The first time I heard the word “platform” (apart from catching a train or giving a speech) was about six years ago while walking with a friend, who was finishing her master’s degree in creative non-fiction. We’d been talking about the book I’d begun writing about the adoption of my daughter, Ruth.
“What are you doing to build your platform?” she asked as we turned a bend in the wooded road.
“My what?” I asked.
“Your platform,” she repeated. “You know, your name recognition–speaking gigs, social media followers, publishing credentials.”
By that time I’d been steadily publishing articles in large regional publications for a decade and had even won awards. Wasn’t that enough?
From the time my friend first mentioned “platform” I shrunk from the idea of self-promotion. In a world full people trying to turn their lives into the next reality T.V. show, I’d rather raise chickens.
Recently, I heard back from a wonderful agent who was everything I hoped: socially conscious, well-connected, and moved by Ruth’s story. Half way through reading the manuscript, she e-mailed me to say she was “hooked.”
Then came her final reply. Although she loved the story, my “platform” wasn’t big enough. This writer was crushed.
If it was just about me or Ruth or my career I’d quit.
But it isn’t.
My family had the amazing privilege of sharing six extraordinary years with a precious and remarkable little girl who would never have had a family had we not adopted her. When I spent a month in East Africa with Ruth while finalizing her paperwork, I stayed at her orphanage and played with, read books to, and sang to dozens of children just like her–children waiting for homes. I learned their names and stories. Raymond. Ce-ce. Agnes. Grace.
They are why I’m telling Ruth’s story.
So, I’ll take this kind agent’s advice in hand and keep building my platform while working on other projects before sending Ruth’s story out again. But I won’t quit. Too much depends on it.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute,” Proverbs 31:8.
Or, in would-be-author lingo, “Tweet, post, blog, and publish for those who cannot speak for themselves…”
Yep, I’m doing it!
Ever faced an obstacle so big you wanted to quit? What kept you going?