Last weekend, I had the opportunity to sit in on a six-hour-long master class with Jane Friedman and I can’t recommend it enough. If she’s doing a class within driving distance and you’re remotely interested in the publishing industry, go. Bookmark this blog post, order those tickets, and come back later to finish reading.
Now that I got your attention, this isn’t one of those posts where the author shills out all of the top-secret, proprietary stuff in the talk. Come on now, go book that class. Instead, what I’m going to share were the accidental lessons I discovered and am immensely grateful for from this intensive session. To cut to the chase, they were all lessons about myself! (See, I told you that you might be surprised.)
One of the things Jane talked about by way of introduction was the development of JaneFriedman.com. It’s not uncommon in a presentation to talk about your own background (a lot of folks do this) but for whatever reason, this got me to thinking about my varied attempts over the years at hosting my own website/blog, and of being a writer. I love how Ms. Friedman honored her own journey and that was my first unexpected takeaway: every step in the journey matters. In a future post, I’ll be sharing more on this subject, reflecting on my own background as a writer, but it’s enough I think to take some time out and reflect on how far you’ve already come, before writing was even a twinkling in your eye.
It isn’t a secret that I struggle with fiction writing (you haven’t seen any NaNoWriMo posts from me yet this week, right? That’s what I thought). Book writing is HARD, and I’ve inhaled “how to write” books over the years like my parents’ chocolate lab downs her meals every day: with fervor, and always, wanting more. And if I’m being completely honest, when it gets too discouraging, I set book writing aside for a while, and do something else.
A single class with Ms. Friedman, on top of that mountain of other resources, shouldn’t make a whole lot of difference. But it did. Not necessarily either because of what I learned (and there were a LOT of notes, trust me), but because it was a gift to myself. And I guess that’s my second takeaway: part of honoring your journey as a writer, with all of its failings, and maybe the occasional small success, is to nurture that passion once in a while with a gift. Gifts to yourself as a writer can be bright rays of sunlight piercing through an otherwise stormy sky. Did I need to attend this master class? Probably not. A lot of the topics were really advanced and much further along than I am in my writing career. But, merely by giving that gift of time (and let’s be honest, sometimes, a hit to the wallet), there were so many side rewards that came out of that, droplets of sunshine that I’ll undoubtedly cling to in the years to come, and for that, I am truly grateful. And if that sounds slightly esoteric, I’m sorry.
Seven years ago, Jane Friedman came to a conference here in town, and I’ve always regretted never making that class of hers. I’ve followed her newsletter, I even blogged once about a transition in her life, but I wasn’t sure if I’d ever have the means to attend one of her talks in other parts of the country. By a complete fluke, I happened to look over one of those emails and notice (again, by accident) that she was coming to town. I booked the tickets as soon as possible. We all encounter those moments in life when we know we just have to do something and seize those rare opportunities when they present themselves. As a Catholic and a Christian, I’ve found they’re often accompanied by promptings from the Holy Spirit, urging you quietly on, and that was certainly the case with registering for this weekend.
Don’t be afraid to reach outside of your shell and do something different. Even if it means asking a stranger to hold a camera (twice!) so you can meet someone you admire and get your photo taken with them. And thank you again for those retakes (point of advice: don’t talk during photos.) All of this is perhaps to just sum up a single piece of advice: don’t lose heart. The achievement of your dreams can sometimes tarry but cultivating a spirit of gratitude, celebrating the milestones along the way, and emerging out of your shell once in a while can renew your spirit.
Thank you again to the folks of the MORWA for hosting this event, and especially, to Jane Friedman, for a lovely experience.