Being a brave creative
Several years ago, I attended a writers’ conference in North Carolina. We were broke, our son was small, and we were in the middle of moving to a new house. In other words, it was a bad time to take off for a long-weekend.
Something compelled me to go, though, so I went. I arrived at the conference fresh-faced and eager. This was it! I was going to pitch my book idea to an agent who would fall in love with it and ask to represent me. From there, we’d secure a contract with a big-name publisher and bam—my career as a successful author would be launched.
Barring that scenario, I expected at least to come away from the conference with a hoard of new writing contacts, with inspiration, and with further belief in myself as a writer.
None of that happened.
Instead, I found myself hiding out in the bathroom the very first night, wishing that I was anywhere else. I felt lost amid a sea of other writers. Insignificant, unseen, unknown. The meeting with the agent went poorly (she felt I needed a prescription more than to share my memoir), I didn’t make any friends, and one of my critique partners was full of advice on how I could improve my short story. She marked up the pages with circles and underlines, expounding on the many ways in which I needed to make the story stronger.
As creatives, it doesn’t take much to dissuade us from our path: a single, hurtful comment, a critic’s less-than-stellar review, a certain facial expression. All can raise questions, bring up the self-doubt that lurks constantly in the back of our minds.
If we allow it to—and there’s the key. We must allow the negative voice to win, the critic to have more power than we do, the sidelong glance to mean more than it does, for it to have power over us.
Creatives are some of the bravest people in the world. We’re not only willing to explore the deep recesses of our souls, but to show others through our work on the page, on the canvas, on the stage. Why do we do it? To share, to connect, to seek and then find another who has experienced the same thing. To understand and to be understood. To see and to be seen.
A presenter at that writing conference said something that has stuck with me all this time. “You may not know why you’re here. You may find out this weekend, or you might not. But for some reason, you were meant to be in this place.”
I still haven’t figured out why I was meant to attend that conference, but I believe that I was. Just like creating something new, we don’t always see the why before we begin the work. But the why is not as important as just beginning.
Have you ever felt compelled to attend a class, course, workshop or other creative event, and come away feeling lack? Reflecting back, do you see any value or purpose to your attending?