All Aboard the Bandwagon

Ah the bandwagon, that gloriously wonderful place to be. Toot your horns and play your trombones ‘cause the circus is coming to town. Add some razzmatazz (God, I love that word) to the mix, some decorations and away we go!

Back in the day, the bandwagon paraded through the streets when the circus came to town. The purpose was to attract the public, peak their interest, and drum up a little business. I mean, it was the circus, how often did it come to town? Of course there were never any circus’ coming through good old E. Dalhousie, and certainly no bandwagons, at least in that sense of the word.

In the late 19th century, politicians picked up on this form of attracting a crowd and began using bandwagons when campaigning for office. (I googled all this because I really wasn’t sure where the term bandwagon originated.)

Today, we speak about someone jumping on the bandwagon we generally mean they want in on what’s trendy, because let’s face it, trendy means popular and who doesn’t enjoy popularity?

We hear about trends in book publishing, and what’s hot at the moment. Hot means books sales, and books sales means well:

Book sales  + Popularity = Every author’s dream.

Back when I was a fledgling writer with no real direction, no clear idea of style or voice, just an urge to express myself with words, back when I was furiously trying to figure it out, figure me out, figure the world out, while figuring my kids out, I thought the bandwagon was the place to be. It was fun, it was popular, there was razzmatazz. Not only that, if I wanted to catch a publisher’s eye I had to give them what they wanted and sure as heck they wanted trendy.

I tried writing what I thought would get me published. The problem was, what I thought would get me published had nothing to do with being true to who I was as a writer and as a person.  Now, don’t get me wrong, if trendy is who you are through and through, and is not simply coming from your need to write what will sell, then you’re on the right path.

I wasn’t. Not in the beginning. I couldn’t even see the path because I wasn’t even looking in the right place.

So I was a baby taking baby steps along with my two year old at the time. I was trying to find my way in the dark, with no guidance and no helping hand. I made wild stabs in the dark, first this way, then that. It’s called life, and we all make our share of wild, uncontrolled stabs in the dark while trying to find our way.

My first steps were wobbly. Not only that,  I was as clumsy as elephant. I saw where I wanted to be and I headed straight for it, crushing everything in my path. I thought I was going to get the peanut that way, and boy, was I mistaken.

But don’t cry for me and don’t feel sorry. We all travel the path that is meant for us. Some of us tread lightly, others stomp our way through.

I’ve always been stubborn and independent, always figured I had to discover these things for myself. It’s not that I didn’t want the help of others, there just were no “others” out there to offer it. The path looked mighty deserted. Not to mention that, in the beginning, I was on a secret mission. But secret mission or not, in the very beginning, I climbed up on that bandwagon for a spell. Trendy look pretty good from where I was standing. In fact it looked about right. It was going to get me published.

I would never advise anyone starting out to follow my footsteps. Our footsteps are unique, the path we choose is the one we need to travel. We need to make our own mistakes and find our own way.

The moment I read that we should write what we know, an idea came to me. I knew what I could write about. I was a bit nervous. Up until then I’d been writing what I didn’t know because I just didn’t know any different. And then my first story was published and I felt immediate joy. I had found the path that was right for me.

Would the path lead me to popularity? Would publishers immediately snap up every morsel I wrote, eager to get my words in print?

What do you think?

But I had learned a valuable lesson.

I learned to stop looking over my shoulder. I learned to write the story that was uniquely mine. I found the path that was meant for my footprints. And this is where I want to be, this is where I have found publication.

So have you ever climbed up on the bandwagon? If you have was it the right place to be?

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16 Comments

  1. I didn’t so much climb onto the bandwagon, Laura, but I definitely impacted my writing career by trying to please the professional literary critics. The books that resulted were a critical success but not as easy for my readers to ‘fall into’, the stories being much more complex and densely written.

    Although those books did please some of my readers, which was great, I came to realize that my problem was of a spiritual dimension. Although my first few books received good reviews, there was that occasional critic who mentioned that my work was simplistic. Pride reared its ugly head. I would show them! So although the books are fine, and I’m pleased with my writing and the stories, my motivation needed a lot of work, and I’ve had to ask the Lord to take over so I didn’t fall victim to the dictates of my own pride.

    Reply
    • Staying true to ourselves can be challenging, but changing who we are to fit the wants of others is something I hope I never fall into. Surely, we will never please everyone out there. First and foremost, I believe, we must please ourselves.

      Reply
  2. Judi

     /  February 16, 2012

    I can confirm that Miss Laura is stubborn and independant. She is very deicated to whatever she puts her mind too, and she always succedes. If she doesn’t she will try another way and try again.
    She is a very good friend and would help you with anything within her power, plus she is a very good listner. As you can see I’m not a good writer AT ALL.

    Reply
    • Judi, I sometimes think you know me better than I know myself.. Where would I be without you to keep me in line? LOL!

      With such a glowing endorsement perhaps I’ll get you to write my next bio.. ;)

      Reply
  3. You know, I feel a smile and chuckle coming on. I don’t think there is much worry about my climbing onto that bandwagon since I don’t even recognize one when I see it! LoL! See how I am? :)

    Reply
    • Ah, that means you’re writing for you and not what you think someone wants/expects from you. Sometimes we buckle under pressure because our desire for publication is so strong. Now I’m smiling. :)

      Reply
  4. You certainly did write a story that was uniquely yours and it paid off. I do think we have to try a few things, stumble and fall until we find what works for us. So many don’t even try, too afraid they will fail. For some of us it takes a while, but being stubborn and independant is a quality required for writers, I think. If everyone got on the band wagon, there would be no independant or original thoughts, or books for that matter. (I am already tired of the “vampire bandwagon”)

    Reply
    • I hear you on the vampires, Darlene. Sometimes we can get too much of a good thing.

      Writing is a bit like stumbling and trying different things. I’ve known people who said they wanted to write, but came up with excuses why not to. Fear of failure can certainly hold us back.

      Reply
  5. When I first got online, back in 1994, I joined a prestigious writer’s crowd. The rules were simple. You critiqued a writer’s ms and collected enough credits to have one or more critique yours. It was a learning experience, to say the least. I decided early on that I owned it to my crit partner to write something they could stand to read. My very first critter said, “If I’d paid for this book, I’d be back at the store demanding my money back.” Ouch.

    The hard part was knowing when to take advice and when not to.

    Reply
    • Wow! That would be tough. It makes me wonder what happened to diplomacy, getting your point across without crushing someone’s dream? Glad you didn’t let those first experiences deter you from writing because the writing world would have missed out on some amazing books. :)

      Reply
  6. I’ve always been horrible at following trends. :-) If anything, I’m known as the one who can’t seem to find the bandwagon. I’m good at following things that are popular from other people, but when it comes to creating my own story, I tend to wander off the beaten path. I’d rather be who I am and get published for individuality, rather than write from a place that isn’t genuine. Even if that mean I never see my name in print.

    Reply
    • I’m usually not even aware of what many trends are. I’ve never concerned myself with that. Being who we are, writing the stories that are our own feels good to me. Sounds as thought you agree. :)

      Reply
  7. I think I’ll just join the circus! lol Thanks for sharing your experience, Laura.

    Reply
  8. Like you, I started out writing the wrong sorts of things. I, a animal-loving farm-loving girl from a three-room school three hours from an airport, figured I should be writing about cities like Paris (literally. I shudder now). I vividly remember when I first got on track. I wrote an essay called “North of the River” about my childhood home near the North Saskatchewan River. I was engrossed in that piece of writing like nothing else I’d ever tried to write. I honed and honed that essay, with joy, and thought “I’ll never publish it, but THIS is what I enjoy writing.” Within a year, I saw a call for submissions for writing related to the North Saskatchewan River. You could have, as they say, knocked me over with a feather. I submitted, and parts of my essay were published in the book (Reading the River: A Traveler’s Companion to the North Saskatchewan by Myrna Kostash). It taught me that 1) the most enjoyable writing is writing about what you love/are meant to write about, and b) surprisingly, when I write what I love and write well, the publication opportunities do appear…

    Reply
    • It does seem that once we find the right road that opportunities come our way. I’m so glad that the piece you put your heart into ended up being published. The Universe has a wonderful way of surprising us.

      Strange, the ideas that we have when we first begin writing.

      Reply

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