The Paradoxes Of Writing And Marketing In A Pandemic

I was a home worker before COVID-19 reared its head. Its effects on the rhythm of my daily life should have been minimal once lockdown became the norm. I was used to being free to balance work alongside the demands of home life. There were ample opportunities around my day-job to fit in my writing and to explore my various side projects in parallel with other aspects of my life.

Conditions in support of my writing were already favourable.

Under lockdown I believed I’d have even greater motivation and opportunities to write and create. It seemed there’d be a bigger audience of readers with more time available to consume whatever I put out into the world.

As with most things in life, it hasn’t seemed to work out that way. The effects as I’ve continued writing and marketing my work haven’t been as I’d expected, and aren’t easily explainable.

I wonder if my experiences are typical or relatable for those in a similar position? Perhaps the ways in which I’ve approached these and attempted to overcome them will help others? Maybe others have done a better job than I have, of adapting?

Here’s how it’s manifested.

I feel guilty about marketing or even thinking about selling my products and services

I worry that anything I create and release into the world might be seen as exploitative of the current situation, or that I’ll appear mercenary if I try and make money from it. I’ve written plenty about the current situation but worry I might be viewed cynically as riding a wave of interest about a topic that’s calamitous for so many.

When I compose a weekly email to my list it’s with a sense of doubt and futility about what value I can offer. Is there much I can do to help, entertain or inform others in a way that’s useful (or appropriate) at present? I don’t want to intrude or exploit my position and I don’t want to offer false hope or deliver fake-news disguised as my opinion.

I remind myself that my followers have signed up voluntarily and are free to leave. Nonetheless I want to prove worthy of their trust and to exert a positive influence where I can.

I couldn’t contemplate actively selling to anyone at a time like this, even though I’m preoccupied with making a little extra money in these times of uncertainty. I’ve made Kindle versions of my books on Amazon free for as long as the platform will allow. I’ve tried to signpost useful and uplifting content besides my own, and have offered help via my emails in whatever way I may be able to provide it.

As I observe the corporations, influencers and individuals who are conducting themselves admirably and with dignity during these times, it’s apparent whose actions are positive and whose are deplorable. Those who are offering free content and services and trying to be a force for support and encouragement are those I’ll remain loyal to for the long term. They’re the ones who I think have got it right. They are playing a long game that recognises we all have to get through this crisis if there are ever going to be mutually beneficial and profitable relationships in future.

The best way of assuring this is to invest upfront, selflessly and generously doing what we can to help each other out. Now’s not the time for scalping each other or taking advantage of desperation or vulnerability.

I want to ally myself to those good examples rather than sinking to the level of those who are treating this as an opportunity to make money and to exploit those who are desperate.

Time will tell if I’m doing enough to achieve that aim. Maybe it’ll show that I was misguided and naive, and that I missed an opportunity. I hope that’s not the case.

It’s easy to default to writing about Coronavirus

For a week or two, everything I wrote seemed to converge towards the virus and its effects. Only when publications that usually feature my writing started to reject submissions on the basis of subject matter alone, did I start to question whether it was useful or relevant any longer.

It’s impossible to skirt the subject completely (as this piece has demonstrated amply). For the foreseeable future COVID-19 will remain an influence over all our lives, just like the economy, the environment, politics and technology have always been. It was perhaps inevitable that the virus would stimulate ideas for articles initially and that many would be pre-occupied by it.

Now that it’s becoming an established (if unwelcome) part of life, I guess its influence will diminish a little. I don’t believe COVID-19 is going away any time soon and so I’m resolute about getting back to writing about other aspects of life without fixating on it as one (albeit significant) environmental factor that affects us all.

My writing is getting viewed more often

There has been an unusual effects in my stats as a writer on Medium. My writing is getting viewed a lot more, which is heartening. That said, the statistics are really a side effect and a distraction from the business of being a writer.

I remind myself that the goal here is to write, to create and to put my work out there in the world — anything I may see as a result of that process merely a side-effect.

Perhaps with more people having the time to write, there’s more content competing for readers’ time and attention. There may be subscribers who’ve cancelled their Medium Membership as the Coronavirus strips many unfortunate souls of their income and their ability to pay for such luxuries.

I know it’s futile to speculate on the reasons or explanations for such things — it’s pure conjecture after all.

I must simply keep on showing up, writing and publishing. What will be, will be.

My creative inspiration ebbs and flows more than ever

It used to be that after a weekend off from writing, it’d take me a couple of days before I hit my flow state again. After that I might manage to write three or four stories over the rest of the week. Recently, I still take weekends off and yet I’ve experienced weeks where I could scarcely type quickly enough to get the ideas out. Other weeks I’ve struggled to muster a single good idea or publish more than a couple of mediocre pieces in spite of best intentions and efforts.

Maybe this is coincidental and nothing to do with the knock-on effects of COVID-19 and lockdown?

Instead of trying to diagnose the cause and then remedy it with an action plan, I’m much more inclined to just go with it — to write when inspiration and ideas are plentiful and to just accept there may be times when I’m ticking over.

In line with my observations about views and earnings, I need to remember the core principle — to just keep writing what I can, when I can and to put it out there in the world.

If those pieces are well-received or greeted by tumble-weed matters little at this point. It’s about showing up regardless.

Life feels less pressured as a whole

I definitely feel a lot more easygoing about life than I did pre-COVID-19, particularly about my writing and my side projects.

I feel blessed that my work and income have been uninterrupted, my family are all healthy and have what they need, and all is currently well (or as well as it can be). COVID-19 has thrown a bright light of perspective upon things that previously seemed important but no longer are.

My daily agonising over how to feel more accomplished as a writer, how to push past the illusive $100 per month as a Medium Writer, whether I might ever escape my day job and so-on — all such daily inner-debates now seem petty and insignificant.

I worry about the ever-looming threat to health and wellbeing of course, but as far as my writing journey is concerned, I feel like a weight has been lifted.

My determination to build my skill and confidence as a writer, and to connect with and serve those who I can assist via my work is as strong as ever. I feel more relaxed though as I work towards that goal, more grateful for what I’ve achieved to-date and under less pressure to make anything happen quicker than it naturally might.

These are confusing and uncertain times for sure. The effects of COVID-19 will come to bear in virtually every aspect of our lives and I can only hope that you are coping with these as well as you possibly can.

I remind myself often that in each aspect of life, I want to do the best I can and not fret if the best still seems pathetic. It doesn’t mean that expectations, goals and dreams have gone out the window — it perhaps just means that getting there will follow a slightly different path.

If that path is a little more meandering and takes longer, but is accompanied by less stress and pressure than that’s fine by me.

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Written by

A writer, dad and husband sharing his thoughts, wins and losses to help and inspire others. Say hello at bit.ly/TobyHazlewood

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