Last weekend I attended the Kentucky Women Writers Conference for the second time, and for the second time, I came away inspired. This year, I got to workshop with LA Times columnist and author Meghan Daum. Among her many successes, she counts "Difference Maker," published just a year ago in the New Yorker. (Yes, you read that right- little ol' me, I worked with someone who's been in the New Yorker! Insert fan-girl scream here!). I had signed up for the workshop before I read that piece, but that, well, it sealed the deal. I knew that while we might not be members of the exact same tribe, we were awfully close kin. I was excited to meet her and let me tell you, it was worth every second of anticipation.
I learned a lot of things in that workshop, among them that I need not only to write the scary part of my book, I need make it the opening. Oh, and I probably need to think of it in essays rather than narrative. Some people might find that discouraging, but apparently I am not one of those people. I'm champing at the bit, wishing desperately for real life to leave me alone so I can just sit and write.
Even more importantly, I learned that I am not brave. In fact, no one in that room is brave. Why not, you ask? The answer is simple: by telling our stories, we are doing what we are supposed to do. There is nothing inherently brave about doing our job, any more than it is brave for the dishwasher to pick up the sponge or the seamstress to sew a seam.
That's not to say we are never brave. The women changing careers midstream? Brave. The one who was a breast cancer survivor before her 25th birthday? Brave. The professional fake violinist? Brave (not to mention fascinating). The woman cast off by her parents as a teen who made it anyway? Definitely brave. But telling our stories? Well, that's more about listening to our muse and doing what she says.
I don't know about you, but I find this remarkably freeing. As my son's therapist used to say, we've already done the hard part. We know how the story ends, because here we are. We survived. Now it's up to us to tell the tale.
The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning
(my home away from home for one weekend every September... wish it were more!)