Showing posts with label impostor syndrome. Show all posts
Showing posts with label impostor syndrome. Show all posts

Monday, May 22, 2017

Toothy Writing

What you fear, if you turn toward it, will give your writing teeth--Natalie Goldberg

This is one of my favorite writing quotes. I love it so much, it's on my business cards. It comes to me when my inner gremlin tells me I suck, or that I'm a huge fake. It comforts me when I feel like my fingers can't type the words my brain needs to say. That quote reminds me that as long as I'm willing to tell the stories I need to tell, I have power. It runs through my mind when I press my right hand into my only tattoo for strength and comfort. What you fear, if you turn toward it, will give your writing teeth. It's become my mantra and it pulls me through the scary times.

I'm writing something that scares the hell out of me right now. Okay, I'm actually writing two things that scare the hell out of me right now, but this one thing--it's really scary, yet I'm completely in love with it. There are times I want to stop working on it because I'm not exactly convinced I'm the right person to tell this story. Who am I to be able to do it justice? Hell, since I'm a pantser, I don't even know what's going to happen one page to the next. Surely, this story is meant for another storyteller, not me.

About a year ago, my family and I took a trip to Universal Studios Orlando. At the time, this story hadn't revealed itself to me. It wasn't even a blip on my story radar. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter knocked our socks off, but the highlight of the trip was Ollivander's. For those who may not know, Ollivander's is the wand shop in Harry Potter. It's not just an ordinary wand shop. No, in this wand shop, the wand chooses the wizard. Well, that's not just book magic, my friends. Against the odds, the wand actually chose my son! We knew someone would get chosen, but since my kid was thirteen, and there were younger kids there, we thought for sure one of the littles would get lucky. When Ollivander looked right at my kid and called him up to the counter, he looked at me and his dad, shocked that he'd been picked. He pointed to his chest and whispered "Me?" Ollivander assured him he was the chosen one and it was time for him to come up and fulfill his destiny by opening himself up to just the right wand.

I feel like my son did that day: Shocked. Surprised. Incredulous. Flattered. Nervous. Excited. But add scared shitless to my list. I didn't pick this story any more than my son picked that wand. The story picked me. Me, with all my baggage. Me with my worries and fears. Out of everyone in the entire world, this story picked me. I'm the only one who can write this one, so I have no right to turn away from it, even though it scares me.

What you fear, if you turn toward it, will give your writing teeth.

I sure as hell hope so. I hope I have the strength and the courage to tell this story without flinching, dumbing it down, or turning away. I hope I have the strength to tell this story with the grace and tenderness it deserves. Above all, I hope that because I refuse to turn from it, it will sink its sharp teeth into your soul.

How do you handle writing the things that scare you?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Post Where I Talk About My First Writers Conference

It always seemed to me that if I really wanted to call myself a writer, I needed to do more than just write, I needed to go to a conference. But since I've never been published and my blog is just barely crawling along with lurches and gasps, going to a writers conference seemed a bit too...ambitious. Like everyone would be able to smell the Eau de Impostor that wafts around me like too much Axe Body Spray.

I really did go! I have the picture to prove it!

I came at DFW Writers Conference sideways. First, I stalked the website and Facebook page, wondering if I could hang. Wondering if it would really be worth it. Then, I put it out of my head entirely--for about two hours. It turned out, I couldn't focus on anything but the conference. There was a wobbly pit in my stomach, and a voice in the back of my head urged me to talk to my husband about finding the money to make attending a reality. So we talked. And talked. And talked some more, and we decided that we could make it happen for one day. I was over-the-moon that we could manage even that much, so I studied the schedule harder than I've studied for anything since college. After a lot of deliberation, I picked Saturday because I really wanted to hear Jane Friedman speak. I joined DFWCon's closed Facebook group and proceeded to ask roughly eleventy-trillion questions about everything from what to wear to how to avoid vomiting in the ferns. Pro-tip: Just don't barf in the ferns. That's what toilets are for.

Everyone in the group was so nice, and no matter how silly my question was, it was always answered with reassurance and kindness. Not once did I feel like an idiot for asking something. In a group with over 400 members, that speaks volumes! Two weeks later, I purchased the second day. It wasn't an easy thing for me to do. We got bills to pay, we got mouths to feed. But my sweet husband told me to see it as an investment in myself and my writing, and really, how do you say no to that? Pro tip: You don't.
Through the Facebook group, I met a woman who lives in my town, and I offered to carpool with her. Then she offered me the second bed in her room. I had been planning to come home each night, but staying onsite and getting to soak up the writer-magic for a whole weekend was just too spectacular to pass up. Of course I said yes!

My roommate and I arrived on Friday evening. We checked in and met up in the lobby with some other early attendees for chatting and game playing. After dinner, we wandered around and found ourselves on the third floor, where the conference would be. We just wanted to get the lay of the land, but we were invited to sit and chat with a couple of the volunteers who were taking a break from setting up. As we were chatting, we met an agent, fresh in from out of town.

In the group, we were told that it would be cool to pitch agents anytime, anywhere, except while they were eating, going to the bathroom, or on their way to a class or something. But my new soul-sister and I didn't pitch this agent. Instead, we chatted with her. She talked about her life and her favorite foods...just, you know, chit-chat. And it was fabulous!

As a writer, I tend to forget that agents are just people. I spend so much time researching them, trying to find out what they love and hate, trying to craft the perfect query so I can land an agent and live the dream, that I sort of start to see them as these out-of-this-world beings who pull the strings of my fate. Logically, I know that's simply not true, but it's easy to lose a healthy perspective when you're in the query trenches.  Over the course of the weekend, this agent and I had a number of conversations, and I never pitched her. I probably could have, but I was enjoying the conversations and didn't want to ruin them with a pitch. That first conversation with that first agent was also my first, and possibly most valuable lesson of the weekend: People are people. Writers, agents, editors...we're all people. We all either love or hate guacamole, and if you remember that, you'll be just fine.

Drinks with an Agent.

I could tell you about all the classes and and workshops I took, but I'm not going to. Not because they weren't valuable. They were. But more than that, they were just non-stop. It'd take me a week to write it all down, and I'm not sure it'd be a compelling read. What I can say is that DFWCon was about so much more than classes, pitch sessions, and agent receptions. Yes, those things are wonderful and valuable, but that stuff is all just surface level. What DFWCon is really about is relationships. It's about finding your community--finding your people. When you put 400 writers together for a weekend, the conversations are intense and the connections are often instant. I learned that even writers who seem to have their shit together feel anxiety. Even writers who flit from conversation to conversation still need to take a bathroom break just to have a moment of quiet to gather themselves. I learned that as weird as any of us may feel out in the real world, when we come together as a group, we all fit in. I signed up for the conference by myself, but I left with four hundred new friends. There just aren't words to describe how empowering and completely awesome that is.

Fun Hair = Instant Friends!

In the end, it didn't feel like I was going to a writers conference. It felt like going home. To everyone I talked to, everyone who smiled at me, everyone who laughed when I laughed, and everyone who lifted me up when my self-doubt tried to hold me down: Thank you. You made my first writers conference an experience I will never forget.

And to all the volunteers who put this gig together: We're not worthy! We're not worthy! We're not worthy! You were the true rock stars of the weekend. Thank you for everything!

Thank you, DFWCon Volunteers! This one's for you!