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A Writer’s Life Under the “Big Top”

Back in 1996, Brad Meltzer built what was arguably the first author Web site for his first novel, Tenth Justice, including character interviews and the first chapter. His publisher thought he was nuts.

“The publishing world is very resistant to change,” Meltzer said. “But there are always people—mostly the young and the hungry—who are trying new things. The days of just holing up and writing in solitude are gone. Today, you can’t be a successful writer without having a little Barnum in your bones.”

“But, I want to hole up and write in solitude,” we writers say. “Don’t tell me those days are gone!”

I hear you. I love solitude, too. I love those hours of total absorption with the creative process. But I actually think Meltzer is right. We have to have, at least a tiny bit, of P.T. Barnum in our bones if we expect even a modicum of success in today’s publishing world.

Barnum was one of the world’s greatest promoters. He wrote a wonderful speech called, “The Art of Money Getting.”

This isn’t an easy task for many of us. Writers are typically introverts. That’s how we can spend so much time alone developing our characters (our poems, our articles) and creating our stories. But we also have to figure out ways to get our talents out into the world, albeit in small arenas or large.

We must call upon an extroverted function to put ourselves out there—to secure our literary agents, to publish our books, to develop our Web sites, then to participate in interviews, book clubs, et al.

So what do you think? Do you have enough of the “Big Top” in you to go for that writing career? Do you even think it’s necessary to have this skill-set to be a success? Whatever your answer, I hope you’ll challenge yourself to continue on.