This past weekend, I attended the 2019 James River Writers Conference. I walked in this year feeling different. I didn’t care I didn’t have a book to pitch and all I wanted was to hear about was quality writing in all of the many forms it takes. I took some notes but I realized what I needed was to be around other writers.
I needed to catch up and laugh with some of my friends.
I needed to be reminded to set aside time for myself each week to put pen to paper and let this particular truth deliver a gut punch: I shouldn’t be devoting more time to my blog than to all my other writing.
Which is exactly what I have been doing for several months now.
Every novelist, screenwriter, memoirist, short story writer, journalist, poet and agent reminded me that there was story still beating inside of me.
The keynote speaker, the incomparable Marita Golden, emboldened us to celebrate ourselves as writers even if we are not published or under contract. This wise woman had me at the edge of my seat telling us how she had been birthed twice. Once on the day of her actual birth and again when her mother told her she was a writer. I also was blessed to hear her on the panel discussing memoir.
Marita shared that sometimes you need to write the memoir to free yourself to write fiction. The vulnerability in memoir panel impacted me emotionally the most. I love how they brought three writers with wildly different tales to share their points of view. I wish I could take classes regularly from Marita Golden (Migrations of the Heart), Mary Bonina (My Father’s Eyes) and Jon Pineda (Sleep in Me).
A special note about this year’s conference: It was beautiful to see the level of cultural diversity this year. James River Writers Conference has come light years in this respect, especially since my first year as an attendee in 2016. Thanks to the chair, Robin Farmer and co-chair Sonia Johnston for not only creating a conference that ignited my fire to devote more time to my craft but for creating an experience where I had the distinct pleasure of seeing faces that reflected the real world around us.
One of my writing goals for 2018 was to pitch an idea once a week to a publication. This week, I decided to really look at how often I was really pitching. I think I have only pitched once or twice. Instead of hanging my head low, I’ve decided to evaluate that goal. Does once a week work for me? Have I organized myself to meet this goal?
When I even take a cursory glance at it, the answer is No.
When I go deeper, I had to ask myself why I have not met the goal. I have been able to keep up with my blogging schedule, publish my first E-book journal, “What I Love About You: A Guided Journal to Writing Your Proposal and Vows” and take writing classes. In addition to the rigor of everyday life, I am aggressively attacking my health goals.
But none of those realities are excuses. I now have more time in my schedule to see how I can start making the time to pursue freelancing opportunities. It’s been a wonderful side effect of writing in my journal every morning. In addition to writing my prayers and gratitude, I’ve also included a to-do list. Writing it down has gifted me with tremendous clarity on the parts of my life I neglect.
Part of this clarity can be attributed to belief. Before establishing a morning routine, I didn’t believe I had time to write and pray just for me. I didn’t “believe” I was a morning person or and I believed I was a night owl. My transition is not miraculous but it is a result of sticking to the habit which created my new beliefs.
I believe I am the type of person who goes to bed early and wakes up early, too.
I believe I am the type of person who makes time for exercise.
I believe I am the type of person who schedules time to pitch editors and other blogs.
I believe I am the type of person who more often than not, finishes what she starts.
I believe I am a child of God who loves and works hard who intentionally makes the time to achieve her goals, has fun and gives herself a break when she needs it.
It’s here!!! The final day of my Water-Workout-Write Challenge is completed. I am preparing to leave for Columbus, Ohio tomorrow morning so I have been on my feet all day. I am happy to report I barely had a coughing fit today and may only have to use my inhaler once this evening. I have fallen behind on my water intake so I will have to get on that. I know the challenge is basically over but the focus on increasing my water intake is something I want to continue.
Speaking of habits I want to continue, I’ve decided what my goals are for the foreseeable future. I will work out five days a week, publish a blog post twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, drink 100 oz. of water every day, submit to a publication or blog once a week and complete at least 2 essays a week.
The essays will be a new undertaking for me. I could never “get there” with my novel. I felt like there was a truth I was trying to tell but I was poorly disguising it as fiction. I grew up believing that one day I would use my imagination to weave a poignant and magical work of fiction. Except I haven’t been able to do it. With each writing class I’ve taken since the beginning of the year, I’ve drawn closer to the conclusion that my novel should be a book of essays. It made sense that the agent that read my work said that although she didn’t have a problem with my crafting, she didn’t “connect” with my writing. Even though she is just one person, I do believe she had a point. I will always love fiction. I have been surrounded by a lot of personal development books lately which I appreciate and have grown fond of as well. But the magic for me is in the stories. And my essays can be those stories. I am not sure what took me so long to admit it. But there it is.
These past 21 days has taught me what I should be writing right now. It has taught me that I have the discipline to issue a challenge to myself and complete it. It taught that if I make myself accountable, that I will choose not to fail. It has taught me that I need accountability. It has taught me that I want to be a disciplined person. I never placed importance on that notion before. I knew being undisciplined wasn’t taking me where I wanted to go but it never mattered enough until the lack of results wasn’t only staring me in the face, it was slapping me in the face. And the sting hurt like hell.
Outside of the lessons learned, there was a win. The piece I submitted last weekend will be published next Tuesday! I will post all the details next week. There is nothing like seeing the fruit of your labor. I am chasing that high. Even when I may feel uninspired, I am going to remember this challenge—not only the lessons that came from it but the pride I feel swelling up in me as I write these final words to close it.
There is one last thing. This blog is fairly new but I did have a few followers who read it and supported me throughout these 21 days. You know who you are.