an incidental tag that goes with it.