The window of my hotel room looks out over a small interior courtyard and a little fountain. It’s very pretty and peaceful. I have my name tag that says I’ll be here until Sunday, that tells me I have an Advanced Manuscript Critique set up. I’ve attended the pre-conference workshop on “conference success basics”, and the Pitch for the Prize event.
I’m at my first writer’s conference, Willamette Writers Conference in Portland Oregon. I registered at the end of May and drove three hours to get here. I fixed up the first fifteen pages or so of my most recently finished novel for the critique.
I’ve spent the last three years writing primarily for my classes, for my school. Not for myself. In the last three years, November with its frenzy of an event called NaNoWriMo has been my only refuge for my own writing as I’ve been evermore distracted with Running Start and Evergreen. And while I love going to college, and while I love what I’m learning about, I’ve been getting further and further away from my identity as a writer.
The novel I finished when I was twelve seems so faraway it’s unreal. The multitudes of others that I’ve started have been left collecting dust in the corners of my computer for years. The short essays I’ve published in an educator’s magazine’s teen writing series don’t reflect my current style, nor the content I want to write about. The local high school writing contest I took 1st Place in is an amazing and surreal memory.
The blog I kept vaguely occasionally sometimes updated was privatized back in January when I switched to a new platform. A new platform that, since January, has acquired all of three tiny stories and an “about” page that’s far more ambitious than I currently feel.
I feel out of touch with my writing, and with the writing I want to grow into writing. I feel out of touch with the ten year old me who could read six books in a week and practically devoured the local library. I went to the library a few days ago and I couldn’t remember how to pick up my holds.
It’s ridiculously daunting to listen to the people here talk about pitching books and ideas. There’s a small part of me that worries I’ve become an interloper in an area that was quite recently the place where I felt most at home, writing.
This last year of my education it seems I’ve mainly succeeded in racking up an extensive list of things I need to learn or relearn before I can properly adult. And there are so many more things that have come up in the last five hours here.
I don’t have a platform. I don’t promote my blog or update it regularly. I have focused on doing well in school, often to the point of neglecting other important parts of myself.
I don’t have credentials (It’s hard to at 19). I have an Associate’s in Arts and I’ve taken some really cool classes that have covered topics that I more and more want to write about. But I am no expert and I don’t know whether the writing I want to do will ever fit into the right places for it to be a career.
I have a body of work in that I have written a lot of stuff. But that stuff isn’t anywhere near being able to show it to anyone. Of course I’m afraid that it never will be; all writers are, aren’t they?
I go back to school in a bit more than a month. My last year of school, I’m on track to get my bachelor’s degree. A general bachelor’s degree in arts. And there is so much more I need to learn. So much specific knowledge I need. I’m ready to be done with school, except I haven’t learned enough yet and I don’t know if I have the discipline and ambition to keep learning at the right pace when I get out of school to cover what I need to be the writer that I want to be.
But maybe, even as I sit through these workshops and panels and feel a little bit like I might not belong, it’ll be the kick that I needed to take it seriously again. Maybe it’ll remind me about the parts that I love about writing and that I can still get better at it. That it’s worth putting in the work to get better.
There are undoubtedly a wealth of resources here. And there are some really cool workshops happening. And I’m very much looking forward to them.
And I’m sitting here writing this instead of sleeping because it’s going to be a priority, dammit. And that’s awesome.
So maybe I do belong here after all.