I’m not much of an actor.
I remember liking the idea of acting when I was young. But occasionally an opportunity to be in a classroom skit or presentation would come along, and I would find myself embarrassed and nervously giggling my way through my lines, wondering why the heck I thought it would be fun. In spite of this, my kids have somehow found their way into the drama world, and right now I’ve got kids in various stages of production of Elf: The Musical, The Wizard of Wonderland, and Bye Bye Birdie.
Two years ago my daughter Gracie was cast as Belle in Beauty and the Beast. With her brown locks and love of reading, the part fit her, and she was thrilled. Last year, she played a perky bobby-soxer and shined. If she had been born in that era, she most definitely would have been a goody-two-shoes in a poodle skirt so it was perfect. Even more perfect was that the character’s name was Gracie! Her ability to play these parts was easy, because their personalities were so close to her own. So this year, imagine our surprise when she was unexpectedly cast as the Wicked Witch of the West! Wait. What? I worried for about two seconds until I heard her witchy cackle from across the room. She sounded positively evil.
“How are you so good at that?” I asked her.
“Duh, Mom. It’s called acting.”
I’m impressed with all of my kids’ abilities to become something else. To be able to kick off those deep-seated saddle shoes and step into a pair of pointy black pumps for a little while. It’s a skill that I don’t have.
Sometimes I think that a little acting ability would be helpful in the publishing world. I even tried it once, when I was first learning to use Twitter. Things move so fast on Twitter, and I really struggled in the beginning. I was suddenly sent back to my teenage days, full of insecurity and feeling awkward trying to start a conversation with one of the cool kids. But then it hit me…we are online! Hardly any of these people know me in real life. I CAN BE one of the cool kids! Shy, awkward, insecure Amy doesn’t have to exist on Twitter. I can be enthusiastic, effusive, easy-breezy conversationalist Amy. I can be clever, and quick-witted, and I can use ALL the exclamation points!!!!! or no punctuation at all whatever the cool kids do on twitter
Anyone want to guess how long that lasted?
Not long. Because guess what folks, it is freaking exhausting to pretend to be someone you aren’t. I will never be that chatty, hilarious, retweeted-hundreds-of-times author on Twitter, and that’s okay.
That. Is. Okay.
The longer I’m in this industry, the more I realize that the only way to make it here long-term is to be authentically me. This is true for all of us, no matter where you are at in the publishing process. Whether you are just starting to submit, or already published, you will feel pressure to BE and DO all the “right” things. Take it from someone who has tried to BE and DO everything…you have to be careful or it just might land you in a dark corner of your room in the fetal position.
I’m in children’s literature and we spend so much time writing things that help kids to know it is okay to be themselves. My newest book, MAURICE THE UNBEASTLY, is actually a story about that very thing. It’s meant to help kids accept and love themselves, even when they are little bit different. And yet, here I am, 42 years old, still needing to be reminded!
So what am I saying here? Am I saying that if you are an extreme introvert that you should never ever come out of your writing cave because that is who you are? No. I do believe that it is good for us to push ourselves out of our comfortable places here and there. But I am saying that if being active on 17 social media sites is what you think you should be doing, but you find social media sucks the life out of you, maybe you should choose one or two to focus on. Find a place there that fits who you are. So, for example, now that I’ve been on Twitter for a while, I have found that trying to participate in witty banter is not my thing. I’m just not quick enough. I can be funny, but only after I’ve thought about it for a while, and that’s just not how Twitter works. So on Twitter, I mostly retweet things about books I love, articles I’ve read, and show general support for the publishing community. And I promote my own books. Twitter used to stress me out, but now it’s a comfortable place.
Just as I write from who I am, I need to submit, promote, and navigate this business from who I am as well. I can’t act my way through it. In a pinch, I might be able to produce one or two really villainous cackles, but ultimately I’ll end up bopping to a 50s tune, my high ponytail swinging effortlessly under the brightly colored scarf that matches my poodle skirt. Because it’s who I am.