It was around this time last year that I attended the Chicago Writers’ Conference without much of a clue of what I wanted except that I eventually I wanted to write and somehow make a living out of it eventually.
I walked into the kickoff party held in a packed “Irish” pub in the middle of The Loop. People could hardly get through because of the conference organizers were doing early check-in of attendees. The early arrivals got the primo spots on the small wooden tables and uncomfortable stools with laminated index cards as conversation starters. I managed to overhear someone read a card about Hemingway being detrimental to the craft. I didn’t think Star 80 was that bad.
But they could have been talking about Tolstoy for all I truly knew. Flightlines with running F-15s were quieter than this place was. I am not going to make that same mistake tonight. There will be plenty of opportunity to drink at the Live Lit reading tomorrow.
Regarding the conference itself, I learned a lot, took a bunch of notes, and was left even more overwhelmed and baffled than when I started. The writing and publishing world is a business in flux, to say the least. Despite my complete lack of schmoozing skills and my anxiety about large social situations, I did manage to make some small talk with some hopefuls. Imagine the shock when they asked me for business cards.
I had nothing to give them.
So I ended up going to an Office Depot that was shutting down, bought a pack, and wrote my details on them. I was such a dork.
It was time and money well spent because I was smacked with reality. I could research for hours. I could seek advice from a myriad of writers and editors. I could read how-to books and articles. I could get samples of putting the perfect pitch together. I could catalog and index all sorts of information. But that was not going to change one thing.
I was afraid.
I was afraid of putting my words out in public.
Until I could do that, everything else was pointless. And it took going to this conference and some Come to Moses talks with The Boffin to make me dig down into the vulnerable gelatinous areas of my psyche. You know, the part that tell you that you are woefully inadequate.
Starting small was key.
Hence, here I am on WordPress.
And where do I go from here? Freelancing is still a good option, but I admit there are times when the old-fashioned route of conveniently dying and having The Sprog deal with my work is appealing. Hey, it is a valid career path for writers. They don’t have to worry about networking or promotion.
But for now, I am at the conference this year knowing I don’t have to make business cards with crayons.