I was hardly prepared for the weekend that just passed. I have a habit of being revved up and excited before a writer’s conference (and grumpy, exhausted, and burned out, after one), but this excited pre-conference state is understandable, right? It’s like being a candy shop of learning that’s jam-packed with people who are just as crazy as I am about how to tell a good story.
I didn’t feel that way this year. I didn’t want to go.
I wanted to use all the time I had to just write on my projects. It struck me that, though there are always new things I can learn (and someone please slap me if I ever develop a different opinion), there are also periods of my life when it’s the time to work, not the time to fill my head with new suggestions and techniques. I’m currently in that place where it’s my time to work: I’m revising my Irish fantasy with dragons and magic. I have a short story selected for publication in a fantasy anthology that tells a love story of heartbreak and loss that I’ll soon be revising. I have a precocious 14-month-old baby boy who is almost walking, and living up to the name (Curious) George with flying colors.
Thus, I approached this full weekend of classes with a bit of pessimism. I desperately needed another perspective. I was feeling alone and small and exhausted. I prayed and asked God to come with me to the conference. Then I set for myself the goal of connecting with people and refusing to allow myself to become overwhelmed by what I would learn.
You know what happened? On Saturday evening, I found myself talking to another author, a friend who I met through my publisher, about being a parent and finding time to write in the midst of raising a child. I confessed my fear that my window of writing opportunities was closing, that I’d have to give it up entirely for the very worthy task of parenting, and how sick with dread that thought made me.
Writing is part of who I am. It’s not just a hobby. It’s a deep part of me and what I was made to do.
This author friend looked me right in the eye and told me that I wouldn’t have to stop. Even if I wrote poetry on napkins. He told me that I was a real writer, and obstacles like this don’t stop the real ones from continuing to write. He shared his own stories of attending night school, raising two sons, having a full-time job, and skimping on sleep in order to still write. I cried and walked around the table to hug him. He’d seen me and understood.
This was the highlight of my writing conference: sharing a human fear with another writer and having that fear addressed and quieted with compassion. It’s a funny morsel to take back with me from a writer’s conference, yet it shimmers in my heart like a pearl.