You're Headed To Conference And You Just Want to Cry
That’s probably one of my favorite writing-related funnies. It pretty much sums up the entire inner process. My office may not look like that (not every day at least), but my brain sure does.
And sometimes it’s too much.
It’s too much to sit at the computer and force the words. We shouldn’t have to force anything, dang it! We’re writers! Perfect prose should simply flow from our minds to our fingertips at warp speed. All. The. Time.
You’ve probably had those moments. I like to call them little gifts from God – you know – where you’re writing and suddenly out of the blue something pops onto the page that makes so much sense and sounds so good and you can’t even believe you wrote that – how in the world – and those moments are the ones that push you forward, keep you going. Even if they’re few and far between. Because they usually are.
Confession. I haven’t actually written any new words in … okay, honestly, weeks. I don’t have any excuse for this. It’s just me right now. I’m working, sure, reading the book I’m currently working on, thinking about it from time to time, but sitting down and writing furiously for hours on end? Not happening.
It scares me a little.
Because I’ve put this enormous pressure on myself that doesn’t need to be there.
Realistically, I know this. I also know it takes about a year to publish a book via traditional means. I have books that will be published in the next couple of years. I could write a couple more in the time it takes for them to finally hit the shelves. And I will. I tell myself I will. Of course I will. But then there’s that little voice that creeps in late and night and whispers, “What if you can’t?”
Because writing is hard.
I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it because it is so true – I am my own worst enemy. I’m like Eyore personified, you guys. Not even kidding.
A glass half empty, waiting for the other shoe to drop kind of girl. So of course it makes perfect sense that I would choose a profession like writing. No pressure. At. All. Sheesh. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, its this –
You can’t choose your calling.
You can refuse it. Ignore it. Walk or run as far from it as you want. But if this is what you’re meant for, if this is your destiny, it’ll catch you up.
The happiest people I know are the ones that do the things they love. The rest of us are just getting by.
Please tell me you love what you do. Because if you don’t … stop.
If I wrote because I had to, I’d probably hate it. And my words would suck. Sure, I might make some money because it’s not that hard to learn a formula and churn out drivel. There are plenty of examples I could give right now where this is the case but, since I’m all mature and almost 50 and I’m a nice Christian person, I won’t stoop that low … ahem. (See what I did there?)
So here’s the thing – all this preamble really isn’t necessary but I overwrite all the time, and it’s my blog … but I want I hope to do here today is encourage you. You know who you are. You’re sitting with your plane ticket or staring at a map wondering what in the world you’re thinking … you’re heading into writer land, and you don’t know. You don’t know.
Yes, it’s a big writers conference. Huge. If you’re used to hanging out with your dog and maybe your spouse on occasion, you’re gonna be out of your comfort zone. A little. But … ACFW is a blast. It really is. Writers, editors, agents, publicists … four days of hanging out with people just as nuts as you. (About writing).
But it can also be a scary time. Especially if you’re new to this business, and you’re still a little starry-eyed over the whole thing. You’ll get over it. And if you want to get over it quick, find the group of haggard-looking, glassy-eyed, worn out veteran writers and come talk to us. (We’ll be in the bar).
Because writing is hard.
I know. You want me to tell you all the tricks. How to not be nervous. How to blow an editor back from the table with the best pitch they’ve ever heard in all their two years of coming to conference. (Yes, they really are all just out of college). You want to know how to find your way through a crowded (think salmon season here and you’re swimming in the wrong direction) dining room and land a spot seated right next to your dream agent or that one editor you’ve never been able to talk to without crying. You want me to tell you there’s no reason to panic, no reason to be nervous or fret or throw-up a couple times before your appointments.
And I wish I could. But I don’t have the tricks. I don’t have a magic bean and I sure don’t have the confidence I certainly should after years in the field. The whole extravaganza still scares the bejeebers out of me. I feel your pain. And I get nervous too. I don’t want to be the outgoing person I need to be over the next few days. I’d prefer to just hang out with my friends, and then hole up in my room and read and rest and rewind a little. But that defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? We need to get out there and find the ones just like us, shaking in their boots and wondering what the heck they were thinking coming here. They’re easy to spot. Slammed against a back wall, looking a little green. We need to find them and tell them, hey, you know what, you’re here, that’s amazing. You’re amazing! And you can do this. And they might not believe you, but you just keep saying it until they do.
Because writing is hard.
And we need our friends. Sometimes they’ll drag us across a room if they have to, because honestly, what fun is it really, plastered against a wall looking like you’re facing down a firing squad? And maybe you don’t even know for sure that this is your calling, that this is where you’re meant to be. Well, that’s okay too. But you’re not going to find out if you don’t get out there and start asking. Seeking. Listening.
And then … when it’s all over, the noise, the chatter, the nerves … when it’s all said and done and you’ve done your best, you’ve put yourself out there, you’ve prayed and maybe cried a little, and hopefully laughed a lot … you wait.
This is the hardest part. Ask me how I know.
But … trust. Believe. Find a little extra faith for each day that comes. And then, one day, you’ll know.
And it will be good.
Until then, grab on to your seat, buckle up and hold on, because it’s a heck of a ride. But if you let in a little light, love and laughter along the way, it’s a heckuva fun one.
Go in peace, friends. Face down your fears and just do the thing.
Be yourself. Because you’re awesome.
Dance in the rain if you must, but do it well.