The more I focused on platform building, the less I enjoyed writing. I almost quit.
A few years ago, when I was still looking for an agent, I received some unexpected feedback. The agent liked me and my writing. He thought my book had merit. But despite all that he chose not to represent me. His reason was direct: “You have no platform.” Ouch!
He didn’t say, “Your platform isn’t big enough,” “We want to see a bigger following,” or even “Your platform is too small.” Each would have been a true statement, and I could have accepted that. But no. He said, “You have no platform.” His words smacked at the core of my being. It’s as if he stuck a knife in my heart and twisted it.
I doubt he meant to cause me pain, but he did. Words have an impact. I know. I write for a living.
So with renewed focus, I dove into growing my platform. I studied books, took online classes, and listened to podcasts about platform and branding. I followed blogs and copied what the big-platform people did. I put greater effort into blogging, looked at each social media platform I used to make it better and developed a consistent message across them all. I sought to engage with people online and build community.
I followed the steps of the gurus, the holders of grand, successful, platform-building outcomes. Eventually, I realized the truth of the oft-spoken disclaimer: “Individual results may vary.” Indeed few of their followers ever achieved their if-I-can-do-it-anyone-can-do-it results. That included me.
With so much emphasis on the platform, I had little time to write. I wrote infrequently and enjoyed it less. My fixation on the platform drained me of my passion for words. The size of my following became a burden, one harder to bear as time moved on.
Then one day I’d had enough. “If this is what it means to be a writer, I quit!” I gave up. But instead of relief, I grew even more miserable.
That was when I realized I could not write.
I scaled back my mostly unsuccessful platform efforts to what was doable without being overwhelming. I cleansed the evil of platform fixation from my soul and reclaimed my joy of writing.
I suspect I will always consider platform building and self-promotion as the dark side of writing, but as long as I keep the former in check, I can continue with the latter—and thoroughly enjoy it.
Frustration with my platform almost caused me to stop writing. But it didn’t. I’m still here, and I’m still writing—regardless of the size of my platform.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.