Overcoming Self-Hype Block
It feels kind of dumb writing about this when there is a pandemic going on, but I pitched this last month, and in dire times we turn to art. So fuck it, let’s talk about self-hype block.
First, I want to say that hyping/branding and selling yourself has nothing to do with creating art. Existentially, if I could just write books and music for myself, I’d still do it. It would be less fun and probably less enjoyable, but the act itself is always worth doing.
I love the act of creating, but I don’t enjoy the act of getting people to check out my work. This wasn't always the case. I used to love to hype my work, but I think that was because I felt more confident in my hype skills than the actual work. I was actually good at Twitter in 2013. I still have a lot of followers, but a lot of them are bots because I would tweet about working at a porn store.
Seven years later, I’m sick of social media (though I admit to running my press’s Twitter), and I’ve also had experience writing under a pen name. Lately I haven't been promoting and branding HER work, and I've ended up selling way more than books written in my own name that I promoted and shared.
After a decade of writing, editing and publishing, I see that a lot of it is just random, and a lot of it is bullshit. I’ve seen how a lot of the meat gets made and I’d rather just cook for other people than myself. And what I mean by that mediocre metaphor is I enjoy doing the bullshit and promotion for others more than I enjoy doing it for my own content.
I’m a publisher and I really love it.
Sometimes I feel like the Flavor Flav of indie lit. I love hyping up my favorite new writers some of whom I’m lucky to publish. I have genuine confidence in them. I feel that fire and want to get up on a mountain and scream: read these awesome books!
I have no hype block for others, but when it comes to my own work I feel more like Larry David: Eh, read my books or don’t, I’m still gonna write them. I want to sell and share other people's work. It comes from that place of being a fan, wanting to share a book I genuinely love.
Hyping, marketing, and/or branding is type of muscle. Writing and creating is like working your arms and shoulders with free weights, and hyping/marketing, etc. is the equivalent of doing deadlifts. It’s hard to do an extra set of deadlifts when you’ve already done a full upper-body workout. It’s also really hard to put yourself out there on a daily or even weekly basis with the same kind of energy and enthusiasm.
When I pitched this in early February I was feeling exhausted, but was at that time of course blissfully ignorant about the upcoming pandemic that would grind everyone’s normal routines to a halt, and I was doing real deadlifts at the gym. Now the gym is closed and I’m quarantined at home. Sharing work online can feel trivial and unimportant, but I shouldn’t feel that way about something I put a lot time, energy, and love into, right?
Maybe all these words: hype, branding, selling, etc. are a problem in themselves. They can have a negative psychological effect. None of these words inspire me, and they don’t feel very genuine, either. I’m not naive and I understand marketing and business, but I’m a writer, and using the right words is a big part of this whole gig.
I write songs too, and wrote one called "Celebrate" about two years ago. Songs are spooky things. They are sometimes a message to your future self. As I write this piece it’s clear that what we create is indeed something to celebrate—the chorus to the song is —let it go/I’m gonna cele-bra-ate.
Art is something we need to celebrate, especially if it's something we pour our sweat and passion into. Sharing is less about hype and more about celebration. Fuck it, who cares if it’s on brand or not. What matters is celebrating the work. We are alive and we are creating things that we put our hearts into. That is something worth celebrating and worth sharing.
It’s a lot easier to celebrate something than to "sell it." While we all hunker down, feeling real fear and worry, it’s important to remember to celebrate the things that make life meaningful. For me, that is creating books and music.
I have a novel and an album with my band, The Dionysus Effect, coming out later this year—pandemic permitting—and I’m going to celebrate the hell out of that. I’m going to celebrate being healthy and alive, and celebrate all the authors I’m blessed to edit and publish. I have nine others songs besides "Celebrate" on the album, and I’m really proud of it.
Oh shit, I think writing this article cured my self-hype block. I’m gonna go celebrate.
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