There are times in our writing lives when we run out of motivation; when our enthusiasm runs dry and it is a struggle just to get words down on the page.
After spending the last weekend at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference, the above passage does not describe me. No, in fact I am ready to go, nearly bursting at the seams; “Wired for sound”, as a dear friend of mine is fond of saying. I walked into the hallways of the hotel with my empty cup held forth, and I saw it well filled with positive energy and inspiration from other writers; both the presenters and the attendees.
As always, when you have a large group of creative people crammed together in one place, I met some strange personalities. I met a writer who had never published – or perhaps ever completed – anything, but had flown across the country to be at the conference because she “really wanted, deserved, to be in a global market.” (She was not at all amused when I told her that five hundred other people at the conference all wanted the same thing.) I saw a man, repeatedly, attempt to give plugs to his own books while attending other writer’s workshops (and hence had to resist the urge to head-butt said individual). I saw people erupt into near fits when agents or editors refused to acknowledge their obvious brilliance (obvious to themselves, anyway) during pitch appointments.
I also experienced some pretty big personal high points during the weekend, things that will aid in my motivation for the entire year: I won the non-fiction portion of the conference’s writing contest; I was fortunate enough to be asked to participate in a “success stories” panel, where I got to hang out with a bunch of very talented writers (Kim Foster, Lianne Shirtliffe, Janie Chang and Jodi MacIssac) and try to help out some other writers who are about three quarters of a step from where I am now; and a well-respected peer told me my novel, “The Watch”, gave him nightmares so bad his wife had to sleep in a different bed to escape his thrashing about. All of these things will bolster me, boost up my motivation, for the rest of the year.
But, of all the things I saw and heard over the course of the weekend the moments that will stick with me most were during Jim C Hines’ keynote speech on Saturday night. The words he shared with us will carry me through every hard time I have during the next year, and I owe him thanks.
As every keynote speaker does, Jim told us of his battle to learn the craft of writing and build his skill set enough to get published. But the really touching moments came when he told us of a short story he wrote about a superhero who develops a cancerous tumor that talks to him. That story was later read by a man who was rapidly dying of cancer, and in the latter moments of his life allowed that man a laugh.
Jim’s point throughout his speech was that our stories matter. Even if they only mean something to one person, they are important. No one else can tell our story but us; no one else has our perspective on life, or has suffered what we’ve been through that will make our stories great. And because our stories matter, we have a duty to tell them.
As I sat and listened, I could not help but be uplifted by his words. I have a lot of stories in me, and after spending the weekend learning everything I could, I’m a little better able to tell them. I’ll spend the next year, until the conference comes around again, writing my heart out, and as I do so I’ll keep the hope in the back of my mind that one day, to someone, my stories will really matter.
As always, thanks for reading.