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.