Last week, I attended a writing conference in Nashville. It was the refresh I needed, the different setting, the pretty gazebos (at Belmont University), the bagel place, the reminder that I can drive 500 miles by myself (even loopy mountain ups and downs) and sing along to CDs (yes I still have those) whose lyrics I have on autopilot (Newsies, anyone?).
It was the re-connection I wanted with friends from college, the mesmerizing surreality that I've known them all for 11 years and now they are stalwart and settled and successful, and some have not-so-little ones running around, and yet in more ways than one they are the same people whose hands I first shook more than a decade ago. Their voices hearken me back to those college days that were fast and fizzy in the moment, but now I just look back on them as languid and easily full. Their voices have carried me through the intervening years, and so we come back together on different planes, and yet, still the same.
It was the reminder I needed, that I am a writer, no matter how much I doubt myself, that I have a story to tell and the gift of words to tell it. The reminder that it does take hard work, and devoted time, and it's not going to get done (draft 1, 2, 3, 4 and on and on) by itself. I need to show up, butt in chair, shitty first draft, we can all quote Anne Lamott in our sleep, but I needed that reminder. If I put in the work and stay present, and write my way out of any slumps that knock me sideways, then I can one day (one day!) wind up with the ripe passel of words that has been stirring inside me to tell the world. It's so funny that sometimes you can see that passel as a vision, an idea, a concept in your head more than you can easily put it down on paper. (Why is the action the hardest thing?) Sometimes I feel like I can see the outline of a circle but I can't get close enough to what's inside. But ultimately, I'm reminded, there is no other way. You're not going to write the book in a day, they reminded me. But by doing the work every day, you will slowly write the book.
And finally, it was the reaffirmation I hoped for, to meet and connect with others who do this hard work too--who feel they have no choice but this calling. To share my hopes and plans with them, and to hear their stories and inspirations in return, and realize that we're all in the same boat. The same excitement, search for discipline, the same worries and devotion. It was a pleasure to be in such company, and of all ages, too. In this instance, it was also a gathering of fellow writers whose wide variety of experiences fall under the umbrella of faith in a man called Jesus, a storyteller who described his love for the world in small, rich details he hoped we'd understand (I'm always so grateful to Rachel Held Evans for first pointing that out to me).
Because the small, rich details build up the full, wide picture that reminds us of all that we share as human beings (news flash: it's a lot).
And I felt all of that as I looped and sang my way back down the mountain towards my love and daily life--refreshed, reconnected, reminded, reaffirmed.