When I joined my twelve-step program a couple of years ago, my sponsor told me to stop weighing myself. Too many people, including myself, rely on a number to determine our self-worth. She was right and I stopped. What did it matter what I weighed if I was physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy?
Weight isn’t the only number we obsess about these days. I don’t know about you, but I check my Amazon and Barnes and Noble book rank at least once a day. Sadly, I’ve noticed my moods are affected with the ups and downs of my ranking. It doesn’t matter that I’ve gotten good reviews and accomplished something that I never dreamed possible. I’m focusing on the number. What does that number represent to me? It’s more than merely an indicator of book sales. To me, it represents a long ago buried anxiety of mine- the need to be popular.
Middle school was a difficult time for me as an adolescent. The pressure to be popular ran rampant throughout my network of friends. With a bad haircut, braces, thirty extra pounds and acne, I had no chance of being popular. By the end of seventh grade, most of my friends dropped me like a bad habit. I found a new group, kids who didn’t care about designer labels. They accepted me, bad skin and all.
In high school, I found my clique. We were the theater and choir geeks, not much different than the characters you see on “Glee.” Popularity was irrelevant. I had enough friends and boys to date to keep me busy.
As an adult, I thought I had outgrown the issue of popularity. Then I entered the world of publishing. All of a sudden, I’m worried about people liking me. Worried about what people think of me. What is my Klout? What is my page ranking? How many Twitter followers do I have? How many likes do I have on my Facebook Page? What is my Alexa score? How many books have I sold?
These ranks, numbers and scores shouldn’t matter to me, but they do. These days, being an author isn’t just about writing and selling books. Now, we have to worry about what I call the likeability factor. Agents and traditional publishers don’t want to take chances on newcomers unless they can prove they can sell books. They have to have a “platform.” I thought only nonfiction authors were required to have one, but I soon learned that I was wrong. Agent Rachelle Gardner wrote that authors can build their platform through speaking to large audiences, having high profile visibility in the mainstream media or having a strong internet identity. In other words, they’re expected to be popular. It’s not enough to have talent anymore. Writers must further their own careers by becoming a household name before they even publish a book.
An author’s popularity isn’t based on reality, but on the audience’s perceived image of the author. The crazy thing is that the majority of writers I know are introverts, people who rather curl up on the couch with a good book rather than schmooze with the masses. Instead of working on their novel, they’re blogging and tweeting and creating their public image. I didn’t play the game in school and I’m not so sure I can do it now. I’ve struggled too long and too hard to accept that I don’t have the control. Nor do I want it. I handed it over to my higher power over two years ago. Though it may hinder my career, I won’t give in to my urge to play the popularity game. I’m going to accept the things I cannot change and change the things I can. I’m going to stay true to myself and not worry about my numbers.
After all, what’s in a number?
Shelly Bell received her Bachelors of Arts in Social Work and a Certificate in Women Studies from Michigan State University and her Juris Doctor from Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center. Practicing law since 1997, she specializes in corporate, environmental and employment law as In-House Legal Counsel for a scrap metal company in Detroit. On the side, she dabbles in horseracing and crematory law.
She and her husband have two children and reside in the Metro-Detroit area, where she reads on her Kindle each night when her family falls asleep.
A recovering compulsive overeater, she wrote A Year to Remember to share her strength and hope with compulsive overeaters and food addicts everywhere. A member of Romance Writers of America, she writes both women’s fiction and paranormal romance.
A Year to Remember is available as an e-book from Amazon ow.ly/93MzC, Barnes and Noble ow.ly/93MBE , and Soul Mate Publishing (for iBooks and other e-readers) ow.ly/93MEv. It will be released in print this summer.
Follow Shelly at her website and blog at www.shellybellbooks.com. And though she proclaims not to care about popularity, she can be found on Twitter as ShellyBell987, Facebook as ShellyBellBooks, Goodreads, Shelfari, Triberr, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.