Do The Thing That Scares You
I have been on autopilot for the past couple days, feeling as though I am having an out of body experience as I watch myself go through the motions of normal, everyday life while allowing all the information that was hurled at me the previous few days to slowly leak its way into the processing part of my brain.
The past weekend was a whirlwind, a blur, at times a melodic symphony of soothing and encouraging words, and other times a slight cacophony to my delicate introverted ways. Because, you see, a while back I had this grandiose idea of attending my first writer’s conference with no magnificent manuscript in hand, no polished literary masterpiece, and ummm… (ha!) not even a concrete premise in mind for the 40,000 word slush pile I have stowed away on my computer like a wild, ravenous forest child guards her newfound loaf of stale bread.
I thought it would be swell to go out into the public, (yes, the public *shudder*) and mingle (yes, mingle *shudder*) with other writers, agents, editors and I don’t know — just other people who are way, way beyond me in this whole writing game, not to mention, life in general.
Yeah… I thought that would be a swell time.
I think I slept three hours the night before the first day.
I didn’t know what to expect.
I dreaded boastful snobbery because I don’t mix well with braggarts.
I hoped for inspirational pep talks, motivational speeches, informational sessions, and the real hard truth on what it takes to be a serious writer.
But, I’m not gonna deny it — I braced myself for a few days of hardcore eye rolling on my part.
And you know what? Lo and behold, these writers and authors, editors and agents, astounded me with their acceptance, their grace, their kind suggestions and advice, and their encouragement.
Oh, I won’t lie. I encountered some random egotism and overheard some arrogant boasting. A bit here and there is to be expected in any artistic profession and at such a large event as this, it’s unavoidable. There is also a fine line between sharing to help others and sharing to brag.
So, I admit I may have rolled my eyes once or twice.
But on the whole, I was pleasantly surprised, and my fears and uneasiness were quickly doused with warmness and open arms of writers of all ages and backgrounds. I introduced myself to my seat neighbors at most sessions. I plopped my butt at the hotel bar for lunch each day and breezily chatted (a drink helped the breeziness) with fellow writers from all across the board who shared their experiences in this crazy literary journey we all decided to follow.
A couple of the agents sat at the bar for lunch Friday and Saturday, and I am thankful I had the opportunity to gab it up with one of them. He openly seemed interested in my journey and graciously offered up some solid advice and suggestions on how to get unstuck in my plotline ‘what the fuck is this story even about!?’ nightmare. We then talked about what to do and see in Seattle, books we were reading, and just general life things not revolving around writing, which was insanely refreshing because I am shit at being singularly focused in conversation, and uh…life.
Throughout the line shuffle to dinner each evening and during the dinners themselves, older ladies would kindly ask how I was doing, probably seeing the exhaustion and bewilderment sketched onto my face. Clinking wine glasses with one of these ladies at dinner and a gentle hug in farewell along with well wishes for writing success was one of the best parts of the conference for me.
A lot of folks urged me to do the pitch session, even if just for the experience, and I kept it on the table for a while until I heard what the agents and editors had to say about the matter during their Friday morning forums. Most of them confirmed my hunch. They wanted completed, polished manuscripts — “your best work”. Obviously. They want a book to sell and sooner rather than eons from now.
So with that bit of enlightenment and after my bar chat with the agent and another writer who both assured me I was making the right decision in refraining, I sealed my fateful decision to not pitch this go around.
I wasn’t ready to pitch, and that was okay. It was not the driving force for me in attending this conference, and that was my mindset all along. And luckily, I think I succeeded in obtaining what I wanted out of this writer’s shindig.
- Learn more about the craft of storytelling. ✓
- Hear others’ experiences and journeys in writing and publishing. ✓
- Socialize and drag myself out of my cozy hamster ball. ✓
- Find someone, anyone, (there were several!) to give me a pep talk akin to a nun slapping my wrists with a ruler to just write. ✓
- Let go of the fear of exposing myself in my writing. (still working on it…)
There was also a surprise nugget. ‘Show Don’t Tell’ is not this undeniable writing commandment or holy grail of prose that should be applied to every single paragraph you spew from your loins, er…fingers — something I have been struggling with, and I am ever so relieved to hear it from at least two well-established authors at this conference. Not all of us strive to write glorious literary works of art, and what I learned is that telling and varying degrees of showing work much better for pacing and action, especially in genre fiction.
Holy fucking hell, thank you.
And thank you, Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association. This conference was well worth not only my money but also the intermittent feeling of hot fear and beaded sweat, the pounding sensation of my heart desperately trying to escape the chaos of fluctuating emotions, and the rolling pits of terror felt clawing away deep within my bowels.
Totally worth it.
So, what are you waiting for, people? Do that thing that scares you. The experience may surprise you.