I have almost decided to go to the Melbourne Emerging Writers Festival in late May - at least to the two-day Town Hall conference part, which looks absolutely fantastic. It's extremely modestly priced ($49 for the two day conference is excellent value) and the ever-wonderful Miscellaneous Mum is the Program Manager - what's not to like?
There are only two things holding me back from just going ahead and buying my ticket. Well, three. Four? (No, three and a half).
Firstly - or halfly, as this is the most minor of my reservations - I feel a bit guilty about taking one or possibly two full days out for myself so soon after DPCon in March. For better or worse, neither my partner nor I tend to take blocks of time out from family, but I do it more than he does, and I feel both a little self-conscious about that, and also a trifle melancholy about being away from the kids. However, I do know that my partner actually doesn't mind, and that the kids and I will survive 2 days apart without damage :-) I think I can get over this one pretty easily.
Secondly, although it might not be apparent to most, I do get shy and awkward in circumstances where I don't know anyone. The mild anxiety I have about this is quite different in kind from the nervousness I felt before DPCon, where I knew I would meet in person many people I already "knew" online, and was aware of carrying a weight of expectation, anticipation and fear of failure. In one way, this is actually easier - it's just a bit of a fear of having no-one to talk to and / or having to try to make smalltalk with a bunch of complete strangers. I think I will get over this one too.
Thirdly, I have several contract work projects in the offing at the moment. Some or all of them may fall through; late May might be like last November-December, as quiet as the grave in terms of work. However, if even half of them come off, I will be fairly busy with paid work by the time of the Festival, and I am cautious of overloading myself too much, given my recent heart dramas.
And finally, the kicker; the real, down-deep reason I'm hanging back. This is a Festival for Emerging Writers - people who want to grow themselves as writers in all different fields and subtypes, people who hope, presumably, to be read, to be published, to advance. Part of this has to be the self-belief to trust that, with luck, time, work, skill and sweat, you have the inherent ability to be a writer that others want to read. I don't know if I have that self-belief, and I wonder if its absence is fatal to this game.
I don't really know what's at the bottom of this, although I do know it's the reason I'm so diffident about submitting any creative writing for consideration in publications or competitions. (I happily submit non-fiction pieces and accept both rejection, and editing of successful pieces, with equanimity). Whenever I think about myself as a creative writer, I do it in the most deprecating internal voice imaginable. I will say, I write poems ... of a sort. Or, I've written two middle grade novels ... but I don't think they're publishable. Or, I like to write short stories ... they're not much good though.
This isn't, much as it might sound like it, a dreary attempt to elicit the bolstering / support of others. I rarely talk about my writing IRL, and when I do, it's prosaically, without commentary on my own feelings about its value. I post poems here sometimes, and I don't surround them with little caveats about how crap they are. I haven't ever said, actually, the truth of it before: that I like to write, I need to write, but that I question the quality and worth of my creative writing constantly.
I would like so much to have people read and enjoy what I write. I see myself as primarily a middle-grade children's writer (the Famous Five to Trixie Belden age range, if you will), secondarily as a poet, and with a strong side interest in short stories.
A prior task, though, is to root out my sense of unworthiness and my conviction that my writing can't be enjoyed by others. (Alternatively, if my conviction is based in reality, I suppose I should move to a point of acceptance that I will be writing for myself and my family only, and learn to be OK with that).
Perhaps I need to do this before I go to something like the EWF; or perhaps the Festival could be the catalyst to shake loose this admixture of fear, self-deprecation, and low confidence that holds me back. I'll be 40 next year - the time is fast approaching where if I don't do it, I probably never will. And at bottom, I think it would be worse not to try, and to always wonder what might have been, even if I try and crash in a flaming heap. Better to burn out than to fade away, right?
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