Donning my resolved-and-determined hat (at Continuum)

Last weekend I attended the Continuum 8 convention, which this year was the Australian national science fiction (and fantasy and horror) convention, held in Melbourne. It’s an event where writers and fans of the speculative fiction genre come together and pow-wow. We’re not a large community, so our natcon is always a fabulous opportunity to catch up with friends, talk shop and envelop ourselves in inspiration.

I’ve been attending Continuum just about every year since it began, and always have a fabulous time. I love listening to other writers talk about their process, about trends and industry issues, about their general publication experiences. It’s essentially a weekend spent hanging out with ‘my kind of people’, and this year’s con was no different. Aside from listening to a couple of panels here and there, I spent most of my time in the hotel/con bar and/or in cafes and restaurants in nearby Lygon Street.

But the more cons I attend, the more people I know. And this means more writers… writers with published stories, collections, novels. Or contracts for novels. While it still gives me rather a thrill to hang out with all these accomplished authors, it does also leave me feeling a little inadequate. OK, a lot inadequate. It’s hard to accept that I’m still grafting my way up the learning curve… that I’m not there yet…

In fact, last week (before Continuum) I decided (again) that I was giving it all up, that I’ve been fooling myself that I can do this, that I think I’ll just sit back and read all the glorious books that other people write and stop stop stop all this fruitless effort. By the time the con rolled around, I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to go at all, because I would just be confronted with my own failure.

Needless to say, I turned up, but I was in rather a weird place. It seemed almost a relief to announce during casual conversation, when asked about my progress, that “This week, I’m giving it all up”… only to have them answer, one after the other, “Oh, you’re having one of those weeks.”

Yes, I had indeed been having one of those weeks.

I haven’t completely resurrected my “I can do this” state of mind, but I do feel better after talking to people during the convention. Everyone understood where I was at and no-one judged — no matter where they are in their careers right now, they’ve all been at the point of deepest doubt, they’ve all struggled with some mountain or other.

And that’s the best thing about attending conventions — the sense of community. The knowledge that these are my people.

Happily, more often than not during the weekend I found myself donning my resolved-and-determined hat: all that’s needed is for me to pull my finger out and keep going. Just keep going. One day, perhaps one day in the not too distant future, I want to attend a convention with my own sense of accomplishment — whether that’s a completed novel manuscript, a published short story — or something better.

 

23 comments

  1. Nice post. You can give up all you want… but you know that you’ll be scribbling out stories the rest of your life. You got writerism… you got it bad! Give in… keep writing. 🙂

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  2. I’m in that kind of space myself. Not quite thinking I should give up but I am in such a stuck place with my WIP that I’m ready to give up on it and start on something new. I’m going to a writer’s conference in August and had hoped to be able to pitch to agents and editors but I’m nowhere near ready to do so and am feeling quite defeated (by myself, of course). It was a writing goal I had set for myself and I’m quite bummed I’m not going to achieve it.

    I’m glad you connected with others at the convention and are feeling better about writing. Don’t give up. Keep writing and reaching out to other writers. Like you discovered, we all go through these times of self-doubt.

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  3. We’ve all been there, not that it makes it any easier to move forward toward your dreams. When I’ve been to writer’s conferences (only 2 or 3 to date), I’m far too reserved to talk to people unless I have a direct question or they are so obviously open to conversation that it would be awkward not to speak. I’m glad you have this community where you are among your kind. 🙂

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  4. Whenever I feel like giving up, I ask myself, have I actually tried. I mean really tried, gave it my best shot, left no stone unturned, could not have put in more effort. Obviously the answer to that is always a no.

    I figure that if I reach the point where I have put in that sort of effort and still not ‘made it’, then I can quit knowing I Tried, and won’t have doubts about what might have been.

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  5. If we’ve been writing long enough, we’ve all been there. I’m glad you made it over the hurdle. I was feeling a bit like that the other week when the following Twitter post pushed me through: Give up or keep trying? Try harder one more time.

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  6. It’s hard to keep it in mind when reading an awesome book that’s been revised and polished, but all successful writers have been where we are now, and they still have rough times. You can do it, Ellen…and I’m looking forward to reading your first book 🙂

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      1. And a product not just of much labor and polish, but also an exhaustive apprenticeship in which we all learn how to write a novel in the first place.

        But you and I and all our friends can do it 🙂

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  7. I can’t imagine that there are many writers that haven’t sworn off writing at some point. The longest I’ve vowed to “never write again” [excepting thank you cards to Aunt Betty] was one week. That’s one week for the bajillion times I pitched my pen and swore This it IT! Done. Finished. Maybe that’s the thing that keeps us humble…or hungry. Rejection, frustration, and yet, still, determination. This writing gig is an odd thing–hard to explain, hard to understand, and hard to walk away from, which is probably why we can’t. Just keep dabbling in the words, Ellen. Your mojo will be back and you’ll want to be ready at the keyboard when it does.

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  8. Hang in there! I don’t think there is a writer on the planet who doesn’t have these moments (days, weeks, months, etc.). We won’t give up on you. Don’t give up on yourself. 🙂

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  9. Hey Ellen,
    I know you can do it and they say if just one person believes in you then you can not fail. But man, where did you put the self-confidence app and the shut-your-mouth-you inner-critic app? Might want to download the upgrades for those. I’ll buy your first book yet!

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