I could write a post telling you minute by minute the happenings of my literature conference a few weekends ago. I could tell you about the great friends I made, I could tell you about my plans to go back next year, I could tell you how exhausted I was after sleeping for maybe four hours all weekend. But that would be way too much for one post. It’s probably too much for two posts.
But what I can tell you is the most important thing I learned that weekend. That this is attainable. Being a writer is attainable. I am on the right track, I can do this, I am supported and talented and eager and hungry.
We had three amazing speakers this weekend and the overwhelming theme of all of the talks was that it can be done. There are different ways to get it done, and writing is the hardest thing you could choose to do, but it can be done. The thing to look out for though, is ways the world will try and fight you on getting your work done.
Bret Anthony Johnston spoke with us and talked a lot about indulgences. People tend to see writing as a career as an indulgence. Well, really, any artistically driven career is usually seen as an indulgence. People think that you are so lucky to be able to work at your dreams and think it’s so easy to just sit and write or paint or act. It’s not. At all. Artistically driven careers are some of the most taxing career choices. Yes, I am doing what I love and that is wonderful and I’m incredibly lucky to be able to do what I love. But it’s also so damn hard because it’s something I love. I can’t shut my work off at 5 pm. If I get hit with an idea at 6, I write that idea at 6. If I get hit with a poem at 3 in the morning, guess who stays up and writes. Because that’s how I’ll provide for myself. If I let those ideas escape, I’m flushing my career away.
Indulgences are what artists give up for their careers. Ron Carlson, another one of our amazing speakers, urged us to remember how important it is to be alone when you write. You have to shut yourself away and keep your ass in that chair while the ideas pool onto your screen. Don’t stand up for that phone call, don’t check social media, tell your friends you can’t make it to the bar tonight. You have got to write alone. You have to give up indulgences so you can write or paint or act or work on a show. Most of my friends are in theater, which means they don’t get to go out on Saturdays or Fridays because they are providing a place for others to go. If I have to finish a chapter or I get hit with inspiration, I have to forgo my dinner plans so I can write a scene for my character’s dinner.
It is not an indulgence to follow your dreams. It is a necessity. Writing is breathing for me. If I didn’t write, I wouldn’t breathe. If that means I can’t go to brunch every week or I can’t stay up with all the books I have to read because I’m too busy writing my own, that is the price I pay. Bret said that the world makes it really easy not to be a writer or an artist. The world will throw better, more secure jobs your way. It will throw money at you. It will throw you miles of needless distractions that keep you away from your art. It’s the writer’s job to tune it all out, keep your ass in that chair, and bleed life into blank pages.
This is barely scratching the surface of that weekend and I have so much more to tell you. But I thought this was an important place to start. I wanted to start by saying that I believe in all of you artists out there. I believe in your poems and your watercolors. I believe in your acting and your stories and your lighting designs. Fight for your art. Never give in. Never give in to the indulgences around you. This is attainable. We will all get there.