Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon
Happy Halloween and welcome to any new subscribers to the blog! I hope youâll enjoy the experienceâ¦â¦.
I would like to share with you the experiences of this writing life Iâve been thinking a lot of recently. Because of this setback Iâm facing, itâs given me time to sit back and write about my experiences as an author and with 2020 fast approaching, what it means to me at the present time.
When you write a book and it is published, you feel excited, grateful for the opportunity of sharing your hard work for public consumption. What new authors I feel are going through now are ârequirementsâ the reading public requires from you if you hope to capture their interest. Those requirements are driven by social media and the need for our modern call for ârepresentationâ, a chance to have voices heard if even they donât share your same background. For example, the books I published nearly two decades ago would undergo a bit of scrutiny due to the subject matter in some of my poems. Folks would nitpick over a word or two, not patient to comprehend the meaning of a certain phrase or idea and I would guess, come away with a judgmental view of your book although you (the writer) didnât mean any harm.
This is what I faced when I started attending book fairs and other local events selling my books. You will get that passer-by who picks up your book, thumbs through it and upon reading one or two passages, seizes the opportunity to criticize what youâve written on the page. Critics are everywhere, even on online. In the past Iâve made statements that as an author you should be true to your work, stay with your material because you took the time to write it and if it means that much to you, defend it. In the twenty years since the release of my books, I find the reading public to be more judgmental, more critical of what authors write. Surely as a new author coming out âof the gateâ, youâre not one of the âbig namesâ readers are accustomed to so the chances of making a good sale at your first event wonât be as high as you expect, but you hang in there.
Yes, it is true folks are buying their books online and publishing a printed book may not mean much in this present day and time, but it is important as a new author not to give up. All it takes is for one reader to believe in your work, one, and the rest will take care of itself. The challenges for new authors are numerous, but if the dream is worth it, then by all means pursue it.
I'm doing much better these days. During my time off, I've been thinking on what my life will be moving forward so I want to share that with you. In a social media world, I don't see much progress in maintaining a profile for much longer. It might be a day, a month, a year or whenever. There's no rush but the less I get out of the experience of using a platform, it's a clear sign to move on. I feel my stroke has given not only my brain time to 'reset', but my life as well. Spending hours reading what others post on their feeds is a timewaster and I don't have too much of it left to deal with social nonsense.
As soon as I am completely well, I plan to resume writing again. I hope this entry will serve as an impetus to return back to a normal routine where I can go back to my creative works but we'll see. In the past, I shared news like this online before where I tell you folks "I'm going to write again" only to be sidetracked by whatever. I plan to stick with it this time and spend my moments back to the thing I enjoy the most, working on my creative works.
My time away from the blog has given me a fresh perspective on life and it's good that my summer was spent getting enough rest and solitude. After the year I had, it was necessary to take some time off and not get involved in matters that have taken me away from this first love of writing. I had to find 'distractions' away from my father's illness and then death with a main issue in my neighborhood of South Los Angeles. That provided a brief escape from the harsh reality of his passing. That is no longer the case.
It was forty years ago I immersed myself in this pool of creativity, expression and thought. I haven't come up for air since. The key to a peaceful recovery is to enjoy this writing process again and have fun with it. I find that with social media there is no fun. There is only agenda-driven topics, propaganda, and madness. Who needs that? I don't, absolutely. So I will only share this in closing: I love to write. Most of you who have visited this blog know that and as long as I am still around mentally and physically, I pray nothing takes me away from enjoying the time spent expressing my thoughts.
Remember the sane days we had before the invention of social media? I sure do. In the past few years there's been an explosion of regular people and public officials expressing their every dark and unsavory opinions over the world wild web. Guess we were all fooled by the premise of this medium which at first, allowed people like you and I to share information instantaneously through a complex system made of wires to connect with each other. Recently, we have all seen the rise of hatred, the rise of anti-intellectualism take hold over our airwaves and more importantly, our minds. Now our very thoughts can be used to convince others to commit acts we would think of as unconscionable - with a quiet pass for the perpetrators of such actions to do them again and again.
I recall the famous author Ray Bradbury through his novel Fahrenheit 451 warned us about the danger of ignoring books, relying more and more on our technology to entertain us. Yet, when you think about it reader, how can you be entertained by all the senseless comments by a few users on social media express their views as if they mean everything to us and now seen as the opinionated viewpoints as they are? Shouldn't social media be a forum where we can discuss and introduce ideas to be debated rather than seen as gospel? Too many users try to establish their brands, platforms, instead of just simply communicating? I get it, I do. I have to establish myself as a 'brand' along with what was just mentioned. Wasting our lives on this medium to merely 'push' our viewpoints to an audience is what drives our news and other social media websites but it shouldnât take up most of our days.
We live in a twenty-first century that when I grew up, was supposed to present promises, ideas, a future we could look forward to. It has instead turned into the ideological-filled quagmire of a present society we allowed ourselves to indulge in. These days, political ideologies are driving our thoughts, our emotions, even our common sense. They've replaced our rational thoughts with emotionalism. We used to talk these things out and discuss rationally. Thanks to social media and a platform, it's easy to create a YouTube channel, Instagram account and share your message with the world. It's ridiculously easy. We now live in a twenty-first century society where 'what I think and say matters devoid of the facts' instead of simply relying on the facts themselves. We want to assume we're always right, no matter what instead of admitting we can be wrong, which is very possible.
Perhaps the warning Bradbury shared with us is that we shouldn't ignore what life presents to us every day. It has beauty and joy with wonder. We should be allowed to wonder, research and explore different possibilities around us. We shouldn't spend time listening to voices that are meant to divide and conquer our rational thoughts, which social media has become. While it has allowed our world to grow closer, it can also tear us apart. We don't have to be a slave to checking our phones every minute of every day to see how many likes or hits we have on a page. As writers, we don't have to.
As a society, we had the internet for close to thirty years, social media for over a decade. In that time I would wager, we've lost our humanity, our interactive communication skills. We would rather post our feelings online than actually going up to a friend and sharing our thoughts with them. We gathered in 'packs' based on race, political class, sexual and social status spreading only our messages, not allowing any dissenting opinions to be introduced.
So I wouldn't go as far as saying social media is causing our societal downfall but don't be surprised of what we are witnessing right now. Anti-intellectualism, lack of reading diverse books, a lack of decorum amongst each other, gathering in our own 'tribes' instead of learning from different opinions, thoughts, these are the factors that are continuously holding us back as a society. The further this continues, there may be no way back. It's up to us as individuals, you and I to determine whether or not we believe it's cool to post our selfies, our unchallenged words online or do we make a move to break away from its influence by thinking for ourselves, reading trusted resources and resisting the temptation to log on our social media sites to witness the latest silly meme or confusing rhetoric. The choice is ours, as it's always been.
UPDATE: I am not fully healed from my stroke - the rest will depend on other medical professionals to see how I'm doing, but I wanted to 'vent' about a subject I'm sure will receive some attention but for me, it's cathartic.
For the past eighteen years I'm proud to be called the word 'author' since it was a goal of mine to write a book. Looking back on this end after attending book fairs, festivals, even running a book expo, I still enjoy knowing that I wrote books and that even now, someone will comment or compliment me on my effort. The downside is that I haven't produced another book in over fifteen years although I plan to release a book in the future. How long? Who knows except The One above. With that being said, let me tell you that during my rehabilitation, my mind has pondered on a few experiences, people whom I have met and situations I feel have caused my success and lack of momentum in producing more books.
I began like any new author, glad the work was done to see the publication of a new book that I had a hand in writing and the words (except for a few changes) belonged to me. Nothing could have made me prouder than saying that! With a new book of course, you have to promote it, so I signed up for every local book event I could including the Black Book Expo which someday I would be in charge of running. For this first year, I was only an exhibitor. Standing behind a table as an unsupportive crowd walks by for hours isn't the best feeling in the world. Somehow, somewhere, you feel as you stand in the middle of a hot tent or canopy listening to loud music or people standing outside your booth discussing anything but your book, you come to realize that all of the hard work you spent buying cards, producing posters, building a mailing list isn't quite working out and that you'd rather spend the Saturday or Sunday at home (or church) while you're watching people walk by, ask you questions about a book they never plan on buying only to have you waste your time and energy hoping the next person walking by will be interested enough to buy your book.
There comes a time when you are stationed near or across from 'that author' who is making sale after sale with customers walking up to their tent to buy their book. You may feel envious until you realize that author's set up or previous radio or television appearance just happened to be the reason why folks are approaching their booth with happy faces. When you're selling books in the 'bigger' venues such as the Festival of Books, it only gets worse especially since the Festival is one of the venues with the biggest crowds. So what does this mean? If you're like me, you would rather sign up for the next event with a better game plan and more money spent on promotional material such as business cards, posters, other items to draw attention to your table or booth. I've seen other authors do it all and then some just to lure potential customers to their table. Sometimes it works, other times, not so well. This is part of the other side once you publish a book.
I recognize an author's need for self promotion which is why for years I've seen authors band together in groups and cross promote that way. I was in a group called the California Writers Collective (remember us?) that lasted for a little while until we 'disbanded'. I can say the best thing out of that whole experience is that I met my future wife but as far as my writing career? The CWC was a wasted effort. I should have spent time developing my own projects and working on future stories before I got sidetracked with running the group after the first effort failed. The partnering up between authors didn't stop my fellow scribes on the East coast develop their Cartels, other associations banding together and establishing a presence in other book fairs or festivals.
Fast forward to today; 2019 and what have I learned from all this? I learned a painful lesson: keep my focus as a writer and don't make it into a 'crusade'. Most of you may have read my past entries from a decade ago where I shared much nonsense of how a writer should be and some jazz like that. Honestly, I should have concentrated on the numerous project ideas I conjured up in my head instead of trying to be some 'expert' of the literary world or running a book expo. Hey, such is life. Now while I would offer some advice for any new author reading this, all I have to say is that keep writing. The promotional stuff can be figured out later. Don't lose your ideas once - there I go again, huh? Maybe I should take my own advice and just keep writing. Either way you folks will know who I am.
So that's it. Funny how one little stroke can open up my mind and let this long missive flow out. Plenty more to come.
Hey folks, I haven't posted in a while because I had a stroke.
This is something I usually don't share with the rest of the online world, but I wanted to explain my absence from the internet last month. My illness cost me an assignment for a story I planned to write, and my life has slowed to a crawl for the moment. I'm coming back slowly but I'm feeling better by the moment.
Many thanks to my lovely wife for spotting my illness and rushing me on time to the hospital to get the help I needed.
So until further notice, I will maintain 'online silence' until I'm 'back on the mend'. Thanks to all of you concerned folks, but I am well. See you then, take care.