Writer; Know Thyself

Today’s blog comes to you from a second-floor hotel room after a full and productive day of classes at the 2019 Northern Colorado Writers Conference. The second floor is also hosting the attendees of the Brewery Collectable Club of America, so this humble blogger has witnessed some interesting trade deals in the world of rare Colt 45 paraphernalia.

On to my point:

For every year I attend the NCW Conference, I add a layer to the writer in me. That is to say, through the people I meet, the classes I take, and the lectures I attend, I learn more about the craft. How, and when, and why, and what, and all the technical attributes that come along with the delicate balance of creativity and grammatical science. But more than just the sum of these limitless parts, I learn a greater whole.

 

The whole that is me as a writer.

 

And in doing so, I’ve learned how to enjoy myself more at these kinds of functions by listening to my body, my brain, and my growing years of experience.

 

Back in the day, I would be hand-cramping from the steady stream of notes at each session. I would be tumbling from one class to the next, chugging down coffee between in hopes to keep my energy up so I wouldn’t miss a thing. I would strategically place myself at the agent’s table who I wanted to garner the literary affections of. I would, in essence, be the adult version of my grade-school, brown-nosing self.

 

Then…Something happened last year, when I drug myself to the meet and greet “networking” event, long past my emotional and mental boundary and crossing all lines of my introvert nature, to garner the attention of at least a few more experts in the field, I stood on very shaky ground. I spilled my drink, I felt like crying,

 

I didn’t want to be there.

 

I hated that I hated being around other writers. Which seems a terrible thing to say, but bear with me.

 

I didn’t know I had a limit to writing.

 

I thought I could talk it all day, learn it all day, do it all day. I could go to class for days!!! Nerding on a pro-level is a quintessential part of who I am. I loved hearing about other projects much more than I like talking about my own and reveled in the creativity and ingenuity of my fellow conference goers.

 

But…the more stories I heard the more I questioned if I was doing enough. The less sure I became of my ability. The more tired I got, the more flustered I became, the wearier my mind, the less information I could process.

 

Until everything was just noise and words.

 

Then I learned a secret.

 

(come closer…closer…)

 

You don’t have to throw yourself under a bus to catch it.

 

Knowing your limits is not just useful in this particular scenario. Knowing your limits is useful for all humans in many aspects of our lives. It comes with age and the ability to let go of unrealistic expectations.

 

During a few of my sessions, even as I listened to the speaker, I listened to myself. If I was inspired to write; I let myself write. If \the iron was hot, I struck while in the moment, abandoning the mad scribble of notes for the mad scribble of thoughts.

Did I miss some parts of the presentations? Sure, but in the midst of other brilliant minds and the energy they impart, in the middle of shutting out the rest of the world, the heart and brain start to do this funny little dance and learn to play again.

Inspiration doesn’t always happen at the opportune times. You have to write when the words are ready and when the heart is open. And the presenters this year gave me more than a notebook full of query-letter tips or copy-editing tricks. They gave my heart a doorway, an acceptance into writing what often builds up behind all my carefully constructed walls. And in stumbling and unorganized prose/poetry form I filled over ten pages of free-form when it was all said and done.

In years past, I’ve forced myself to jump the hurdles of social interaction and witty conversation until late hours, when all I really wanted was to wander off to a quiet room and take a nap.

So this year, after a relaxing dinner and a fabulous keynote speaker, I said goodbyes to new and dear friends and retired to my room for quality pajama time and a little writing.

I reserved a room, not so I wouldn’t have to drive the five miles home, but because I knew I would need quiet alone time to decompress after a long day of people and ideas, and focus on my own personal craft and projects I love.

I know when my mind is best, and after 8 pm is not that time. That’s my repose time. I had to make that OK for myself in order to get the most out of my time.

Conferences, classes, and meet ups like these open pathways, but only when we’re not too busy or overwhelmed to see them. If we are embroiled in getting the most out of every single planned moment of the time, then we may miss the real lesson. Creativity is like a river and if you fully submerged, yourself, you’ll easily drown. You’ll miss the beauty of the ride, the view, and the sounds.

So, know yourself, Writer. Do the things that you know work for you. Let the river of creativity, carry you, but always leave yourself plenty of breathing room to be inspired.

 

 

Worth for Awhile

A large part of human nature’s beauty lies in our failures and follies. Perfect people are rarely very interesting. As a writer, creating ‘perfect’ characters is a sure-fire way to distance your readers and lose their interest. Why? Because no one wants to read about someone who always gets it right. Who can share commonality with that? And yet…our reality is often ruled by what we, as actual humans, fail at.

When thinking about human frailty and my own failings I stumbled across the largest stone in my path of late; Self-Worth.

I know I’m not alone. I see you out there.

It’s more than fair to say that we are comparative beings. The media propagates it, competitive constructs in work and school demand it, and long-standing cultural threads tie our successes (and our failures) to what we’re worth in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Its the single most destructive lie we’ve ever been told.

And its easy to say that it doesn’t affect us. That we don’t care how we stand in relation to other people, that we don’t have a competitive nature, that we don’t feel the need to be anything else than what we are. I say those things all the time. And they rarely do more than offer a feeble disguise over the surface of self-doubt.

If we didn’t care, we’d cease to try. We’d stop looking for ways to improve. But something that should drive our greatness often tears us apart and we are left with shreds of the human we used to be, torn apart in an effort to create something more inspirational in the eyes of the world.

I was recently told, by a very generous soul, that my self-worth shouldn’t come from anyone but myself. That I couldn’t let the berating, criticism, or comparisons of the world let me feel any less than what I was worth. That it wasn’t the outside that should decide, but what was inside of me.

So it made me wonder; What am I worth?

In terms of chemistry, my physical make-up is probably no more than about $3.00 worth of material.

If you broke down my daily tasks and how much you’d have to pay someone else to do them, some would say I’d be worth about $140,000 a year. If you based my worth on what I contribute to the world with my writing we’re looking at a solid $50 a year. Monetarily, its not very impressive. And again, I’m basing my worth on what other’s consider useful tasks/materials.

So what am I worth? What are you worth? Sit still with yourself and ask the question:

“What do I do, what am I, that matters to me? That impacts the world? That brings me contentment?”

Deep…yes. Sometimes we gotta get past the cloak of simple thought to really understand why we matter. We have to, for the sake of our own self-preservation. After all; if you don’t see worth in yourself, you start to feel like a burden to the people you love. And all sorts of ugly outcomes arise from that train of thought…trust me, I’ve been building a scary set of tracks in that direction myself of late.

So I sat down, prompted by my friend’s words and suffering through a trough of depression, and asked myself what I was worth.

I came to the conclusion that for a long time I’ve let the words and actions of other people (in their own beautiful human imperfection) determine my self worth. If they were mad at something in our shared existence, I took it on as a fault of mine. As a problem that I didn’t fix or prevent. If comments were made about appearance, I took the darkest path of focusing on my imperfections and felt the need to correct them by any strange and unhealthy way possible.

It left me wanting and sick.

Why do I let my brain do that?

Because we’re taught to improve. To impress. To be better. To strive for more. Instead of just being what and who we are and understanding that we aren’t responsible for other people’s happiness or conforming to ideas of perfection. We must set boundaries to the information we let affect us. Even my friend’s well intentioned advice was still someone on the outside telling me what to think about my self worth. It’s not about letting someone tell me I am worth-while. Its about knowing my own worth and not letting the outside world sway that knowledge either negatively or positively.

Now there are times, when someone who loves us may come to us with good intention, and full hearts and offer us a viewpoint about something destructive they see in us. There are times when someone has honest praise to offer. With careful appreciation of the information we’re given we can chose to look at it with neutrality and see if there is helpful advice within it, and take it as an opportunity for self-reflection.

I love you guys, for all you are. Just as you are. Have a beautiful week and stretch your brains and hearts to fit the worth inside of you. It’s there.

 

“You can be the most beautiful person in the world and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don’t know it, all of that doesn’t even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away. It’s not like you have forever, so don’t waste any of your seconds, don’t throw even one of your moments away.”
― C. JoyBell C.