The Land of Writers

I am back from the Land of Writers. I attended Context, a small, local science fiction convention. It is run by a friend of mine in my writing group. A lot of the members of my group sit on panels and lead the writing workshop. I attended the convention last year as a volunteer, because lets face it, I am not rich, and had the opportunity to meet an editor, and learn a little about the business.

Since that convention I have attended two and a half other conventions. Marcon, RWA, and the Columbus Writer's conference. And each one is extremely different. I was going to pass on this conference, because my life is crazy enough already, but some talk on my writing listserve made me reconsider. For that I am very glad.

There's something about being in a roomful of writers, talking shop, throwing around ideas, feeding the imaginiation, and nurturing the creative soul, that is irriplaceable. There are times when I walk away from conventions and workshops dissapointed. But when I learn something new, when I network with serious writers who share my passion, fight my battles and overcome my obstacles its incredibly rewarding. It's nice to know I am not alone. It's nice to talk with people that have made it. Even nicer to talk with people who are still trying.

I learned something this weekend, a lot actually. I have not been very productive in the last few months. Everytime I sit down to write a story or work on my novel I freeze up. I get overwhelemed by everything that has to be done. I feel the anxiety at getting it right, the first time, and I can't get through a single draft of anything for fear that it will turn out to be crap. Not exactly writer's block, the ideas are there. Sometimes even the words are there. But there is also fear of failure. I know first drafts of anything suck. I write all day at work and the first draft is never good enough. It's always the third draft of the fifth draft or the ninth draft that gets submitted. So why, with my fiction was I obsessing over the quality of anything I put on paper?

I had to prepare a short story or novel excerpt of 7000 words or less for this weekend's writing workshop. I had a story started, and completely outlined. I was 8 pages in, and made time in my schedule to complete it. All I had to do was write. Instead I spent three hours reorganizing the outline, creating the characters and trying to think of a title. I spent all of an hour writing afterwhich I had one and a half pages of crap. Frustrated, and realizing that I would never have anything ready of professional manuscript quality in time to post. So I then began riffling through everything I had written in the past three years. I picked out various pieces, reviewed them, outlined ways to revise them. That was just the beginning of my revelation.

I submitted two chapters of a novel I had written almost a year ago. I did some revisions, line edits, polished it up, and then sent it in, aprehensive about the reaction of my writing peers. How would it stand up? More importantly, how would the writing instructors, of whom I know and admire, whom have made several professional sales in the last year alone, feel about my writing? It's sort of like I have been living day by day, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm waiting for someone to scream "there's a traitor among us!" pointing at me and yelling at the top of their lungs. "She can't write!"

But the workshop taught me a lot. Most of all it helped me to re-establish confidence within myself in terms of my writing. I got a lot of positive feedback for a piece that I abbandoned months ago. I was commended on my technique, mechanics, style, voice, dialogue, narrative, foreshadowing, and my ability to use them appropriately. And I was reminded of a comment my first creative writing professor in college told me. "You're too good of a writer to fool the reader with cheap gimmicks. Trust your voice and the story will come." Maybe it won't always come the way I want it, but the funny thing about writing, is that the reader doesn't know all the crap that you do. They come up with their own ideas, and theories and expectations. They don't know if it took you two days to write or ten years. They either like it or they don't and most of the time, they like the things you think are least worthy.

So I guess I am rambling on and on to say that, sometimes we beat ourselves up for no reasons. We hold ourselves at such a high standard that we sometimes forget to reflect on how far we have come and we fail to see how well we are doing. But if you stop, re-assess, you'll find that you're actually making forward progress. And if not, maybe it is time you get back on track.