I went to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference last week and weekend. It was here in Seattle and the lovely Margaret flew in from MN for it. It was amazing on a variety of levels. And here comes the thing that everyone says after conferences: I’m still trying to digest it.
Because it is true! There is so much conversation and thinking and note-taking. And staying up too late even though I’m sick to socialize and see my writing idols.
And I think all of this circles back around to that post I wrote about not knowing where I was headed with this blog in general or if I wanted to continue it at all, because writing is so solitary, so incredibly solitary. And it is even more solitary if you don’t have an agent or a book deal or any kind of deadline at all ever. And the blog bridges that gap for me a little bit. The blog is where I practice things without needing to be perfect and it’s where I keep my brain sharp to take note of the small details that are actually big details because the small things are the things that matter. But then AWP comes around and it’s all “Hi! See these 15,000 other people? They are all trying to do the thing you are trying to do,” and it fills a hole in me that has been slowly forming since I stopped going to grad school. And then when I stopped working the hole grew even bigger but in a more rapid way.
AWP was the first time in a very long time that I’ve had a reason to get up and put on real person clothes and be somewhere in a professional capacity – but more than that. I needed to be somewhere to use my brain and to think about things conceptually, to contribute to a broader discussion, to remember who I am on the inside when no one is looking. It’s not laundry, it’s not being preoccupied with Gabe’s meals or dopping off the dry cleaning or even checking off a to do list just so I can feel productive, that’s not who I am. Instead, I am the person who thinks deep thoughts because puzzles and people and problems are compelling. I am the person who is a writer, even if no one knows that in any real way.
It is so … necessary (I was going to say “lovely” or “great” or another word that was better than “good” but still kind of meant the same thing… but no.) to be in a situation where I was reminded of what I’m good at, but also in a situation where I felt really really good at something again. And there is a difference between those two. It’s like an, “oh yeah, I have skills,” and then… “watch me use them! Look at me go!”
I got to not be a mom, though being a mom is great. I got to not be a wife, although that is nice too. I got to just be me, with my bag slung across my chest, and my hacking, annoying, embarrassing at times cough, and my notebook, my pen, my thoughts, my hand in the air asking a question, my eye roll to Margaret when… seriously?… and my feet that walked me all over the convention center and downtown.
For 3 days I needed to be somewhere. For 3 days I was Lauren, who is smart and good at something and not affiliated with anyone but herself.