A couple of my Salt City Scribes once asked me, “Hey, you have a lot to say during our group meetings. Why don’t you ever speak at these writing events you’re always telling us about?”
I told them, “Because I’m not credentialed enough.”
They asked, “Does it matter?”
Because I come from a journalism background (cite your sources) and a business background (show me your results) and a writing background (dream bigger than you can wrap your arms around), I said, “Yes, it matters. To me, at least.”
So they let it go and I let it go, and that was that.
A year or two later, after I added a few more publication credits to my resume (even though most of them are still in the lengthy publishing pipeline), the Scribes didn’t ask this time. They told me: “You should put yourself out there. You’ve done enough to merit this. It’s time.”
I said once again, “No, I still have a long way to go, I haven’t accomplished enough,” but they wouldn’t hear it anymore. They said, “Look how far you’ve come already. It’s time to try something new. Take the next step. Put yourself out there.”
And I went home and I looked and I thought and I said to myself, “Yes, it’s time.”
I filled out the little application and sent it in and didn’t give it another thought because my to-write list kept piling up higher and higher, and I simply didn’t have the time or energy to worry about a little thing like sending in an application to speak at a conference. Besides, chances were, I wasn’t credentialed enough anyway, like I’d said. So, that was that.
Then came the notice and the selections and the incredulity (on my part), until finally, today, it is officially on the conference schedule:
I’m going to be a panelist, for the first time ever, at a writing conference. On topics that are close and dear and frighteningly vulnerable to my heart.
And I will put myself out there, face to face in rooms full of people who can tell me directly how risky it is to say something off the rails, to sprinkle it liberally with my trademark potty mouth in an environment where “damn” is frowned upon, and to do it with aplomb and verve that doesn’t give away — not for one second — how fast my heart is racing or how much my hands are shaking, under the table.
When it’s all over, I’ll be thankful I tried this, I know. I’ll be grateful that I pushed myself to do something new, to take the next step. And I’ll have another experience to add to my writing journey, one I can look back on with fear or fondness — hopefully more one than the other, but definitely with a little bit of both. And that will be that.
But I’ll also be reminded, once again, how powerful it is to surround yourself with people who believe in YOU, who can step back and look at your journey and remind you how very far you’ve come, when all YOU can see is the next hill to climb or the next valley to cross.
Because, in the end, it isn’t about the journey insomuch as it is about the people who remind you, from time to time, that if you were brave enough to undertake it in the first place, surely you are brave enough to keep going.
And that … will never be the end of that.
Dedicated to the Salt City Scribes, but most especially to Jef, Heidi, and Jae, who asked, “Why don’t you … ?”