I wrote this in 2012, back when I had a newspaper column (As I See It) - in that life, I was the editor of two weekly newspapers, and still dreamed of being more, of writing the things I knew were in me to write. Correction. I already wrote them, I couldn't NOT write, not then, not now. What I dreamed of most was being read.
TODAY I WILL BE BRAVE: It was my mantra at the Crossroads Writer's Conference I attended this past weekend. I printed the phrase out in a hand-lettered font style and I colored it in and I taped it to the very first page of my journal - the one I bring with me everywhere, and used in every class and discussion panel throughout the weekend to take notes.
I'll tell you a secret. I'm not brave. I'm not a people person, I freeze up in crowds of more than 3 strangers. I'm an introvert's introvert.
Another fact (not so secret) - I'm perpetually lost. My sense of direction (or lack thereof) is nigh on legendary. My husband used to joke that I could get lost in our driveway, which in my defense, was very long at the time. Without GPS (and oftentimes even with GPS) I usually have no idea where I am or how to get to where I want to go.
Enter my determination to attend a conference in a city I am terrible at driving in, at a location I've never been, with people I had never met, for reasons I believed less and less as the time to hit the road approached.
Today I will be brave, I told myself, and I drove to Macon and found the Mercer Campus and found parking and followed someone who looked like they knew where they were going until I arrived at the registration building.
Today I will be brave, I told myself as I Sharpie'd my name in bold, decorative letters on my name tag and pinned it to my sleeve.
Today I will be brave, I thought as Delilah Dawson talked to us about emotions, and seeds, and the importance of remembering how much you love what you're doing, even when it isn't easy.
I thought it as I smiled and took a seat next to people I didn't know to listen to Ed Grisamore, reading their name tags as they read mine, and doing my best to glean something useful out of a speech I had heard before … why hadn't I chosen one of the other 3 options for that time slot?
But I was brave, and I went to the next 'class' and suddenly it was all making sense. Nathan Edmundson talked about writing stories that sell, and my journal page was filling up with notes and thoughts and suddenly my brain was so distracted by what I was absorbing that I forgot I wasn't a brave person. I forgot I was shy, I forgot I didn't talk to strangers, I forgot I was a chunky introvert with red cheeks and graying hair.
By the time Carrie Howland (a working agent from New York) finished her "Getting Past The Gatekeeper" talk, I was in the full throes of amnesia. I spoke to others, I asked questions, answered questions, and smiled. I found my way to the hotel and met people in the bar - people who turned out to be authors and screenwriters and students and I went out with those people for "hobnobbery" at the Tubman museum (where I met a delightful, buoyant, effervescent woman who shared my name but not my spelling, and who danced just because.)
I was brave at The Rookery, the single most crowded place in the known universe, where I wound up in a conversation with three authors and the same agent who had spoken earlier in the day - talking more like people and less like introverts.
By the next day I was that other person full time, the person for whom it was not the most unattainable of goals to be a real, honest-to-goodness writer, the person who could see with mountain-air clarity the potential and the process and the path - and more importantly, I was the person who wouldn't be immediately lost on that path.
I will not lie. By the time I got home on Sunday, I was exhausted. My brain was overflowing, my hand was cramped from taking so many notes, and I was dizzy with trying to remember details about social networking and how to be an introvert that's part of a larger community as well.
But I had done what I set out to do. I was brave. I was braver than my fear, braver than my shyness, braver than my complete inability to navigate a social situation.
Someone famous that I'm not going to look up right now has been quoted as saying "Do one thing, every day, that scares you." Some time back I promised myself that I would try to do one thing every week that scared me (baby steps, you know) but my adventurous spirit - as it often is - was weighed down by routine and obligation and "should-do"s.
Well I've proven to myself that I can be brave. Better, I've proven to myself that if I pretend to be brave for long enough I can actually act like I am. So here I come, social networks. Here I come, NaNoWriMo 2013 and author's platform and query letters and novel edits.
Because in 5 years, I'm going to be at the front of one of those panels, telling my story to people who, just like me, are being brave.
Five years have come and gone. My bravery took a different direction - one I may or may not revisit on September 1st, the anniversary of the day in 2016 that I never intended to wake up. The Crossroads Writer's Conference is a thing of the past. I'm no longer a newspaper editor, I'm no longer in Georgia.
But I am still writing. I'm still learning. I'm still dreaming.
And being brave can result in some pretty amazing things.