Kate Murdoch ~
My transition from visual artist to writer was gradual. If it had been rapid, I may not have had the courage to go ahead. Both mediums require an enormous leap of faith – there are many unknowns. Artists in both fields are unaware of so much: their audience, whether they will sell, if they will end up cringing in embarrassment, basking in glory, or something in between. There is a similar amount of risk and challenge.
However, as I found out, there are distinct differences. Artists are not required to interact with their audience on social media or in real life. The exposure to actual humans is rare. If they choose, they can spend much of their time creating in their studios. For me, the most nerve-wracking part of being an artist was showing up at opening nights of my shows and chatting to people. Gallery owners act as gatekeepers, telling the public about the meaning of the work and the intentions of its creator. There is no such interface for the budding author who shies from interaction.
As I wrote my first two novels, I never considered a future of quips on Twitter, scheduled Facebook posts, author talks and interviews. As my publication date drew closer, the reality of public speaking made my introverted heart race and I took steps to lessen my anxiety. I joined a public speaking group, did media training and built up my ‘platform.’
There are many authors who navigate this path from a different career. I had a small advantage in my former occupation being creative, so I understood the subjective nature of criticism and feedback. Reviews were something I could handle without ending up crumpled on the floor.
Of the many new experiences in being an author, the creation of a public profile has had the biggest impact. In my previous life, I was incredibly private and reserved. A single Facebook post would send me into a nervous flutter. I socialised with a small circle and kept to myself, ensconced in my studio and domestic life.
Offering myself up to scrutiny has been stressful and odd – managing it is still a work in progress. However, for those just embarking on this journey, here are some ways to find balance amidst the new demands:
Taking regular breaks from social media is essential. A few days without a post or tweet can feel like a cool glass of water for the brain and emotions. In the initial weeks after the release of Stone Circle, I felt as if I’d turned into a ‘response machine,’ my only purpose being to reply to tweets, to post and thank others. Although it was all very exciting, it did sometimes feel robotic.
Once the initial hoopla wears off, there is still regular social media maintenance to do, yet days without comment are not only reasonable but necessary.
Reframe and be kind to yourself
It’s very important to be gentle with yourself in whatever promotional activities you’re undertaking. For example, in delivering an author talk I told myself the audience weren’t expecting Elizabeth Gilbert to prance up to the microphone and raise them to the rooftops. It was okay to read out my prepared speech, as long as I made eye contact and smiled. I’m not a polished public speaker, I’m an author, and that’s perfectly acceptable.
Similarly, interviews can include hesitation and pauses. Take your time constructing what you’re saying – it’s more likely to emerge sounding articulate. If the interview is on the phone, having notes to refer to can increase your confidence and security. Another tactic is to imagine you’re having a casual conversation with an acquaintance, warmly filling them in about your book.
To be or not to be: consumed
In the early months, I lived and breathed my Amazon ranking, Goodreads reviews, and everything ‘book.’ It was necessary to a point, until it became unsustainable. My friends and family needed attention and to deal with a more balanced me. In addition, I lost touch with other aspects of myself that made me capable of writing, and felt distanced from the insight and calm required.
Meditation, exercise, reading, travel and introspection were all factors that returned me to equilibrium. My advice would be to remain mindful of whatever activities make you feel like yourself and keep them up.
Onwards and upwards
Publishing moves quickly. It’s important to consider your next project and forge ahead once the post-publication madness has ebbed. Then to go forward in a way that is measured and calm, implementing lessons learned and treating yourself with care.
Writing is a courageous act. The words we place on a page contain so much of our inner workings and experiences. To present them for approval or censure is a risk. Yet so many people lack a voice. To be read by a wider audience and to have the opportunity to express feelings and beliefs through narrative is a precious gift. I’m so grateful for it.
— Kate Murdoch
Kate Murdoch is the author of Stone Circle. She exhibited widely as a painter both in Australia and internationally before turning her hand to writing. In between writing historical fiction, she enjoys writing short stories and flash fiction.
Kate’s short-form fiction is regularly published in Australia, UK, US and Canada.
Stone Circle is a historical fantasy novel set in Renaissance Italy. It was released by Fireship Press December 1st, 2017.
Kate’s second novel, The Orange Grove, about the passions and intrigues of court mistresses in 18th century France, will be published by Regal House Publishing in 2019.
Stone Circle blurb:
Is the ability to read minds a blessing or a curse?
When Antonius’s father dies, he must work to support his family. He finds employment as a servant in the Palazzo Ducal, home of Conte Valperga. Sixteenth-century Pesaro is a society governed by status, and Antonius has limited opportunities. When a competition is announced, Antonius seizes his chance. The winner will be apprenticed to the town seer. Antonius shares first place with his employer’s son. The two men compete for their mentor’s approval. As their knowledge of magic and alchemy grows, so does the rivalry and animosity between them. When the love of a beautiful woman is at stake, Antonius must find a way to follow his heart and navigate his future.
Stone Circle can be purchased from the following sites, among others: