Lessons before a writer's conference

This week I've been getting ready for the Writer's League of Texas conference.  Is it normal to wig out before (your FIRST ever) conference? Because if it is, then I am very, very normal.

I vacillate between excited and nervous.  Excited to learn more because I feel like a novice in the publishing world.  Nervous because I feel like such a novice.  Nervous because I'm not a horn-tooting genius at cocktail party chat or elevator pitches.  Nervous because I find simple questions like "what genre do you write in" or "what do you read" to be difficult to answer (like Skittles, I taste the rainbow).

But this conference has been a godsend before it's even started.  It's forced me to not just sit in my writer's den and write, but to step out of myself and start thinking about how to categorize what I'm writing and how to talk about it.  This in turn, is helping me see possible weaknesses I wouldn't have noticed before.

I am now seeing all of this as a long process that stretches before me, as if I were on a high hill and could see the road I will be walking down, stretching for endless miles to the horizon.  In a way, this feels frightening - to know how much I may have to march and march and march on, before ever having any sense of arriving where I'd like to go.

But in a way this seems like a good sign - I'm beginning to see what will be required of me realistically and at least face the question - am I up for the journey?

What I'm starting to realize about the process:
  • It may take me a couple of years to learn about the publishing industry and how it works and where I want to fit.
  • I need to get more focused about what I want to write (i.e. what genre) and read more, more, more of that.
  • The next time I start dreaming up a "genius" (wink, wink) story idea, I need to think about what genre it's in, where it fits, how I would describe it, before I start writing it.
  • It will take time to be comfortable talking about myself and what I write - being able to pitch well!
  • I may write several starter novels, before I am good or even decent - this feels discouraging, but I'm trying to relish the excitement of being able to dream up stories and let off the pressure. 
  • I'll need to become a master of rejection.  I'll probably amass a huge collection of rejections, most of them not even on paper - just a non-response.  I've spent most of my life avoiding rejection, the same way I avoid snakes and spiders and roaches.  Now I must run to it, open my arms to it, become friends with it, see it as a signpost on a longer journey.  This is going to be very, very interesting...
  • I need to make some writer friends - writing is a bit of lonely process that my circle of friends and family don't quite understand.
  • I need a rock-solid physical fitness routine because me and the computer will start to fuse into one organism otherwise.

And now that I look at the long road ahead, I wonder... WHY didn't I start doing this ten years ago???  But I know the answer.  I wasn't ready then.  I am now.

Here's to late bloomers! And wish me luck...

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