I know this is way overdue, but I wanted to make sure I gave myself plenty of time to think and digest before trying to write about what the 2015 Realm Makers conference did for me.
I went to Realm Makers to meet and connect with new likeminded people, with half-hearted hopes of improving my floundering marketing strategy. (And, yes, I’ll admit it, to have a ball hanging out with a whole horde of people as crazy as me!) I did both! But what surprised me was that something else happened too—something that, quite honestly, has been much more impactful by comparison.
Robert Liparulo’s opening keynote address caught my attention with its point-blank simplicity and its call to STOP worrying about all the extraneous details and bring the focus back to why we’re writing in the first place.
Like so many other writers, I started off with starry-eyed dreams of fame, fortune, NYT best sellers, and movie deals. And, like other writers, I quickly came face-to-face with the reality that gave birth to terms like “starving artist,” and jokes like “If you want to get rich writing, the first thing to do is change your name to Stephen King,” a reality that throws you face-to-face with people who say things like “Oh, you’re a writer? That’s nice. Do you have a real job too?”
It is reality, like it or not, and every starry-eyed dreamer needs a good healthy dose of it now and then. The problem was, I overdosed. I told myself to be content with my “starving artist” status, that it was the best I was going to get. I told myself that it was okay for my books to reach only a few people—at least they reached those few, right?
Once I was thoroughly saturated with that bleak perspective, I let it make me passive. As I said, my marketing strategy (or lack thereof) was floundering. But hey, that’s okay—if God wants me to make it big, He’ll make it happen, no worries!
Enter Robert Liparulo again, with the appeal to “Be prepared when God says ‘It’s your turn.’”
It made me stop and think: If God came to me right now and said “Alright, it’s your turn to make it big! Are you ready to go?” what would I have to offer Him (or the publisher/editor/agent/movie studio/etc. He’d sent my way)? The answer was nothing short of dismal: One published novel, a 22-page ebook that sold all of six copies, the first chapters/pages of a dozen unfinished novels, 100+ story ideas, all unwritten…and absolutely no plan or strategy for how to turn that disorganized heap of raw materials into something useful and productive.
It was a major wakeup call, as if God was saying “Okay, you get it now, so what are you going to do about it?”
Now I had come full-circle, back to Robert Liparulo’s original point: Do what God has called you to do, and do it well, but make sure you’re doing it for the love of doing it. Never before had it occurred to me to think of my dreams as prayers to God to help me reach them, but as I contemplated it, I began to realize how liberating the concept was.
That opening talk sent me into the rest of the weekend with my passion for, not just writing, but for being a writer, rekindled. I took pages and pages of notes. I laid awake at night excitedly mulling over new ideas for reaching new audiences with my writing. I texted my mom to tell her how excited I was about everything I was learning. There were so many connections to be made, so much information to take in!
And then I started getting overwhelmed. I was beginning to grasp the scope of the massive undertaking in front of me, and I didn’t know if I was up to the job of tackling it. Where would I even start?
As Saturday started drawing to a close I felt myself freezing up, thinking that maybe crawling back into my Hobbit hole of obscurity where I could cuddle up all safe and sound with my self-doubt wouldn’t be so bad.
Thank God, Robert Liparulo had one more talk to give: A charge to writers to GO!
As I told Mr. Liparulo afterwards, even if that talk meant nothing to anyone else there, it meant everything to me. Even if it touched no one else at all, it changed my life. It changed the way I saw myself. It changed the way I viewed my future not just as a writer, but as a Christian, as a human being on God’s Earth. It touched on issues that I’ve spent the last year wrestling with in areas of my life that (I thought) had nothing to do with my writing.
I have always struggled with an irrational phobia of being a pest, of seeming obtrusive, of admitting that I’m not okay, of swallowing my pride, trust issues, and, at times, feelings of low self-worth, enough to ask for help when I need it. It’s far easier for me to soldier on alone than to ask for someone to hold my hand. I love taking care of others, giving advice, sharing my knowledge, and helping in any way I can, but in my twisted view it’s selfish and needy of me to ask for those same things.
To sit and be encouraged to go out and introduce myself, to make my presence known, to ask for help and advice, to attract attention, to be like that asteroid crashing into the earth…well, it was hard. And scary. My initial reaction was to think “No way, I couldn’t do that!” But at the same time, I felt a sense of peace telling me “Yes you can, it’s okay. At least give it a try.”
So afterwards, I introduced myself to Robert Liparulo, told him how much his talk had meant to me, and spent the next twenty minutes enjoying a fabulous conversation with him. Later, I tracked down someone who had raised an interesting question during the fight scene panel and asked him if he would critique a scene in my novel that was related to his question.
In the weeks since Realm Makers, I’ve started contacting bloggers about book reviews. I’ve been more open about my work as a writer, and haven’t felt needy or conceited for doing so.
Outside of writing, I’ve been more open and honest with myself as well as others. I called a friend for no other reason than to ask her to pray for me as I went through a rough time. I’ve talked about my struggles with people, asked them for help and advice. I went to my mom and laid bare an entire pile of issues I’ve been struggling with for months. They don’t always have the answers, but they’re willing and happy to listen to me, put an arm around me, and pray for me.
And when those old fears and worries start whispering their tired old lines of “Don’t bother them, you’ll seem like a nuisance; they’re busy and your problems aren’t really that important; don’t draw attention to yourself, that’s selfish; don’t say anything, you’ll seem totally weak and needy…” Well, I just smile at them and say,
“But Robert Liparulo said I could.”