Evangelism. It can be scary. It can put you off a nice walk in the park. It can make you squirm uncomfortably at the front door. Or it can be fascinating and illuminating to see how the power of belief can make someone turn their life around, dedicate themselves absolutely to what they believe in. At its worst it can become fanaticism, extremism, terrorism. At its best it can be selfless dedication to a philanthropic cause.
Evangelism is like being possessed by a virus of belief. You want to spread the word to everybody, you want them to feel as you do. I felt that way recently when I joined twitter and after the first self-conscious new kid on the block feeling, (tagging onto people and hoping they would be nice about it) I began to discover what a wonderful place it was. As a writers forum it is invaluable on a practical, social, mental and emotional level. There is the opportunity to meet so many diverse but helpful, co-operative and compassionate people. I began to tell other people about twitter and what I had gained from it, how it had changed my writing life but I could tell from their glazed expressions that my fervour was making them a little bemused. I couldn’t get them to buy into it. Recently a writing friend Sally Clements began expounding on NaNoWriMo (for the uninitiated it’s where you sign up to write a 50,000 novel in the month of November). She explained super-exhuberantly why she thought it was so great, what it meant to her, and why I should try it. (See her great NaNoWriMo post. At first I backed slowly away, but her enthusiasm was infectious and I began to think that I could, quite possibly give it a go. (I’m still lurking in the doorway on that one, but I might dash in at the last minute, you never know!)
Evangelism is defined as crusading zeal in support of a cause. As a writer you need to be an evangelist. You need to believe in your writing, in your story, in your characters. You need to be utterly convinced and convincing. You need make others suspend their disbelief and travel with you. You need them to buy into your reality and make it their own for a time.
To write requires self-belief. But in the creeping forward towards an obscure point that is the story or novels end all writers must encounter doubt. The way is not clear, the walls and floor are not solid, and until you reach the endpoint you can’t be sure that the story you have made is coherent, has integrity, says what you want it to say. And even then, you cannot be sure if your message will resonate with others or even reach them.
And when your book is written, you have to go one step further. Now you have to spread the word. You may need to convince an agent or publisher that your story is one they want to share. You need to travel virtually or physically to meet people, to let the world know about your book, to talk and blog and tweet about it, to be its champion. All this in the face of your own doubts and insecurities. A crusade is often a battle, it isn’t easy, it flies in the face of obstacles and resistance. You need to Feel the Fear and do it anyway. If you really want to be a writer and to be read, you have to be the evangelist of your own unique story. Go to it.