I attended LDS Storymakers 2012 from Thursday to Saturday of last week. It was a very revealing experience. I learned a lot about my writing/craft and myself. I will sum up what happened
Thursday was boot camp, which means it was 5 hours or so of intense workshopping. Five of us gathered around a table with a ‘pro’, each of us with our first 15 pages of our project. We read aloud while our tablemates read along, and then gave instant feedback.
My table had some very fine writers. I read last and it was clear everyone really enjoyed the first 2 chapters of Beat. Really a lot. Feedback was on very discrete issues. I was assured it was remarkably good, intense, and had great potential. Deron Fraley, our table’s ‘pro’, was extremely complimentary and I am grateful that I had a chance to meet and get to know such a good guy with obviously excellent taste.
Thursday was a great day and I felt more validated as a needy writer than I had in quite some time.
Friday I had a pitch session with Kirk Shaw of Covenant Communications. I’d never done one of these things before, so you would think I would prepare more or differently. I actually went to see The Avengers on Thursday night, getting home at 3AM, without having my pitch polished yet. I spent the next couple of hours making sure I felt good about it, then caught about 3 hours of sleep.
I made it to the pitch session right on time and had a nice visit with Kirk. I’d first met him two years before at the 2010 Storymakers conference and we’d hit it off pretty well. This is because he’s extremely good people and it would be impossible not to like a guy who loves good stories as much as he does.
I pitched Servant of the King to Kirk and he asked me to send him a full manuscript. Over the moon didn’t even begin to describe how I felt. Two days in a row of people showing actual interest in my work as a writer. I was no longer working unnoticed. It felt like this was my conference, my year.
My beloved, dear, wonderful, supportive wife was right there with me. I love her so much for being so transparent in her belief that it was about time her husband got some appreciation. I have no idea what I would be without her, but I am sure I would not like it. I can see this woman going to bat for me for eternity and that image stirs me.
Saturday would be the announcement of the chapter contest winners. I had entered twice, with Beat and with The Cabin. I had worked hard on them and felt particularly good about The Cabin’s entry.
I didn’t even place. I had to tell myself all that morning before the announcement that it would be fine if I didn’t win or even place. I could handle it.
I couldn’t handle it. I was insanely jealous of those at my table and in the room who won or placed. I was skunked, totally and completely, again, just like in 2010 and I felt so broken, so stunned, that I went blank. I shouldn’t have put so much weight and meaning on this contest, but I really wanted the third day of the conference to just build on the momentum and I needed more validation, more notice, more confirmation that my writing was worth doing and was good and people wanted to read it.
I left the room, got my feedback, and found a quiet alcove. I read through the feedback. Beat had done pretty well; three out of the four reviewers really liked it and gave it high marks. The other reviewer clearly didn’t like it at all.
The Cabin was shredded. This book is about me, or about parts of my life and how I wish I had dealt with the death of my brother and life and events in the Foundation. But the first chapter was shredded. I felt gut-punched, floored, totally worthless as a writer.
I thought this:
The boot camp went well because Beat is exciting and we got to the second chapter where things get ramped up. Kirk hasn’t seen my writing; he just heard my idea and the story of Servant of the King. He doesn’t know whether I can write, but I guess he’ll find out.
What if I just straight up don’t have the chops? After years of trying to really hone my craft, learning about character, plot, goals, tension, conflict, prose– maybe I just suck after all.
I think I’ll just give up. Why do I do this to myself anyway? The money and time and worry and effort– I could be a lot more relaxed and chill without this novel-writing thing.
I think I just don’t care enough to work hard enough to make this work.
Of course, my version of wallowing is to sit and play Angry Birds for three hours. I got home and, before going inside, spent a few minutes reminding myself I was not allowed to take out my frustration and sadness on my family. I think I more or less succeeded, with a few hiccups. I wanted to fling myself on my bed and just lay inert for hours, days.
I laid down for maybe 20 minutes, then medicated by furiously doing laundry.
Hotness and I talked about it a little at dinner that night (we went out to Tucano’s, since I’d received my free meal birthday card from them). She was great, as always.
Since then, I’ve wallowed for a minute or two here and there, but I have to accept that it’s not in me to wallow with any real dedication. And I don’t think I could ever stop writing, stop trying to get better, stop trying to get my stories out there for people to read. I do need to work on my motivations for that writing, though.
I still feel like crap. I’m still very disappointed that I got skunked again, that what I thought was a great first chapter for The Cabin was, rightly, shredded. It really wasn’t that great.
But this has brought me to a decision about how I’m going to deal with feeling low and depressed. I’ve decided to try a project I’m going to call 100 Days of Positive. I’m going to do my very best to bring only positive energy to my family and home, particularly with my kids. If I’m having a crappy day, I’m going to turn around and make some other people’s day better.
Why? Because I have no desire to live a humdrum, boring, depressing, wallowy, black hole of a life. I want to make my life and the lives of others better.
I invite you to do the 100 Days of Positive with me.
On Twitter, any updates on this effort will be tagged with #turnaround. Please feel free to participate and report on your blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. Don’t forget to spread the link love!