This past summer I drudged up the courage to go to my first writing conference, the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference in July, 2017.
It was crushingly amazing.
Crushing, because with each passing hour I felt my dreams of becoming an author slip away into a bubbling witch’s brew. All my wishes still prevalent, just liquefied into one big magical mess. It was difficult being surrounded by so many published authors when I still wasn’t. It was even more difficult to hear all the rejection I was sure to endure, if I miraculously landed an agent in the first place. Though, at the same time, the conference was amazing. Amazing because I learned tips and advice about writing I would never have found on my own. I’d never felt more inspired about my craft. Ever.
After the first two days of rising anxiety, I realized I had to make the conference what I needed it to be. Why was I there in the first place? To learn about writing. So I did.
When my schedule wasn’t cooperating with the classes offered in my own writing genre, I decided to learn from authors in other genres. Writers are writers, and I write. It didn’t matter that I’d heard repeatedly– read everything in your genre, know your genre, study your genre, when an enlightening message flashed like the missing magical spell I had been searching for. I am my own unique writer. I can listen to what each of these authors have to say. I can analyze how it worked for them, and use the little bits and pieces that fit for me.
So, by the third day, I’d hung up my fear, the overwhelming terror that I was only an amateur, and I began to act like the writer I longed to be. I even took a selfie with my reading glasses on to make it official. I wanted something to signify my growth that day, when from the outside I looked exactly the same.
On the inside, I had discovered the ingredients to the writing potion I needed—for me. It began with the book, The Emotional Craft of Fiction, by Donald Maass, author of sixteen novels and literary agent. I added in a cup of Terry Persun, author in every genre you can name, and his expertise on publishing, (from big house traditional publishing – to smaller indie publishing – to self-publishing on Amazon). I threw in a handful each of lessons on scenes and sequence from romance author, Gerri Russel, and characterization from YA/Paranormal author, Melinda Rucker Haynes, along with a dash of first time pitching experience (both positive and negative) with literary agents. Finally, I felt I had the recipe for success.
I came home from the conference and began mixing. As when Melinda Rucker Haynes shared an experience from her first writer’s conference, after she watched the honored published authors in the front of the room, from her chair in the back of the room, she decided the following year she would join them. And she did. It’s a decision, a goal, a drive to just do it. I have the ingredients. I have the desire. I’m willing to do the work. I am going to publish my novel.
I ended summer with the highest of intentions, baking gloves on, and the pot bubbling over with query letters, synopsis attempts, and agent research… until the sun set and reality rose. September had arrived, and with it school and my day job as a teacher.
Instead of quiet writing, I rose each morning and went to work. I came home in the evenings exhausted, and used what little energy I had left to pay attention to the family I love. I showed appreciation to my supportive husband. I helped and comforted my children who need me. I love my day job. I love my family even more. So, for the month of September, I put my simmering writing concoction into the refrigerator and covered it with plastic-wrap. I would be the teacher, wife, and mother I needed to be.
At first, it felt like failure. I was driven, focused, cooking away. I didn’t want to stop and lose momentum. But, I found instead, I could use the space away from writing as a time of reflection. I’ve contemplated my story, my poetry, the business of writing as a whole, all of it… at stoplights, wandering down grocery lanes, waiting in the car for after-sports pick-ups. I’ve even visualized steps in the writing process on the table at acupuncture appointments. I have to admit, my September time away from writing proved to be surprisingly positive.
But now it’s October. It’s time to carve that pumpkin, or at least some time to write with intention. I’m over the hump, and between the writer’s conference, my own personally created recipe, and clarity from a month of reflection, I am still planning on publishing that novel.
Time to get busy, in a crushingly-amazing sort of way.
Categories: Thoughts on writing...