Tomorrow morning, I will awake early, long before daybreak, and drive down to Golden, Colorado for the Women Writing the West annual conference. Even though I’ve been a member of this wonderful organization for years, this is only the second time I’ve attended one of their conferences. The first one was in Denver 20 years ago, and this one is the 20th anniversary of their inception.
I have to admit I’m scared.
I’ve attended many writing conferences through the years, loved and learned from them all, but this will be the first one I’ve participated in as a published author. Before becoming one, I always thought attending a conference published would be the most fun, the most rewarding, the easiest way to attend. When people ask me what I write, I now have a clear answer for them. I can point to my book!
But now I’m not so sure it will be all that easy.
My mind is racing with such thoughts as I don’t have the right clothes to wear, I should have made time for a haircut and to get my nails done. The one friend I thought would be at the conference had to cancel at the last minute due to the sudden illness of her husband. I worry … no one will talk to me. No one will like me. Oh, WHY did I sign up for this silly conference anyway?
It’s not that I’m now suddenly famous, or that anyone will recognize me when I arrive, or realize, at least not until the book signing on Saturday night, that I’m published. I clearly understand that no one is attending to meet me or notice my nails or my clothes. There will be plenty of famous writers, not to mention editors and agents, who will be the real stars of the conference, the people everyone will be clamoring to meet.
Still… I’m scared and trying to figure out why.
I’ve had an off-again, on-again, love-hate relationship with writing all my life. And nothing changed when I published the memoir. In fact, if anything, writing now feels harder for me. It’s been a month since I’ve written a blog post, and I swing back and forth between beginning a new memoir or a novel this time around or even a series of short stories. I can’t seem to land on any one decision so I mostly write nothing.
Almost daily I struggle with the question: do I just give it all up and ease into the retirement that is culturally sanctioned for those who have reached 65? After all, I have my Medicare card and my social security check arriving each month to prove I’m allowed, that I’ve earned it. Or do I continue to struggle with putting words onto a blank computer screen day after day, knowing in the greater scheme of things it really doesn’t much matter?
But I can’t seem to give it up once and for all.
Perhaps I am so afraid to attend this particular conference because it feels like I am, finally, making a decision. A decision to continue on. To take my writing life seriously. To consider myself now–a professional.
Obviously this writing thing still matters to me. Otherwise, I’d pat myself on the back for reaching my big writing goal, curl up in a comfortable chair and be satisfied with reading books instead of attempting to write one.
I tend to notice and be led by synchronicity and two occurred in the last couple of days.
First, only last Saturday, I realized I was attending a writer’s conference without business cards. I quickly designed and ordered some through Moo on Saturday. I doubted they would arrive in time for the conference, but they did and they’re perfect and I can’t wait to hand them out.
Second, a blog post by Sarah Selecky on fear and resistance popped up in my in box. She could have been writing about me. She definitely was writing for me.
Because suddenly I realized my thoughts about the conference and my inability to make a decision on what to work on next are merely the joined-at-the-hip twins of fear and resistance.
Wherever you have resistance, you will find fear.
The task then is to figure out what you are fearing, deal with that, and watch the resistance melt away.
I have a choice.
We always have a choice. I can give into the fear, let the resistance keep me home and stop me from moving forward with my writing. Or I can stick my business cards into my pocketbook, dress in the most business-like clothes I own (which frankly aren’t very business-like at all), and head down to Golden. I can bring my books and spread them out on the table in front of me at the book signing. I can smile, even if only a few come to my table.
And when I return home I can choose one project: novel, memoir or a collection of short stories, and begin again.
I can face my fear, tell Resistance to take a hike, and begin again.
Because, whether or not it matters to anyone else, it matters to me.
Next week, I’ll let you know about the conference experience and share some of the nuggets I know I’ll pick up while there. Until then, I’m sending love to you. I wouldn’t be doing any of this, I know, without your support.
And, if you’d like … in the comments … I’d love to hear what you are resisting these days. No matter what it is, I’m willing to bet, you’re not alone.