So for two years, I haven't been book-blogging. Know what I HAVE been doing?
Writing a novel.
Yep, I was going to write a real, live book. After a slow start, I worked on it nearly every day. I was on a roll.
Except, suddenly: I wasn't. I just kind of...quit.
My writing had stalled out and I was stranded in the middle of the first draft of my novel. Life had taken a turn toward the overwhelming. Without going into detail, stuff was rough at my house.
Suddenly, writing seemed like one more draining thing I had to do.
The problem was, before this, I'd bought myself a ticket to the Dallas-Forth Worth Writers' Conference. A nonrefundable ticket. And airfare. And a hotel room.
The entire week before I was set to leave for the conference, my stomach was a twisty, burning dread-pretzel. Who was I kidding? I wasn't a writer. I was an overwhelmed, stressed-out mom who dabbled in writing and would never finish my book. Why was I bothering?
My husband dropped me off at the airport and I boarded, feeling like I could burp a fireball if I really wanted to.
The announcement came that all passengers had to deplane for "twenty to thirty minutes" so the airline could address a "minor" issue.
Seven hours later, I was still chilling in the terminal.
When I accepted my critique partner's offer to pick me up if we could meet half-way (she lived in Dallas and was eagerly awaiting my arrival), a little voice in the back of my exhausted mind suggested "maybe you should just give up on this conference." I didn't, but it was tempting. "This is pointless," that same negative whisper said.
When I finally checked into my little hotel room in the wee hours to catch a few minutes of sleep before the conference, I looked at the ceiling and thought it might've been best to stay home.
I'm glad I didn't.
It felt like the entire conference was for ME. Just me.
Speaker after speaker--whether agent, author, or editor-- all had the same message. It came with different words each time, but the meaning was clear and united: Don't quit.
Charlaine Harris, keynote speaker, world-famous author and thirty-year industry veteran, leaned forward and spoke directly into the microphone and my spirit when she said: "FINISH your BOOK."
I was feeling better when the sessions wrapped up the first night. I'd met another aspiring author who also has three young children and heard her story of pressing on after her first book didn't sell, then having to part ways with her first agent and find another. She's on sub again, and pressing forward with her next book. Perseverance. A key to writerly success.
One of my favorite authors signed a book for me and gave me some solid advice:
"Be strong. Carve out your writing time. Treat writing like it's your job or no one else will."
Basically, the theme of the day was to press on despite obstacles.
That sounds like where the story should end, right?
But no! Like any good novel, the main character can't get to the satisfying resolution too quickly. That would be too easy!
When I riffled through my suitcase in the new hotel I'd checked in to for the second night so I'd be closer to the conference, I discovered my Kindle was missing.
My KINDLE, y'all.
In my scattered thirty-three years on this Earth, I've lost cell phones, credit cards, car keys, and jewelry.
But never, ever, ever my precious Kindle.
A call to the hotel of the night before connected me with a clerk who claimed that he had no idea what a Kindle even was, yet somehow he could assure me it wasn't at the hotel anymore.
Oh, but my driver's license was....I'd dropped it in their lobby.
The self-doubt that had been plaguing me surged back. How did I expect to balance my family and home responsibilities AND craft an entire fictional world full of fake people living out interesting stories when I couldn't even keep up with my own personal property?
My friend and I turned in for the night without much chatting. I was in a somber mood. Ok, honestly, I was being a big old Eeyore. "The way this trip has gone, I wouldn't be surprised if the fire alarm went off during the night."
Fun Fact: Did you know the human body reacts to a being awakened by a fire alarm EXACTLY as it does to being chased by a cheetah? True statement. Probably. Adrenaline and fear and sciencey-science stuff, you know.
Yes, the fire alarm went off. Along with a recorded voice telling us all to evacuate immediately in tones that suggested IMPENDING DOOM. Getting jammed into the emergency escape stairwell with a few hundred other people didn't help my anxiety. I have a distinct but invisible halo of personal space around myself at all times. It's an imaginary hula hoop comfort zone that strangers can't breach without me getting antsy. Needless to say, people were all up in my hula hoop in that human traffic jam of an escape route.
My critique partner and I sat on the curb for half an hour, watching the firemen arrive and confirm that there was no fire. Only some prankster who thought it would be funny to pull the alarm.
Day Two of the conference dawned. I was bleary with fatigue.
But surprisingly, I wasn't ready to call it quits. It felt like I was in a grudge match with discouragement and I was going to kick its butt!
We went to more sessions, learned lots of good stuff, and enjoyed the feeling of being surrounded by other writers. My people.
We were all in different places in our writing journeys--newly published, querying writers trying to find an agent, and newbies like me who didn't have a completed book to pitch.
It didn't really matter. It felt like everyone there was part of some fantastic tribe. Because we all believed that words mattered and stories could change things. We all knew that books are important.
We were all writers.
I love writers.
I'd planned to leave early on Sunday to catch the last flight back home. I was going to miss several sessions I wanted to attend.
And suddenly, I decided that wasn't an option. The entire weekend felt like a test to see if I'd persevere or let that discouragement tackle me to the ground.
I changed my flight to Monday so I could stay for the entire conference. I blew a big raspberry at Discouragement, told the negative voices in my head to sit down and shut up.
And then I came home and got to work finishing my book.