Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Why I am Not Mentally Stable Enough to Go to a Writer's Conference
In two days, I am going to be waking up in Dayton, Ohio–a lifelong dream. Bear with me here. There is a reason I am making this pilgrimage to the Midwest in April, when I have no vacation time. I am going to be attending the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop there, with a number of grown-up, accomplished writers who probably aren't really just part-time instructional assistants. I confess that I haven't read most of them. You see, I hardly have time to keep up with the bloggers I am already trying to follow, who keep producing posts, one after the other and dropping them into my Google Reader, as if it were the nest box of an over-productive hen house filled with chicken essayists. Each deleted egg smells of betrayal. This is one more reason, in a series of reasons which might constitute an excellent sequence of blog posts, that I am not a real blogger.
But I digress. I am going to Ohio. To get there, I am taking two planes, and, quite naturally, flying from New Mexico to Georgia first, so that I can see more of the country aerially. This will also allow me to get to the conference well after registration has ended and dinner has already started, and perhaps been cleared away, because I love nothing more than making a splash with my entry. This statement is intended to be ironic. In reality, if there was a way that I could arrive already knowing exactly what the wallpaper was going to look like, so that it would be easier to devise make-up which would coordinate with it, that would be my overwhelming preference.
I suffer from fibromyalgia, migraines and facial pain, so my plans for this conference thus far have focused on surviving the travel without breaking into open tears in the Atlanta Airport. I am beginning to suspect that this is not in keeping with the spirit of the thing. This revelation came upon me rather suddenly this morning, when I happened to see a tweet from a fellow participant. (This was nothing but stray happenstance, as my use of Twitter is somewhat poorer yet than my use of Google Reader.) This participant may as well have been cavorting on a trampoline for all the enthusiasm conveyed in her series of tweets for...meeting the other participants.
This had not actually occurred to me as a good thing. Rack that up with other social networking fails, in case you are keeping score. So far, my greatest level of enthusiasm had concerned the availability of a comfortable bed and my own hotel room. Honestly, it's not that I don't care about writing. Or writers. I do. I am very interested in any information I can glean that might allow me, ultimately to improve my craft and support myself with it. And the kinship I feel with fellow writers is hugely helpful to me–from the comfort of my own living room. I just am having one of these Survival Moments, where pain and anxiety over pain have twisted my focus inward, and my inner resources are more or less amassed in service of mundane feats such as feeding my family and going to that place that sends me paychecks as often as I can. In short, I am an asshole. Which is what I realized this morning.
I have to ask though–when did being a writer start to become such a demanding social enterprise anyway? I have visions of gifted authors throughout the ages–twisted by mental illness and alcoholism, some of them hermits, others misfits–and it is impossible to imagine any of them gathering at "conferences." If J.D. Salinger's success had depended on his polite willingness to reciprocate comments on mediocre blog posts, I believe we would not have had Catcher in the Rye. I would feel entirely better about the conference, if I could shield myself with the safety of a known person. For instance, if somehow I could have succeeded in forcing Tangled Lou to attend this event with me, I know that everything would be O.K. In high school, I was given to running a sort of sub-curriculum for myself, which consisted of lurking in corners discussing events in impassioned tones and walking the hallways wearing no shoes. If I could complete the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop in this fashion, I think that I could be all right.
So, if you are someone who is attending the conference, look out for me. I will be the awkward looking 36 year-old woman with long, curly hair in disarray and the same facial expression President George Bush Sr. wore just before who threw up on a number of Japanese dignitaries. If you want to make me feel comfortable, ask me about duck husbandry or the development of phonemic awareness skills in kindergartners. You might think of me as a small, lost child. Try not to convey that this is your impression. I can get snappish with anything I perceive as patronization. Or maybe, on second thought, it would be safest to leave me alone. At least I've warned you of who to look out for, lest you find yourself entangled in awkward silence or disagreeable rebellion.
However, if you want to join me to lurk in corners, barefoot and swill espresso, while dissecting the worthiness of every statement uttered in your presence, shoot me a line. You're my new temporary best friend.
Faith in Ambiguity by Tara Adams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License