“Life’s a pitch, and then you buy.” At least, that’s what Billy Mays used to say. When I was a manager for that “He Who Shall Not Be Named” bookstore chain, I peddled plastic crapola and loyalty cards with utter insincerity. I pretended to believe that the things we sold were fabulous and that they needed to be added to anyone’s collection. Of course, I read maybe 10 books during my 8-year tenure with this chain, so I knew pretty much nothing about what I was recommending. But I’ve already written about how retail destroyed my love for reading and how that love has since been resurrected (see “The Bookseller Who Never Read”), so I won’t rehash those details here.
Now, I’ve got a new product to peddle. Me.
As a writer, I submit letters and proposals to a lot of clients telling them what a fabulous job I will do for them, how reliable and dependable I am, and how great my work is. Sometimes, I’m not sure that I believe in myself anymore than I believed in those loyalty cards. That’s where the beautiful motto “Fake it ‘til you make it” comes in handy. I may peddle my services without a complete base of self-confidence, but I peddle as though my life depended on it. Of course, since I’ve embraced writing as both a profession and a craft, a big part of my life does depend on it.
I’ve been lying for a good part of my career. I lied to my employees every day about being motivated to accomplish our retail goals, particularly related to said loyalty cards and plastic crapola. I can’t say that insincerity made me particularly proud of myself, but I can honestly say that having learned that skill does come in handy now that I am marketing my own writing skills. I’ve learned to sell myself as a writer and as a businesswoman, whether I believe in my self-proclaimed prowess or not.
My self-confidence tends to lag behind my plans. It always has, like a hippo being dragged behind a motorcycle. I’ve always been the sort of person who would climb Mt. Everest and then say at the summit, “What the hell am I doing here?” I scale the heights, I put myself out there, but I have a really hard time believing that I can succeed. This quality usually leads to some kind of spectacular self-sabotage. No one, but no one, can self-destruct the way that I can.
I’ve always envied people who have the ability to believe in themselves and to go out and get what they want. Some people are terrible at failure, but I’ve always been terrible with success. I tell myself that it won’t last and that I must prepare myself for the inevitable spiral downward. Every setback on the road could be the muffled drumbeats of an approaching ending. I would give anything to not feel so pessimistic. I would love to have the sort of ego that is built of steel instead of balsa wood and hot glue. However, I’ve been alive for a while now, and I haven’t been able to defeat that sense of fragility. Maybe I never will.
So I’ll keep on telling the beautiful lie, whether I believe it or not. I will tell potential clients how fabulous I am and will provide them with a winning value-added proposition no matter what. I’ll do my best with the business side of writing and try to keep scratching away at the creative side. Maybe something will come of my efforts after all. Maybe the beautiful lie will morph into some kind of lasting truth. No matter what happens, though, I will never sell plastic crapola again.
I’ll peddle my own crapola instead.