Used Up

The 2011 Pacific Northwest Writers Conference wrapped up this past weekend, and while I wasn’t there to pitch anything, I spent a lot of time around people who were. In fact, while the conference featured great speakers (Steve Berry, Jane Porter, Deb Caletti, Robert Dugoni, C. C. Humphreys), and equally great sessions on the craft and business of writing, The Pitch becomes the inevitable focal point of many attendees’ experience. And why shouldn’t it? After all, anyone shelling out hundreds of dollars to attend a writing conference is at least reasonably serious about wanting to become a published writer, and if you want to become a published writer, eventually one of these people called agents and editors is going to have to say “yes” to something you have written.

From my current vantage point, I realize that what I disliked most about Writers’ Conferences was the inevitable dynamic that arose from putting a group of people in the position of saying yes or no to something I very much wanted. The temptation not to see these individuals as people but only as something to be used to get what I want was great. I believe that secretly, beneath my desire and desperation, was the belief that once I’d used someone to get what I needed, once I had this thing called A Successful Writing Career, I would be able to stop using them and deal with everyone as people once again.

Whenever I use someone I feel used. Whenever I use someone I must lie, I must use that which I have developed as an expression of what I love—my language, my humor, my ability to listen—as a tool to get what I want. In this way, I am using myself, and in so doing I cease to be myself. When I cease to be myself, I feel unlovable, unworthy, undesirable. And this is what I hope to sneak past the gatekeepers, this is what I hope will succeed.

It never worked. Only when I forgot to use the agents and the editors, only when I forgot that they stood in the way of what I wanted and saw them as people looking for what they wanted too did I have what we call success. Such a relief to see everyone as a person. Such a relief to be one again myself.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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