On Risking it All

“Risk being seen in all of your glory.” 

I watched a video recently of a keynote address that Jim Carrey gave several years ago, and in it he said the above quote.  “Risk being seen in all of your glory.”  His speech, like many commencement speeches, was encouraging graduates to continue on in their lives with the caveat that they need to be their best selves.  He was encouraging them all to not let the light of their talent go dim and to give what they have to the world, because the world needs it.  This quote, though, is what really stood out to me.

Every person out there has something that they burn for.  Something that grabs a hold of them and doesn’t let them go.  I thin for me, this is writing.  For others, it’s music, teaching, helping others, or sports.  There are so many things that so many people are passionate about.  What stood out to me in Jim Carrey’s speech was the idea of risking it all in favor of letting your passion out into the world.  That passion is, theoretically, what you are good at.  It’s what you are able to wake up in the morning and be excited about.  Risk putting it all out there into the world, because it will be worth it.  You could fail miserably and end up stuck, but risk that anyway.  Risk everything for a chance at doing what you love.

While the word “risk” definitely stood out, the second part of this quote cannot be ignored.  For me, the second part can be summed up in the last word: glory. Take that passion and make it magnificent.  Put so much effort and sweat into this thing so that you, and everyone around you, is blinded by the light at the end of it.  So that it keeps shining on.  So that it can be seen in all of its glory – so you can be seen in all of your glory.

When I say you, I mean you reading this.  But I also mean me.  I need to listen to this too.  I need to dive headfirst in the pool  ocean of writing and swim so far and so deep that I can’t get out again.  I want to drown in my craft so that when I finally see the light of day every inch of my being will be soaked in words that I must put on the page.  I want to risk being seen in all my glory, because it would be excruciating to not risk it all and wonder – to not even attempt to shine. You, reading this, you should too. Let’s risk it.

On Writing Conferences

I know it’s been a long time coming, but this is going to (finally) be my post about The Pikes Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) and about my take on conferences in general based on my experience there.  PPWC was my first conference that I have attended, and it was a pretty wonderful experience. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the conference with the writing club at my school, which made it even better.  It truly was a magnificent experience and one that I will cherish forever.  Cheesy, right?  But it was a genuinely wonderful experience and what actually got me going with this blog and with the writing side of my life in general.  I’m not goig to break down the conference day by day and workshop by workshop.  Each day had it’s amazing aspects, but I want to focus on the entire thing as a whole because everything combined is what made the experience such a great one for me.

PPWC 2016 was the first writing conference I have attended.  You may be thinking “well why are you writing this post about writing conferences (plural) if you’ve only attended one?”  That would be because I think that my experience at PPWC is similar to the experiences that are out there to be had at other conferences across the country (across the world?  I can only hope someone is reading this in another country).  The biggest take away I got from this conference was inspiration.  It may seem a tad cheesy (again, I’m sorry), but the conference was so inspirational.  It was such a pleasure getting to hear from well known writers, and it was just as valuable hearing from writers whose first books have just come out, or from my fellow attendees hoping to land a book deal.  I learned so much and it was so incredible just being around other writers for four days straight.  It’s always nice to find someone who shares your love of writing and reading, and to be able to talk to that person about anything and everything involving those two topics as much as humanly possible.  Well, at conferences, that is literally all you get to do for [insert number of days here].  Regardless of what I actually learned from the workshops – and there was plenty I learned, I’ll get to that in more detail shortly – I was able to be around other writers, to hear their crazy story ideas, to encourage them in their craft, and to talk about my own progress towards writing my book.  It was pretty swell, if you ask me!

The thing that I expect everyone wants to hear about is the workshops.  Well, let me tell you, they were pretty swell as well (ha! A rhyme).  I took a copious amount of notes and now have a seemingly endless amount of resources on writing a novel in a short amount of time, on building more vivid settings, on creating a better first page, and on social networking successfully.  I will say, with that last one in particular, I am already seeing the progress!  Nowhere before have I been able to learn the tools of the trade from the actual masters.  Not only did I get to learn, but I got to speak with them one on one, pick their brains a little bit (though not too much I hope), and now I follow them, and some of them follow me, on Twitter.  I may be a bit of a book nerd when it comes to these things, but I’m pretty excited about that!

Going into the conference without a finished novel manuscript, I wasn’t sure what I would get out of the weekend.  I didn’t know if I would actually learn anything since I didn’t need to know how to successfully query or how to self publish (hopefully one day soon I’ll need that information).  While I do think that the conference as a whole was geared more towards those with completed manuscripts, that definitely did not mean that there wasn’t anything for me to do.  I wasn’t twiddling my thumbs in the back corner the whole time.  The first page of one of my stories was critiqued by a literary agent, an editor, and a New York Times best selling author, for Pete’s sake!  My time and money were definitely well spent. Still, though, the most valuable thing I got from this conference was the time away from the world of reality spent in the world of writing.  I’ve been having withdrawals since the end of the conference (yes, almost a month ago.  I’m really late to the after-conference blogger party, I’m sorry) because I haven’t been around people who talk novels and short stories non-stop.  It was really a rejuvenating experience, and one that I think is important for every writer out there.  It’s important to recharge your writing batteries, and that’s what this conference did for me.  With the expertise and encouragement I received from others at PPWC, I hope I can extend my writing battery life all the way until next year (or at least until one of the other numerous Pike’s Peak Writer’s events coming up).  That’s why this post in on writing conferences.  It’s plural because I think that every writer should take advantage of an opportunity to attend a conference and refill their tank (I’m brimming with cliche metaphors this evening) so that they can finish their manuscript or start on that book that they’ve been waiting to begin.  My philosophy is to take advantage of any writing related opportunity that comes my way.  Who knows if I’ll be able to attend conference again?  That’s a long way off, but at least I took advantage of the opportunity I had this year and made the most of it.  I had a fantastic time at PPWC 2016.

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Image via Word Sharpeners

On Planning

Finals week is quickly approaching, and I am so ready to be done with this semester.  This semester has been one of the hardest semesters I have had so far for many reasons.  This whole academic year, actually, has just been hard.  It’s always interesting to look back on the year, though, because more often then not, lots of wonderful things can come from a bad year.  That is most certainly the case for me this year.  Is the year really a ‘bad’ year then?

Regardless of the year’s merit, I am glad to almost have my junior year behind me and to move on to the summer.  I will be taking summer classes, which I am not particularly looking forward to (but they are necessary in order for me to graduate in a year, so there’s that) but something I am looking forward to is writing more.  A break from academic writing means more creative writing, which I am very excited about!

Because of the impending break from school and the upcoming opportunity to write more, I have been focusing a lot of my energy on planning the book.  Yes, it has been started, but I’m kind of thinking about scrapping what I have thus far and starting over.  That is the greatest temptation in a writer’s life, I feel – to scrap everything and begin again.  Actually, it pains me thinking about it, but at the same time it’s refreshing.  A new beginning for the books means, in a sense, a new beginning for me. There are many reasons I want to start over with what I have, and they mostly have to do with all of this planning I mentioned.

It all started in my American Literature class.  I know I just said that I am ready to be done with the semester, but one of the good things about being an English Literature student is the fact that my classes can inform my writing.  In this case, my class did just that.  We have been studying Sister Carrie, a novel by Theodore Dreiser from the late 19th century.  Although the book has not grabbed my interest, to say the least, it has given me some inspiration.  The book is a naturalist book, which essentially has to do with the way the characters are shaped by outside forces.  Sometimes these forces have to do with nature itself, and somethings they are more abstract.  For the main character in the book, Carrie, the forces are more abstract – the big city, money, power, and fame.  For Cassie (the main character in my book and coincidentally very similar in name to the main character in Dreiser’s), these forces are going to be abstract as well.  Some of them will be the same (money and power) some of them will be different (heritage, family, and legacy).  Having fleshed out some of these forces and the role that they will be playing in my story, I can then figure out the way that Cassie will be influenced by these forces and the way that she will, at least in some cases, overcome these forces.

I guess this was a really long way of saying that I am very excited to have finally begun coming up with some concrete details about my story.  Unfortunately, they don’t quite  fit with the voice and feel that I have going on in the book right now, so I am most likely going to start over.  It’s really only logical, since I began this book almost two years ago and have learned a lot about writing since then.  Cassie needs to grow up, just like my own writing has.  That is why I will be starting over.

And I couldn’t be happier about it.