So I’ve just concluded my first Worldcon experience and I’ve got Some Thoughts about it.
Thought #1: I really should have bit the bullet and stayed in a hotel. This Worldcon was doable for me because it was more or less in my backyard. I had an hour to hour and a half drive each way, but the close proximity meant that I didn’t have to budget for airfare, hotel room, multiple meals a day, and pet sitting, among other things. While I definitely felt that benefit economically, it also meant that I think I missed out on a lot of the Worldcon stuff that happens on the periphery. No breakfast meetups or evening drinks, and I never once hung out in any of the con suites. I missed that casual, organic social aspect and so (if I am lucky enough to be able to afford to go to Dublincon!) I’ll be glad next time to get that full experience.
Thought #2: You can pick up some valuable insights in between the planned panel questions. I made a point to go to as many panels as I could, & I brought note-taking supplies to each. However, looking back over those notes, the threads of information that I gleaned the most inspiring and useful fragments from were the little asides between the panelists or to audience members. Rarely did I ever write down a note that came directly from an answer given to a panel moderator.
Thought #3: Getting a rejection from a magazine on a short story you submitted hurts a lot more when it arrives in your email just after you sat in on that magazine’s panel wherein they described aspects of their perfect story as literally what you just sent them. I left that panel with actual hope that hey, maybe this time it would sell! Getting that form email was brutal.
More than that, I was extremely disappointed in myself for believing I’d done a good job, that I’d told a story of deep importance to myself, and instead I hadn’t done it justice. I had failed to live up to the story itself & failed to get it sold to what seemed like its perfect home.
Thought #4: We’re all in that day job grind together. Being around so many people who are trying to bring their art to the world, whether it’s via writing or painting, editing, film, and so on, and realizing that basically all of those people are still in the same boat as you and almost all of them have day jobs, is a really good fact to internalize.
I think it’s easy (at least for me) to fall into the assumption that the people who are posting daily about their writing, who seem to always be on the road from one event to another, who are publishing podcasts and winning awards and basically seem to be completely immersed in the sf/f literary world, must somehow have figured it all out and found a way to make this work economically for them. I would hear ‘don’t quit your day job’ and fill in the other half of that thought as: “…until you stop sucking long enough to actually make a viable career from this,” and I think that’s often implied. But the reality is that the second half of that sentence is more like “…because unless you charm the pants off your Patreons, you’d better find a hustle you love almost or maybe as much as writing.”
Which is now something I need to think on a lot more. I’ve been considering my day job something that I do in order to pay for rent and coffee and keep my pets alive. Now I need to really sit down and consider: what is it that I can do with my life, beyond writing, that I actually enjoy enough to put some passion into it and do well?
Thought #5: This field, this community, is absolutely where I belong. That feels amazing.
Often (okay, my whole life) I have struggled to find a sense of belonging. I certainly never got it at home, and that familial toxicity leeched into every other aspect of my life. I still have a hard time accepting that anyone would want to be my friend or a colleague that they would spend any time with outside of a direct need at work. That feeling translates to a visible discomfort from me that others pick up on and interpret as me not wanting to spend time with them and around and around we go.
When I got to the convention center on Friday, my first stop after picking up my badge was to walk across the street and get some much-needed iced coffee. AND I WAS IMMEDIATELY HUGGED!! By a friend I had not seen personally in over a year! I don’t want to embarrass them by calling them out by name here, but this is someone I wasn’t even sure would recognize me or want to even say hi to me (see above neurosis). And instead, he saw me walk in and came up to greet me so warmly. I couldn’t believe it. And then he did something even nicer: he brought me back to his table and introduced me to other friends as a fellow writer.
Like, A of all: this was literally the first time anyone had introduced me to strangers as A WRITER, and so I was floating at least a foot off the ground at that point. And B: he could have just said: “Hey great to see you! Have fun at the con!” But no. He took the time to bring me around, grab a chair, and introduce me to his friends and colleagues. This sounds so dorky to get excited over but to me it was a REALLY BIG DEAL and provided me with much-needed fuel to fight those inner demons that keep insisting no one wants anything to do with me.
It set the tone for the rest of the weekend, where I could walk into a room full of people and not feel one ounce out of place. There were moments of realization where I thought, “Wow this is a panel I myself could have sat on and I would have had educated, insightful answers to these questions. Maybe I know some stuff that people are interested in after all.” There were so many friendly faces and shared passions.
To wrap this up, here’s two things I wrote down from a couple of different panels:
- Something I heard over and over again from editors of various sf/f zines is that they’re getting a lot of dark and dour fiction (wonder why?) but what they’d really like to see more of, and what they really believe we need right now, is more fun fiction. I couldn’t agree more. It’s a definite challenge in these times to write anything light-hearted, but examining my own media consumption habits the past year or so: by the end of most days, all I want is something uplifting, beautiful, soothing, or just goofy. That’s something for me to consider when I sit down to work on a new project.
- From a panel on fantasy creatures in sf settings I wrote down: Add more banquets to your science fiction. And that is absolutely a goal for me for the rest of 2018. 😉