My office is in my home and my home is a one-bedroom apartment. I’ve worked from home for more than 15 years and have trained myself to truly work. I’ve learned habits to help me accomplish my professional goals and I’ve learned to let go of house chores which can easily keep me from getting stuff done.
My work generally has three activities: talking with folks, writing, and what I affectionately called “admin,” a collective term for everything else. All of this is mostly solitary activity and the talking part is usually done by phone or Zoom. I can go days at a time only talking to myself and where my only group activity is grocery shopping or a trip to my gym.
To be let out of the house and gather in the company of other adults is a treat. That I get to wear a dress and leave my ratty yoga pants at home is the cherry on top.
In the last seven days, I have had the pleasure and honor to spend time in the company of seventy introverted, amazing, powerhouse writers. I was nervous and excited, anxious and hopeful. The conference appeared on my radar in July. Normally, I research the heck out of conferences, creating comparison charts to determine the best opportunity. In this case, I read the description written by one of the conference leader-creators, felt my heart jump, and in a flash moment, I had committed myself. Within a week my application to attend was accepted.
Part of the reason, I jumped at this opportunity was a commitment to myself to get out and create connections with others. While I am generally of an introverted nature, I love talking with people and hearing their stories and sharing mine. Generally, I have set this goal: once every three to four months leave my cave and venture into the village. I have a very specific reason for this dictum: learn always, connect openly.
Another character trait of mine is my constant urge to learn. For me, life is learning. What’s around the corner and behind the door – I want to know. Present to this moment, curious about the horizon of life.
Because of these intentions, last week I found myself in Las Vegas. The last time I had been in the city — and not sailing by on the highway — I was five years old and the flower girl in my uncle’s wedding. Not a typical Vegas chapel affair, instead a full-fledged Catholic Church event complete with all the trimmings of the 1960s.
Upon arrival and then venturing out onto the Strip, my tender Oregon sensitivities were immediately assaulted by a much more tolerant policy for cigarette smoke. I’ve become so thankfully accustomed to clean, fresh air that I was surprised and challenged. Hotel air was starting to feel very welcomed especially because the call of the surrounding mountains was going to remain unanswered because of the morning-to-evening requirements of the conference.
While definitely a conference for writers, this was the Master Business Conference led by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Master Business Conference is an event that they have offered for over 25 years to help writers learn about the business of writing. Dean and Kris are incredibly prolific and successful writers with the drive to teach and to learn always. The conference is essentially their sharing of what they know and have learned from more than 40 years of writing and publishing. While both have extensive experience in traditional publishing, they have both moved into independent publishing. For someone like me who has several published books with several in the pipeline almost ready to appear, they are a wealth of knowledge and support that I would be hard-pressed to find all in one place elsewhere. Plus, they bring in other writers with relevant experience willing to share their success, and thus creating an environment which supports learning and connection for all who attend.
Dean and Kris have big huge hearts. They are friendly, welcoming people and their presence attracts the same. For several reasons, I was very nervous about joining the group. I knew most of the writers would be active fiction authors with multiple titles to their names. Up until now, I have been a nonfiction writer who for many years believed I didn’t write well even after my first book won an award. I imagined that the conference might only venture into the arena of success and I’ve had several re-works in my life which are difficult for me not to frame as failures. Plus, this was all about business and maybe I just didn’t have the chops especially since I can quickly paint myself as the least qualified person in the room.
To prepare, I borrowed on some of my online dating experience and worked on reducing my anxiety by focusing on my wardrobe. Dress for myself has been my mantra when going to a meet-and-greet. This is a choice that I’ve decided works well in multiple situations. If I’m getting out of my home office, the dress for myself is a is a red dress. Recently having acquired a couple of new ones, I felt prepared. I felt ready to show up. Funny how red dresses help me open my heart!
The first day was inspiring, packed, and reassuring. No one cared that I wasn’t a “real” fiction writer in the moment. Everyone seemed both anxious and excited. I wasn’t alone, I was with my tribe. Dean and Kris held the conference like a family reunion and we were all welcomed.
Most importantly, they were both extremely open about their multiple instances of crash and burn. The conference wasn’t to be a false, one-sided praise-fest for success. Quite the contrary, they and all the presenters openly acknowledged and discussed their challenges and “failures.” That life wasn’t always hunky-dory was a big part of every topic. Both Dean and Kris have had periods when plans fell apart, companies failed, and careers tumbled. Each described their challenges and their responses to the challenges even when the responses were hard and ugly and life-shattering.
However, they both are lifelong learners who believe it is never too late to learn something new, to challenge self, and to improve. In listening to their stories, I found myself identifying with them because of my own very similar experiences and very similar responses. Especially reassuring because of the remake that I’ve been undertaking generally in the last six years and more intensely in the last nine months.
Several months ago, my Akashic Records suggested I should be thinking about my life with the perspective that I will live a minimum of 75 more years. What would I do differently if I thought of my life was less than halfway along? This is not just to say the new 90 is the old 40. The push is to conceive of life with a brand-new flow and completely new intention. This isn’t about one frozen life purpose. This is life purpose as a process of living life fully, learning always, connecting openly.
Finding the conference so openly willing to address challenge and failure as opportunity was a godsend. I found that there was a ton I knew and had already incorporated into my business and in many ways, I was part of a few with more advanced organizational elements incorporated into the day-to-day aspects of a successful business.
My concerns were just that: my concerns, not huge truths to keep hidden and be embarrassed about. My failures and challenges didn’t segregate me, instead they formed common ground for open connection.
I’m in the middle of completing three distinct writing projects, all very important to me. It’s been very difficult for me to see how I could do all three without sacrificing quality or my sanity. Anyone of them could be the basis for my business. Yet I know they all are there for me to do. And at this conference, I was surrounded by folks with similar plans looking for solutions and support to achieve their dreams. From conversation with others and a willingness on my part to ask what felt like silly questions, I figured out how to do all three projects — or at least I realized that I have it within myself to make all I want work simply because all three come from the 100,000 foot view of me and my life. In worry they may seem unrelated and conflicting, but from this higher view I understand the connection: Me! Life experience has taught me that failure is simply not trying. Life is not what, life is how. At this conference I answered for myself, with the support of an incredible group of people, my how.
If you had known me seven years ago you would’ve met a different person. The most visible difference is my physical appearance: I am significantly lighter though the weight release is not just physical. I have released the burdens of self-dislike, self-distrust, and self-disbelief. I am happier, more confident, and more connected to myself, to others, and to the infinite possibilities of life.
While in Vegas, I did something I would never have done seven years ago: a zoom line from an eleven-story tower hanging horizontally superhero style for seven blocks. In fact, I did it twice! More importantly, I realized I no longer live in the cave of seven years ago. I have freed myself to learn always and connect openly. Life is amazing and so are the friends I am meeting along the way.