What We Leave Behind – The Real Meaning of Your Platform as a Writer

I have been obsessed with this photo taken in 1939 in Gordonton, NC.:

Gordonton, NC General Store by Dorothea Lange

What are these people laughing about, discussing, worrying about? What were they doing 2 hours after this photo was taken? Over 70 years later, what is left of this scene? Well, I’ll show you. Watch this 11 second video:

This is a photo taken in 2010. What is missing? Everything.

Sure, some things remain: the exact stones that precariously support the porch are there doing their job for more than 7 decades, as are the rough hewn posts:

Gordonton, NC General Store

I work with writers, and my particular focus is on developing a long-term writing career. Sure, I focus on marketing tactics that people can use today, and on book launches, social media, audience growth, etc. But what will people remember of your writing 70 years from now?

People talk about an author platform in funny ways. They talk about blogs. And Twitter. And marketing funnels. And email lists. They talk about 99 cent ebooks. And Goodreads.

And while these things are elements that support the platform, they are not the platform itself, just as this porch is not the meaning within the photo. The effect you have on others is the platform. The meaning and purpose behind your work is the platform. The information you share that reshapes someone’s understanding is the platform. The story that inspires and opens new doors – that is the platform.

This empty porch, this is not a platform, just as a well-designed website is not a platform:
Gordonton, NC General Store by Dorothea Lange

The platform is the moment of connection that you can hardly put your finger on, and lasts in our memories, unconscious and worldview long after we experience it:
Gordonton, NC General Store by Dorothea Lange

How does your work affect the world? Not because it was on some best seller list; not because you have 20,000 Twitter followers; not because your blog post got 50 comments; not because your book trailer went viral.

What is the legacy of your work 70 years from now? What is the deeper meaning that you can’t capture in a photograph?

What lasts?

What remains through relationships, through the impact you have in sharing ideas, information, or stories?


Photo credits:
1939 photo: 4×5 nitrate negative by Dorothea Lange for the Farm Security Administration. Image now a part of Shorpy.com.
2010 photo: Taken by Cole Rodgers.