The Courage and the Controversy

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In late 2017 I published my first novel, We Follow the Dying Light, chronicling the journey of psychiatrist Catarina Chambers as she attempts to reconstruct the broken mind of an opioid addict while battling her own demons. Since the book came out, I’ve confronted the stark reality of marketing in the digital age and the importance of social media presence. It’s a game I’m losing. Over the next few hundred words I’ll explore why.

First, a brief history of David Donaldson. Professionally, I’m trained as an economist, and work as a risk manager. That means I’m an evidence based decision maker, using statistics and data as a barometer of truth. As an expert on risk, I estimate the likelihood and magnitude of loss, and recommend how to proceed. Is the risk to reward trade-off sufficient; should we purchase extra insurance? You get the idea.

So when I wade into the world of social media, particularly Twitter, and try to gather followers, I’m confronted with an issue. The platform has the tendency to become an echo chamber, where biases are reinforced and dissenting views are crushed. It’s a place where moments of poor judgment can be resurrected a decade later to “prove” the failure of one’s character no matter how much wisdom someone has gained over the ensuing years. Recent examples include prominent figures like James Gunn (former director of the Guardians of the Galaxy series) or comedian Kevin Hart. It’s not that someone’s past actions weren’t tasteless or downright deplorable, it’s the soul deadening idea that redemption isn’t possible. As an author crafting character arcs where the main character grows and learns through conflict, trying to market into this atmosphere is distressing.

If you want to avoid a similar fate, one technique is to refrain from writing anything that could be considered controversial. And for god’s sake don’t try to be the voice of reason in a thread where someone is being tarred and feathered. I calculated over the past year that this was the appropriate course of action. Boy was I wrong!

Writing is an entrepreneurial endeavor, and entrepreneurship involves taking risk. Building a milquetoast online presence is a recipe for invisibility, evidenced by my meager number of followers and the crickets my posts generate. Instead of throwing up my hands in frustration I’ve decided to speak my mind more openly, attempting to connect with my authentic self.

Remember, I follow the evidence. As better evidence presents itself, I’m willing to change my point of view. Open mindedness is a value I hold particularly dear, which is why I find the state of social media so disconcerting. The political void is an exhausting chasm, one I believe the silent majority desire to escape.

So in 2019, to become the leader I know I can be, I’ll risk controversy and demonstrate courage, in the hope that my level headed thinking provide a lifeline to all the good people on social media looking for a taste of something real. If it helps me sell more books, great, but that’s not the driving force behind my aspirations. I want to prove to myself I’m brave enough to follow the logic in my head and the passion in my heart. Have the Courage to be the catalyst of change I want to see in the world. Wish me luck!

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