The brightness of a sunny spring day and the clarity of a blue sky forced their way into the meeting room’s tall windows. Multiple rows of six chairs were lined up like soldiers readying for their commands while a podium stood at the front of it all. The Chicago Writers Conference (CWA) was about to start. This was my first writers conference where I realized I had found my writer’s lane, and I learned how to navigate in it.
Years ago when I started out as a writer, I couldn’t say I was always ready to join a group of anything related to writing. Self-teaching my craft of choice was a challenge in perseverance, and a delight because I had opportunities to read greats works by authors offering writing instruction on memoir and by authors who wrote their own memoirs. Keeping to my introverted-self was just fine by me; my writer-self wasn’t ready to belong with other writers somewhere.
As a writers group member, a conference attendee, or even a workshop worker, I felt as if I would know nothing and they would know everything. I believed words and thoughts came easily to writers. Paragraphs would follow each other like dominoes and a writer needed to just push the first domino of his work and everything would follow into place. (cue laughter) Not so much for me. I knew my place and I knew the places of other writers. I believed our places didn’t run parallel. The only thing I could do was to keep writing, cultivating a sense of security by working within my comfort zone.
But then my book was published. I was forced out of my chair and away from my computer to learn how to present my book and me to a world of strangers who became friends and fans, supporters and cheerleaders at events. I was learning my sense of place. And I was also growing out of my comfort zone, steering into a new lane among other writers.
The conference was an enabling two days. I attended writing sessions, listened to teachers who taught by example, who guided writers from their experiences, and who showed by their writing works. Writers gathered to form a tribe where writing glued us together. Yet, we were at different stages of our writing lives. I spoke with a young memoir writer who had just started to write about a tragic event in her life because she was ready to face the story once again, a graduate school writer with a wicked sci-fi imagination who couldn’t wait to write its story, and an older woman’s fiction writer with a completed novel who was searching for a best-fit publisher.
Turning a corner with a published book and essays forced me into an intersection where I collided with published authors’ anxiety over less than expected book sales, questioning themselves about where their writing life was leading, and their competitiveness among other writers. They took me on a ride with them to a place I had never been to before, introducing me to fears, anxiety, and even sadness I had never felt before or even had considered.
Though we shared our writing journeys with each other and disclosed our emotions, I realized how different writers are, in various stages of writing, with different levels of writing educations, and experiences. I also saw how writers’ goals can be easily overshadowed in this mix, and how they are individual and even personal to a writer.
The CWA was my first conference and perhaps was one of many for another writer. It’s not about running parallel with other writers; it’s about finding your own place to navigate. Yes, I can now belong among writers who inspire, teach and guide. But I must seek my own direction, too. The clarity and brightness of that conference weekend helped me to move into my own lane, travel at a speed that best suits me and to take my turns as they come.
One thought on “discovering my own lane”
It’s it so true! Finding your place In the wide range of writing. So YOUR thing!
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