A conference room full of writers is worse than a little Miss Texas beauty pageant. Every writer tries earnestly to say nice things to every other proud parent in the room, all the while bouncing between the extremes of thinking that their own manuscript is a goddess among toads or a stinking turd among roses. It just can’t be helped.
This weekend I attended a conference here in Salt Lake City with over a hundred other writers and a handful of people from the “biz.” Really, it was a great time. There were certainly times of commiseration and shared struggle as well as genuine celebration in the creative art of writing. But I had to make an intentional effort going into the conference to chill my own jets and try to appreciate the talent around me.
K. M. Weiland, in a recent post, stated the dilemma quite well when quoting well known author Orson Scott Card:
Writers have to simultaneously believe the following two things:
- The story I am now working on is the greatest work of genius ever written in English.
- The story I am now working on is worthless drivel.
The other part of all this is that writers simply think about themselves, and the story they are working on, a lot. I am not certain what percentage of occupations are moving in this direction, but writing may have always been there. Writers are equally salespeople and artists. Both can be self-absorbed and short on listening skills. It is simply very difficult to create something so intimately a part of oneself and then feel the pressure of selling it to make a living.
While I accept that my creative works become products the moment I am finished with them, sometimes it is nice to spend some time appreciating them, as well as the works of others, simply as the beautiful brain children that they are. (There will be plenty of time for them to compete with each other in a saturated, cut-throat market later.) So for the most part, this weekend was a great reminder that my written works can only reflect the worth found in my own life. If that life is self-absorbed then its products will serve little interest or purpose in the grander world.
(oh. Thanks to those who sent suggestions for a title. I am still working it out.)