Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. ~ Susan Sontag
I have to pause for a few moments here and write a little bit about something. Mainly a word of thanks.
I will be attending a writing conference that I have wanted to attend for over 4 years now. This particular event occurs only every 2 years. Four years ago, I did not feel I belonged there, I did not know many people who were writing or writers, and I could not justify going. I let it move on.
When I began blogging back in 2009, I had already wanted to blog for a few years, but it took me that long to actually do it. I greatly hesitated partly because it felt so visible and “out there.” I felt exposed and I worried about it. This was even before social media as we know it now (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
When I finally did start a blog, and I began writing more, I would link my posts with various places. There were many different places to link up all over the web. I had to pick and choose. To save time, I’d link one post to several different places. I had some growing numbers (more than I do now!), I was commenting on others’ posts, and they were commenting on mine. The blog was growing.
Back then, I did not use my real name on the blog. I used my blog’s name, “path of treasure”. Then after a couple of years, after much thought and much internal deliberation (this issue was a huge one for me), I finally gave myself a common “pen name”, because I remained very reluctant to use my real name or any other identifying factors about me. I picked the common name, “Anna”. That name did not come out of the blue; I had reasons for using it. One reason is that it means “grace”, which is what I am thankful for.
But then, life happens, and for some reason, I let blogging fall while I tried to figure out where I wanted this blog to go and while I was trying to live life. So, after all this momentum had built up, I think I went about 6 months without blogging.
And, you know what happens when you do not blog or post regularly? Right. You lose readers. Quickly. Out of sight, out of mind. And I certainly fell into that category. Unless you’re the Pioneer Woman or J.K. Rowling, or you have a few very committed followers, it is very common to lose readers and followers, even those who liked what you were doing.
So… I lapsed. But, I had legitimate reasons and issues to address, and I realize that. Once I resumed writing, I no longer participated in too many writing link ups, but I just wrote. My main goal was that: simply write, and write regularly. Practice as often as I could. While I posted regularly, I did write almost daily in my own journal. Very occasionally (and I do mean rarely), would I ever post something I wrote in my journal. On numerous occasions, an idea was sparked from the journal writing. But I do not post from personal journals.
A few years ago, I read a book which transformed my views on writing and creativity and living a certain kind of life, doing a certain kind of work. That book was The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. It was that book that influenced me greatly, and opened my eyes to see that which was obvious. I had been writing since I could hold a pencil, and it was something I had always done, just part of who I was. I didn’t have to think about writing; it was just something I did.
I had other creative interests (drawing/painting, a little bit of music, a little bit of acting, making things…) and I could have picked any one of those to pursue, but that would have been at the expense of the other choices. The writing was the most consistent (and most easily followed- I could write anywhere), and the one I could do least without. It had become an essential part of my daily life (except for a long spell when I had young kids and I was exhausted very often and the writing became scarce… but that is a different story). And so, why wasn’t I pursuing it to the degree I was passionate about? I was blogging, writing, and I knew I wanted to keep at it. I was going to write, regardless. I knew I wanted to pursue it to the next level.
That is one large component of how writing became a more intentional pursuit in my life. After reading that book, I became a bit more “serious” about writing intentionally. That is, I started writing poetry more deliberately. I joined a weekly poetry linkup, a weekly creative writing prompt, and I blogged in addition to that. And continued writing in my journal.
I sought out writing sources, websites, etc., I began reading and writing more poetry. I wrote more and more.
For the past two years (since October 2016), I decided I would post at least once or twice per week. I am happy to report that has been the case (maybe one week I was delayed). I did that largely for me, a goal I set for myself, and it feels good to be able to say I did it.
For me, the goal was consistency. It was not about readership, though goodness knows, I’d love the readers. I do know that even with a large number of readers, only a very small number will ever post a comment. That is fine…I wasn’t after that.
In fact, I hesitate to call myself a “blogger” right now. I have a blog (it’s the free one, I do not yet have my own site with my own domain name). But I do not engage in active commenting on others’ blogs and do that community building. My goal has been consistency and personal growth in my own writing, so I had to make a choice. I chose to spend my time on my own writing and reading, instead of reading and commenting on others’ blogs, because I simply could not spend the time doing both.
So, I am very happy and appreciative for any and all readers that may come this way and read. It’s very rewarding to have anyone read… and a comment, well, comments are amazing.
But if I sat here all day waiting for numbers and comments, I’d still be waiting. It isn’t going to happen (unless I make some concerted efforts in that direction). I don’t have any cheerleaders telling me to keep on going. I have myself. I tell myself to keep on going. I tell myself this is what I need to be doing. I pep talk myself if I start to spiral down a trail of self-doubt. I don’t wait on readers. I don’t wait on anyone. I only have myself and I’m the only one who can do anything about this writing if I want to get it done.
Two years ago, I felt a little more inclined to attend this writing conference but still not enough. I knew two people would be going (that I had met in person) and a few more that I knew only online in writing circles. Still, I felt as if I did not belong and hesitated greatly about attending. I let it roll on by, and I felt a greater sense of missing out than I had two years prior.
So, now, I’ve been writing once or twice a week for a sustained length of time. I attended my first writing conference last fall. I knew one person there. But it was wonderful, because I felt as if I had found my “tribe” in a sense. Not that these people became my closest friends but I met so many other people who enjoyed doing what I also enjoy. There was a common understanding and interest.
I attended a writing workshop last fall where I met other writers, too. It was absolutely wonderful. Through a couple of connections there, God opened the door for me to join a very active writer’s group, full of very smart and capable women writers, many of whom are published regularly on well-known sites on the internet, and many have books they have written or are forthcoming. Some have agents, some do not. Some write columns regularly, some do not. Some work full-time, some do not. But all of them write. I feel so blessed to be a part of this group… I hope some of all that will rub off on me! 🙂
Still, I have not met most of these folks in person. Another blessing has been the connections made online, specifically through Twitter, and through this Writer’s group, which connects largely on Facebook (private group). It has been huge for me, personally. While social media certainly has a huge list of negatives and cons, and it is a time waster, and there are many bad things we can say about it, there is also a side that has been very positive. It has provided connections I am not sure I would otherwise have.
I began very, very part-time work as a writing coach, and with the very small funds I’ve made I’ve reinvested into my own writing life.
I finished writing my own poetry “chapbook”- again, for myself. I am submitting poems from it (and the whole thing eventually), too, but it was greatly rewarding to finish that project of mine.
I’ve submitted a couple of articles- a couple were published. I’m slowly submitting a few poems here and there (still waiting).
And now, this writing conference is upon me again. This time, I am going. 🙂
I do not have a huge platform, huge number of followers, etc. I do not have an agent, book deals, proposals, many connections, etc. But I am still going.
Becuase of the writing conferences I attended and the writing group I am part of, I will get to meet dozens of people in person that I never met in person before. I won’t be going completely “alone”- I will know some people. Wow! What a difference from just two years ago!
You know, many writers are introverts. My Twitter feed has been full of advice, and tips for “surviving” the conference. The writing conference I went to last fall had a private room where anyone could go to be alone. They know writers and introverts, don’t they? 🙂 That was a much, much smaller conference, and a good one for me to start with.
This next one, though, is huge, much bigger, and according to a well-known person who has authored many books, it is THE one to attend. The list of speakers, panelists, workshop leaders, is huge. The schedule I printed (for just 3 days) is about 20 pages.
I am going, which is a huge step from where I was 2 years ago. I do not have a book proposal, as most of the people attending probably will. But I am going anyway. I have goals, and I hope to make some meaningful connections with people. I hope to learn. I hope to meet some editors and publishers.
People are also talking about awkward conversations, foibles, feeling left out and all of that. There will be folks there highly focused on the task of networking with specific people and selling their book idea.
I wonder if there will be large potted plants placed strategically for folks to hide behind? LOL. I am small enough I can usually hide behind big and tall people, haha, I don’t often need a plant! 😀 But no, I am joking about all of this, of course. Being an introvert doesn’t mean we don’t like people. But for some, conversations like these can cause a lot of anxiety. I am not anxious or worried… but I do need to figure out how to answer a few questions that everyone will be asking of one another. 🙂
But there is so much more to say!
I met two other writers who live just 20-30 minutes from me, in this writer’s group. There are 4 of us in our state, though only 3 could make it to meet in person recently. Two of us who are going to this conference worked on our “schpiel”, that is, what do we say when people ask us what we are working, or what kind of writing do we do? Well, for us, who have not written books, we practiced something to say. That was a few weeks ago. Now I cannot for the life of me remember at all what I came up to say that night! I have to start all over from scratch. At this moment I have no idea what I will say.
So for those who shared their awkward moments here is what I am thinking. I am going to go into this thing expecting to have some awkward moments and conversations. You know what, it’s realistic to expect it. It’s real life. We are human, and we are going to say some awkward things. It happens. So expect it will likely happen, then get over it.
And there is also the advice regarding the tendency we all have to compare ourselves with one another. Again, I am so thankful to be here, where I am… and I realize my journey has been so different from anyone else’s. I could be tempted to fall into this comparison game when I realize that others 10-15 years younger than me have book contracts, write articles for great places on a regular basis, etc. I COULD. I could go there. I’m lying if I say I haven’t thought about it. I am keenly aware of it. But I choose not to go there and dwell there.
I also hope for the opposite. Since I feel as if this is my “tribe”, meaning, these people are similar to me in several ways, I hope to make some new writing friends. Comrades. Connections. The social media was just the original way of finding these people; now is where the real stuff begins. As I said, I am looking forward to seeing these Avatars and pictures be real people walking around.
So I am pinching myself. I am so thankful this – and where I am today.
But there is more!
A couple of weeks ago, at a weekly Bible study I attend, a new person was sitting at our small group table. This woman was older than me, and had a little bit of a Latina/Spanish accent. Well, after the Bible study was over, I spoke to her and the other lady who had invited her. And after a few minutes, she looked directly at me, pointed to the Bible study book, and asked me if I was writing a book like that? Keep in mind, I have never met her, she doesn’t know me, and I haven’t shared anything about my writing with any of the women in this study. (I tend to keep it a bit private… though my blog and social media are public… weird, I know.)
Anyway, she asked me if I was writing a book.
What? Wow. I think I was stunned at first. WHAT?!
Are you writing a book? She asked me again.
I said yes. She asked me if it was a funny book. I said no, I didn’t think it was a funny book (it isn’t meant to be a funny book).
(But do you know what? I realized later one of the few people who read this poetry chapbook found some of the poems funny! I was surprised by that reaction. I’m glad to have that feedback, because I had not intended them to be funny! So it was good to hear that perspective. So now I am wondering… will others think they are funny, too? So that was interesting…)
I told her I had indeed written something; I was writing something. And I wanted to write more. She told me to finish it. She kept insisting I write this book. Then she said she would call me and ask me if I had finished it. She said she’d call me and ask for the title.
She asked for my phone number, so I gave it to her. A complete stranger. I was thinking- maybe I shouldn’t- but I didn’t want to offend her. I believed she was sincere. And she told me that sometimes God tells her these things… So I gave her my number. I was astounded by all of that.
Then, she asked me something else, but I will leave that for another time.
Well, I don’t know how much of that will transpire. I don’t want to pin all my hopes on that conversation. Yes, it would be wonderful if that transpired. But you know what? Here’s what it did do. It was the push I needed to submit my chapbook to the conference submittable account. I don’t even really know if the lady meant the poetry book or the memoir/nonfiction book I really want to write, but I only have the poetry book ready right now, so that’s what I sent.
I had been dragging my feet. Procrastinating. Doubting myself. I wondered if it was worth it. Who will look at poetry submissions?? There will be many exciting proposals for editors and publishers, for nonfiction and fiction books. They are expecting them. Who buys poetry?? So, I have no idea if anyone will even take a look at it, and I don’t have expectations anyone will. But of course, yes, I HOPE they will. I hope someone will open it, and see enough they like they will want to work with me. Can’t happen unless I try, right? Or, next best scenario, they read it and give me feedback on how to get better. If nothing happens, I haven’t lost anything. So there you have it.
The lady never called me, though, to ask me if I wrote it or what the title was. I hoped she would. I wanted to believe she would. Maybe she lost the number. But I know how those things go… we often have very good intentions and I am sure she intended to call me. Maybe her job was done and there was no need to call me.
At any rate, I should just trust this whole process, right? I’m going to the conference, because of God opening doors through the workshop and previous conference, and through being part of this amazing writing support group. I could not have imagined any of this 2 years ago. I finished writing a small poetry book and I really like some of the poems in it. If a lady I’ve never met before tells me to finish my book, well then, there must be a reason. I don’t know when or how that will result in something, but it can’t be for no reason. Things like that don’t happen for no reason, do they?
So that’s my story.
And it’s so long, I should break this down into a 3 part series. Seriously! If you’ve stuck with reading this far, THANK YOU. I normally don’t write long posts like this. There was just too much to say and I’m rushing off to this conference. If I had more time, I’d edit the daylights out of this to get it down to a reasonable size and get rid of as many of “be” verbs as I can and take out the passive voice, because it’s annoying the heck out of me right now. 🙂
So… praise and thanks to God, for bringing me this far, and the doors that have opened thus far, and for sustaining me and pushing me and helping me and not letting me give up.
I hope to have some more wonderful stories to share in the days and weeks post-conference!