I went to a conference this weekend as a total imposter. I’m supposed to be a writer — I was even receiving an award — but I haven’t written a new idea in over a year, or maybe longer (!)
Is that “writers’ block?” I don’t know. I have been writing. But in the absence of fresh inspiration, I’ve been revisiting old ideas, ones that I never managed to form into a fully viable concept or book. I’ve been trying everything to find ways to keep the words flowing when the ideas just aren’t.
And then fellow creators and members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) voted for me to be one of the winners of the Crystal Kite Member Choice Award for Canada. While I was thrilled/shocked/honoured, at the same time I have to confess that, in some ways, I was petrified. What would people think if they knew that Skink on the Brink (written by me and illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo who also accepted her Crystal Kite this weekend) is one of the few good ideas that I’ve had? And that obviously no more are forth-coming.
And yet, I was invited to this conference as an award-winner. And I enjoyed all the fabulous things that come from a good conference. I heard an inspirational keynote by Caroline Pignat, received invaluable market advice from editors and agents and connected with other creators at all stages of their journeys.
But at a conference, it also feels like it’s necessary to be constantly “on” — I know my friends think this is a natural state for me, but it’s not and it is draining. This weekend, I was pushed to talk about my work to real-live-New-York-editors, a creative director and an agent. I stood at a podium and delivered a speech “thanking the academy.” And, just when I was finished, drained, spent, needing to curl up and absorb all the experiences of the weekend (and hide for a couple of days,) I began a 7 hour car drive across southern Ontario to collect my kids.
After about 2 hours of watching the road go by, I finally understood that I need to gift myself some time, to expect nothing creative of myself for a little while, to not worry about that next big idea and if it’s ever going to come. And I drove and I relaxed for the first time in over a year, or maybe longer (!)
I drove until I had to pull over. Right there. Right then-where-was-my-pen-give-me-that-paper-the-words-are-now-the-idea-needs-to-be-written. And now, looking back on what I scribbled on the back of a crumpled conference schedule, it’s still there (!) In the aftermath of a creative outburst, the most important thing is often how you feel in the clear light of day. In this clear light of day, I realize I won’t need to revisit those old ideas; today, I’ll be exploring a new one.
And I’m also wondering if it’s necessary for these events, with all the good they have to offer, to drain us. I’m wondering if they have to in order for them to be left with ample space in our spirits to refill.