Monday, March 19, 2012

An Afforded Opportunity

SO. Writers' conference.

I have a wary relationship with anything geared directly toward unproven writers - conferences, MFA programs, Writer's Digest contests, enthusiastic agents, nondenominational groups that meet at Barnes & Noble twice a month. I fear that, more often than not, these things are designed to take your money and leave your head swimming with feedback that may or may not be of use. Beyond this, a common perk is the dreaded networking opportunity, which, for a writer like me who pines for the garret and the publisher reached by post, is not so much a positive aspect of such situations.

Once upon a time, a blogger whose posts I used to read went to a writer's conference, and I read about his experience. I had a middling opinion of his work; I had never read any of the writing he was trying to flog at the conference and thence had a likely unfair opinion of what he wrote, but I thought his blog posts were fairly pedestrian and undeveloped. He talked about the agent pitch meeting he went to and the people he met and the events he attended and whatnot, and I was burning with such terrible envy that I knew then my days reading his blog were numbered. He could afford the conference, you see. He had the money for it, and I didn't, and hence I would never get the opportunities he was getting.

There's a lot wrong with my reaction to this blogger - way too much to parse in this space - but the point I'm trying to make is that I never thought I could afford a writers' conference, and hence never really wanted to go to one. It was a toy I was too jealous of to try and acquire. I also found the concept of conferences essentially unfair, because if writing is really a matter of being afforded opportunities once you can...afford them, this is extremely wrong.

Now I'm in the position of being afforded this opportunity whether I can really afford it or not, and I find myself still kind of tangled about it. I feel resigned, as if okay, I guess it's time to do this, I've been avoiding it (whether because I genuinely couldn't afford it or just didn't want to afford it) for a long long time and now I really can't say no to this friend of mine who wants me to go and I actually have a decent book to flog and it's TIME TO FACE THE MUSIC.

There's a lot else that contributed to my decision to go on and do this - the location, a part of the country I've always wanted to see; the friend, whom I've wanted to meet in person for going on four years; the fact that Matt will be away in California and I will feel ever more empty and achy without him by late April and will want distraction very badly; and the fact that I actually sort of can afford it (which for various reasons has knocked me flat, emotionally, that I can sort of afford it). Mostly I keep seeing this:

Yeah. When? Huh, genius? Now's the time.

I travel so rarely, and enjoy it so little, that my net reaction is to view the conference with trepidation. There's happy excitement, and there's dread, but mostly just "what is going to happen? what is it going to be like? is anything going to change or will I be the same person, with the same confidence and the same relationship with Dame Fortune, on the plane ride home?"

Most times that I go on and go out with friends, rather than begging off because I'm too shy or home is too appealing for me to agree to go out, I have a good time and don't regret it. All the times I've gone running in the past couple of weeks, I have not once wanted to, but have never regretted it. I'm not sure I'm really getting across why I am reluctant to go to this conference, nor why I decided to go anyway, but I'm more than sure that this will be another one of those times, when I didn't want to, did it anyway, and everything was hunky-dory.

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