Monday, April 28, 2014

LDStorymakers: It's not the destination, it's the journey

I'm coming off a weekend high and suffering from a conference hangover after three days at the LDStorymakers conference in Layton. It was fantastic, as always. I was blessed with the opportunity to learn about characterization from none other than Brandon Sanderson. I was able to take a fantastic class on world building from Brodi Ashton. I listened to a keynote address by Orson Scott Card that will probably go down in Storymakers history and be talked about for years to come. I took many other fantastic classes, and learned so much. I had an amazing time with friends. I got a much-needed Mommy break. All in all, a fantastic weekend. The Storymakers conference is one of the highlights of my year.

Yet as I drove home Saturday night, all I wanted to do was cry. And I kept thinking, Why are you sad? This weekend was fantastic!

And then it hit me. The reason I was sad. Because it's been more than ten years since I started my writing journey, and I feel like I'm nowhere.

I attended the very first LDStorymakers conference, back in 2004. I'd already completed my first (very badly written) novel and was a wide-eyed junior high schooler, totally in awe to be in the presence of such greatness. I was taking a teen living class at the time, and had a flour baby I was required to carry around. It never occurred to me to break the rules and leave the baby home, so I carefully hid him in the bottom of a large bag so no one at the conference would know. I was absolutely horrified at the idea that anyone would find out just how young I was (although looking back, I'm sure it was fairly obvious). I didn't want to be treated like a "kid." I just wanted to learn and write a zillion books and become wildly popular and famous and renowned.

For ten years now, I have attended conferences. I have written books. I've been rejected.

And nothing.

As I sat at the conference this year, I recognized many of the attendees from that first year. Most of them probably don't remember me--I was way too shy to introduce myself (still am)--but I remember them. Many of them have gone on to be published. Good for them!

But as I drove home, it hit me that I'm not published. Ten years into this journey, and I'm still in the same place I was when I started. I'm still unpublished. I'm still plugging along. I'm still hoping and dreaming. And you know what? Realizing that sucked. It hurt. And I put on my angry face, in the privacy of my car, and let myself fume for a while.

Then my rational side kicked in. And I realized, I have made progress. In ten years, I've...

...written eight books. Eight! Yeah, they're not published. Mostly I'm grateful, because I don't need my inexperience haunting me on Amazon. :) But I still wrote 8 books. It's a cummulative total of over 600,000 words. And I learned something with every word I typed.

...polished 3 manuscripts to the point they were ready to submit. That's hours and hours of editing time. I've refined my editing skills and process through doing that.

...received five rejection letters. It's helped me toughen my skin and learn to not take rejection personally.

...attended at least 13 writers conferences. That is a combined total of weeks I've spent sitting in a class, learning about writing.

...read over a 1,000 books, just because I love reading. Those are books I've read for pure enjoyment, but also to analyze what the author did write--and how I can replicate it.

...spent hundreds of hours critiquing others work and learning from it.

...spent hundreds more hours having my own work critiqued, and learning from it.

I may not be published, but I HAVE made progress in the last ten years. Things got in the way. I have been easily distracted at times. But I am actively working towards that goal. I have time limitations that are sometimes hard for me to accept. I am a wife and a mother and that comes first. And I've only really been back in the game for two years.

But I'm in the game. And I'll get there eventually.

Something I've slowly come to realize the last few years is that writing isn't a race; it's a way of life. In one year--five, ten, fifty years--I will still be writing. It's a part of my soul I can't cut out (even though I sometimes wonder if it'd be easier to forget this whole writing gig). This is a career I'm building. It'll take time to build.

And that's okay.

I love the projects I'm currently working on. I love the friendships I've developed in the writing community. I love attending conferences and reading instructional books as I learn more about writing. I just love being a writer. I may not be published, and I may not make money, but this is still my job and I am so lucky.

As I sat at the conference, I heard a few different people say things like, "I haven't done anything since the last conference..." or "I thought by this year I'd be..." I think it's only natural to do that. The conference is a easy way to mark the passage of time--and by default our progress. But we should stop beating ourselves up over what we haven't done and start focusing on what we have. Let's give ourselves some credit; writing is hard and time is limited and sometimes we get frustrated. We're only human.

Publishing a book isn't the end goal; it's just one step along the way. So instead of wishing I was somewhere else in the process, I'm going to try really hard to simple work hard toward my goals while enjoying where I'm at. Easier said than done, I'm sure. :) I'm proud of where I'm at as a writer and the journey I've taken to get there. So I'm going to quit beating myself up for the things I haven't yet accomplished. I'll get there soon enough.
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